Don't replace the original
Rebuilding a Bridge
© Frank Ford 2003; Photos by FF

This 1920 Santos Hernandez flamenco guitar is in mighty fine shape for a flamenco of its age. But, the ebony bridge had been broken through the saddle slot and glued back together many years ago. Now the bridge had torn loose from the top once again, and the bridge had sustained even more structural damage:

Understanding that such repairs are often not as substantial as replacement, the owner of this valuable vintage instrument wanted to keep it as original as possible, so we conspired to repair the bridge and reglue it. In addition to the severe cracking and broken pieces, the bridge tips had warped considerably as the bridge slowly pulled away from the top. I heated up an aluminum block, and clamped the bridge tips flat to relax the bent wood and return it to its original flat configuration:

While the bridge tips were being flattened, I turned to the guitar top and cleaned off the old glue and adhering ebony fibers on the section where the bridge had let go cleanly. At the other end, I left the big hunks of ebony glued right where they were:

After cleaning up the underside of the bridge, I clamped it back onto the guitar with some nice fresh hot hide glue:

The broken pieces of the bridge still adhering to the top made the bridge go right back in place so I had no trouble aligning it perfectly.

I mixed up some medium viscosity cyanoacrylate and lampblack just as I would for inlay filler, and dribbled a bit into the surface cracks that were still visible:

Some quick leveling with 220 grit sandpaper and a cork block gave me back the original contours of the bridge. I had to pay particular attention to the beveled end section where the damage had appeared most severe from the outside:

The instrument was originally finished with French polished shellac, and had been touched up many times during its long life. I added my bit of new finish to the bridge tips:

And, now the guitar looks, plays, and sounds just as it did before its most recent bit of misfortune:

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