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Thread: Has anyone experimented with bridge materials (bone, ivory, etc)

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    Registered User thecelloronin's Avatar
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    Default Has anyone experimented with bridge materials (bone, ivory, etc)

    Hello all,

    The world of guitar is filled with discussion comparing the pros and cons of various saddle and nut materials, and many products to fill that interest. I've noticed that mandolin players tend to stick with wood. Is there a reason for this?

    Here is a fascinating tone comparison video made by a guitar player:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ue_ReTveM1Q

    Has anyone experimented with bone, fossilized walrus ivory, mammoth tusk, graphite or any other materials for their bridge saddles and/or nuts? I'd love to hear a first-hand account!

    Thanks guys and gals.

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    Registered User thecelloronin's Avatar
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    Default Re: Has anyone experimented with bridge materials (bone, ivory, e

    Found this thread as a resource for discussion:

    https://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/s...-Bridge-Saddle

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    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Has anyone experimented with bridge materials (bone, ivory, e

    Sure, lots of people. Here's a wealth of knowledge on mandolin bridges.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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    Registered User thecelloronin's Avatar
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    Default Re: Has anyone experimented with bridge materials (bone, ivory, e

    Hi Mike,

    Thanks for the link. I'd actually already browsed that page before posting this topic, and it seems Red mostly deals with different types of wood for his bridge experiments. I'm more interested in a departure from wood altogether towards more dense materials. Please correct me if Red has delved into that as well.

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    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Has anyone experimented with bridge materials (bone, ivory, e

    Let me see, Frank Wakefiled has and Gibson has. It's around.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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    Default Re: Has anyone experimented with bridge materials (bone, ivory, e

    I have a graphite nut on a mandolin and it works just fine. I have also made bone saddles and topped an ebony saddle with bone. The bone saddle was mehhh, the bone topped ebony was just fine. I have put rosewood and ebony on the same mandolin, ebony wins. I have not tried a graphite saddle, and that may be interesting to try. I have lightened ebony saddles and liked the results, graphite would be lighter so it would be an interesting project. I hate working with graphite tho.
    THE WORLD IS A BETTER PLACE JUST FOR YOUR SMILE!

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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Has anyone experimented with bridge materials (bone, ivory, e

    I have a feeling that wood works best for archtop mandolins vs. guitars since mandolin range is heavy on the treble.

    Bowlback/flattop mandolins sometimes used bone or ivory saddles. Some bowlbacks used brass rods for saddles.
    Jim

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    Registered User thecelloronin's Avatar
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    Default Re: Has anyone experimented with bridge materials (bone, ivory, e

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Garber View Post
    I have a feeling that wood works best for archtop mandolins vs. guitars since mandolin range is heavy on the treble.

    Bowlback/flattop mandolins sometimes used bone or ivory saddles. Some bowlbacks used brass rods for saddles.
    Following your logic here, do you think there might be more value in exploring treble-heavy materials for something like a mandocello, which is closer to the guitar range?

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    Orrig Onion HonketyHank's Avatar
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    Default Re: Has anyone experimented with bridge materials (bone, ivory, e

    Quote Originally Posted by thecelloronin View Post
    Following your logic here, do you think there might be more value in exploring treble-heavy materials for something like a mandocello, which is closer to the guitar range?
    I have recently been looking at waldzithers, which some say are the original Irish bouzoukis, and many of these started life over 100 years ago with glass bridges. Scale length on these puts them in mandola to octave mandolin range tonal range. So this might support your supposition.
    New to mando? Click this link -->Newbies to join us at the Newbies Social Group.

    Just send an email to rob.meldrum@gmail.com with "mandolin setup" in the subject line and he will email you a copy of his ebook for free (free to all mandolincafe members).

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    Registered User thecelloronin's Avatar
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    Default Re: Has anyone experimented with bridge materials (bone, ivory, e

    Quote Originally Posted by HonketyHank View Post
    glass bridges
    GLASS bridges? Can you give me a general overview of what properties they have? That blows my mind.

