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Here is a detailed report from Hank Lawton,
about his extensive bridge experiments
on flat-top mandolins:


Hi Red,

I tried eight bridge shapes. # 3 was the solid maple bridge I tried in the first comparisons between the original solid ebony, the solid maple, your six hole maple # 445 and your six hole mahogany # 444. In that comparison your six hole designs were far superior to either of the solid bridges. The maple solid came in last and the six hole maple was superior to the mahogany. Both six hole bridges were louder with richer tone and longer sustain.

The next comparison was with # 1, # 2, # 3 ( two footed maple ), the ebony bridge after removing the center ( two footed ebony ) and # 445. # 1 and # 2 compared much to my expectations with # 2 louder and with better tone. # 2 came the closest to a piano sound of all the bridges tested. # 3 had more ring and volume than # 1 and similar in volume with # 2. Removing the center of the ebony improved its volume and tone it was similar to # 3 but with more volume and better tone. The smaller amount of material removed and the intonation of the ebony might account for this. Over all # 445 was still the best bridge in this comparison also.

The last comparison was with # 444 after some of it's mass was removed and # 445. Removing the material from # 444 really opened this bridge up. This bridge sounded a little warmer than the maple and over all is my favorite. Both of these bridges have a nice tone.

Conclusions? Some of our predictions proved to be true. 1. Solid bridges are inferior to two legged bridges. 2. Bridges with longer foot prints only work well with the pressure more over the top of the foot. Longer foot prints with the pressure to the inside tend to have a dampening effect.( ex. # 1 & # 2 , ex. # 1 & # 444.) I think over all your bridge # 445 has the best qualities. Good volume and tone with a stable platform ( not prone to have the outboard tip of the foot lift ). # 444 has a very nice sound but the stress of string tension may warp it with time.

The ebony bridge is greatly improved and considering # 1 & # 2, I may remove the outer .25" of both the ebony and # 1. # 2 is an interesting change in sound from all the other bridges. I'll eventually refine and intonate it and # 444 & # 445.

Hope this is helpful in your flat top mandolin bridge work.

-- Hank

These are photos of Hank's bridges:

picture of bridges

picture of bridge on mandolin




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