Please evaluate, looking for suggestions
For improvement. Prototype #4 photos.
I didn’t cut string slots correctly or deep enough, and the slant may be too steep? Any comments are welcome. I am pretty pleased with the sound of the old maple.
Don’t have the “Rattler” logo yet but working on it. Studying SS, DW. SF and others for ideas.
I've become a big fan of heavier ebony capped bridges that angle back. although if the bottom of the feet aren't angled in relation to the true vertical axis of the bridge im not sure it matters, other than the fact that it looks correct. in fact, im not sure it matters at all. As long as there is ample wood for travel and the density of the wood is there. that looks like a fine bridge and the proof is in the pudding. sound good? I think they need to be ebony capped for longevity, as the strings are rough on the cutouts. ebony is perfect for this.
Thanks for your input Tonwil. I agree ref the ebony cap, although this one is a tad light from the top edge to the maple.
My thought ref the angle is that it allows the bridge to sit slightly more toward the center of the head, while keeping the distance from nut to 12th fret same as 12th to bridge. I really don’t know what that angle “should be”?? If anyone knows a good source for 1/4 thickness ebony, please let me know. I put the first prototype I made, on DA-5055. Replaced a 40 year old Snuffy Smith, and sounds slightly better IMHO. The one in photo
Is on a modern banjo (Frank Neat) with Blaylock tone ring and the old wood made quite a noticeable difference in sound that I like. Of course sound perception is different for different ears.
I lean toward the old Flathead sound.
I may try to post a sound file, but my right hand 77 year old tremors have taken away what little picking ability that I had..lol. Anyway, thanks again
Edited by - jfb on 04/15/2021 07:23:33
John I think your bridge looks really good ! The stance looks great too. The tapered /slant on the face of a bridge in my opinion does not have to be at a given angle to be correct but rather a proper range . Real wide feet and a thin top could get you out of that "range " Did you make your bridge with vertical grain lines on the ends on purpose ? I like horizontal growth rings ( like rungs on a ladder ) . Good luck to you and keep us posted on your bridge making !
Thank you for those kind words Mike, they mean a lot coming from a respected and established maker as you are. The wood is old flooring that is for the most part, slab cut. Difficult to find grain lines that run close to horizontal. Looking at bridges that I have, they all have horizontal or slightly angled lines, so that would seem to be the preferred choice.
Tim Purcell made me a bridge a few years ago from the old maple that had the horizontal lines, I would have to ask him how he was able to do that. I am trying this as a retirement hobby as a way to stay connected to the banjo. I know nothing about bridge physics, I just strive for sound that I like. BTW, I have always considered the original Snuffy Smith bridge to be the gold standard. Is there a family connection?
My roots are in north east Arkansas ...i know Snuffy lived in Arkansas too . Dont know if his roots are there too Far as i know there is no family connection .
John, that is an excellent looking bridge for a first build!! If you still have it, did you use your old pantograph machine to make these?
One thing is certain, that old flooring maple made excellent bridges!! You might have to filter through some boards to get a good flat sawn, straight running grain piece, in order to maintain a horizonal grain line for the bridges. I like using flat sawn boards, especially in 3/4" flooring. It gives you that nice quarter sawn look on the back side of the bridge, and makes it easier when cutting bridge blanks. Many of the old maple flooring boards are more rift sawn, where the grain is running diagonal, or maybe even closer to quarter sawn, if you're looking at the end of the board lying flat on the table. You can still get blanks from rift sawn wood. That's where the band saw with tilting table top comes in handy. There can be a lot of prep work just in getting from a piece of flooring board to a bridge blank and ready for ebony top. Great job and best of luck on your future bridge making endeavors!!
The old pantographs would work pretty well for carving a bridge wouldn’t they Tim (grins).
I believe you are right, I think the old wood does make a good bridge. I was pleasantly surprised that even the first one sounded as well as it does. The real question is, will I be able to do that consistently, and will the thousands of hangout members and banjo pickers think so LOL. Just kidding, I don’t want a job, just a good hobby, and the banjo works well for that. I would appreciate knowing a good supplier of ebony if you could drop me an email offline. BTW, still have the one you made for me, and keep up the great work you do! And thanks for the nice words
Edited by - jfb on 04/18/2021 17:17:37
john if your still looking for ebony use search words "exotic wood pen blanks" You will find several offerings of 3/4 inch by 3/4 inch by 6 inch long pen blanks ...i would suggest gaboon ebony Probably your best bet for buying a small amount of ebony. Plus they offer rosewoods ..snakewood ..purple hart and other woods that can make interesting good sounding topwoods .
I’ve ordered some, right pricey material for sure, and thanks to everyone. Now to figure out how to cut it correctly and economically for some bridge tops.
Snuffy lived reasonably close to me (Rural Hall maybe?), near Winston Salem, but regrettably I did not ever meet him. I think he may have had a nice old banjo as well.
Take care all..
Once or twice a year, Woodcraft runs a sale on ebony pen blanks and/or guitar bridge sized blanks. Sometimes they will also have a few bigger pieces at a favorable price in their brick and mortar store.
Also, check with your local cabinet maker. He may know of a local hardwood supplier that carries ebony.
Probably the best way to re-saw is to use a band saw with a fence and a push stick. Be extra careful.
