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We are all using the wrong bridge...maybe...

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Mar 6, 2020 - 9:10:38 AM
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925 posts since 5/19/2018

Recently picked up a Pre-WWII all original Gibson RB-1 from an estate in California. According the the seller the banjo belonged to her Mother and she did not play it at all after she got married which would be some 70+ years ago. From the sheet music the seller sent me, her Mother played classic five string banjo. Fantasies, Mazurkas and such.

Now to the point, the banjo came with the bridge shown below. Two feet and no ebony cap. The instrument came strung with steel strings and always was as evidenced by the packs of original strings in the case. The instrument sounds amazing. So much so, that my biggest critic, my classically trained musician wife came into the room when I was playing this instrument and said that that was without question, my best sounding instrument. Being a curious one, I changed the bridge to a modern boutique bridge. Instrument lost its depth and sound. Put the pre WWII bridge on my prewar style 4. Same thing. The sound opened up and I heard a depth to the instrument that I not heard before.

This is the second Pre-War Gibson that I have owned where it came with this type of bridge. Both times I was the second owner.

Can anyone ID the maker of this bridge, and does anyone make a modern reproduction?

When did the contemporary three footed , ebony capped bridges come out as a standard on five string banjos. Oldest ones I have owned were from the late 40’s, early 50’s.




 

Mar 6, 2020 - 9:28:41 AM

12929 posts since 10/30/2008

That's probably a Grover product based on the shape. It is offered in the Gibson 1937 catalog with an ebony top and the word Gibson stamped into the face, as "No. 31" at 30 cents each. In solid maple (no ebony) it's "No. 32" at just 10 cents. The same catalog also lists our traditional 3 legged bridge with ebony  top.

The catalog also offers a solid ebony with bone top! 3 footed bridge, as you can view on Snuffy Jenkins' RB-4 in Jim Mills' shop. No. 55-5 at $1.

Catalog also offers a two-footed bridge with straight line underside, and the "non-tip" bridges with little center cross-piece.

Edited by - The Old Timer on 03/06/2020 09:29:23

Mar 6, 2020 - 9:42:40 AM
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441 posts since 10/17/2006

Bart Veerman (here on the Hangout) makes similar looking bridges. I'm blown away by their sound!

Mar 6, 2020 - 10:25:11 AM
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5287 posts since 9/21/2007

Cool!

Did you get a lot of sheet music? What are some of the titles? Is it A notation or C notation? Are you planning on scanning and sharing (if it is not already available)?

I'll volunteer my scanner if you want to loan it to me to scan.

Mar 6, 2020 - 10:36:22 AM
Players Union Member

eMike

USA

1311 posts since 2/5/2006

Arnold Clayton, member here, used to make bridges very similar to these 2-footed bridges and they were excellent! He also made pyramid tone rings that were excellent also. You might want to contact him to see what he may have available.

Mar 6, 2020 - 11:20:33 AM

1375 posts since 4/25/2007

Would you share the dimensions of the bridge please.

Mar 6, 2020 - 12:36:31 PM

6410 posts since 4/7/2003

Mar 6, 2020 - 1:02:32 PM
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2873 posts since 2/18/2009

I make two footed all maple bridges for all my banjos, though lately I've been using persimmon for bridges instead. Mine are not as fancy of a shape as that one. I made my first banjo bridge when I made my first banjo neck, a 5 string conversion for a Concertone tenor in 2004 or 2005. The banjo came taken apart, and I traced around one end of the Grover 4 string bridge that was in the bag of parts, and then moved the bridge over one slot and traced the other end, so that I had a 5 string that was just a stretched 4 string. I liked the way it sounded and it was easy to make, so I've continued to make them like that ever since.
Zach

Mar 7, 2020 - 4:03:55 AM

2651 posts since 12/4/2009

Hello,

What is the final weight of your bridge? The thin top suggests it isn’t the suggested 2.1 grams as claimed here as the standard.

Today, bridges have wider tops. To me, the thinner top suggests buying more bridges. Cracked bridges and cut slots are the reasons when using steel strings.

In the 1937 catalog, were the ebony capped bridges just as thin?

Since I have been on this site, the thin bridges of the 60’s and 70’s were frowned upon as crazy. I still have my first attempt at making a thin topped bridge. I didn’t like it when I tried it out.

Mar 7, 2020 - 4:50:42 AM
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Eric A

USA

634 posts since 10/15/2019

I've been trying a lot of bridges lately and have come to love the Two Footers. As someone said up thread, Bart Veerman makes a terrific one. Also Clifford Essex out of the UK.

Your old bridge is also extremely narrow on top. Call me crazy, but I think that also does good things independently of the total weight of the bridge. Most modern day bridges seem egregiously fat on top for my tastes. Bridges from Bart and from Clifford Essex tend to run thin on top, and that may be another reason I like them.

Was that banjo strung up to tension all these years? I see no sign of sag. Sagging is the first complaint about Two Footers, though I suspect it comes mostly from people who've never tried one.

Edited by - Eric A on 03/07/2020 05:02:50

Mar 7, 2020 - 6:34:45 AM
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925 posts since 5/19/2018

Just stole these photos from a classified that just appeared here from another Gibson RB-1. Same bridge.

Ad is here:

banjohangout.org/classified/80148

Nice instrument.

Going to have to see about getting a few of these bridges made.

Also going to try and find my calipers and get some measurements and post them here.




