loose brace

Repairing Loose Acoustic Guitar Braces

Visible gap on loose acoustic guitar brace

Glued inside the top and back of your acoustic guitar are braces. These are wooden support beams* that provide strength to what are, otherwise, relatively thin pieces of wood. 

Sometimes a brace can become loose. This could be because the guitar gets a knock but, often, some or all of the glue can just fail for a variety of reasons. 

A loose brace can be a pain. If part of the guitar isn't properly supported, it can pull and warp in unpleasant ways. That's generally not good. In addition, one symptom of a loose brace (and frequently the one that leads to its being discovered) is a nasty buzz or even a rattle when some or all notes are played. Often this buzz is located around a certain note (a tone or so either side) as the loose brace vibrates in sympathy. 

These can be an incredibly frustrating thing to track down. Sometimes you'll get lucky and be able to see the gap between brace and top/back (like in the photo at the top—the shadow beneath is clear) but, more often, you'll end up, up to your elbow in the sound-hole, poking at joints with a feeler gauge, trying to find a tiny gap. It's a real pain. 

When it's found, the gap should be cleaned and the old (failed) glue removed. Then, fresh glue is worked underneath the brace and the repair is clamped up to cure. This sounds straightforward until you try doing it, at the limit of your reach, blind (or, with an obscured reflected image in an inspection mirror).

Loose acoustic guitar brace

Find loose guitar brace

Not so with this one, though. These are back braces and they're relatively easy to get at. This particular guitar did actually get a knock and has had a previous repair for a back/side separation. I can't be certain that these braces were knocked loose at that time but it seems likely. Maybe not, though—benefit of the doubt for the previous repairer.

You can clearly see the feeler gauge poking under the braces in the photos. The blue tape is something I've put in, by the way. It keeps the mess down when working glue under the brace. 

Once there's a good smearing of glue in there (and it needs to be worked well under to get a good joint), a bit of a wipe up, and then it's clamped (see below). The little scissor-jack thing is a god-send for these jobs—it gives decent clamping pressure and I can wind it up from outside the sound-hole. 

On this particular instrument, this has to be repeated a few times as I found four loose ends. But not any more more. All re-glued and sorted. 

Glueing and clamping loose back brace on acoustic guitar

*I think 'beam' is the correct structural term for guitar braces but any engineers can feel free to correct me. Beam tends to make most people think of massive steel joists, however, while guitar bracing tends to be a little smaller. And wooden.