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Thread: Markings on bottom feet of bridge

  1. #1

    Default Markings on bottom feet of bridge

    I recently bought a 2005 Weber Yellowstone and took it to Martin Jacobson in Atlanta to have it set up. Marty did a fabulous job and the mandolin now plays and intones great.I highly recommend him for any work. When he took the bridge off to level the frets it had a bunch of markings on the bottom. Anyone know what this is?
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  2. #2
    Registered User Ivan Kelsall's Avatar
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    Default Re: Markings on bottom feet of bridge

    Maybe an e-mail to Weber ?. They could be stock numbers for the bridge outlining height etc. ??. - it's hard to tell what other folk have intended. You can make out a number 2339 & the name Yellowstone on the right - what's the serial number of your mandolin,
    is it 2339 ?. The figures on the left look almost Oriental,so..........................?????,
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    Registered User spufman's Avatar
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    Default Re: Markings on bottom feet of bridge

    My old Gallatin's bridge has specifics about my particular mandolin to which it was fitted, but no snazzy pictographs like yours.
    Blow on, man.

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    Registered User sblock's Avatar
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    Default Re: Markings on bottom feet of bridge

    The three Chinese characters on the left of the bridge bottom are almost certainly the name of someone, most likely the person who fitted the bridge (and possibly did more work on this mandolin as well). Chinese names are almost always three characters, and the first character is the last name. It looks like the name "Su" to me, but a bit hard to read. So that is a Chinese signature.

    As for the "2339", Ivan is correct to suggest that this is probably a mandolin serial number. Look inside on the label. If you see a number like XX2339YY, then that's the instrument serial number 2339. The XX is a one-digit (possibly two-) code for the YEAR it was made (for example, 6 means 2006) and YY is a one- or two-digit code for the MONTH when it was made (for example, 12 means December).
    Last edited by sblock; Sep-29-2015 at 2:07pm.

  5. #5

    Default Re: Markings on bottom feet of bridge

    Thanks sblock, That is indeed the serial number of the mandolin. Just wondering about the rest. These were made in Montana in 2005 I assume.

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    Middle-Aged Old-Timer Tobin's Avatar
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    Default Re: Markings on bottom feet of bridge

    I'm very curious as to what a Weber is doing with Chinese writing on it. It makes no sense, unless there's something we don't know about who is building Weber instruments/part, or where. Anybody have any idea?

  7. #7

    Default Re: Markings on bottom feet of bridge

    Quote Originally Posted by Tobin View Post
    I'm very curious as to what a Weber is doing with Chinese writing on it. It makes no sense, unless there's something we don't know about who is building Weber instruments/part, or where. Anybody have any idea?
    The mandolin may have been made in Montana, but the bridge most likely was made in China.
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  8. #8
    Registered User sblock's Avatar
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    Default Re: Markings on bottom feet of bridge

    Quote Originally Posted by Chip Stewart View Post
    The mandolin may have been made in Montana, but the bridge most likely was made in China.
    No, I don't quite buy that explanation. Reason: These bridges have to be sanded and fitted to the top of each mandolin, individually. The writing on the bottom therefore had to be applied AFTER the bridge was sanded, and not before. So whoever did this, likely did it in the U.S., unless Webers were shipped overseas for bridge fitting and setup (I doubt that, but possible). Maybe Bruce Weber hired a Chinese-speaking (writing) employee in Montana at some point? That seems more plausible to me.

    As an aside, lots of Weber bridges have writing on the underside that matches them to the mandolin. I have just such a bridge, but there's no Chinese on it; just English.
    Last edited by sblock; Sep-30-2015 at 12:31pm.

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    Middle-Aged Old-Timer Tobin's Avatar
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    Default Re: Markings on bottom feet of bridge

    Quote Originally Posted by sblock View Post
    Maybe Bruce Weber hired a Chinese-speaking (writing) employee in Montana at some point? That seems more plausible to me.
    I suppose that's a possibility, although I see no one who might fit such a description listed on the Weber website under "luthiers". Maybe bridge-fitting isn't considered luthier-level work, and another employee could be doing it who isn't shown on their website?

    Not that I want to resort to unfounded conjecture, but is it possible that since being bought by Two Old Hippies, which also has Eastman, that there has been some outsourcing of parts production? And even if it were as simple as the bridge coming from China, why would it have its original markings if it had been fitted to the instrument in the US?

