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Feb 22, 2021 - 8:25:11 PM
48 posts since 1/2/2018

Hi! Has a solid bone banjo bridge ever been made/tried? I'm talking 100% bone bridge, not a bone tipped wooden bridge but rather all bone.

Got the idea after setting up guitars and trying out other bridge materials. Was able to make some bone bridges fairly easy with a bandsaw, belt sander and some good files. Wasn't expecting it, but was surprised at the sound differences. For example bone produced a louder crisper sound compared to tusq to my ears.

Feb 22, 2021 - 8:43:26 PM
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107 posts since 1/23/2017

I've seen all-bone bone bridges on Croatian tamburitza-type instruments, especially on the little prim size, but I haven't seen one on a banjo yet. I bet an all-bone bridge on a fiddle would have an interesting sound!

What shape did you make your bone bridge?

Feb 23, 2021 - 4:31:33 AM
Players Union Member

Helix

USA

13770 posts since 8/30/2006

I use bone nuts.
Good idea. I don't like bone pips, however, I prefer to use a metal screw there for sonic purposes.

I'm very curious, I've been on the hangout since 2006, I don't recall anyone else using bone for the total bridge. Calcium being a low grade metal is part of it, the sound and conductivity. Every bone on the planet is made from Calcium and the long fibers.

I like the way Mother Nature designs things. Everybody is sleek and trim.

Hurry up, dude, can't wait to see this.

Feb 23, 2021 - 5:03:58 AM
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13470 posts since 6/29/2005

You should try it out and see (hear).

the specific gravity of bone is around 2.0, or twice as heavy as water.  Most normal wood species you would use to make a bridge have a specific gravity of around .50 and float on water —1/4 the density of bone.

I think the bone bridge is going to greatly increase the sustain because it's so much denser than wood—I once made a brass bridge which made the banjo sound like a Dobro, but brass is much denser than bone.

Certainly an interesting experiment.  I hope we get to hear the results.

Feb 23, 2021 - 6:48:35 AM

beegee

USA

22267 posts since 7/6/2005

Harry Lane once made an all-ivory bridge. As I recall it didn't sound as good as his wood, ivory-capped bridge. He made a pearl-capped bridge that was rather harsh-sounding. My advice would be to try it and give us a full report.

 

Years ago, BNL ran an article about a bunch of bridges made from any variety of materials including plexiglas, phenolic-resin, aluminum,all sorts of wood. 

I made some osage-orange saddles for my friend's dobro and I have been thinking about an osage-orange bridge, but I imagine it will tonally-similar to Katalox.

Edited by - beegee on 02/23/2021 06:51:29

Feb 23, 2021 - 7:05:39 AM
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56964 posts since 12/14/2005

I did.
Worked for me.
But on a salad bowl body with a flattened, heat-shrunk soft drink bottle for a head.
And no two of my banjos have ever sounded alike.
As long as they're playable enough to sell, I don't worry about the finer points of the sound.


Feb 23, 2021 - 7:17:29 AM

8370 posts since 8/28/2013

I'm with Mike Gregory.

Go ahead and try it, but don't worry about "the finer points of the sound."

Even if most people say "that thing sounds like crap," there will always be at least one person who likes its tone.

Feb 23, 2021 - 8:08:24 AM
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Bart Veerman

Canada

4893 posts since 1/5/2005

Banjos behave way different than guitars when it comes to bridges/saddles.

What Ken, said - expect your banjos to sound like a reso guitar when using a solid bone bridge.

Keep in mind you'll be opening a can of worms: what kind of bone - cow, pork, dinosaur, buffalo??? When crossing international borders, will they sopt it and think it's ivory? Yes, in the zither world there's plenty arguing whether cow or pork bone sounds better - pork seem to be favoured...

Practically speaking, I'm sure you've experienced already, that sanding bones don't smell, well, "so great" and that the dust will end up all over your workshop and a proper dust mask is a definite requirement for your health.

As a [banjo] bridge maker, I soooo stay away from bone just because of the stench while working it smiley

Bart,

banjobridge.com

Feb 23, 2021 - 8:18:34 AM

BrianO1

USA

9 posts since 2/23/2021

quote:
Originally posted by beegee

Years ago, BNL ran an article about a bunch of bridges made from any variety of materials including plexiglas, phenolic-resin, aluminum,all sorts of wood.

How about Magnesium ? That would be easy to do. this brightened up the guitar.

Feb 23, 2021 - 8:20:45 AM

Fish Head

Ireland

90 posts since 12/15/2017

I use a foredom to carve wood, I've tried carving bone - it smells disgusting, like burning hair, same with antler. It would be interesting to carve a banjo bridge out of tagua nut (vegetable ivory) - if you could find a nut big enough to do it. Tagua smells delicious, like sweet coconut when you power carve it. Because as it's not bone I imagine it would sound pretty unique.

Feb 23, 2021 - 8:23:57 AM

3946 posts since 9/21/2009

I made a solid bone bridge and didn't care for it. it sounded like the head was way to tight.

Feb 23, 2021 - 8:24:52 AM

beegee

USA

22267 posts since 7/6/2005

quote:
Originally posted by BrianO1
quote:
Originally posted by beegee

Years ago, BNL ran an article about a bunch of bridges made from any variety of materials including plexiglas, phenolic-resin, aluminum,all sorts of wood.

How about Magnesium ? That would be easy to do. this brightened up the guitar.


don't know

Feb 23, 2021 - 8:53:02 AM

BrianO1

USA

9 posts since 2/23/2021

If I made one from Mag would anyone try it?
Done it for a double bass and dreadnaught
works very good same as ebony weight-wise.

