Hello chaps,

I hope you're well. I have a customer who has a lovely selection of guitars that I occasionally get play with. Recently, he's brought me this Kathy Wingert harp guitar. His concern is that the bridge is starting to lift. How would you guys approach this repair?


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I'd most likely remove the bridge, clean up the gluing surfaces and reglue it with traditional hide glue.  It would clearly be more work than a standard guitar bridge, but I wouldn't expect any particular problems beyond some difficulty in clamping.  While it's common for us to quote a "stock" price for regluing bridges, that would not be possible on a harp guitar, of course.


You appear to hail from what we call "the other place!"

Frank has advised Hide Glue and Kathy typically uses Hide Glue as a rule if it's a help to know that, so I think it's a sure thing and the Lifting Bridge is likely to be a consequence of that choice.

So if you think about it, ideally the bridge isn't pulling forward, but though I haven't examined the pictures probably simply lifting at the rear outer edges, which would be way better than any gradual movement forward.

Could there be a slight hump in middle of the top material beneath the bridge? I would check for this possibility as it may be a contributing factor to why the Bridge lifted. If so, it may be preferable to make allowance for any hump.

I my opinion, it would better to do that by creating a recess in the refitted bridge itself, rather than removing unnecessary additional top material to flatten the top. Kathy's tops it's worth noting will be of pretty exceptional quality,  so if there is any humping at all, I think allowing for that recessing it into the bridge could be the best way forward.

It's also possible that the extra humidity in Great Britain, entirely surrounded by Sea as it is, and the air picking up moisture from where hence it blows, may be an additional contributory factor to hold in mind for such an Instrument, fabricated in Brightly Sunlit, Hot, California. I would just check for this and take into account any effect that Climate may have Enacted.

I am  an unashamed  Gibson Lover, (quickly  ducking thrown objects from every direction) and have only ever seen less than a handful of Gibson Harp Guitars in my life in the U.K. Even though it's a Modern Instrument, seeing any well made Harp Guitars is an intriguing sight that always delight the eye, though not perhaps as much as the delectable Kathy herself of course, naturally.  

The Instrument is most likely Finished with Professionally Sprayed Nitrocellulose similar to how it would be Applied in a Properly Equipped, Well Implemented Factory. So well finished indeed throughout, and that might be helpful to know for sure, too.

Clamping apart, this should be an easy job for a man of your capabilities Keith.



Going beyond.

I have a belief that where Harp Guitars are concerned.

It might well be the case optimally, from a long term functional perspective for such Guitars to utilise an end tailpiece with the strings going over the bridge, rather than terminating in them.

I do understand both the Tonal and Aesthetic reasons that would steer a Client or Maker in an otherwise direction and decline this approach, but the additional tension, stress, strain and functional longevity, definitely push me towards concluding that way of thinking.

I think Orrville Gibson gradually came to a similar state of mind and furthermore I think Arching Tops and Backs can also significantly boost the strength of the Instrument. I would like to see a rediscovery of their attributes.  I do realise none of this is relevant to the problem at hand, but believe that most of the Issues that can and do arise have already been understood and addressed throughout the History of Guitar Building.

In America the History of Harp Guitars is a quite straightforward affair. However, throughout Continental Europe its Development and History is far, far more complex indeed, impossible to properly understand simply as a Harp Guitar, and in my opinion better not to. There are many Differing Designations and usually these are Over Simplified to Three Major Groupings by Most Researchers.

Deepening the Understanding, Appreciation, Significance and Value of that History is something that can only Advance Progress.

I like the Distinctive and Special Tonality that Grace Kathy's Guitars and would be hesitant to mess with that Beauty.

However, without that, lend towards the view this Harp Design, will necessitate extra maintenance.



The Tone of Kathy's Guitars.

Remind me of the Tonality of Stringed Instruments.

Used on many Early BBC Children's T.V. Programmes that Sounded Utterly Delightful.

Composer Freddie Phillips was the Guitarist on many of these Themes and experimented with Multi-Track and Tape Speed for Special Effect. A Percussionist added certain sounds.


Luthier's may especially appreciate the tribute of the Woodworkers Song at 4.50 Sec's in...

"The Carpenter"

I like my job as a carpenter,

There's nothing I'd rather be.

I've had my tools for many long years,

They're all good friends to me.


A mallet and drill are in my bag

A file and gimmlet too.

Sand paper sheets a brace and bit.

A bradawl and some glue.


I like my job as a carpenter,

There's nothing I'd rather be.

I've had my tools for many long years,

They're all good friends to me.


I've chisels and saws all keen and sharp,

A jack and a smoothing plane.

I Know that oak will plane up true,

while mahogany changes grain


I like my job as a carpenter,

There's nothing I'd rather be.

I've had my tools for many long years,

They're all good friends to me.



I always find the Distinctive Tonality of Kathy's Guitars evoke Happy Memories of Freddie Phillips.

Freddie managed to carry Melody, Accompaniment, Counterpoint and some really interesting Arrangements without getting in the way of the Lyrics, so Masterful Guitar Composing at its Best!



Great replies from Frank and Peter!

I agree it's not much different from regluing a bridge on an acoustic six string.  HHG, long reach clamps, clean up the bridge bottom and bridge patch and expand wood to wood area very nearly to the foot print perimeter.  Fitting the bridge so that it does not need unnatural acts from the clamps would be my approach as well.  Be aware and mindful of any flex in the long reach clamps...

You are going to need long reach clamps and shop-made cauls for the inside of the box that match what Kathy built.

Because there are more holes to ream, more pins to fit, more saddles to refit after the distortion that invariably occurs with wood bridges after being heated off, etc.  As such I would charge a premium for the repair as well as Frank also indicated.