    I'd rather not make a mountain out of a molehill, but folks like myself have purchased Weber instruments under the impression that they are 100% domestic instruments. It's rather disconcerting to see something which might suggest that they aren't.

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    Registered User spufman's Avatar
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    Default Re: Markings on bottom feet of bridge

    They are tiny drawings that could be made by anyone, in this case the unnamed Weber employee who fitted the bridge in the Weber shop!

    P.S. You should see some of the things I find written inside the cases of boutique effects pedals...
    Blow on, man.

  11. #11
    Registered User sblock's Avatar
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    Default Re: Markings on bottom feet of bridge

    Quote Originally Posted by spufman View Post
    They are tiny drawings that could be made by anyone, in this case the unnamed Weber employee who fitted the bridge in the Weber shop!
    P.S. You should see some of the things I find written inside the cases of boutique effects pedals...
    Tobin: The Weber in question here was made back in 2005, so unless it's a new bridge that was fitted much later to the top, the work would have been done in the original Montana shop, and not in Oregon. The employee list you cited is just for the current staff in Oregon. It seems possible to me that Bruce may have had a Chinese-speaking employee back in Montana, well before the move.

    spufman: No, those are not "tiny drawings," but Chinese written characters. Furthermore, when the Chinese write quickly, as they do in a signature, they often perform what's called "grass writing," which is something akin to our Western cursive script, with certain characteristic simplifications, round-overs, omissions, and so on. No doubt about it, those characters were signed by someone, based on their look (any native would tell you that), so it's not reasonable to suggest that these are just "drawings" that were copied by someone unfamiliar with real Chinese script. They're in Chinese handwriting! If they were done in the Weber shop, they were done by someone with many years of writing experience in Chinese, and most likely a native. They're not drawings.

    Anyway, just because someone speaks -- and writes -- Chinese, it doesn't mean they're not American! So, finding a Chinese signature on the bottom of a bridge does not mean that the work was done in China. It just means that the signer almost certainly knows Chinese. Yes, it's a clue, but I wouldn't jump to any conclusions solely on that basis! After all, I speak and write a little Chinese myself (but I was born in North Carolina) -- although my own Chinese handwriting isn't nearly as good as the person who signed the bottom of that bridge.

    Finally, and this topic has been discussed before on the MC, a good mandolin is a good mandolin. It should not matter if it was made 100%, 50%, or 0% inside the U.S. And it should matter even less about whether it was made in the U.S. by folks who happened to be born here, or born elsewhere. We are a multicultural country, and many of us are only first- or second-generation Americans. Besides, in this international economy, very little of ANYTHING is made 100% inside the U.S. I don't ever see folks complaining that the Englemann spruce in their Dudenbostel comes from Carpathia, or that the maple in the violin is from Italy, or that the ebony is from Africa, or the rosewood from South America. And handwork is handwork, regardless of the language that's spoken. Or written.
    Last edited by sblock; Sep-30-2015 at 1:12pm.

  12. #12
    Registered User spufman's Avatar
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    Default Re: Markings on bottom feet of bridge

    I stand corrected. Looking at the old Sound To Earth archived content through the Wayback Machine, seems it would have been Cheryl Libby, normally fitting bridges. Her Linkedin profile does not indicate any Chinese heritage, so who knows?

    In any case, thanks for the diversion from my dreaded monthly financial accrual task at hand!
    Blow on, man.

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    Registered User Rodney Riley's Avatar
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    Default Re: Markings on bottom feet of bridge

    When I contacted Weber to have the broken neck on my Gallatin replaced. My first contact person's name was Ngan Le (pronounced "None Lee") He moved to another department before it was completed and returned to me. Maybe he was fitting bridges at one point of his career.

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    Middle-Aged Old-Timer Tobin's Avatar
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    Default Re: Markings on bottom feet of bridge

    Good point about the time line. I see that everyone listed on the Weber site right now has been in that role for only about 2 years. Complete turnover of staff right after the Two Old Hippies change? Interesting.

    It should not matter if it was made 100%, 50%, or 0% inside the U.S.
    It does matter to a lot of people, for many reasons. Not necessarily in terms of quality, but for other reasons that folks find personally important (be it political, environmental, etc.). The "why" is less important here than the fact that some people prefer to buy domestic only, and it is important to them that there be full disclosure.