Mar 7, 2020 - 7:27:55 AM

5339 posts since 12/20/2005

Just looking at it, I don't see how it would want to sag in the middle.
Evidently history has shown otherwise.
My next project will be to make a few. I'm hearing too many great things not to try it.
I might go with some laminated pieces, just for peace of mind.

Mar 7, 2020 - 7:54:26 AM
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DSmoke

USA

843 posts since 11/30/2015

I have 3 from tenors, the top was on a 1925 Gibson TB3 (1.12 grams), the middle a Slingerland Nite Hawk (1.08) and bottom I don't remember (1.02). Now I will have to give them a try on my banjos.


 

Mar 7, 2020 - 9:45:34 AM

Bribak

USA

504 posts since 8/18/2010

quote:
Originally posted by DSmoke

I have 3 from tenors, the top was on a 1925 Gibson TB3 (1.12 grams), the middle a Slingerland Nite Hawk (1.08) and bottom I don't remember (1.02). Now I will have to give them a try on my banjos.


Hi Dan.  My recent acquisition of a 1925 TB3 ball bearing didn't include the original bridge.  If you try the one from yours and don't like it, let me know if you would like to sell it.  I'd love to have an "original" for mine.  I just ordered a 1/2" Silvio Ferretti Scorpion tenor bridge to try.  I've heard so many good reviews of his bridges for 5 strings.

Edited by - Bribak on 03/07/2020 09:48:45

Mar 7, 2020 - 11:16:19 AM

5287 posts since 9/21/2007

A 1-1 photo copy of the bridge and thickness measurements/widths would be enough to duplicate. It would be pretty easy to make a few with a scroll saw.

I would take some custom milling bits or a CNC to produce them at a resonable price point and velocity. I am not sure the market is big enough for that.

Mar 7, 2020 - 12:11:52 PM

23 posts since 1/12/2018

What area of music is your wife classically trained in?

Mar 7, 2020 - 12:41:34 PM

5339 posts since 12/20/2005

Stringbean45 makes a bridge like this.
You can see it in the Classified Parts section.
He has made a couple of bridges for me in the past, different types, but they were well made.

Mar 7, 2020 - 1:06:01 PM

GStump

USA

368 posts since 9/12/2006

Whether right or wrong, I have heard and seen written, on numerous occasions, this bridge has been called the "heart bridge." To my knowledge Gibson never called this bridge by that name in any of their literature. But it makes sense. I do believe that Grover most likely made it. I have seen the pictures in genuine Grover old parts catalogs and reproductions of those catalogs also. I have gathered up maybe half a dozen of them over the years (the bridges I mean) and some are capped, some are not. Most of them do have a bit of sag in them.

Mar 7, 2020 - 2:32:35 PM
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191 posts since 2/14/2010

I've been making this style bridge for several years. Absolutely love them!

Mar 7, 2020 - 3:18:16 PM
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Helix

USA

12660 posts since 8/30/2006

Great thread, i learned a lot


 

Mar 7, 2020 - 7:01:52 PM
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Bart Veerman

Canada

4639 posts since 1/5/2005

When three-leggers became popular I'm not too sure but I'm guessing around the 1940ies or so.

Two-leggers were the most common for both 4 and 5 string banjo, tiny ones like this, for the weight watchers: about 0.5~0.8 grams.

Two-leggers are quite popular with the 4-string crowd but 5-string fans, well, they haven't quite taken a shine to them for whatever reasons.

John: you're right, the 2.1 gram number for bridges gets touted a lot although there's hardly ever any mention of the wood species used, the kind of banjo, what style music or even bridge height. In other words, that arbitrarily chosen number cannot be regarded as "standard" or "ideal" without satisfying any of these qualifiers that must be taken into account.

Oh, thanks so much for the thumbs up folks, greatly appreciated.

Disclaimer: I am a bridge maker.

Mar 8, 2020 - 1:57:58 AM

429 posts since 12/29/2003

quote:
Originally posted by banjosam

Bart Veerman (here on the Hangout) makes similar looking bridges. I'm blown away by their sound!


I agree.  I stopped experimenting with bridges when I got a Bart Veerman bridge! 

Mar 8, 2020 - 2:08:30 PM
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925 posts since 5/19/2018

I took the bridge off my RB-1 and took a few measurements with a set of calipers.

Bridge is Maple.

Small disclaimer: I am not a draftsman. If I missed a dimension, let me know.

If someone makes these in Maple in this configuration, let me know and I may order a few for my other instruments.

Just what I need seeing I have about 100 bridges in a box that I collected over the decades.




Mar 8, 2020 - 2:34:54 PM
Players Union Member

Eric A

USA

634 posts since 10/15/2019

That top width of 2/32" seems like a real outlier to me, as compared with modern bridges. Super thin.

Mar 8, 2020 - 3:55:25 PM
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925 posts since 5/19/2018

Eric, you are correct.

Looks like I could shave with it, but the sound it puts out...

Keep in mind that the instrument is 100% original, except for new Light Gauge Deering Vintage strings.

The head is hide, as are the heads on all my banjos with the exception of my ‘55 RB250 and RB800. I’m assuming that this type of bridge would work best with a natural skin head.

Mar 8, 2020 - 6:09:51 PM

AGACNP

USA

86 posts since 10/12/2011

Very interesting indeed, Alvin. I would also be interested in test driving a copy of a bridge like this one if there’s anyone here who makes them in maple...

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