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Stuart Larson's new maple bridge

picture of bridge on mandolin


(October 27, 2003)

Hello bridge designers and makers!

I recently took a visit to Red Henry's bridge experimentation page (hopefully he doesn't mind me posting the link here; and decided I was going to have a go at making a bridge after his most recent design. After decimating my first attempt (too narrow, nearly didn't come out at all), I've come to my latest attempt [shown above].

I'm a rank beginner to the mandolin (heck I put the bridge on backwards at first), and to stringed instruments, so perhaps you should take my assessment for a grain of salt; however, here's what I've noticed:

This is my first mandolin, and being tight on cash and unsure of my ability to learn and play the instrument, I decided on a $60 no-name off ebay. I know most will cringe, but I told myself I wouldn't notice the difference :D It came with a chinsey adjustable bridge which almost seemed to be made of balsa wood. The adjustment screws were nearly popping out the top! With its stock bridge, the (most-likely) plywood instrument gave me ok sound (in that it played when I picked strings and stayed in tune), but sustain was horrible, not to mention volume. With the stock bridge I got, at most, 3-4 seconds on my D string.

After putting on the new bridge, I was amazed! It sounded like I was listening to myself playing, but in FRONT of the instrument, comparatively. The volume was at least 3 times louder. I noticed sustain and tone were a whole lot better (at least 8-9 seconds on D) and the strings didn't sound muddy. The wood I used was stock solid maple I got from Menards (sort of like Home Depot), and I'm sure it'd sound better with better quality wood.

As to design, I played a little bit with asymetrical "tabs" on either side of the middle holes, thinking more tab on treble, and less on bass (similar to top thickness for building). As Red pointed out the whole top half of the bridge vibrates as a whole. This was affirmed after I corrected my backwards bridge placement, no difference in tone.

Just wanted to share my experiences with this bridge design with the list. To those with cheap instruments and no woodworking skills: you can do it! It'll definately make anything sound better. Though, I haven't tried it on my car.

Off to the next project: antler picks!




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