Ovation Bridge Reglue Nightmare

Adinol

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Hi friends,

A customer brought an Ovation to me, yesterday. The bridge is lifting and needs to be reglued.

I've done some research on Ovation bridge reglue jobs in the past and also some research last night. There isn't really any useful information online (that I cold find) that gives me the confidence that these jobs are done extremely well.

There are some of the details that present problems.

It seems that Ovation glues the bridge over the finish and it seems that they use epoxy. So, the bridge is either glued over the finish through the entire footprint of the bridge, or there is a bare wood area in the middle but a good chance the epoxy was used as a filler.

The finish on Ovations seems to be so thick that if you clean up the footprint of the bridge, to get a wood to wood glue joint, the bridge contact surface will be under the thick finish, thus making it impossible to do an easy bridge removal a few years down the line (if necessary). So, the rule that one should always make sure future repair techs have an easy job does not seem to apply in this scenario.

There are two tin diameter screws through the bridge and it is likely those screws are not even installed straight, but more like an inverted letter V. The two small nuts inside the sound box are not easy to access through the sound hole and not easy to unscrew.

There is a good chance there are also two completely unnecessary plastic studs between the bridge and sound board, making it more difficult for a palette knife to do it's job.

There is no bridge plate, there is a bulge on the sound board and since this is a string through back bridge on a steel string guitar there is significant lifting force when stringed up. That's the reason for those nuts and bolts, I guess.

If we approach this from the perspective of how a traditional bridge reglue should really be done, let's say like it would be done on a Martin, does anyone have any good tips on how to do this job the right way, to last and to make it easy for eventual future repairs?

Thanks....
 

cmjohnson

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My experienced opinion is that once an Ovation breaks, it's firewood. Refuse the repair and get on with your life.

I'm dead serious about that. No doctor will waste his time performing surgery on a corpse. Unless it's an autopsy.

No repairman should waste his time trying to fix an Ovation with a failed glue joint for exactly the same reason.

NO is sometimes the best thing you can tell a customer. This is DEFINITELY that time.
 

ziggybumwah

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Its do-able. Last year, for the challenge, and a friend, I re-hauled his 1972 Ovation Balladeer he received back from his brother recently, it had a tough, tough life.

I rebuilt a top, scraped the finish off below the bridge, glued it with an aerospace grade epoxy EA9462. The small nuts/ and bolts are more there to position and provide some clamping force (along with other clamps) when gluing. They are aluminum and broke easily.

Again, I'm not a repairman, I did it more for the challenge and the learning experience. In exchange my friend gave tennis lessons for my daughter. It was tough, but the maniacal ear to ear grin my buddy had on his face while playing songs he learned on the same ovation 45 or so years ago was an unexpected bonus...

Have to mention this was performed after a lot of internet searching and referencing... I have to dig up the name of some of the relevant posts I think the one stand out repairman's name is Dan Savage





 

DaveR

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Twoodford on YouTube has several videos about a takamine with the same issues you’re describing. Pins under the bridge, hidden screws, a shelf of thick finish, epoxy filling the gap under the bridge. He was able to repair it but made the same comments about “this is kind of a one time deal, the next time this needs to come off, it won’t be easy.” He also has some videos about ovation repairs, but I don’t recall anything bridge specific.

Actually, I’m repairing a takamine bridge this morning that is split through the bridge pin holes. Because it has all these same issues and the two halves of the bridge are still rock solid, I elected to just cosmetically fill the crack, rather than perform surgery.
 

ziggybumwah

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so essentially in order to repair the bridge, you'd need to replace the top???
Not necessarily, on my project the top was toast... someone had tried to repair cracks with fiberglass, there was 3 layers of paint. The bridge had been sanded down to change the action etc...

It’d be easier to fix the bridge if taken off completely but that could be a bear depending how well the rest of the epoxy glue joint is still holding.
 

BadPenguin

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Might not help your situation, but have you tried a Bridge Dr?
bdr.jpg
 

Adinol

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First of all, thank you all for taking the time to share your thoughts on the matter.

My experienced opinion is that once an Ovation breaks, it's firewood. Refuse the repair and get on with your life.

I'm dead serious about that. No doctor will waste his time performing surgery on a corpse. Unless it's an autopsy.