    Again, I don't want to insinuate something that may not be true. The existence of Chinese characters on an ostensibly American-made mandolin bridge could mean anything. But it certainly suggests something, and I don't see any value in sweeping it under the rug.

  16. #15
    Registered User sblock's Avatar
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    Default Re: Markings on bottom feet of bridge

    Quote Originally Posted by Tobin View Post
    It does matter to a lot of people, for many reasons. Not necessarily in terms of quality, but for other reasons that folks find personally important (be it political, environmental, etc.). The "why" is less important here than the fact that some people prefer to buy domestic only, and it is important to them that there be full disclosure.

    Again, I don't want to insinuate something that may not be true. The existence of Chinese characters on an ostensibly American-made mandolin bridge could mean anything. But it certainly suggests something, and I don't see any value in sweeping it under the rug.
    I agree with you that it certainly suggests something (and maybe even something interesting), and I also agree that one should not sweep it under the rug. I certainly wasn't trying to do that. Actually, I think it's kinda interesting, myself, and sort of a detective mystery. I love those!

    As for whether buying "domestic only" matters to some people, I certainly agree that it does, but their reasons also matter. To me they do. And, to borrow your phrase, there is no value in sweeping this under the rug. Sometimes (not always), those reasons are mainly xenophobic and jingoistic. We should not condone such parochial attitudes any more than we should condone blatant racism, in my personal view. What if someone wrote in to say that they would only buy a mandolin if it's made by a white man, for example? I would find that attitude reprehensible, myself! So the "why" is not "less important," I'd contend. I think "the why" speaks to the heart of the matter.

    It also matters because most folks here in the MC really have no clue where all the pieces and parts of their instruments come from -- even when they think that they do! Partly it's because "made in USA" (a Fair Trade Commission term) does not mean what most folks think that it means.

    Here is the proposed legal requirement of the FTC for the label "Made in the USA":

    It will not be considered a deceptive practice for a marketer to make an unqualified U.S. origin claim if, at the time it makes the claim, the marketer possesses and relies upon competent and reliable evidence that: (1) U.S. manufacturing costs constitute 75% of the manufacturing costs for the product; and (2) the product was last substantially transformed in the United States.

    The guidelines for this label are grey and murky, at best.

    This 1996 guideline (and others since) means that the raw materials don't necessarily have to come from the USA at all. The steel in your "Made in USA" strings and frets and tuners may well come from Japan, or from China, where so much of the steel comes from these days. The wood in your instrument may well come from Europe, Asia, South America, or Africa. The shellac in the varnish is likely from India or SE Asia. The mother of pearl and abalone from distant parts of the Pacific. And so on.

    And it doesn't even mean that most of the handwork was done in the USA, either! As much of 25% of the manufacturing costs may come from outside the USA, according to the FTC! Since foreign labor tends to be so much cheaper, and since labor costs so often dominate the overall manufacturing costs (especially the case for musical instruments), it could easily be the case that OVER HALF the instrument is made abroad, and then finished up in the USA, yet it still bears the label.

    It is one thing to prefer to support U.S. businesses that pay taxes to the IRS, and employ most of their workforce domestically, over expenditures that go mainly abroad. I absolutely get that! It is quite another thing to think that "Made in the USA" means that it qualifies in that way. In practice, it is VERY difficult to know when all the dollars (or yuan, or renmin bi) actually go, in the final analysis, when you spend them on a new instrument. One should not be surprised to learn that trade is more international than ever, these days!

  17. #16
    Registered User foldedpath's Avatar
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    Default Re: Markings on bottom feet of bridge

    The OP said they bought this mandolin recently, so 10 years have elapsed since it was made in 2005 where the mandolin was in someone else's hands. That's plenty of time for it to have gone out to a local luthier for some setup work, possibly a bridge fitting or even a replaced bridge. And they could have put their name on it, along with the model and serial number so it would go with the right instrument in the work order.

    In other words, it doesn't necessarily have to be anything related to the Weber shop. The only thing mildly suggestive, is that whoever fit the bridge knew enough about Weber serial numbers to only use the middle part, and not the full number.

    I had the bridge of my Lebeda mandolin scraped and re-fitted to the top last year. I don't usually remove the bridge when changing strings, so I don't know if there's any writing under there. But it wouldn't be unusual, and it sure wouldn't have had any relation to the original builder.

