Jerry had just returned from a gig in Greece and opening the guitar case discovered that the bridge had split right along the pin line -- unfortunate, but good timing!
|Jerry Willard photo|
This type of bridge failure is common. Bridge pins are tapered over their length and are intended to fit snuggly in their holes. The pressure they exert on the surrounding bridge wood is small but over time, combined with the pull of the strings, the wood will often split. There was no question of gluing the bridge back together. It would need to be replaced.
The front half of the bridge was completely separated from the soundboard and fell off when I removed the strings. The rear half was still in place as were both bridge arms. These latter pieces seemed to have been integral with the bridge block at some time but had broken off during a previous incident because they remained attached to the top when I removed the remains of the bridge block.
The condition of the soundboard under the bridge was frightening. It was worse than I expected. Obviously it had come off previously and probably more than once. On one occasion large chunks of the top had been ripped out in the area in front of the bridge pins and had not been replaced before the bridge was re-glued. Glue from this operation had collected in the open cavities. Curiously, the ripped out section in front of the 'A' string (second from left) continued pass the front of the bridge. That area had been filled in cosmetically. It is visible as a darker rectangle. Also thin layers of wood were lifted as seen in the center of the photo. But the most troubling sight was that the surface of the raw wood was a good third of a millimeter below the surface of the varnished soundboard. Such a clear line is delineated across the front of the bridge as a result of a technique that some luthiers use to ensure a tidy appearance of the varnish around the bridge. Guitar makers often apply the finish to the top before the bridge is glued on. Afterwards the bridge is held in place and a shape knife line is scribed around the outline of the bridge. The finish in the area can then be easily and precisely removed with a hot knife leaving a clean surface for the bridge. The mistake here was that the hand that held the knife was too clumsy and too deep a cut was made. When the bridge joint failed it took a big chunk of top wood with it.
The top had sunk slightly below the side rib level and the bridge canted down on the front edge and up at the rear. This was in spite of the fact that the three center fan bars had been replaced and a bridge plate added in the not to distant past.
I decided to replace all seven fan bars and at the same time to re-dome the soundboard. To get started I needed to remove the back.
I did this by wicking de-natured alcohol into the joint with the side ribs using a thin palette knife. It came off easily except for the area of the slipper foot that required more patience.
|Jerry Willard Photo 2013 (enlarged)|
This is the bridge that I made to use as a replacement. Its design differs from the original in two important aspects.
This completed the job but the story does not end here. Jerry posted a series of photos of his repaired Panormo on Facebook that drew a number of responses among which was a question of concerning the date of his guitar . Jerry and I believed it to be 1831 and build number 2152. Chris Susans, noting similarities between Jerry's guitar and his duet partner, Wendy Jackson's 1834 Panormo, asked Jerry to post a photo of his label.
By the way. My blog passed 50,000 page views this past weekend. Thank you all.