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Thread: Mandolin bridge leaning towards neck, is this normal?

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    Default Mandolin bridge leaning towards neck, is this normal?

    It seems my bridge is leaning forward, and I'm not sure if it should. I could sand it down so that it sits more perpendicular to the top, but I'm not certain that it is necessary.

    I've attempted to attach two pictures, I hope they are good enough to see what I'm referring too. Can anyone give me some advice?

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  2. #2
    noodlin' noodler PaulBills's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolin bridge leaning towards neck, is this normal?

    Is this from setting up, y'know, having moved the bridge whilst under tension, or is it flat against the body? It might be that you could slide the bottom up so that it's level. If not, then yep, looks like you need a touch of sandpaper

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    Default Re: Mandolin bridge leaning towards neck, is this normal?

    It looks to me like your bridge base is fine but the saddle is tilting sightly on the posts. They have a tendency to pull forward due to always being pulled that when when you tune. You should be able to loosen your string tension a bit then pull the saddle more upright. It really is not a big deal. The important thing is that you have good contact between the bridge base and the top, and it looks like you have that.
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    Default Re: Mandolin bridge leaning towards neck, is this normal?

    I am seeing the foot fit with a forward lean. I would go ahead and refit the foot with more of a back angle. It looks like your bridge saddle is also bottomed out so I would also take some more wood off the foot to get some adjustment range. Is your action set correctly now?
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    Default Re: Mandolin bridge leaning towards neck, is this normal?

    The bridge leaning toward the tuners is normal if you are not used to changing your own strings... As the strings are being tuned they stretch and that movement toward the tuners will make the bridge lean toward the tuners. "stretch" is probably not the right word but as they settle under the increasing tension as you tune them they actually pull the bridge into a lean toward the tuners..... In any case that can be corrected by starting tightening newly installed strings with the bridge is a position leaning toward the tailpiece and the pulling strings will straighten the bridge.as the strings are brought up to proper tension.

    In any case that is how I do it and it works. Before you start shaving the bridge feet I would suggest you try this method. Even with shaved bridge feet it will happen again. and then the newly shaved feet will not fit properly.

    I just read Don's suggestion above and his explanation of straightening it is better than mine.
    Last edited by bart mcneil; Jul-29-2014 at 8:38pm.

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    Registered User Robert Smyth's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolin bridge leaning towards neck, is this normal?

    I actually like having my bridge tilt slightly towards the tailpiece, just slightly. My thinking is that it reduces the possibility of any imperfections within the slots on the bridgepiece from hampering optimum string vibration. Seems like the strings will have a better getaway from the bridge. So with each string that I change, I grab the bridge with two hands and give it a little nudge to keep it from tilting toward the neck as the new strings pull it as they are brought up to pitch. All the while making sure the bridge feet are smack flat on the soundboard. If you see any daylight underneath the bridge feet, start sanding.

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    Default Re: Mandolin bridge leaning towards neck, is this normal?

    Quote Originally Posted by Folkmusician.com View Post
    I am seeing the foot fit with a forward lean. I would go ahead and refit the foot with more of a back angle. It looks like your bridge saddle is also bottomed out so I would also take some more wood off the foot to get some adjustment range. Is your action set correctly now?
    Agreed. That's what I see as well, it's not being pulled forward, that how the bridge feet are set, notice the perfect fit even though it's leaning forward

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    Default Re: Mandolin bridge leaning towards neck, is this normal?

    Loosen the string tension and remove the bridge, flip the base to see if it will fit the cross arch and does it lean back slightly. I would do this before going to the work of fitting the bridge to see the path of least work to get the best result.

    The bridge gets rocked toward the fingerboard normally, and must be rocked back to keep the foot seated on the top. Most often you will see the marks where the front edge of the bridge foot press into the top, sometimes it pulls out finish. Best to fit the foot evenly and keep it well seated on the top. If you bisect the string break angle over the bridge you will have the force vector of the down pressure. This usually goes through or in front of the foot of the bridge. I usually angle the bridge back a bit to get the vector to fall within the foot of the bridge. This helps prevent the front edge of the foot from digging into the top, but you still have to keep your eye on the bridge angle and pull it back from time to time.

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    Default Re: Mandolin bridge leaning towards neck, is this normal?

    The action is still a bit high at the 12th fret, above 0.050". I'll most likely sand the feet down at the proper angle and that should give me some clearance for adjustment. Thanks for the advice!
    Last edited by Flec; Jul-30-2014 at 9:18am. Reason: Corrections.

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    Default Re: Mandolin bridge leaning towards neck, is this normal?

