Fixing A Bridge on a guitar | Removing Saddle and Bridge
The first thing we need to do is get the strings off and remove the saddle. The saddles on this type of bridge do need a little glue to hold them in; this one unfortunately has had far too much glue put under it. Normally they should come out with a little leverage and gentle force, but I've had to break this one to get it out – which is not ideal.
Before starting on the removal of the bridge, we'll have a good look at it and make sure there's nothing else holding it on other than glue. In this case the two pearl dots just inside the two E strings have the original nuts and bolts beneath, so we need to drill out the dots to get at them.
There are a number of different ways of removing bridges. Some makers simply prefer to chisel the old one away from the soundboard and replace with a new one, but on instruments of this age – and much older, in some cases – it seems a far better idea to try and re-use the original if possible. The best way I've found of getting bridges off is to use a heating blanket. This heats the glue join, which softens the glue and allows the two surfaces to part company. It's important when using these blankets to keep a sharp eye on the temperature as they can very quickly and heat up to over 500˚F, which will burn the timber! I use a surface thermometer, and on this job I'll make sure I don't let the blanket go over 230˚F. Just to be sure, I've covered the area around the bridge with some 2mm ply to protect it, and placed the blanket over the bridge with some weight on top to keep it held down and ensure the heat travels efficiently. The temperature needs to be checked every few minutes, and after about a quarter of an hour you can try and work on the join.
The main tools you see being used here were all purchased from a local builders' merchant. Whatever kind of knife you choose, make sure there are no sharp edges that could scratch the surface of the guitar. Once you've managed to get a knife under one corner you'll very soon be able to get another one in alongside, and then start to work your way across the width of the bridge. Don't rush: you need to make sure the glue has softened all the way across the bridge. Also, remember that when you initially put the knives under the join they'll be cold, so leave them there a while to heat up, and this will help them cut through any glue. With lots of patience and gentle coaxing, the bridge will part company from the soundboard. To give you a rough idea of the time scale, this one took me about an hour and a half.
1. Fixing A Bridge on a guitar
2. Fixing A Bridge on a guitar | Removing Saddle and Bridge
3. Fixing A Bridge on a guitar | Installing the Saddle and Bridge
4. Fixing A Bridge