No repairman should waste his time trying to fix an Ovation with a failed glue joint for exactly the same reason.

NO is sometimes the best thing you can tell a customer. This is DEFINITELY that time.
I'll just take your advice. I was just working on a Fender acoustic today, all day, and it was one of those that ruined my whole day and now I have to make up for lost time to service all the other guitars on my to do shelf. If I remove that Ovation bridge I'll be married to that guitar until I figure out a way to fix it and then there's a likelihood the customer will come back in a year when he notices a small gap under the bridge I've reglued.

Than you for this advice.

But I still want to take time to comment on some other replies.

Its do-able. Last year, for the challenge, and a friend, I re-hauled his 1972 Ovation Balladeer he received back from his brother recently, it had a tough, tough life.
I do appreciate your encouraging words, but I still have to pass that repair job. As a full time repair tech I have to give a guarantee and can't risk to put myself into a situation that would give me an unfair bad reputation. If I think a guitar is likely to have problems due to issues out of my control I have to decline the job. A customer will not understand why a bridge came off for the second time and is likely going to spread the word that my work started falling apart after a year.

Ovation guitars are a nightmare...end of story
Point taken. Thank you...

so essentially in order to repair the bridge, you'd need to replace the top???
Which makes it more of a labor of love job than a job that I can charge a customer fairly for all my time.

Twoodford on YouTube has several videos about a takamine with the same issues you’re describing. ...
Oh,. I love his videos. In fact I re-watched the exact one you're describing, just last night.

Might not help your situation, but have you tried a Bridge Dr?
The bridge doctor is not for this job. But, yes, I am very familiar with it. Interestingly, a bridge doctor is a standard feature in some Breedlove guitars (but they call it bridge truss) and Breedlove bridges are like Ovation bridges with strings through back.

I am not a fan of those types of bridges on steel string acoustics.

And for whatever reason I believe Breedlove no longer makes guitars with a pre-installed bridge truss (or doctor) system. I wonder if it didn't quite work out as they had hoped. Often techs use the bridge doctor for the wrong kind of problem, and I can see how it can lead to confusion if a guitar has one already pre-installed.

Thank you all again for your thoughts.
 

cmjohnson

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It's always the guitars that the manufacturer tried to build more cheaply, more economically, that are hard to fix.

It's easy to fix an old Martin or old Gibson or Guild or Takamine that's made in the "traditional" manner. There's hardly a repair that can't be done on any of them if you've learned the techniques. But once we start getting into guitars that are built with exotic glues and non-standard construction techniques, all bets are off.

Ovation necks are by far the most notorious example. Assembled with a urethane based glue that gets into the pores of the wood and when cured it's hard and chippy almost like glass, when that joint goes you don't have a prayer of making new glue stick the joint together unless you are going to take the time to shave all the mating surfaces down to clean uncontaminated wood and then rebuild them with layers of fresh wood, then refit it and then finally glue it back together.

At least Taylor tries to make it easy. Neck replacement? Basically that's just two bolts accessible from the soundhole.

Taylor is the one guitar company that has really changed the way acoustic guitars are built, that hasn't made the repairman's job a nightmare.
 

LPTDMSV

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To be fair to Ovation, I think back in the day they honestly thought they had found a better way of making guitars such that they would infinitely durable and resistant to the effects of different climates - also, like Parker and Gibson with the Mark guitars, they believed in scientific analysis and that modern adhesives were just better, stronger.

In the late '70s and 1980s (as I recall) a lot of people were very enthusiastic about Ovations as reliable stay-in-tune low-maintenance touring and performance guitars. Again, as I remember (sure people will correct me if I am wrong) they were not cheap and sold to the professionals. The drawbacks came to light much later.
 

Freddy G

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My experienced opinion is that once an Ovation breaks, it's firewood. Refuse the repair and get on with your life.

I'm dead serious about that. No doctor will waste his time performing surgery on a corpse. Unless it's an autopsy.

No repairman should waste his time trying to fix an Ovation with a failed glue joint for exactly the same reason.

NO is sometimes the best thing you can tell a customer. This is DEFINITELY that time.
I agree to a point. I always refuse Ovation repairs where the top splits from the bridge to the lower bout. But for a bridge, just reglue it.

