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Dec 8, 2021 - 2:59:15 PM
1191 posts since 11/17/2005

I have bought several bridges to try over the last month.

I also have bridges that I have owned for 10+ years and they seem to be thinner.

Are bridges generally thicker now? Is that a trend?

Dec 8, 2021 - 3:19:05 PM

4881 posts since 5/9/2007

Bridges used by Oldtime/Openback players tend to be thicker than those used on BG banjos.
Perhaps you have been encountering some of the former.

Dec 8, 2021 - 3:24:56 PM

Bill H

USA

1792 posts since 11/7/2010

There are a variety of makers and thickness of bridges available. Many bridges list the weight--heavier bridges in general have a more muted tone and lighter or thinner bridges have a sharper tone. Many one of the bridge experts will chime in or you can search the archives, this topic has been discussed often.

Dec 8, 2021 - 3:32:31 PM

478 posts since 12/10/2006

Hi Jason, I can make you thick or thin, or what I consider good thickness of any of the bridges I make, and I have them listed here on the banjohangout. Don

Dec 8, 2021 - 3:33:14 PM
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14436 posts since 10/30/2008

Bridges started getting substantially with the commercial Snuffy Smiths back around 1990, in general. I don't think thicker bridges is a new development.

I think bluegrassers have learned to prefer thicker bridges compared to the old standard Grovers and Farquahars.

Dec 8, 2021 - 3:45:15 PM

3140 posts since 2/18/2009

I make mine about 3/16" thick at the bottom and 1/16" at the top, but I don't actually measure the thickness. My bridge tastes are odd, though, I like 2 footed bridges and mostly make them from persimmon. I have seen some bridges on banjos that were a lot thicker than what I would have wanted, but I imagine that was how the maker or the owner liked them.

Dec 8, 2021 - 4:09:29 PM
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14138 posts since 6/29/2005

I think they have always been fairly thin, except for the old ones with the black-and-white checkered saddles and the old compensated ones, which were pretty chunky.

Nowadays most builders make them to a certain weight, so the dimensions can vary slightly according to the wood being used. 

Other than that, trendwise, fingerboards are getting wider, scales on frailing banjos are getting shorter, pots are getting deeper, and 12" pots are getting more popular.

Dec 9, 2021 - 3:41:08 AM

R Buck

USA

3044 posts since 9/5/2006

Bridge thickness and material are directly related to the desired sound desired. Fifty years ago there were very few bridge choices. Today we are blessed with a wide array of choices although many I would forgo. I tend to like a deeper low end and a rounder high end so a bit thicker bridge usually does the job.

Dec 9, 2021 - 6:03:34 AM
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2125 posts since 2/4/2013

I guess if you start thicker you can thin it down if you want. If you start thin that's all you have. I seem to remebmer reading that thinning bridges used to be a big thing (there were probably bridge thinning festivals).

Dec 9, 2021 - 7:07:42 AM

1191 posts since 11/17/2005

I will try to weigh my bridges today.
I had a Snuffy Smith, 3 Sosebees, 2 Bales, and a few more from maybe 10 years ago. These were what I would call medium weight bridges, with only the Snuffy Smith being a little thinner.

I recently bought a few Purcells, and Sullivans. I also have a newer Davis (Davis Banjos) and a Ritchie Dotson.

All of the newer bridges are slightly thicker that my old bridges.

I bought one new bridge from Ebay, called a Fitts. It is the only newer bridge that was as thin as my old bridges.

I'm not complaining. I know I can thin them. I just thought it was odd that I bought about 10 new bridges and every one was slightly thicker that the bridges I had.

Dec 9, 2021 - 9:02:13 AM

4732 posts since 11/20/2004

I have not seen a lot of change in the last 10-15 years, but go back to the 60's-80's and thin was the desired sound. Listening now, it sounds plinky to my ear, not nearly as full of tone as today.

