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Thread: Full-contact bridges: New standard?

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    Registered User Drew Streip's Avatar
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    Default Full-contact bridges: New standard?

    I was at Carter Vintage yesterday and I must have played ~25 mandos, and looked at dozens of others.

    It seemed that about 40-50% of all mandolins in there -- even brand-new F5s -- were using full-contact bridges. Plenty still had the standard Loar-style bridge with two distinct feet, but even some of those looked like they had been fitted down to where there was almost zero daylight.

    Are builders and repairmen moving to full-contact to alleviate top sinkage? Increase tone? Volume? Or was this just a fluke?

  2. #2

    Default Re: Full-contact bridges: New standard?

    I know Heiden and Passernig use full contact bridges. Who else?

    Enough about the bridges. We need a report on those 25 mandolins.
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    Default Re: Full-contact bridges: New standard?

    My Silverangel has a full contact bridge.
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    Registered User MissingString's Avatar
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    Default Re: Full-contact bridges: New standard?

    Yeah, Don is right... let’s hear about the 25 mandolins...LOL. Top three played perhaps?
    BtW my Collings MF5V has a full contact bridge, as does my Kimble A5.
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    Registered User Ivan Kelsall's Avatar
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    Default Re: Full-contact bridges: New standard?

    I'm fairly sure that Tom Ellis,who makes his own bridges,opts for the full contact style - that's what's on my Ellis "A" style.

    I know a couple of players who've used one,then tried the other - have found no notable difference between the 2 types. All i will say,is that my Ellis with it's own maker's bridge on it,is as perfect in intonation & fretting accuracy as i think it's possible to get. The bridge has been compensated for 'that' mandolin & it's superb,
    Ivan
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    Registered User John Flynn's Avatar
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    Default Re: Full-contact bridges: New standard?

    My Old Wave oval (my avatar) has a full contact bridge made from desert ironwood.

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    Adrian Minarovic
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    Default Re: Full-contact bridges: New standard?

    I made my first full contact bridge in 1996 and been making them as standard practice on my mandolins after number 4, with exception of use of supplied bridges on repairs/setups.
    My first mandolin (made in 2001) has somewhat thin two footer and I'm considering filling the gap as I start to see the tiny arch deformation between the feet. The arch on this mandolin is as healthy as any (no sinking or bulging) but the tension of strings still manages to push the center of the top into the gap and you can barely see it in the reflection or feel with fingers when you go along the base. Pretty much inevitable so full contact makes very good sense.
    Adrian

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    Default Re: Full-contact bridges: New standard?

    I'm into full contact and have been for years. Perhaps a question: why the two feet ever? I would guess it started from the violin bridge.

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    Registered User Drew Streip's Avatar
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    Default Re: Full-contact bridges: New standard?

    Thanks all! Ellis, Collings, Old Wave, Gibson, Heiden, Weber, Altman and others that I can't remember now were all among the full-contact crowd.

    It struck me since the two most popular aftermarket (or OE) bridges -- Cumberland Acoustic "Standard" and Randy Wood vintage-style -- are both two-footed, not to mention all the other generic models available.

    Regarding the mandolins: I wasn't looking to purchase anything, so my input probably isn't worth much. I'm in the process of building my first F5, so I was really just checking out similarities and differences in neck shape, fit & finish, hardware, construction, etc.

    I found it interesting that the smaller-production builders (Altman, Heiden, Giacomel, Monteleone, Iwamoto) all had more pronounced recurve areas. The Altman was the most extreme, and it also had the thumpiest bass response. The Heiden is my favorite overall for its combo of sound, unique looks and scarcity. The 1982 Gilchrist is oozing mojo -- literally: The varnish has melted away from the wood after all these years, giving it a really cool wear pattern.

    The Gibsons, Gilchrists, Collings, etc. tended to be more on the conservative, traditional side of things. The blonde Collings MF5 is a wonderful instrument, and I have never really fallen for a Collings.

    I found that I prefer a traditional thin neck, but with a more rounded profile, much like my Eastman. And I do like slightly larger frets. Flat vs Radius fretboards really made no difference.

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    but that's just me Bertram Henze's Avatar
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    Default Re: Full-contact bridges: New standard?

    Quote Originally Posted by Dale Ludewig View Post
    why the two feet ever?
    I replaced the full contact bridge on my OM with a two-feet, following the experiments of Red Henry, and had a considerable boost in volume from it. That does not mean that it works that way on any kind of top - experimentation is in order.
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    Default Re: Full-contact bridges: New standard?

    If I ever replace any bridge on any of my mandolins I will opt for the full contact base, I have found that no matter how good you fit a two footed bridge it will dig slightly into the top and leave an indentation on it when installed at full string tension....At least that has been what I have seen...

    Willie

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    but that's just me Bertram Henze's Avatar
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    Default Re: Full-contact bridges: New standard?

    Quote Originally Posted by Willie Poole View Post
    If I ever replace any bridge on any of my mandolins I will opt for the full contact base, I have found that no matter how good you fit a two footed bridge it will dig slightly into the top and leave an indentation on it when installed at full string tension....At least that has been what I have seen...

    Willie
    This may be the exact explanation why two-foot bridges could make more volume. The contact of two surfaces sanded to match can never be as perfect as two surfaces impressed into each other.
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    Default Re: Full-contact bridges: New standard?