    Ahh, I was not even aware that over time the bridge would lean. I'll pay more attention to it on both my mandolins (this one is basically going to be my beater mandolin).

    Thanks for the information, much appreciated!

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    Default Re: Mandolin bridge leaning towards neck, is this normal?

    All this talk about bridges moving after you tension the strings makes me wonder if that throws the intonation off. I mean, during a setup, I place the bridge exactly where it is supposed to be by a) unstringing the instrument. b) adding one G string and one E string. c) tune both, d) move the bridge around until the pitch is correct (or as close as I can get it) on the octave and the 5th. Then if I string the whole thing and if the bridge moves, it will change my adjustment. Not good! Fortunately, I only had one leaning bridge, and it leaned before tensioning the strings, so the intonation stayed put.
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    Default Re: Mandolin bridge leaning towards neck, is this normal?

    Stringing/Tuning up the mandolin absolutely changes the intonation.This is not just the bridge moving, but also the top and neck as the string tension will be significantly different. Whenever possible, I do final intonation adjustments under full tension (and in the playing position). I also set the saddle angle under full tension. If you detune to do this, it will pull forward again as you bring it back to tension.
    Robert Fear
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    Default Re: Mandolin bridge leaning towards neck, is this normal?

    Loosen the string tension and remove the bridge, flip the base to see if it will fit the cross arch and does it lean back slightly. I would do this before going to the work of fitting the bridge to see the path of least work to get the best result.
    Ahh yes! A good portion of the time, this gets you very close.
    Robert Fear
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    Default Re: Mandolin bridge leaning towards neck, is this normal?

    Quote Originally Posted by Folkmusician.com View Post
    Whenever possible, I do final intonation adjustments under full tension (and in the playing position).
    Do you have to tap the bridge with a tool to move it under full tension?

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    Default Re: Mandolin bridge leaning towards neck, is this normal?

    I've never been able to get the bridge to move under full tension. I'm sure I could muscle it around, but I'm afraid that applying that much force might scratch or dent something. So far, when I've set the intonation using the method I described, it has remained the same (as near as I can hear and a sensitive tuner can tell) after applying full tension. Maybe I've been lucky so far. The "leaner" that I had would lean under the partial tension.

    Because the G and E are under full tension when I adjust, the instrument is not slack, but it is not under as much tension as it will be either.

    Quote Originally Posted by Folkmusician.com View Post
    Stringing/Tuning up the mandolin absolutely changes the intonation.This is not just the bridge moving, but also the top and neck as the string tension will be significantly different. Whenever possible, I do final intonation adjustments under full tension (and in the playing position). I also set the saddle angle under full tension. If you detune to do this, it will pull forward again as you bring it back to tension.
    mlbex - Mike Bechler

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    Washburn 'taterbug'

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    Default Re: Mandolin bridge leaning towards neck, is this normal?

    Do you have to tap the bridge with a tool to move it under full tension?
    I just grab it from both sides and push accordingly. You have to control both sides at once or it will twist. On the majority of mandolins you can move the bridge without any damage to the finish. There are cases when the finish is to fragile or sticky to do this safely (not common). How many stories have we heard where a customer comes up to Gilchrist or some other famous builder and mentions that their bridge is leaning or the intonation is off. Famous builder proceeds to grab the bridge and move it under full tension. Seconds later, problem solved. This is normal for anyone that regularly works on mandolins. Tapping it with a hammer is also common, though I don't do it.

    For lean, I grip the saddle with my index fingers also bracing the foot and push.

    From my experiences, the difference between the intonation with just the E and G under tension vs. full tension will be a couple of cents. The bridge can also lean forward enough to change the intonation a couple of cents and lastly on it's back vs the playing condition results in a couple of cents difference. All together, you will be at least a few cents off and probably more. 5 cents is audible to most musicians, but in the big picture, I don't suppose it is a big deal. Over time your mandolin will get 5 cents off on its own.
    Robert Fear
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    Default Re: Mandolin bridge leaning towards neck, is this normal?

    I also adjust under full tension. It's not a big deal. Also, it's usually the saddle part of the bridge leaning forward, not the feet. Usually. If you're worried about the feet leaning forward, check with Bill James. He has a new bridge out that I call the Smiley. Crescent shaped. I put one of the first ones on a mando well over a year ago. NFI.

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    Default Re: Mandolin bridge leaning towards neck, is this normal?

    The crescent shaped bridges Bill James makes are beautiful, but they don't look like the regular bridge. Absolutely beautiful workmanship, and they don't have the tipping issue.

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