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    Registered User sblock's Avatar
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    Default Re: Markings on bottom feet of bridge

    Quote Originally Posted by foldedpath View Post
    The OP said they bought this mandolin recently, so 10 years have elapsed since it was made in 2005 where the mandolin was in someone else's hands. That's plenty of time for it to have gone out to a local luthier for some setup work, possibly a bridge fitting or even a replaced bridge. And they could have put their name on it, along with the model and serial number so it would go with the right instrument in the work order.

    In other words, it doesn't necessarily have to be anything related to the Weber shop. The only thing mildly suggestive, is that whoever fit the bridge knew enough about Weber serial numbers to only use the middle part, and not the full number.

    I had the bridge of my Lebeda mandolin scraped and re-fitted to the top last year. I don't usually remove the bridge when changing strings, so I don't know if there's any writing under there. But it wouldn't be unusual, and it sure wouldn't have had any relation to the original builder.
    That is not an unreasonable guess, but I think it's not likely to be right. I have a Weber bridge from 2006 that bears similar markings on its underside, made in a similar light-colored ink (to stand out against the dark wood), but which doesn't have any Chinese characters. And, as you point out, whoever wrote it knows how to "decode" Weber serial numbers into numbers and dates of manufacture. And why ever would an independent luthier, fitting a new bridge to an already-finished instrument go to all the trouble of writing the serial number and Weber model on it? (A manufacturer might well do this, though, in order to re-unite the correct bridge and mandolin after subsequent finishing work at the factory, where they get separated!) To me, it all points to work done at the Weber shop by an insider. Still...

  19. #18
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    Default Re: Markings on bottom feet of bridge

    Bob Peterson, who was the Weber set-up person at that time in Logan, was taking Chinese lessons. I can't remember what the characters meant exactly - but it was something like shorthand for good fortune for the instrument. I'll ask Bruce when I see him tomorrow and he should be able to clarify it all.

    Vern Brekke

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  21. #19

    Default Re: Markings on bottom feet of bridge

    I'm the Original Poster. I bought the mandolin from a guy on Craigslist Atlanta. He advertised that it was a good mandolin because the strings were very tight. He inherited it from his cousin that had won it in a raffle at a bluegrass festival in 2005. It was in unplayable condition with a thumbpick in the case pocket. The original strings were on it and the winning raffle ticket was in the case.

  22. #20

    Default Re: Markings on bottom feet of bridge

    It sounds and plays wonderful now by the way.

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    Middle-Aged Old-Timer Tobin's Avatar
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    Default Re: Markings on bottom feet of bridge

    Quote Originally Posted by VernBrekke View Post
    Bob Peterson, who was the Weber set-up person at that time in Logan, was taking Chinese lessons. I can't remember what the characters meant exactly - but it was something like shorthand for good fortune for the instrument. I'll ask Bruce when I see him tomorrow and he should be able to clarify it all.

    Vern Brekke
    That would make a lot of sense! Pretty cool way of "signing" his work, if true. And adding a personal touch.

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    Registered User Ivan Kelsall's Avatar
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    Default Re: Markings on bottom feet of bridge

    Thanks for chipping in Vern - I had some writing under my Weber Fern bridge but no Chinese characters. I was wondering why even a Chinese or a person of part Chinese origin would inscribe Chinese characters on the bridge,when most likely their everyday language in the US would be English - but a mandolin with a blessing ! .Was that of the list of Weber 'accessories' ?,
    Ivan
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    Registered User Brett Byers's Avatar
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    Default Re: Markings on bottom feet of bridge

    Vern is correct. Bob Peterson was our set up tech at the time. But they are Japanese characters, not Chinese. Bob was intrigued by Japanese culture and language and was taking Japanese lessons at the time and if my memory serves me correctly I believe the Japanese lettering is his name. We would "sign" the underneath side of the bridges with the serial number and our name when setting up each mandolin. I signed all of mine with B2 (that's B squared). The drawing in the middle of the bridge is a hockey player, as Bob was an avid hockey player himself.
    ps- Hi Vern! I hope you're doing well!

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    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Markings on bottom feet of bridge

    I love it when we finally get the real story. Great stuff. Thanks Brett and Vern.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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    Default Re: Markings on bottom feet of bridge

    My wife is Chinese and I let her look at the pic and she said its Chinese writing but looks like partly wiped away. Interesting

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