    Full contact for X bracing Two footers for tone bar.

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    Registered User sblock's Avatar
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    Default Re: Full-contact bridges: New standard?

    Regardless of what you think it might (or might not) do to the mandolin tone, a full-contact bridge is kinder to the arched top of your mandolin, spreading the down-bearing force over a larger area, thereby minimizing the tendency for top sinkage over the long haul.

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    Registered User fscotte's Avatar
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    Default Re: Full-contact bridges: New standard?

    Not so sure that is always the case. The braces help support the top efficiently and adding pressure to where there is no support may or may not impact stability. Its all going to depend upon how the arch is built.

    So far we dont have a mando with eighty years of full contact bridge pressure to evaluate.

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    Registered User William Smith's Avatar
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    Default Re: Full-contact bridges: New standard?

    Whenever I get a used mandolin that's the first thing I fix! I make it full contact. Don't really know if its a better overall sound but it sure helps with top dents at the feet and will help correct them if their there.

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    Registered User Drew Streip's Avatar
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    Default Re: Full-contact bridges: New standard?

    Quote Originally Posted by bluegrasser78 View Post
    Whenever I get a used mandolin that's the first thing I fix! I make it full contact. Don't really know if its a better overall sound but it sure helps with top dents at the feet and will help correct them if their there.
    Do you buy a completely new bridge? Base only? Fabricate your own?

  21. #18
    Registered User William Smith's Avatar
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    Default Re: Full-contact bridges: New standard?

    It all depends on what bridge comes with the mandolin, What kind of shape it's in. Sometimes the saddle slots are wrong so if the base is already taken down too much I'll just buy a new one and fit it and cut the saddle slots correctly, I don't make my own.

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    Wood and Wire Perry Babasin's Avatar
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    Default Re: Full-contact bridges: New standard?

    Make of this what you will, but here is something I have hesitated to post for a long time, but think it applies to this topic. I haven't posted for a while, I really don't seem to fit into standard mandolin culture, I love to "play" with my instruments (as well as play them) and tweak set-up thinking towards innovation. When I was a kid I refinished and reworked my cheap guitars mainly because I couldn't afford expensive guitars. When the desire to play mandolin hit me I really knew the tone I wanted to achieve, that was capable of achieving. The instruments in my price range sounded like shrill crap so I started researching how to make things a little better.

    I came to the cafe and read conventional wisdom, played with my cheap instruments and refining things I thought would help and shape tone, with great success I believe. One thing I have done to every mandolin I have worked on is to customize the bridge to be full contact -- and after establishing the correct bridge height carefully milling a ebony or bone shim to make the bridge "one-piece" as well (I mention bone because I have a Collings MT that was a little too dark for me and brightened just enough by switching to bone!) This shim stops any bowing or tilting, and does a way better job of transferring vibration and evenly disperses string pressure through tone-wood to the top. I always wondered why an ebony base and ebony top piece could effectively transfer the vibration through two little brass screws... Once the shim is tight in place, I back off the thumb screws and just lightly snug them so they won't vibrate!

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    Default Re: Full-contact bridges: New standard?

    Perry, Why not just carve a one piece bridge like the ones that were on the early Gibson F-2`s and F-4`s, just measure the height of the one with the shim and make one to that same height...Myself I like to be able to adjust the strings up and/or down at times...But everyone to their liking....

    Willie

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    Wood and Wire Perry Babasin's Avatar
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    Default Re: Full-contact bridges: New standard?

    Hey Willie... Things do change and you might want to change the string height, so this is a semi-permanent solution that can be changed, if you want to raise the bridge you can and pull out the shim. If you like the new height fashion a new shim, so you can adjust. If you want to return to the original adjustment just replace the shim and back off the thumb screws.
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    Default Re: Full-contact bridges: New standard?

    Here my bridge moves almost 1/4" between summer and winter so I am always adjusting it. My mandolin sounds incredible so I don't worry about the one piece sound. I would have buzzing or high action way too often to have something not adjustable. Glad it works for you.
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  27. #23

    Default Re: Full-contact bridges: New standard?

    Frank Ford provides his take on this question at Frets.com: http://frets.com/FretsPages/Musician...ltmandobr.html

    From what he says, a lighter bridge will provide more volume.

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    Default Re: Full-contact bridges: New standard?

    A full contact bridge does not have to be heavier necessarily. I have taken mine down to a full contact, I also weigh my bridges to get them as light as I can without losing strength. It does make a difference in how it drives the top.
    THE WORLD IS A BETTER PLACE JUST FOR YOUR SMILE!

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    Default Re: Full-contact bridges: New standard?

    About a week ago I changed the bridge saddle on my mandolin, the new one is shorter in height and of course weighs less, I could not believe the difference it made in the sound of the mandolin, after reading the info from Frank Ford I can now understand why even though it isn`t a whole lot lighter...Both saddles were from Cumberland Acoustics so I don`t think the quality of the ebony had anything to do with it, I did have to raise it up a tad because it is shorter, the strings are now at the same height as they were with the other saddle,,,such a small difference in weight makes a big difference in sound...So many things to do to change the sound of an acoustical instrument, bridge weight, pick material, brand of strings...the list goes on and on...

    Some good info on here that is for sure...

    Willie

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