Edited by - rcc56 on 04/23/2021 16:21:05
John new horizontal growth ringed bridge looks good ! There is no rule book that says they have to be made that way but a big majority are made this way and seems to be the most common . As for a logo for your bridge i would look into some of the "ink stamp" places . they offer many options from a printed name to a drawing of some sort ...a coiled up rattle snake in a strike position comes to mind . They can make these stamps pretty small to where they will fit below the ebony at the top of the center leg.
I'd say your dialed in on the right track ! Looking good to me.
The bridge looks outstanding to me. Especially when it's your first one. I think you have got some kind of talent for this.
Mind if I make a request ?
Would one of you mind drawing some kind of illustration, of how the grain orientation of this bridge, would relate to a log prior to being milled ?
I appreciate it.
Thanks Mike, LouZee, and LeslieR for the positive thoughts. Need some negative ones also. Lol
Ref the grain lines I will see if I can make the phone keyboard do a drawing if looking at a side view?
—————— Horizontal looking side
|||||||||. Vertical looking at side
Horizontal is commonly called slab cut I believe, and vertical is called quarter sawn, or like a pie slice out of the tree.
Slab is like slicing Turkey, beginning one side, going to the other. The confusing part is that the desired results, horizontal bridge lines actually come from the quarter sawn pie slice from the tree( I think lol )
Others can explain better than I can.
I have to confess, that the only talent I have is being able to instruct a machine how to do this! I surely admire the folks
that have the talent and can hand carve
a bridge! I do believe that a good sounding bridge can be made equally well either way, provided good aged wood is used. I am blessed with having the wood and I think I am about ready to go the next step and see if I can produce a good sounding end product.
Still like to have any negative comments
that anyone has.
Y’all take care
Edited by - jfb on 05/01/2021 12:04:51
I've found useful ebony from cue-stick wood sites.
Leslie probably everyone reading this has at least one time in there life counted the growth rings on an old tree stump. If you wanted to make a bridge from an old stump and your bridge blank from end to end is 3 inches long all you would need to do is cut off the top 3 inches of the stump to have the correct orientation to make bridges ...cutting the 3 inch slab always at 90 degrees to the growth rings would get you where you want to be for a good blank sad thing is that there is a tremendous amount of waste when you do this ..unless you have a wood burner .....bridge blanks are situated within a living tree the same way as lumber for boards .
I think of the bridge's grain orientation as a stack of pancakes.
Getting the stock to this state is called resawing.
Edited by - steve davis on 05/02/2021 05:50:22
I ran across a video by Warren Yates where he talks and diagrams how strings should sit in bridge slots and I wondered if I could do that via machine. Would like to hear anyone’s thoughts about this regarding sound. To me, the high neck notes were better, still pondering the open g sounds I love to hear. The slots are precisely the same diameter( 10,11,13,20,10) and slanted towards the tailpiece ( see photo).
Edited by - jfb on 05/13/2021 19:09:05
String slots in the bridge should not be the same size as the string gauge. They need to be about 3~6 thou wider than that.
Here are a few photos of my latest profile. The side view will show full .125 ebony top, parallel to banjo head with feet equal thickness parallel to the head. Top view attempts to show string slots sized to light guage strings sloped down the back edge toward the tailpiece.
I am happy with the changes. The question is will pickers like what they see, and more importantly, what they hear. Thanks all..
John The main thing is your having fun ! Like Bart mentioned slots cut the same as string diameter can give you trouble Might try using your .13 file on all slots except use your big file for the 4th string . Also experiment with your maple/ebony ratio ....you have 1/8th inch of ebony to work with ...might make one with a little more maple and a 1/10th inch ebony top just to get an idea of how it changes things.
John earlier in this thread you mentioned cutting your ebony "right" If you bought a 3/4 x 3/4 X 18 inch long piece of ebony you obviously would strip it along the 18 inch length so you could get pieces long enough to span the bridge top . This is the correct way to strip it . If by chance you bought a piece that was a 1'' x 3 '' x 18'' it might be tempting to cut your strips along the 3 '' width of the board ....this would not be good ...your strips will bow immediately and every time you sand it flat it will bow more before you lay it on top of the maple and see an air gap ....i found this out the hard way when i took a 1 x 3 x 18 and cut into 3 inch squares . Soon enough i grabbed one of the 3x3 blocks and stripped it along the wrong edge...took me about 10 wasted strip blanks before i figured out what i had done. I now use a white ink marker and put lines all along the length of the board before i cut it up
You're asking for negative comments to, so -- that "latest profile side view" photo didn't make me feel good like your other photos. It looks like there's a "kink" in the bridge construction where the ebony top went on. I like your earlier photos better where the ebony top is a smooth continuation of the maple on both side, and (most importantly) the top of the ebony is alreay angled down toward the tailpiece just a bit. Also that chunk of ebony looks much to big overall. Just my opinion. Of course I have no idea how it sounds.
I know nothing about making bridges, other than that 35 years ago my dad hand-made some banjo bridges for me from ancient piano wood (ebony from the keys) and he ran his grain as vertical as possible just to see what they would sound like. I think he used a hand coping saw and a jackknife. They sounded great, but were VERY weak if you tried to grasp the bridge at either end to move it for intonation under string pressure. It would crack in half in your hands and collapse.
I am curious if you wouldn't mind commenting. Bridges appear to me to be great candidates for die cutting. Any thoughts?
Good luck to you. Oh, also curious why you're making bridges when they are so easily available now. Thanks.
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