Dec 9, 2021 - 9:50:16 AM

1191 posts since 11/17/2005

quote:
Originally posted by lightgauge

I have not seen a lot of change in the last 10-15 years, but go back to the 60's-80's and thin was the desired sound. Listening now, it sounds plinky to my ear, not nearly as full of tone as today.


I bought an older parts banjo for a good price from a guy a few years ago.  It had belonged to his brother,  who has passed.  

The bridge on that banjo is unbelievably thin! It looks like it could break at any moment. It has a flamed maple rim and a kershner tailpiece that is down pretty far. 

I've often wondered what tone ring it has, but I've never pulled it apart, not that I could likely tell anyway. 

That's not how I set banjos up,, but the crazy part is that the banjo sounds really good!  It is a little different,  but it's loud, responsive and has a good sound.

Dec 9, 2021 - 9:56:15 AM

671 posts since 12/26/2006

I like a bright tone, I have a Purcell old Canadian Birch at 2.1 grams on my Stelling Superstar. Sounds great.
If you play a flathead ( other than a Stelling ) a thinnish bridge will help you cut through the din.

Regards
Dave.

Dec 9, 2021 - 10:22:10 AM

1673 posts since 1/28/2013

More players today are going thicker and higher.

Dec 9, 2021 - 12:33:21 PM
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75330 posts since 5/9/2007

All my bluegrass bridges over the last 12 years fall in the 2.15 to 2.25 gram range.
I can count on one hand the weights that are outside these numbers.
My average is taken from having made over 800 of them.
I see a consistency in sizes.
I haven't heard the old "sand it thinner" for many years.
I notice loss of projection as the weight goes up.

Dec 9, 2021 - 12:37:04 PM

75330 posts since 5/9/2007

Bill Keith used to add a banjo string woven in the bridge feet to increase mass of the old Grover.

Dec 9, 2021 - 1:30:08 PM

1191 posts since 11/17/2005

quote:
Originally posted by steve davis

All my bluegrass bridges over the last 12 years fall in the 2.15 to 2.25 gram range.
I can count on one hand the weights that are outside these numbers.
My average is taken from having made over 800 of them.
I see a consistency in sizes.
I haven't heard the old "sand it thinner" for many years.
I notice loss of projection as the weight goes up.


I notice that your bridges are wide at the bottom, but thinner at the top.

I wonder how that plays into the sound? Would a 2.2 gram bridge that was designed differently have a similar sound?

Is 2.15 - 2.25 weight recommended regardless of design?

Dec 9, 2021 - 1:52:19 PM

14138 posts since 6/29/2005

quote:
Originally posted by jan dupree

More players today are going thicker and higher.


I agree, at least that's the case with me. 

When I started making my own bridges, which was in the 1960s, the conventional wisdom among the banjo people I knew was that higher bridges are louder.  I have always observed that.  When you make them higher, there's more wood, so they get heavier at the same thickness as shorter ones.  More wood makes a fuller, less plinky sound unless you overdo it, in which case it gets muddy.

I find that the banjos I make and the way I set them up has had the bridges creeping higher over time.  As for thickness, I like the top of the saddle where the strings cross to be pretty thin—not a knife edge, but thin.

Dec 10, 2021 - 6:19:28 AM

75330 posts since 5/9/2007

quote:
Originally posted by jason999
quote:
Originally posted by steve davis

All my bluegrass bridges over the last 12 years fall in the 2.15 to 2.25 gram range.
I can count on one hand the weights that are outside these numbers.
My average is taken from having made over 800 of them.
I see a consistency in sizes.
I haven't heard the old "sand it thinner" for many years.
I notice loss of projection as the weight goes up.


I notice that your bridges are wide at the bottom, but thinner at the top.

I wonder how that plays into the sound? Would a 2.2 gram bridge that was designed differently have a similar sound?

Is 2.15 - 2.25 weight recommended regardless of design?


I settled on that weight range because of customer feedback and my own sense of what sounds well balanced over the entire neck with strong projection.

I have no idea what "regardless of design" means.I design my bridges from what I've learned since making my first compensated bridges in 1977.