So, the rule that one should always make sure future repair techs have an easy job does not seem to apply in this scenario.
Rule? Disagree. Just remove the finish from the footprint and glue it in. If the guitar gets a few more years that's better than turning it into firewood.
 

Moby Dick

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I recently did some work on an ovation 12 string for a friend. I would never accept the work on a professional basis as it isn’t worth the time.

He bought a 30yr old ovation 12 string which had some pretty severe belly in the top from all that tension over decades.
The action had risen to @ 2.5mm.

Fortunately the saddle on these have phenolic shims under them.
I removed the two 1.5mm shims which got me half-way home.
Unfortunately the saddles are epoxied to an aluminum channel that the piezo transducers are in so I could not remove material from the bottom of the saddle.

I decided to mill off 1.5mm from the bottom of the saddle assembly.
As long as I avoided nicking the pickup lead it should work I thought.

It ended up working out great and at the end of the day you can’t see any evidence of the work performed.
The action is now @ 3.5/64 which is perfect.
We’ll see how long that lasts.

Next time I work on one of these, I have an idea to use two aluminum rods(stanchions) that the bridge will connect to with screws and then use screws through the back to suck-down the belly in the top.

I always warn people tempted by these ovations to steer-clear.




 

Adinol

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I agree to a point. I always refuse Ovation repairs where the top splits from the bridge to the lower bout. But for a bridge, just reglue it.
Freddy, I'm not sure understand what you meant by "the top splits from the bridge". Do you mean when the wood grain of the soundboard splits as the bridge is lifting?

Rule? Disagree. Just remove the finish from the footprint and glue it in. If the guitar gets a few more years that's better than turning it into firewood.
As a "rule" I mean unofficial rule, the best practice is to make sure the repair work will be serviceable in the future. But I do agree with you that in some cases it's better to do something as an acceptable compromise than nothing at all. The repair in question is not a good candidate for that approach, for several reasons. The guitar is still playable, but the owner doesn't like the partial bridge lift. It's been like this for a long time and who knows for how much longer it might stay like that, which means the guitar is basically still playable.

I also am currently having a hard time keeping up with all the other work and I've already worked a 12 hour day on Saturday, worked all day Sunday and another 12 hour day today. Why take chances with the Ovation? But I do have dry seasons too, so if that was the case I might be taking jobs I normally would not want to do.

But, yes, thanks for your 2 cents on the matter....


On a related note, guys, have you ever heard of the NASA art program? I think it was in 1969 NASA started commissioning artists to produce oil paintings of important NASA accomplishments. There were a few reasons behind this, one to continue the tradition of artist documenting historic events. But one of the other reason was also because of the fact the photography was not a time tested medium. We still don't know what happens to photographs after 500 or 700 years. And forget about digital photos, those don't stand a chance to be discovered by future archeologists. But we do know that oil paintings survive. So, it makes sense for NASA to document some of their historic accomplishments on oil paintings as there's a good chance they'll still be around in a few centuries.

What does that have to do with guitars?

Ovation was using materials that have not been time tested. We know what happens to glue joints after a few decades or even centuries pass, when hide glue is used. We don't know what happens to the newest materials.

I see a lot of Martin guitars that are falling apart, as they are experimenting with different materials. Experimenting is part fo progress and is actually generally a good thing, as there would never be any progress without trying out new things. But sometimes things don't work out over time.

Hope I'm making sense.
 

cmjohnson

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You just gave me an idea....a printer that uses inks made of oil paints. :hmm:
 

wildhawk1

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My experienced opinion is that once an Ovation breaks, it's firewood. Refuse the repair and get on with your life.

I'm dead serious about that. No doctor will waste his time performing surgery on a corpse. Unless it's an autopsy.

No repairman should waste his time trying to fix an Ovation with a failed glue joint for exactly the same reason.

NO is sometimes the best thing you can tell a customer. This is DEFINITELY that time.
As much as I've wanted to like them over the years I agree.

Seen so many with issues that I avoid them. Last one that passed through my hands had a bad neck set from the factory rendering the action a mile high (common issue). Friend owns one with a warped neck. Tops splitting due to the bowls not being able to move with the wood tops.

