ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

How to fix a split bridge on an acoustic guitar

Updated on November 4, 2011

View of damaged bridge

Doing what seemed impossible

This Johnson dreadnaught guitar was acquired for free from a posting on Craigslist. The picture shown in the posting displayed a guitar that was almost intact and in relatively good condition except for the split bridge. I had never made this kind of repair before even though I have a lot of experience with woodcraft. I am not a Luthier.

I went to the library and took out a few books on guitar repair. The best one I found was Guitar Player Repair Guide : how to set up, maintain and repair electrics and acoustics / by Dan Erlewine. At first glance, the task seemed impossible without destroying the top of the guitar. After close examination I discovered the split went right through the top wood.

Here is an illustrated step by step chronicle of how I managed to save this guitar.

How to begin:

By following these steps and the advise from the manual on guitar repair mentioned above, I managed to restore the bridge on this guitar.

STEP ONE: I pulled the pegs and removed the strings. I managed to save the strings by loosening the tension on the keys so that they became almost slack.

STEP TWO: I carefully removed the broken parts of the bridge from the guitar top using Xacto tools, long blades and thin saw to avoid damaging the guitar top which was pulled upward and split by the force of the break of the bridge. This particular guitar did have a laminated spruce top which was an advantage in this case. A solid top might have split open and the repair would have been a lot more difficult or maybe impossible. ( I do not know what caused the damage to the bridge.)

STEP THREE: After removing the bridge parts, I was able to glue the bridge back together with yellow carpenter's glue. I clamped the bridge for over a week to allow the glue to cure. I have always had good luck with this glue in my other woodcraft projects but I had no idea how it might affect the sound of a musical instrument.

STEP FOUR: The top of the guitar did suffer some damage and the shape of the top was pulled and curved upward almost like a violin. I used a very fine 180 grit sandpaper to smooth out the undersurface and remove the old glue.

STEP FIVE: After the bridge was repaired, I used a Dremel Tool to remove material from the underside of the bridge to make it fit the contour of the top.

Restored bridge and exposed guitar top

Repaired bridge
Repaired bridge
Guitar with bridge removed
Guitar with bridge removed

Replacing the bridge

The next stage of the restoration process was to re-attach the bridge to the guitar making sure that the bridge was installed to the exact position before removal or the guitar would not work correctly.

STEP SIX: To replace the bridge, I used bolts and wing nuts slipped through the string holes to re-mount the bridge onto the guitar and I used a placement clamp to insure that that bridge was put in the right place otherwise the guitar would not work properly.

STEP SEVEN: Restoring the string pad. The damage to the guitar went deep into the top and the pad so I decided to augment the pad with a piece of thin hardwood. I used white oak. I had no idea how that type of wood might effect the sound of the guitar but it was all I had available to me. I used screws and wing nuts to hold the pad up to position so I could measure and make the holes for the pad.

STEP EIGHT: After drilling the holes in the pad to match the string holes on the bridge, I used a thin file to refine the holes so that the string pegs would fit snugly. After the holes were finished, I glued the pad in place using the same bolts and wing nuts. I allowed the glue to cure for more than a week.

After re-attaching the bridge and the new string pad, I took additional steps to clean and prepare the guitar to be restringed.

Re-attaching the bridge

Replacing bridge on guitar
Replacing bridge on guitar
White oak string pad with notches for string beads
White oak string pad with notches for string beads

Final steps to making guitar playable

These are the final steps I took to clean and prepare the guitar for restringing

STEP NINE: Before restringing, I thoroughly cleaned the rosewood parts of the guitar using olive oil rubbed into a soft flannel cloth on the fret board and bridge which was covered with grime. The body of the guitar was cleaned with light buffing with the same flannel but no oil.

STEP TEN: I was ready to re-string the guitar. I went to the Guitar Center and bought Elixir ultra light polymer coated bronze strings. I did my string research online first. I learned that the polymer covering extends the life of the strings. I had no real idea what this guitar was going to sound like because there was no way to play the guitar when it was damaged. I had to hope all the repairs I made would work. I had to refine the string holes a little more with a thin file before restringing to fit the strings and pegs.

STEP ELEVEN: Restringing the guitar. I have to say I am a novice and this was my first experience restringing a guitar. The instruction book I used really didn’t show me all the things that can go wrong. Take your time and be patient. I managed to re-string starting with the high E then B, G, D, A and low E. I did not tune each string as I installed them. After the initial winding of each string, I turned the keys slowly, increasing tension. The guitar creaked like an old ship. The tuning keys were in good shape and the bridge and pegs were secure again, the new hardwood pad put a strong hold on the string beads so the strings held their tension well.

Set-up and Action

I was lucky that the replacement of the bridge did not adversely affect the set up. The action was just right. Action is the distance from the string to the fret board. You can measure the action of guitar by using a long yardstick and laying it along the nut and the bridge saddle so I knew before I performed the restringing that the action would not be too high but almost perfect. Fretting was very clear and clean with no buzz.

STEP TWELVE: Tuning the guitar. I used an Intellitouch PT10 battery operated tuner with a color screen that records the vibration of each string and reads the scale flat to sharp with a dial.

To my great relief, the guitar was tunable and in fact, after three successive tunings, over a few days, this guitar remains in tune and in fact the sound of the guitar is rich, mellow and sweet. The action is fine and the fretting is smooth with almost no buzz.

Not bad for a freebee. I have my practice guitar. All it cost me was a bit of glue, handicraft ingenuity, some book research, a bit of frustration and anticipation, and a new set of strings.

NOTE: After three months of use, the guitar continues to hold to tune very well.

Success !

Playing repaired guitar. ( It's a keeper) All I need now is a good guitar teacher.
Playing repaired guitar. ( It's a keeper) All I need now is a good guitar teacher.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)