The acoustic guitar bridge is a crucial component of the instrument, enduring immense tension during playing.
Over time, it wears out, and eventually, you’ll need to repair or replace the acoustic guitar bridge.
Taking the guitar to a skilled luthier is the simplest option for repairing the acoustic guitar bridge. However, if you want to do it yourself, this article provides the exact steps to fix an acoustic guitar bridge.
We’ve outlined everything you need to know about guitar bridges – their functions, types, and factors influencing their condition.
What does a guitar bridge do?
Besides aligning the strings, the guitar bridge serves other vital functions.
For electric guitars, it transmits string vibrations to the pickups, and for acoustics, it passes them onto the soundboard. This process produces the sound we hear. Additionally, the guitar bridge impacts string intonation and action.
Different types of guitar bridges
Guitar bridges come in various types but primarily fall into two categories – Fixed bridge systems and Floating bridge systems (also called tremolo bridges).
Fixed guitar bridges
Fixed bridges attach to the guitar’s body and remain stationary. This type of bridge includes:
- Tune-O-Matic Bridges are mounted to the guitar’s body by two screw pillars and stand out with precise intonation.
- Wrap Around Bridges has the saddle and bridge combined into one solid piece. They offer individual saddle adjustment, but don’t have precise intonation.
- Hard Tail Bridges are attached to the guitar’s body using two metal screws, making it very easy to remove. It also holds tuning very well.
Named after the tremolo effect created during playing, this category encompasses the following types of guitar bridges:
- Synchronized Tremolos set the motion for both the bridge and the tailpiece. It provides a great range of pitch changes and stable tuning.
- Floyde Rose / Locking Tremolos have a locking system that allows tuning stability.
- Bigsby bridges provide a subtle vibrato and have a pleasing design.
- Stetsbar Tremolo is a roller bridge system that converts a Tune-o-matic bridge into a tremolo bridge system.
- Duesenberg Les Trem is also a roller bridge system that is easy to install and looks great.
By understanding the various types and functions of guitar bridges, you’ll be better equipped to repair or replace your acoustic guitar bridge as needed.
Why do guitar bridges break?
Various factors can damage the bridge, but the most common reasons include:
Excessively hot weather can weaken the glue, leading to the acoustic guitar bridge detaching. High temperatures threaten the entire guitar, as braces may also loosen, causing significant tension on the strings. Consequently, the guitar body may become distorted.
Extreme humidity levels
Moisture can severely harm your guitar, including the bridge. High humidity can cause the guitar body to swell and warp, while low humidity can dry out the wood and loosen the bridge. The ideal humidity level for stringed instruments is around 50%.
If the glue securing the bridge to the guitar is subpar or improperly applied, the bridge may loosen and eventually fall off.
When to repair a guitar bridge, and when you should replace it entirely
Replace a cracked, warped, or entirely broken bridge with a new one. However, if the bridge is loose or detached, it can be easily fixed.
Check this guide if you want to know how to replace your guitar bridge.
Tools needed for guitar bridge repair
The tools you will need when repairing the bridge are:
- Putty knife or razor blade
- Heating pad
- Wood glue
- A soft cloth or paper towel
How to fix your acoustic guitar bridge?
If your guitar bridge isn’t visibly damaged, check if it’s loose. Slide a piece of paper under the bridge; if it easily fits, the glue has loosened, and the bridge requires repair.
Follow these steps:
Remove the strings and bridge pins
Remove all the guitar strings, and then remove the bridge pins.
Re-examine the bridge to ensure there is no additional damage you haven’t noticed before.
Release the glue on the bridge
Use a heating pad to soften the old glue and carefully remove the bridge without damaging the guitar. Check periodically to see how much the glue has loosened. Don’t leave the pad on too long, as the heat may damage the wood.
Remove the bridge
Once the glue has sufficiently loosened, use a putty knife or razor blade to remove the bridge. Be cautious not to scratch the guitar’s surface.
Clean off any glue residue
Removing dried adhesive from the guitar and bridge is essential, as any residue will create bumps that prevent proper adhesion. Use a razor blade or putty knife, working slowly and carefully. You can also use sandpaper to clean it from the bridge’s bottom.
Re-glue the bridge
Apply a generous amount of wood glue to the bridge and the guitar top where it will be positioned.
Don’t worry about excess material; it can be easily cleaned. It’s better to have more than not enough.
Clamp the bridge using a C-clamp, positioning the bottom part inside the soundhole. Tighten the clamp enough to hold the bridge securely but not so much that all the glue is squeezed out.
Clean off excess glue and let the guitar sit until the bridge is completely bonded
You now possess the knowledge required to repair your guitar bridge. However, if the task seems too daunting, seeking help from a professional is always an option.
Well, you now know everything you need to repair your guitar bridge. But if it seems too difficult, you can always seek help from a professional.
What is the best glue for guitar bridge repair?
Luthiers have various preferences based on their experience. However, Franklin Tightbond Original is one of the most commonly used wood glues.
How much does it cost to fix an acoustic guitar bridge?
Repair costs depend on the extent of the damage and the type of guitar bridge. Simpler repairs range between $50 and $100, while more complex repairs may cost up to $200.
Should you oil the bridge on an acoustic guitar?
A dry bridge on an acoustic guitar can lead to cracks. It’s a good practice to rub the bridge with lemon oil every time you change the strings to prevent this issue.