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Thread: Eastman bridge replacement

  1. #1
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    I have an Eastman 615 (F style)with a cracked bridge saddle. I have replaced it temporarily, but I like everything about the mandolin except the bridge. I noticed that it is a lot thinner than Gibson bridges, and that the bridge saddle on my instrument tends to lean toward the fingerboard and is hard to keep straight (vertical). This was so with both saddles.

    I would like to replace the bridge with a good Gibson style replacement, but first I was wondering if there were an acoustic reacson that Eastman uses such a skinny brdge. Would a thicker Gibson style bridge affect the sound in any way?

    One other question: Is there really any significant functional difference between the $18 generic bridges from StewMac, and the $50 bridges I see offered? Any recommendations as to the optimum bridge to put on this mandolin?

    I tried to get an answer from Eastman, but no luck so far.

  2. #2
    Registered User Lane Pryce's Avatar
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    Get yourself a new ebony Steve Smith bridge from Cumberland Acoustics and have it fit to your mandolin top. Then you can get on with some good picking. You should be able to get a warranty replacement from Eastman if you want to go that route. Nothing wrong with their bridges that I am aware of though. #Lp

    As far as quality the more pricey ones are polished and more than likely have superior wood and manfacturing.


    You can PM Eastman Gordon here via the cafe. Maybe he can
    expedite the replacement process.

    Cheers Lp



    J.Lane Pryce

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    Thanks for the reply, Lane. I tried to contact Gordon by emailing the customer service desk and didn't even get an acknowledgement. I'll take your suggestion and try a PM through this board.

    Warranty replacement is probably out - I got the instrument second hand form a guy who didn't like the sound and discovered the reason - cracked saddle - after I bought it. Judging from the marks on the fingerboard, it didn't have more than an hour or two worth of playing time on it. Even as it is, it plays and sounds a lot better than the old Gibson I had for years.

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    Registered User Lane Pryce's Avatar
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    Thumbs up

    They are great mandolins as I had 615 #40. You will be very surprised at what a great setup can do for your mandolin. Cumberland acoustics has a web site and you can order direct from Steve. IMO the best bridges in the biz. Lp
    J.Lane Pryce

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    Thanks, that's the sort of feedback I am wanting.

    I had planned to send it to Steve Perry to see what he could do with it, but I wanted to put a good bridge on it and get it played in first.

    My main concern was how the heavier weight of a Gibson type bridge would tend to alter the sound.

  6. #6
    Formerly F5JOURNL Darryl Wolfe's Avatar
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    I find a heavier Gibson Loar style bridge adds to the warmth and overall tone complexity. This is certainly up to debate though.
    Darryl G. Wolfe, The F5 Journal
    www.f5journal.com

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    Thanks for the reply.

    I suspected that might be the case. That's why I wanted to gather a few opinions before I proceed. Warmer and more complex would be fine with me, but I wouldn't want to give up much volume. When you're trying to jam with 5 guitars, a string bass and two banjos in a concrete room, fiddles and mandolins need quite a bit of punch just to hear yourself play!

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    I've put Cumberland bridges on Eastmans. They work nicely.
    Stephen Perry
    www.giannaviolins.com - Primarily violin family
    mandovoodoo.com - Acoustic blueprinting
    South Side Chicagoland

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    Thanks, Steve

    In the absence of any posts to the contrary, I gather the opinion is near unanimous.

    I ordered a Cumberland Acoustics bridge tonight.

    Thanks to all.

  10. #10
    Registered User sunburst's Avatar
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    Several things:

    Difference between $18 generic bridges and more expensive ones:
    As mentioned, likely better wood, but also better threads on the posts and in the adjuster wheels. If the threads fit well, not only do they work better, but the saddle is less likely to lean toward the fingerboard.
    Also, better fit of the saddle onto the posts. It the fit is good, the saddle is less likely to lean toward the fingerboard.

    Steve Smith's bridges are good. So are Daniel Smith's, and Darryl Wolfe's.

    Bridge size:
    The bridge and the mandolin top function as a unit, (mostly), so the mass of the whole top/bridge system affects the mode frequencies of the top. A typical mandolin top weighs about 105 - 110 grams, more or less, and a pretty heavy bridge weighs about 16 or so grams. That makes the whole top/bridge system about 120 - 130 grams. A heavier or lighter bridge can make a difference in the sound, but, as a percentage of the system weight, a few grams off of the bridge isn't much.

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    Woodwiz,
    I just replied offline to your posting to me about the bridge problem. I never did receive that email, I'm not sure where it went. I'm usually pretty good about answering my email.

    I see you already ordered the Cumberland bridge so my solution for you might have come a little late, sorry.

    To be honest I have thought for a long time that the weakest link in the modern mandolin is the bridge. A violin maker would never allow the introduction of a piece of metal into the middle of a bridge and they only allow it on basses because they are so prone to climate change. I have heard sveral mandolins that were upgraded to solid carved maple bridges that sounded pretty great to me. Having said that it would prove very expensive for us to carve a bridge for every one of our mandos and our primary mission is to keep these instruments affordable so I don't expect to see any changes soon. Strings players are used to having a winter and a summer bridge on their instruments and it doesn't seem to bother them to have to switch out twice a year, Sure beats having a piece of metal between you and the mandolin top in my opinion. Anyone out there tried a solid bridge? Did you notice a great benefit after it was installed. Have you had any unexpected problems because of it? I'd love to hear some opinions,
    Gordon
    ps. Sounds like it's time to do some experimenting in the Eastman Utility Mandolin Research Kitchen.

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    Thanks for the reply, Gordon.