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    Orrig Onion HonketyHank's Avatar
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    Default Re: Has anyone experimented with bridge materials (bone, ivory, e

    My guess would be that glass would be similar to the fossilized stuff, maybe making the overall result rather loud and twangy or heavy on the treble. I say that never having tried alternative materials as a mandolin (or guitar) bridge. Have never played a waldzither with any kind of bridge either. So don't take me too seriously.
    New to mando? Click this link -->Newbies to join us at the Newbies Social Group.

    Just send an email to rob.meldrum@gmail.com with "mandolin setup" in the subject line and he will email you a copy of his ebook for free (free to all mandolincafe members).

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    Mandolin user MontanaMatt's Avatar
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    Default Re: Has anyone experimented with bridge materials (bone, ivory, e

    Check out the Weber brekke traditional bridge design. Montana Luthier Supply now sells them(Bruce). It has a bronze bar/undersaddle attached to the posts, with a ebony cap/saddle over that. Great tone, detail and headroom on both my mandolins. Great looks, super durable.
    https://www.montanalutherie.com/prod...bridge-nickel/
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    Lurkist dhergert's Avatar
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    Default Re: Has anyone experimented with bridge materials (bone, ivory, e

    This is getting into an area of setup that is pretty hard to get exact comparisons with. Assuming that the saddle is the only part changed, the saddle from one manufacturer may have greater density in the same material that another manufacturer uses. But the bigger issue is the saddle's setup dimensions. A saddle made of one material may also happen to have slightly deeper slots or wider saddle areas under and around the strings than another saddle. Unless the saddles' dimensions are exactly the same, they will make a difference in tone, volume and sustain.

    And if bridges are also changed, this is assuming that the bridges compared are seated identically against the top.

    Like so many other things mandolin, there are too many variables to attribute a change in sound to just a different saddle material or a different bridge. The exact manufacturing details also need to be considered.

    Sometimes just loosening the strings to change bridges or saddles can make a difference by virtue of the other variables involved with mandolins. And as many people have discussed here, human hearing is very subjective.

    We all have to judge how detailed we want to be about this kind of thing. Maybe I've seen too many instruments, but for myself personally, I tend to prefer to be more general about judging whether I like the sound of an instrument. Life is too short.
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    Registered Muser dang's Avatar
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    Default Re: Has anyone experimented with bridge materials (bone, ivory, e

    I posted about my experiments a number of years ago...

    https://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/s...-Bridge-Insert
    I should be pickin' rather than postin'

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    Default Re: Has anyone experimented with bridge materials (bone, ivory, e

    Jerry Rosa, who has a YouTube channel Rosa String Works, makes a deer antler saddle you can buy reasonably. Check out the many video clips he has on mandolins. He'd be the first to tell you they aren't for every mandolin.
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    Registered User Billy Packard's Avatar
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    Default Re: Has anyone experimented with bridge materials (bone, ivory, e

    For the sake of a contrasting opinion...

    I love my '07 Weber Fern, especially after Bruce Weber re-graduated the top and back. After that, what really brought it to life was switching out the Brekke bridge for a conventional all ebony bridge and saddle. That Brekke thing was very heavy and did major dampening. The ebony B&S provides way more volume and a much broader range of tone and color.

    Having said that what bothers me about the ebony saddle is how, little by little the E strings are cutting into the wood. It's all of the strings but mainly the E.


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    Registered User thecelloronin's Avatar
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    Default Re: Has anyone experimented with bridge materials (bone, ivory, e

    Hey Billy,

    Might a bone insert under your E saddle help?

    Click image for larger version. 