Just a bit more complicated bridge reglue in my view.

PS:  We use heat lamps and protective shields while reading top run out and using pallet knives to get the rest of the bridge off with hopefully no or minimal top fibers disturbed.

Thanks for the great replies, everyone. It didn't seem like rocket surgery, but I always like to get a few thoughts from others when something new gets thrown at me!

It's interesting, maybe, that I've worked on another Californian guitar (Santa Cruz) for this chap which also had a lifting bridge. That was a more straight-forward job, though...

Quote "It's interesting"


Indeed it is, and thank you for bringing these  Musical Instruments to our Attention!


Quote: " I've worked on another Californian guitar (Santa Cruz) for this chap which also had a lifting bridge."


Please forgive me, for making an unsolicited suggestion.

If this is a good Client you know well, I'm wondering whether it would be helpful to suggest that you attend his home to observe the environmental conditions, manner and location of how he stores his Instruments.

Its well within the realms of possibility that some aspect of his storage method or display method if that is what he does, and the specific conditions they are exposed to in his home, are having a direct and detrimental effect.

Although this is an unusual suggestion, it has been brought home to me very forcibly over the years and in particular just recently, the poor conditions in which some people one would expect to know far, far better, leave rare and valuable Musical Instruments.



A Company Director I knew came to me with an Early, Rare, Left Handed Martin.

I did everything to it in an holistic manner whatever I thought it required, and it eventually went from unplayable to playing fantastically.

He was so over the moon instead of Storing it in its Case as he had done for years, he put it on a stand on display. His cleaning lady knocked it off the stand with the hoover, and basically completely destroyed the Instrument.

I will never forget his face as he told me the what had happened. In their enthusiasm to display Instruments, people do silly things and use bad judgment about such matters. But here's what is making me reply again to you.

Every year I go round all the Best Dealers, try all the latest Innovations and New Instruments I can and sort out what are the Best Instruments of every type available in the U.K. I sort out who is hot and who is not, and spend lots of time trying lots of Instruments and most significantly, make Direct Instrument to Instrument Comparisons.

Whereas one might expect me to do lots of Playing, instead I do lots of Listening and Stand Back and make Listener and Audience Comparisons before I Play. I get Others to do the Playing, which is like being in heaven for them, and it is of course a Huge Learning Curve which few if any ever benefit from, because that's not what people do when they buy Guitars, or indeed Amplifiers which I've just spent the Last Month on, which get the same treatment from me.



Here's the thing.

One of what I regarded as being amongst the Best Dealers and Stockist of High Price Guitars in the U.K.

Was storing its Best Instruments in an Environment, Place and Position where they were obviously being subjected to Periods of Very Intense Heat on Hot Sunny Days.

No-one in the otherwise Excellent Store, had noticed or was aware of what was happening. In fact, All the Most Expensive Instruments, which after a reordering of the store had been placed along one particular side wall, with an adjacent window were suffering from a close to catastrophic case of dehydration. They were all completely unplayable, buzzing severely from half way up the neck, the bridges desperately sinking into the Bodies.

Over the last few years, I have seen the Effect on Poorly Stored Instruments of Sudden Intense Periods where the Weather and Climate has Altered Very Significantly in a Very Short Period of Time.  This is unusual for the U. K. where although such occurrences have always happened, they would at one time do so on a very irregular basis. This has in more recent years become far more common.

In relation to your Specific Instrument, we have had over this year many short sudden Intense Periods of Rainfall. Just this week we have had a Month's Downpour in but a Single Day, directly after a earlier sudden period of Weather that was better than the Mediterranean. If the Instruments were stored in a seeming safe place that was however, highly vulnerable to these Sudden Dramatic Changes, this could be an Explanation for what otherwise could be Easily and Wrongly Dismissed as just an Odd Coincidence.

I would be surprised if it is, given the Quality of the Instruments Involved.


In point of fact, it is probably the case that the Issue has been slowly developing for a considerable period, and that Sudden Environmental Changes, Drastically Accelerated and Exposed what has been happening.

If the Instrument has Suddenly Swollen due to the Moisture in the Air, if there is a Slight Hump Crowning under the Bridge as I outlined earlier, then all these pieces suddenly fit together into an impressive picture of what may be going on.

The point is, if such Poor Storage is a Contributory Factor in what may be a Continuing Underlying Issue, then if it hasn't already occurred to the Owner, it will probably require a Completely Objective, Experienced Eye to Discern, Where and How such an issue might be Occurring.

At first I believed the Initial Guitar I first tried on this Bad Wall  of Expensive Guitars had a "History", after the Instrument next to it had the same problem, and the next Instrument to that too, I realised that something else was going on.

It wasn't the Instruments that were the problem, but where and how they were being kept, exposed in some way that made them vulnerable to Changes in the Environment.




I would be inclined to consider making a custom clamp/cauls from aluminum (or another material) for the bridge plate and bridge with holes for bolts running through the string peg holes, rather than fussing with a bunch of long clamps. Cool Guitar!

You would still need to clamp the ends down, or you are likely to have gaps at the ends.. A custom made set of cauls with long clamps would certainly distribute clamping pressure more evenly than machine screws through the pin holes. It may be trickier to implement, but this is a job worth doing right.

Tapping a threaded hole in the top caul over the end(s) and adding a top bolt would solve that possible concern. Pressure would be evenly distributed with this method. I don't see this as a wrong way to properly complete the job. 

I stand corrected. It would work fine with bolts on the ends to provide downward force, but the bolts would have to bear against secondary cauls, and the primary caul would have to be notched out to accommodate them. It might just be simpler to just use clamps through the soundhole, rather than to make an elaborate caul for a one-off job like this. But either way would work fine.


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