Pass.
 

moreles

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I don't recall if the OP actually stated if the loose bridge can be clamped down flush. If it can, I would use CA or similar, protect the top from seepage, and clamp the repair without having removed the bridge. Though this seems heretical, I think it's actually in keeping with the actual Ovation build, which does not provide for a removable bridge. Note: You can cause epoxy to decompose with heat. Unfortunately, it takes heat, not just warmth (I don't know the temp. required and did not use a thermometer) I spent about 6 hours slowly heating (with a soldering iron) a large amount of epoxy used to fill and "repair" a BRW bridge on an old Gibson acoustic. It took forever, the expoxy did break down and let go, and I removed it all and invisibly seamed in some BRW splints in the voids, recut the saddle slot. I always thought epoxy was "forever," but it's not. I think it's unlikely that you can apply heat in your case withoiut damaging the instrument. The best way to replace an Ovation bridge is replace the entire guitar. What an idiotic, short-sighted build. Location screws on a bridge??? It's really irresponsible.
 

Adinol

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I don't recall if the OP actually stated if the loose bridge can be clamped down flush. If it can, I would use CA or similar, protect the top from seepage, and clamp the repair without having removed the bridge. Though this seems heretical, I think it's actually in keeping with the actual Ovation build, which does not provide for a removable bridge. Note: You can cause epoxy to decompose with heat. Unfortunately, it takes heat, not just warmth (I don't know the temp. required and did not use a thermometer) I spent about 6 hours slowly heating (with a soldering iron) a large amount of epoxy used to fill and "repair" a BRW bridge on an old Gibson acoustic. It took forever, the expoxy did break down and let go, and I removed it all and invisibly seamed in some BRW splints in the voids, recut the saddle slot. I always thought epoxy was "forever," but it's not. I think it's unlikely that you can apply heat in your case withoiut damaging the instrument. The best way to replace an Ovation bridge is replace the entire guitar. What an idiotic, short-sighted build. Location screws on a bridge??? It's really irresponsible.
Thank you for your thoughts on this issue.

I have seen some YouTube videos about heating up old epoxy, but I never tried it myself. If I understand you correctly, I think you're saying that the epoxy can be removed completely, without any of it left on the wood grain. I guess, that's because epoxy does not penetrate the grain like wood glue, correct?

The customer did not pick up his guitar, yet, but we did agree not to proceed with the work. But since I still have the guitar I'll have another look and see if the bridge can be clamped flush, to consider that superglue solution you describe. I guess that's an acceptable compromise, if the customer fully understand it's a compromise and there are no guarantees.

I've reglued Martin bridges using superglue, on those cheap Marin guitars with HPL tops. At this time in history, I don't think Martin even knows what kind of glue to use for their HPL bodies. That's why so many customers bring those in for reglue jobs. I believe in a couple of decades there will be threads on luthier forums that are very similar to Ovation discussions we have today.

Of course, it is a good thing to experiment with new materials, but I'm afraid HPL is already showing signs that it will not stand the test of time.
 

LeftyF2003

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Ovation guitars are a nightmare...end of story
I played a 1980 ovation Legend for a few years. I got it new in '80, and played an acoustic gig with another guitarist playing the same guitar that was a couple of years older. One day I showed up for rehearsal and he showed me that the top was starting to separate from the plastic back. I immediately traded my Ovation for a Guild D-28 that sounded quite a bit better (subjective). I've since made friends with some of the Ovation folks (the factory is attached to a bar we play upstate), but I'd never buy another one...
 

wildhawk1

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I played a 1980 ovation Legend for a few years. I got it new in '80, and played an acoustic gig with another guitarist playing the same guitar that was a couple of years older. One day I showed up for rehearsal and he showed me that the top was starting to separate from the plastic back. I immediately traded my Ovation for a Guild D-28 that sounded quite a bit better (subjective). I've since made friends with some of the Ovation folks (the factory is attached to a bar we play upstate), but I'd never buy another one...
Still nothing beats the unfortunate Estaban model that crossed my workbench a couple years ago.

Their Cadillac model in all it's splendid ugly.

The plastic bridge was coming unglued from the top. Could of fixed it but the POS deserved the fire pit.

Strongly suggested to the owner an inexpensive Yamaha would be a much better instrument.

She was still playing that bought off TV boat oar at gigs last I heard.
 


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