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    Registered User John Kelly's Avatar
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    Default Re: Has anyone experimented with bridge materials (bone, ivory, e

    I have used material called Corian, which is a synthetic material used in the manufacture of kitchen worktops among other things. It is easy to cut and shape and polishes well. I have used it for nuts (I generally have a zero fret configuration but have used it without zero fret) and here are pictures of a saddle I made for my ten-string mandolin recently. Corian araldited to a hardwood bridge and with compensation cut into the saddle.

    Click image for larger version. 

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    Last edited by John Kelly; Dec-21-2017 at 3:54pm. Reason: typo
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    coprolite mandroid's Avatar
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    Default Re: Has anyone experimented with bridge materials (bone, ivory, e

    I got a bone insert as a repair, when the separation of the E string split out..

    I would not call that an experiment, but a repair technique..

    I also got a upper bridge portion of fossil walrus tusk from Alaska , made up there,
    for my A4, but again it was a repair, not an experiment for its own sake..

    I did experiment by modifying that old ebony bridge taken from it,
    to see if it changed the sound vs the aluminum upper,

    it did not, so I put the aluminum one back on..




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    Registered User thecelloronin's Avatar
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    Default Re: Has anyone experimented with bridge materials (bone, ivory, e

    How did that fossilized walrus tusk treat you? I hear it's about as hard a material as they come.

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    Registered User thecelloronin's Avatar
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    Default Re: Has anyone experimented with bridge materials (bone, ivory, e

    Quote Originally Posted by John Kelly View Post
    I have used material called Corian, which is a synthetic material used in the manufacture of kitchen worktops among other things. It is easy to cut and shape and polishes well. I have used it for nuts (I generally have a zero fret configuration but have used it without zero fret) and here are pictures of a saddle I made for my ten-string mandolin recently. Corian araldited to a hardwood bridge and with compensation cut into the saddle.

    Click image for larger version. 

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    What are the tonal characteristics vs ebony?

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    Default Re: Has anyone experimented with bridge materials (bone, ivory, e

    Billy, on a violin a piece of an old banjo skin scraped very thin and glued on the saddle under the E string prevents it from cutting into the bridge. It doesn't add much weight and seems not to change the sound but will help.
    THE WORLD IS A BETTER PLACE JUST FOR YOUR SMILE!

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    Registered User John Kelly's Avatar
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    Default Re: Has anyone experimented with bridge materials (bone, ivory, e

    Quote Originally Posted by thecelloronin View Post
    What are the tonal characteristics vs ebony?
    I'd say it was a harder and more trebly sound than ebony. It is an artificial material as opposed to a natural wood. I have used ebony on mandolin-family instruments but lately I have been using the Corian as my regular material.
    I'm playing all the right notes, but not necessarily in the right order. - Eric Morecambe

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    Mandolin user MontanaMatt's Avatar
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    Default Re: Has anyone experimented with bridge materials (bone, ivory, e

    Quote Originally Posted by Billy Packard View Post
    For the sake of a contrasting opinion...

    I love my '07 Weber Fern, especially after Bruce Weber re-graduated the top and back. After that, what really brought it to life was switching out the Brekke bridge for a conventional all ebony bridge and saddle. That Brekke thing was very heavy and did major dampening. The ebony B&S provides way more volume and a much broader range of tone and color.

    Having said that what bothers me about the ebony saddle is how, little by little the E strings are cutting into the wood. It's all of the strings but mainly the E.


    Billy

    billypackardmandolin.com
    Weber ditched the Brekke original for the new "traditional ". A vast improvement. I had the original on an old mando back in 2005 or 6... good tone, but not very loud. Too bad the cool concept of no metal doesn't work on the old bridge design.
    2007 Weber Custom Elite "old wood"
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    coprolite mandroid's Avatar
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    Default Re: Has anyone experimented with bridge materials (bone, ivory, e

    What are the tonal characteristics vs ebony?
    How did that fossilized walrus tusk treat you? I hear it's about as hard a material as they come.
    a successful transplant.. 5 yrars ago.. the patient lived


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