Stella Acoustic Bridge Graft Repair

South Austin Guitar Repair

A few months ago, I get a contact form submission from someone who read a blog entry from a decade ago on a lengthy repair on a vintage Stella acoustic. She owns another Stella from the same era which she bought in the 1960’s and is still the only owner in the guitar’s lifetime.

A few years ago, the bond of the glue to the top deteriorated and the pressure of the strings snapped a back corner of wood off the bridge. Once again, I failed as a photographer and historian by not getting a picture of the bridge before I grafted on a piece of mahogany with West Systems epoxy. But you can see pretty well the angle of the added piece to estimate how much chunked off.

Next, I secured the bridge to a block of wood to act as a routing template to recreate the shape of the original bridge. I took several light passes to hack off material. Once that was done, I cut out the overlaying piece on the back end of the bridge to expose the string through holes of the bridge.

From there, I sampled 4 brown wood dyes on a block of the same mahogany I used for the grafted piece to determine what would match the rest of the bridge. They all came pretty close undiluted. I went with the Kalamazoo Mahogany in the end because it was darkest. It blended in just fine. Once dry, I scuff sanded the entire bridge and applied a few coats of Walnut Oil as a sealant/finish.

I placed the bridge back onto the body to take some measurements for positioning and alignment and taped off the area 1/4″ further inward than the footprint of the bridge. Why? Because the original bridge was glued onto the finish of the guitar! No wonder it failed. We need bare wood to bare wood contact if we’re going to have a strong, lasting bond. To take the finish down quickly, I brush on a solvent to eat away at the finish. This initial step saves so much time vs. scraping the area. The tape successfully stopped the solvent from melting any finish I did not intend to remove. I then cleaned up the area and gave it a light sanding in preparation of the re-glue.

While that glue cured, I felt it necessary to bring the fingerboard back to life and polished each brass fret from the brink of tarnish to a beautiful shine. I then scraped the wood of the fingerboard and treated the unfinished wood with mineral oil. It was looking better than ever for a 60-something year old guitar.

The next day, I removed the bridge clamps and strung the guitar up for the first time in years. It was back in action and ready for the next 60 years of play.

For all your acoustic bridge re-glue needs, call Andrew with South Austin Guitar Repair (512) 590-1225.

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