This Breedlove Twelve-string came in with the bridge blown off. It is signed on the inside by Larry Breedlove and Steve Henderson and the label shows it was made in Tumalo, OR in 1991, which means it was built before the Breedlove Company officially went in to production.
There is a “good-old-fashioned” glue-the-bridge-to-the-finish trick that almost all commercial builders use to make it look like they’ve done an immaculate job of removing finish from the area where the bridge will be glued to the top. Rather than removing all of the finish beneath the bridge they leave some behind. This means the bridge is resting up on that layer of finish and wood-to-wood contact of the joint is minimal. You’re sacrificing tone and sustain big time, as well as endangering the longevity of the joint… BUT it does look like you did a very neat job… and it’s way easier to do. I’m sure there is an equation that shows that the number of bridges that blow-out is out-weighed by the time saved on doing a proper job.
I traced the outside of the bridge with a knife and began removing finish to the line. Here is an in-progress picture; the top and right edges have had the finish removed to the score line. You can see how the line I traced along the bottom and left hand side still has plenty of finish inside it. The unique outline of this bridge made the process way longer than with your standard acoustic guitar bridge that you would find on most guitars.
This design of the bridge also contributed to the joint coming undone. It is made up of three different pieces of wood with some different grain directions. The lack of bridge pins changes the direction of force exerted on the bridge by the strings. Combine this with the odd shape and you have a piece of wood that is prone to warping and a joint that is prone to coming undone.
After removing finish to the score line we level the area of the top and set the bridge in place on the raw top wood to see where and how much it is warped. Time to start fitting the bridge to the top using a combination of removing wood and bending wood with heat and water. After a whole lot of patient and careful work we have arrived at a very nice joint and it is glued up with hot hide glue, the luthier’s favorite.
And the moment of truth… It’s holding under tension! As we’d expect with a solid wood-to-wood mate. This joint is much more sound than it ever has been, but it’s always a suspenseful moment when you put strings on a guitar for the first time after a major joint is re-glued.
The guitar sounds great! We’re are more than happy at being able to give this guitar back to its owner with many years of life in it, and sounding better than ever.