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What makes a better bridge?

Craig BumgarnerCraig Bumgarner Drayden, MarylandVirtuoso Bumgarner S/N 001
There has been lots of talk about a better bridge making a big difference. What makes a better bridge?

The most obvious is getting the action right, but this can be accomplished with shims or fitting.

The choice of wood is fairly important I gather. Ebony is brighter, even harsh. Rosewood is warmer.

Good fit to the top plate. Easy enough with sandpaper taped to the top and a little patience.

What about shape and mass? These seem like critical factors. What are we looking for? The lightest possible as to be responsive? Slender in section so as to rock back and forth more under the strings?

I ask because I made a new rosewood bridge for my Gitane a year ago and though it is prettier to look at, it frankly didn't seem make much difference in sound. Maybe I was expecting too much. Could it be too thick in section, the top where the strings lay is about 2mm and the fore and aft sides and underside are hollowed out.



  • django'spooltalentdjango'spooltalent ✭✭✭✭
    Posts: 71
    Hi Craig,

    I just recently made a bridge last weekend, and I can't tell a big difference either. I know the sound is different, but I'm not if its a good different. I also replaced my argies too, it could be I'm not use to new sound strings because I used my last ones for a couple of months ( since Christmas).

    PS Did you follow any plans?
  • Craig BumgarnerCraig Bumgarner Drayden, MarylandVirtuoso Bumgarner S/N 001
    Posts: 795

    I used the Francois Charle's Selmer plans as a guide. The Gitane requires less height and the width is dictated by the moustache width. Otherwise, pretty close. I've looked at a lot of bridges first. The website has a wealth of photos of great guitars, many show the bridges quite clearly.

    Michael Collins told me a couple years ago that the key to a good bridge was to make the section as narrow as possible. It should narrow quickly as it comes off the base. Should look more like the Eiffel tower than a triangle in profile. Mine could probably be taken down some more in that regard, more hollow in the sides that is, though is looks pretty much like the Selmer plan.

    Yeah, changing strings at the same time is pretty tempting, but it doesn't make for the best A-B comparison. It can probably be argued that fully detentioned strings don't sound the same retentioned, but I think they are closer than new strings. I've gotten so I don't care much for the sound of new strings, on the Gitane at least, so I use them forever.
  • I've only been playing gypsy jazz for about 6 years now but in my experience the best bridge maker is **** (at Dell Arte). His bridges aren't as pretty as the DUpont bridges, but they have an incredible "string survival rate", which I personally attest to, and I believe it is because he leaves a full mm of width on the top of the bridge and the string slots are not beveled. In any case, his bridges dont cut strings.

    This is from my experience lately of putting a new Dupont bridge on my Park, getting a new Hommage guitar, and while playing them equally, carefully watching how long the strings last. The DuPont bridge cuts strings roughly 150%-200% more often (in my opinon).

    In the past I had someone make me a bridge and they beveled the string slots, which must be a "fashionable thing" or something, and i lost strings all the time.

    That is my scientific method.
  • scotscot Virtuoso
    Posts: 590
    I made the experimental bridge seen at for my Favino out of ebony. I cut the horizontal slots on a Bridgeport while the rough blank was still square, then I shaped it. The hollows in the feet were done with a dremel. This was a success - it made the guitar sound better. An earlier three-footed bridge with a bone saddle for my Saga was less successful. Pictures of that one can be found on an old thread here called "archtop bridges". I made a mistake with this one - changed too many things at once.

    The Favino bridge does not sag at all across the top as I thought it might. And the small footprint makes it easier to fit the feet to the top. I think that a lightweight/low mass bridge is something worth exploring. I have plans for another one with even more material removed. The ultimate plan is to keep taking off mass until the sound deteriorates or the bridge fails...
  • django'spooltalentdjango'spooltalent ✭✭✭✭
    Posts: 71
    Hi Scot,

    Good stuff man, I know it will be hard to describe, but how has the sound changed since you changed the bridge on the favino.
  • Posts: 145
    I find it makes a significant difference between a shimmed bridge and one where the action of the bridge is right. Anything that prevents direct contact between the bridge and the top will lose some resonance of the top.

    Other than that, I want to know who has a bridge where the intonation works? I've heard of b-string compensated bridges but have never seen one. The intonation on my Gitane is just killing me.
  • Craig BumgarnerCraig Bumgarner Drayden, MarylandVirtuoso Bumgarner S/N 001
    Posts: 795
    I find it makes a significant difference between a shimmed bridge and one where the action of the bridge is right.

    I find no difference at all in the sound using shims. Course, I use nicely machined ebony shims. Maybe my problem is I just can't hear well.
    Other than that, I want to know who has a bridge where the intonation works?

    You mean besides just moving the bridge around until it is right? I adjust mine all the time. Seems to vary alot based on weather, string age, shims, etc. My bridges all seem to intonate fine and my electronic tuner seems to agree. My Hodson has a nicely made B string compensated bridge, but I don't notice much difference in the accuracy of the intonation, especially with a couple Gitanes and a standup bass honking in my ear :lol:

  • Craig BumgarnerCraig Bumgarner Drayden, MarylandVirtuoso Bumgarner S/N 001
    Posts: 795

    Yeah, I saw that picture before. Cool idea. I too would be interested in how you would characterize the resulting change in sound.

  • BluesBop HarryBluesBop Harry Mexico city, MexicoVirtuoso
    Posts: 1,379
    I been planing on building a bridge for my Gitane too, since a lot of people say the stock one is no good.
    Would like some tips about the hollowing (Where? How?), dimensions(Feet and general size) and shape.
    The intonation right now on my guitar is pretty good but old strings throw it out of wack.
    About the string breakage, a cool tip I learned from a luthier is too apply a little graphite from a pencil (If it doesn`t stick try mixing it with a little vaseline) to the slots at the bridge when you change strings, it really works! You can also put it in the slots a the nut and helps the guitar to stay in tune. Try it. I rarely break a string and I pick really hard, I change strings when they start messing up my intonation only.
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