In the last post, I took an introductory look at the question of whether or not it was worthwhile to buy a more expensive guitar when very often one could be had for a fraction of the price that looked, sounded, and played almost as good as its more expensive counterpart.
I also noted that while appearance, tone, and playability are important things to consider when making your buying decision, many people don’t take into account build quality. That’s because the quality of a guitar’s construction is not easily discerned by most players, often going unnoticed until the guitar needs repair work.
In this post, I’d like to take a look at one aspect of build quality that you may encounter if you choose a budget acoustic guitar over something more high-end: loose bridges.
As you can see in the above picture, this guitar’s bridge is pulling loose from the top. This can happen with any guitar no matter how expensive and how well made it is, but it is something that is much more likely on a budget guitar. Sure, during my career repairing guitars, I reglued bridges on high-end Martin, Gibson, Taylor, and other high-quality guitars, but the vast majority of this work was done on budget guitars.
The proper way to glue a bridge to the guitar’s top is to make sure all of the finish is removed from the area where the bridge will be glued to ensure a good wood-to-wood glue joint. The bridge should then be glued on with a high quality wood glue. This is the way those higher-end guitars are built. It’s also the way I would reglue bridges on budget guitars when they would come into the shop for repair work.
You can’t make an inexpensive guitar without cutting a few corners. One of the corners manufacturers cut on budget guitars is gluing on the bridge. These guitars tend to use cyanoacrylate glue (super glue), and they either glue the bridge right to the finish, or they don’t completely clear finish from the gluing area and use too little glue. Either of these scenarios results in an inadequate glue joint. A bridge glued on in such a way will more likely than not come loose in a relatively short period of time.
Here are a two examples of budget guitar with improperly glued bridges. The first picture shows a bridge that was glued directly to the guitar’s finish. This bridge had absolutely no hope of staying on. Regardless of the glue used, the joint between the bridge and the guitar’s top is only as strong as the bond between the finish and the wood—and that’s not a very strong bond.
In this second picture, you can see that not nearly enough glue was applied to the bridge. The entire bottom of the bridge should have glue on it, but in this case probably close to half of the available gluing surface is bare. Not only that, but the finish wasn’t entirely cleared away under the bridge, compounding the problem.
If you choose the budget guitar over something more high-end, the chances that the bridge will start to come loose prematurely are actually fairly high. The problem can be easily repaired, but not without some expense and inconvenience.
If you’re in the market for a new guitar, and you’re trying to decide between a higher-end guitar and something lower in price, this is one of the things you might take into consideration. If you opt for a budget guitar, you may be looking at regluing the bridge in relatively short order.
Next week I'll take a look at electric guitars.
In the meantime, here is a video from Goodall Guitars. Skip to 39:00 to see the correct way to glue on a bridge.