    I sent the Email to: 'info@eastmanstrings.com', to your attention. I did so by clicking on the contact link on your mandolin page, so that's where you might look if you want to track down what happened.

    I sent you my address by PM, and I appreciate your kind offer to replace the bridge. Fitting it is not a problem, as you might guess from my screen name.I was able to cancel the order for the other bridge.

    I have considered carving some of the solid bridge designs that I read about, but I really want to get this instrument optimized in the traditional manner so I have a good basis for comparison before I go around experimenting. I have a pretty good notion that I'm going to be pretty happy with it as is, if it holds up over the years, as I believe it will.

    I'm promarily a fiddle player, so I have a pretty good notion of what bridges can do to the sound of an instrument. Certainly some of the same principles apply to mandolins, but the question is, exactly how? it took several hundred years for violin bridge design to stabilze (see baroque violins), and modern mandolins have only been around for about 100 years.

    Michael

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    Quote Originally Posted by (sunburst @ Dec. 08 2005, 21:23)
    Difference between $18 generic bridges and more expensive ones:
    As mentioned, likely better wood, but also better threads on the posts and in the adjuster wheels. If the threads fit well, not only do they work better, but the saddle is less likely to lean toward the fingerboard.
    Also, better fit of the saddle onto the posts. It the fit is good, the saddle is less likely to lean toward the fingerboard.
    Thanks for the info. Makes sense to me. Not so sure about the weight issue, though. One tenth of a gram in the right place makes a noticeable difference on a violin bridge. I wouldn't be at all surprised to find that a change in weight on a mandolin bridge affected the sound, but the bigger question would be , in what manner.

    Anyway, my question is settled for now, and I have plenty of time to learn more.

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    I received a replacement bridge from Eastman this morning. It looks great, and should take only very minor fitting.

    Thanks, Gordon!

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    For future reference, check with Roger Siminoff. He makes bridges, kits, etc. and his bridges are quite a bit less than anyone out there making them.

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    Thanks. I ran across his site when I was looking for a replacement bridge, but didn't know anything about him or his merchandise.

    I put the new bridge on. Took about 15 minutes to fit it. All I can say is, Wow! I didn't know a bridge could make that much difference on a mandolin. It sounded very good already, but the bass is stronger with the new bridge, and the over all sound is crisper, for lack of a better word.

    It may have something to do with the fact that the old bridge was very slightly hollowed on the bottom and fit tightly around the edges of the base, while I fitted the new one to make pretty much full contact.

    Whatever the cause,it's loud, sounds great, and I think i have a keeper.

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    [QUOTE= (woodwiz @ Dec. 09 2005, 13:08)]
    Quote Originally Posted by sunburst,Dec. 08 2005, 21:23
    One tenth of a gram in the right place makes a noticeable difference on a violin bridge. I wouldn't be at all surprised to find that a change in weight on a mandolin bridge affected the sound, but the bigger question would be , in what manner.
    Far less than 1/10 g makes a quite distinct difference on mandolin bridges. For example, pluck a clear open "D" and lightly touch the bridge base sharp edge towards the fingerboard with the back of a knife, then touch the top edge near the adjacent hole, then the hole on the other side, then the base edge on the far side. This is touching the sharp corner made by the side perpendicular to the top and the top surfaces of the bridge. Generally one pair will be of lower pitch than the other. A pair being the base on one side (e.g. bass) and the top on the other (e.g., treble). Do this on the other side, the side towards the tailpiece. A total of eight points. 4 will be high in pitch, four will be low. The pitch of the low ones rises if the edge/corner/whatever you call it is very lightly scraped. Very lightly. I don't even see dust. Lightly scrape the low pitch places and retest until the pitches are about the same. The pitch I write of is most easily heard by touching the edge lightly while a string is sounding. I like the D string because it is very clear.

    I think this is an easy thing to do to test the effect of small (very small) amounts of wood.

    To test the effect of larger mass changes, simply use modeling clay. I have a bunch around. If I put on a little clay (start with tiny balls of the stuff) and things change a little, I have a sensitive piece. I put on a little more and a little more. I use only a little at a time because bridge type work is a "sweet spot" kind of thing. Easy to jump past a nice spot. I haven't really done enough of this to notice much on mandolins. I probably should. I suppose one kind of response or whatever should be entirely and regularly mass dependent. So that the quality or volume or other desirable trait peaks at one ideal mass. But I suspect that all kinds of things will vary with mass change, giving a scattered and difficult to predict array of masses that favor this or that.

    And mass. Hmm. Mandolins seem very sensitive to mass out at the far reaches of the bridge, towards the F holes. If I had time to experiment and keep records and an interest in such things (I have the interest, but apparently not enough to do it) I would be lightening the outer wings of the bridge bass. I look at the fancy maple bridges (which I've made a number of) and I see they generally have less mass out there.

    And while we're modifying bridges, lets get rid of those scary right angle corners!!!!!!

    Yeah, I don't particularly like the stock bridges on the Eastman mandolins. The slight hollowing is annoying and doesn't help the sound. I generally clip this a bit with a scraper, which helps. And the fit of the top onto the bass isn't as tight as I'd like on some. Although the recent ones have been better for that. And I want the wheels to be as small as possible.

    But I'd rather have a fancy cool one piece bridge. I'd like to try a tightly fitted Brekke bridge on an Eastman. With the little wedges really stiff.

    But there may be too many variables. Geometry including cutouts & thickness. Material. Fine details of mass distribution. Overall mass. Too much like work. We need a masters student to take on an aspect or two and tell us what's what!
    Stephen Perry
    www.giannaviolins.com - Primarily violin family
    mandovoodoo.com - Acoustic blueprinting
    South Side Chicagoland

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