Feb 23, 2021 - 10:23:21 AM

5592 posts since 12/20/2005

This would be a bear to make, but how about coconut shell. I think it could be done, though just barely. It would be a challenge for sure.
Moon shape is already built in !

Feb 23, 2021 - 10:25:58 AM

Bart Veerman

Canada

4893 posts since 1/5/2005

it's pretty safe to figure everything's been tried smiley

Feb 23, 2021 - 10:42:56 AM

13470 posts since 6/29/2005

quote:
Originally posted by Bart Veerman

Banjos behave way different than guitars when it comes to bridges/saddles.

What Ken, said - expect your banjos to sound like a reso guitar when using a solid bone bridge.

Keep in mind you'll be opening a can of worms: what kind of bone - cow, pork, dinosaur, buffalo??? When crossing international borders, will they sopt it and think it's ivory? Yes, in the zither world there's plenty arguing whether cow or pork bone sounds better - pork seem to be favoured...

Practically speaking, I'm sure you've experienced already, that sanding bones don't smell, well, "so great" and that the dust will end up all over your workshop and a proper dust mask is a definite requirement for your health.

As a [banjo] bridge maker, I soooo stay away from bone just because of the stench while working it smiley

Bart,

banjobridge.com


not only does it small like you are getting your teeth drilled, but it kills your bandsaw blade.

Feb 23, 2021 - 11:04:02 AM

48 posts since 1/2/2018

Great info and ideas! Looks like a few folks have tried this with mixed reviews. My bone source has been bleached cow leg bone from pet store (dog chew bone). For guitar saddles I'll shape to match saddles that are original to guitar. Bone does stink while working but it's bearable after a while. The bone can actually be polished up to a nice shine with fine grit sandpaper. I've noticed different parts of the bone are more dense (or porus) than other parts. I'll make one and try it out and follow up. Banjo is a rb 100 I'll put it on.

Feb 23, 2021 - 1:51:39 PM
Players Union Member

Helix

USA

13770 posts since 8/30/2006

You think bones stinks. Find a wet saw cutting abalone.

Feb 23, 2021 - 3:19:33 PM
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20 posts since 8/6/2020

Funny this should come up. I just made this Whitetail Deer Antler bridge for an old 1880's George Dobson banjo. Though guitar bridges are quite different, I've made a lot of archtop bridge saddles out of deer antler, and they sound absolutely fantastic. This was the first one I've done on a banjo out of antler, but it sounds quite nice and has a pleasant sweet "ring" to it. Very distinctive. Also, I should mention, bone/antler bridges sound much better on a thick hide head, and absolutely sound like trash on a modern plastic head.


Feb 23, 2021 - 5:25:55 PM

48 posts since 1/2/2018

Wow that antler bridge is a work of art, nice work!

Feb 23, 2021 - 7:36:33 PM
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Owen

Canada

8218 posts since 6/5/2011
Online Now

quote:
Originally posted by Bart Veerman

it's pretty safe to figure everything's been tried smiley


Here's my ham-fisted entry.... 3 layers of cedar [I think] with vertical aluminum strips. 

I can't say "why," and don't have the musical talent to give it much of an evaluation..... my tin ear says it's more "harsh" than wooden bridges, but the fact that it hasn't been tossed might say something.




Feb 23, 2021 - 9:10:08 PM

Bart Veerman

Canada

4893 posts since 1/5/2005

quote:
Originally posted by Ken LeVan
quote:

not only does it small like you are getting your teeth drilled


 

Yeah, old enough here to remember them old non-watercooled drills being inflicted upon un-novocained teeth while the oprator was yelling "open up or I'll tell yer mom!"

I sure hope I forget those days again before heading to my dental appointment tomorrow...

Feb 24, 2021 - 5:38:17 AM
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hbick2

USA

323 posts since 6/26/2004

Bart,

The old non-watercooled drills were what we dentists call slow-speed handpieces. When you and I grew up they were belt-driven. There was no water used because the slow moving burs generated little heat. Unfortunately, they were unpleasant because of the vibration they created. It felt like it was going to jar your head off.

High-speed handpieces are driven by an air turbine. The speed is usually around 400,000 RPMs. Because of the high RPMs, the bur generates a great deal of heat. Without the water, you would jump out of the chair as soon as the bur hit you tooth.

Slow speed handpieces have a great deal of torque. You can push the bur hard against a tooth and it will keep rotating and cutting. Like the Dremel tool in your shop. High speed handpieces, however, have almost no torque. When the bur barely touches the tooth, the enamel/dentin literally disappears before your very eyes. If you push too hard, however the bur stops spinning.

I'm sure that's a lot more about dentistry than you wanted to know. However, when you go to your dentist today, you will be able to impress him/her with your newly acquired knowledge.

Feb 24, 2021 - 10:10:19 AM

6763 posts since 12/5/2007

Back in the dark ages, when I was experimenting with banjo bridge building, I tried just about everything and had varying degrees of success & failure with different materials. Bone capped bridges, if you keep the total weight down, can be pretty remarkable. I never tried a solid bone bridge because of the weight.

I've attached a few samples, including a coconut shell bridge and a vertical grain Osage Orange bridge that a Waco picking buddy made.

There are bridge plans (to scale) and picture samples on my home page for anyone who cares to look at them.


Feb 24, 2021 - 10:30:42 AM

BrianO1

USA

9 posts since 2/23/2021

Xnavyguy, Which design should I use to make one from Magnesium ?

Feb 24, 2021 - 11:52:22 AM

11192 posts since 10/27/2006

Long before the inserts were plastic, they were bone in the Grover Acousticraft Bridge. Many web sites advertize the inserts as bone but Grover says 

Seasoned maple with ebony insert and individual ivoroid block.

Grover Acousticraft Bridge for Banjos

Edited by - mikehalloran on 02/24/2021 11:53:47

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