Dec 10, 2021 - 7:00:38 AM

1191 posts since 11/17/2005

quote:
Originally posted by steve davis
quote:
Originally posted by jason999
quote:
Originally posted by steve davis

All my bluegrass bridges over the last 12 years fall in the 2.15 to 2.25 gram range.
I can count on one hand the weights that are outside these numbers.
My average is taken from having made over 800 of them.
I see a consistency in sizes.
I haven't heard the old "sand it thinner" for many years.
I notice loss of projection as the weight goes up.


I notice that your bridges are wide at the bottom, but thinner at the top.

I wonder how that plays into the sound? Would a 2.2 gram bridge that was designed differently have a similar sound?

Is 2.15 - 2.25 weight recommended regardless of design?


I settled on that weight range because of customer feedback and my own sense of what sounds well balanced over the entire neck with strong projection.

I have no idea what "regardless of design" means.I design my bridges from what I've learned since making my first compensated bridges in 1977.


Regardless of design - You're design is obviously different than a standard design. Right? If you were making standard design bridges, would the same weight be optimal in your opinion?

Does the optimal weight vary much based on the design?

Dec 10, 2021 - 7:13:46 AM

75330 posts since 5/9/2007

I use weight as a direct proportion to mass.I suppose any design would obey the same mass/weight proportion,but I would then be guessing.
Bridges that weigh below 2.15 are quite bright while weights above 2.3 begin to reduce the clarity and punch of the notes.

Dec 10, 2021 - 8:16:28 AM

1673 posts since 1/28/2013

quote:
Originally posted by Ken LeVan
quote:
Originally posted by jan dupree

More players today are going thicker and higher.


I agree, at least that's the case with me. 

When I started making my own bridges, which was in the 1960s, the conventional wisdom among the banjo people I knew was that higher bridges are louder.  I have always observed that.  When you make them higher, there's more wood, so they get heavier at the same thickness as shorter ones.  More wood makes a fuller, less plinky sound unless you overdo it, in which case it gets muddy.

I find that the banjos I make and the way I set them up has had the bridges creeping higher over time.  As for thickness, I like the top of the saddle where the strings cross to be pretty thin—not a knife edge, but thin.


Have you seen a close up of Bela Fleck' 7/8ths Bridge? And of course Terry Baucom has always used a 11/16ths.

Dec 10, 2021 - 9:17:58 AM
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75330 posts since 5/9/2007

Higher bridges lead to intonation problems unless the heel is recut.

Dec 10, 2021 - 3:52:25 PM
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kat eyz

USA

1131 posts since 10/1/2003

I would say bridge thickness has stayed pretty consistent over the last 20 years go back another 20 years and beyond a little and a thinner bridge was more popular than todays bridges as well as a basic setup in general was different than what is popular today . With one man bridge building shops more available these days it lets customers pick and choose how there bridge might be made for specific tonal values . This brings out much more verity in bridge dimensions that you might see at a show or a jam session and i think this trend is also showing that slightly thicker bridges are getting pretty popular.

Dec 10, 2021 - 6:52:47 PM
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304 posts since 4/14/2017

When I've bought bridges from Mike at Kat Eyz (and he also makes the modern Snuffys) he always discusses the bridge weight with me while we are discussing the height, string spacing, et c. Of the major bridge makers, I seem to recall Scorpions, which I also like, being a little thinner than most, if that is your preference. He probably makes 'em in all weights ,too.

Dec 12, 2021 - 2:08:33 AM
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363 posts since 12/9/2010

I treat most bridges I fit a bit like violin bridge blanks, and thin them down quite a lot, especially by tapering them, to make sure the feet don't get so narrow it can fall over (more of a problem with higher bridges.)
I also thin the width of the legs and feet down most of the time too.
I even sometimes seal then with shellac to make them even stiffer.

Could be worth a try. It's easy enough to get a few cheap bridges and start planing them down and observing how the tone changes.

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