Hey All - I recently acquired a 60s ODE open back long neck and the action is a little high. The neck is straight and it sounds great with a 1/2 inch Snuffy Smith bridge. I don’t want to mess with with either rod if possible so my first thought is to try a lower bridge. But unfortunately I’m having a hard time tracking down a 3/8 bridge. Does anyone make these or are they all custom order? I was hoping to find something like in 3/8 Grover in stock somewhere and then if I like this bridge height I could order a custom bridge somewhere. I’ve search the forum but all the discussions on this subject at 5-10 years old. Thanks!
Most (if not all) bridge-makers advise against bridges <1/2". In my younger and wilder days I sanded down a Grover to what I wanted -probably 1/2", and it worked OK. I got two pieces of sandpaper (one coarse and one fine), put it on a table and moved the bridge around on top of the sandpaper to sand the bottom of the feet. Every once in a while I tried the bridge on the banjo, to make sure I wasn't taking off too much.
I wouldn't advise messing with a Snuffy Smith bridge lest you ruin it (Decreasing the weight can do that, I'm told.), but a Grover might be expendable.
Good luck ,
Edited by - Half Barbaric Twanger on 07/31/2021 07:42:41
Thanks Bill - I have no intention of sanding down my SS bridge. And sanding 1/8 inch off a 1/2 Grover bridge would more or less eliminate the feet so I don’t want to do that either. Thus my post looking for a 3/8 inch bridge.
Nobody makes a 3/8" bridge, to my knowledge, but it would never hurt to ask Mike Smith or Tim Purcell about it.
Perhaps a two footed bridge? That way you still have feet after you shorten it. Bart Veerman makes a nice two footer.
More likely, people will start chiming in to recommend a shim or other neck adjustment.
Thanks Eric - I don’t trust myself to monkey with the neck but I might take it to Bernunizos if all else fails. I figured I’d start out with a lower bridge first as it’s easier and cheaper.
you need to adjust the neck.
The adjustments are very small, like an 1/8th turn on the tension rod nuts. Email for detailed instructions if it is not obvious to you.
My long VEGA has tiny screws, 4 of them in a trapezoid pattern that rest on a metal plate on the neck.
these also need adjusted in very small adjustments, like a 1/4 turn. Then I recommend a 5/8 or so bridge to keep silver oxide off of your drum.
Thanks Buck - I’m not sure if you’re familiar with older ODEs but in order to adjust the rod you need to remove the tailpiece. That’s a last resort. I’ve searched the forum on adjusting the rods on an ODE and it appears fairy tricky and risky. For now I’m just looking for a lower bridge.
Quite a few of the older banjos use 3/8" bridges. In order to keep those period-true, why would one recommend against using short bridges? A hundred years ago people would have argued that 5/8" bridges would way too tall making banjos unplayable
By all means, try to get something done, if possible, to the neck angle so you can keep using your 1/2" bridge. If that doesn't pan out then make a dummy bridge first to see what height could work for you. Here's how:
If it turns out you do want/need a bridge shorter than 1/2" there's plenty of bridge makers, including myself, who can hook you up.
@Buck Mitchell: when you say, "I recommend a 5/8 or so bridge to keep silver oxide off of your drum," I've never heard about that, where would the silver oxide come from and why would that be bad?
Thanks for the response Bart! I just made a 3/8 inch bridge and it definitely lowered the action. I’ll mess around with 3/8 vs 7/16 over the weekend and see which one I like better then see about ordering one somewhere. Surprisingly my banjo sounds fair with my homemade bridge. Thanks!
1/16" off the bottom and 1/16" off the top of a 1/2" bridge? Easy.
That said, a 1/2" bridge on an ODE that is too tall means the banjo is out of adjustment. It could be something as simple as the lower co-rod not being snug against the pot—first thing anyone should check. These things do happen.
As far as I understand, truss rods address the bow of the neck, and the co-rods effect (among other things) the angle with the pot. I think it's time to "mess with the [co-] rods," as Mike H. suggested. A tiny bit goes a long way because of the trigonometry: you can lower the nut, but it's very far away. Shimming at the heel is something folks do if there's a dowel stick whose angle can't be changed without a reset [a serious job].
Anything lower than 5/8 usually results in picks hitting head, unless you really have a light touch.
Maybe you just loosen both coordinator rods completely and then tighten them again gently, and see what happens.
Thanks All - as mentioned it’s very difficult to adjust the c rod on these old ODEs. There is only 1 on my banjo and you need to remove the tail piece as the back of the rod is secured with a screw from then outside of the pot and the screw head is blocked by the tail piece.
You may be able to find a one piece flat bridge intended for a banjo ukelele or banjo mandolin that would work.
I have sanded down a Grover 1/2" and it helped, but the real solution is to adjust the neck. Removing the tail piece is not a big deal.
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