With the alarming number of GS Minis having their bridges lifted (in sunny SG), Guitarbear reckons there is a pressing need to address the issue.
In this part, we look at some reasons why the Taylor GS Minis are so prone to top swell and bridge lifts.
GS Minis with lifted wing tips on bridges and bulging tops have become quite common in our part of the world. We see local guitar guru Jarvis of The Guitar Spa posting on his Facebook page from time to time of the repairs he’d done on GS Minis that required re-gluing of the bridge.
A bulging top and lifted bridge will result in loss of tone and raised action. I have come across GS Minis with action so high that it’s almost impossible to barre an F Chord. This is largely due to the lifted bridge throwing off all the setup done to the guitar. This will ultimately lead to high repair bills or giving up on the particular guitar altogether.
Why is the GS Mini so problematic in our climate?
Let’s take a look at the underlying reasons behind the problems. It is important to note that the bridge lift problem is caused by a mix of the factors listed. So it is impossible to narrow down to a single reason for the problem.
1. The high humidity in Singapore
Our local climate sees humidity usually at around 80% and this is a no-go for guitars made of wood. Wood absorbs moisture in air and expand, hence the bulging seen on the guitar top below the bridge.
The ideal humidity for guitars should be 45-50% so the huge difference in humidity is always a nightmare for the GS Mini.
Besides causing wood to expand, high humidity may also cause structural damage as the glue joints are weakened. Weakened joints will definitely contribute to bridge lifts.
2. The stock GS Mini string gauge
While the short-scaled GS Mini requires 13-56 strings to drive its top, the extra tension may create havoc. Having 188 lbs pulling the guitar top may accelerate bridge lift and top swell. This is especially true for the spruce topped GS Minis. They seem to be more prone to the problem than the mahogany and koa top siblings. Spruce is a softer wood than the other two variants so that explains why it is more prone to top swell and bridge lift.
It is also worth noting that ALL the GS Minis that I’ve encountered with bridge lift issues were on the stock medium strings for a considerable period of time. The prolonged duration of higher tension on the top obviously had an effect.
3. The GS Mini’s construction
Tips of the bridge NOT glued
The main thing about the Taylor Guitar bridges is that the tips are not glued in. Yes, this fact was confirmed by Glen Wolff, Customer Service Manager of Taylor Guitars. In a recent email, he replied to Guitarbear explaining that this technique of not gluing the tips allows a nice clean glue joint between the bridge and the guitar top.
So now we know why the wing tips are so prone to lifting. A combination of all the factors mentioned in this blog post will contribute to the horrors we see on so many GS Minis here in SG.
Only one thin tone bar under the top
Next, and very importantly, the GS Mini has only one thin tone bar below the X-bracing. While the thin tone bar allows the guitar top to resonate better, it provides less rigidity that’s required to withstand the high tension from the strings.
Thin finish may not provide adequate protection from the humidity
Lastly, the thin layer of matte finish on the GS Mini provides little protection from the elements. It makes the guitar more “exposed” and more susceptible to damage from the humid environment.
4. Leaving the guitar out in the open
This may be common sense but we are always baffled by guitar owners who leave their guitars in the open. Leaving the guitar on the stand or hanging on the wall may look cool, but what you’re essentially doing is exposing the guitar to the unfavourable climate.
Look out for Part 2 where we discuss how to maintain the GS Mini to avoid nasty repair bills.
Click on the link below for Part 2.
*written with inputs from Jarvis Wong and Taylor Guitars
*photos from Jarvis of The Guitar Spa, acousticguitarforum.com