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Good seasoned bridges

Discussion in 'Setup & Repair [DB]' started by MollyKay, Oct 16, 2013.

  1. MollyKay


    Sep 10, 2006
    Southern PA
    Bass Hobby'ist
    Where do you get good seasoned bridges these days?

    My two suppliers offer a C grade Despiau bridge. Their A & B grades are no longer imported. The Teller brand seems a bit more soft then the Despiau. Aubert I am told are a better cut but the wood is not any harder or more seasoned then the C grade Despiau. We find the older bridges tend to show less warping then a new bridge. It is frustrating to cut a new bridge only to watch it warp (turn up) in a matter of a few years. We are thinking more now about ways to re-use the older bridges that maybe seasoned for decades and just re-work them instead of cutting a brand new unseasoned bridge.

    I am open to opinions and leads on a good source for seasoned quality bridges.
  2. Have you checked with Lemur? I just bought a three-tree (A-grade, I think...right?) Despiau from them for a decent price. I also think that Metropolitan Music here in VT carries them.
  3. JoeyNaeger

    JoeyNaeger Guest Commercial User

    Jun 24, 2005
    Houston, TX
    Bass Specialist, Lisle Violin Shop
    I mostly use C grade Despiau and occasionally an Aubert DeLuxe. I've fit well over a hundred C grade bridges and have not noticed them to have significant warpage problems. My shop buys them in large quantities and they get ample time to dry before fitting. That might be helping, but I think there are a variety of causes of warpage. Ultimately, no bridge has a chance if players don't regularly straighten their bridges out.
  4. When I tune up I always hold the bridge crown in place with my right hand and tune with my left. I've never had a bridge warp that wasn't warped already.

    The bridge on my flatback was fitted sometime before World War 2 and it's still straight. I'm tempted to believe most bridges warp due to operator error rather than a structural problem.

    When a bass comes in with a warped bridge I put it in a pan of water and boil it for a half hour, then let it dry for a week or two with 200 pounds of cinderblocks on top of it. The new owners of those basses have yet to complain about the bridge going bad.
  5. Jake deVilliers

    Jake deVilliers Commercial User

    May 24, 2006
    Crescent Beach, BC
    Owner of The Bass Spa, String Repairman at Long & McQuade Vancouver
    Huh. I use Despiau A, B or C bridges in my shop and Despiau and Aubert at Long & McQuade and find them to be very nicely made and plenty hard. I usually get my bridges from the Juzek boys at Metropolitan Music.

    I cut my bridges pretty thin at top and bottom (4-5mm and 21mm respectively), cut them for adjusters and that's it.

    I do show my clients how to make sure that the bridge is standing properly. I haven't had any of my bridges warp or fail in any way... :(
  6. MollyKay


    Sep 10, 2006
    Southern PA
    Bass Hobby'ist
    Okay…I have learned something! No where in my bass learning has someone showed me how to tune a bass and hold the bridge. So my warp concerns are directly related to “operator error”. It makes perfect sense. I have not observed a bass player tune a bass in that manner…of course in my circle of music tuning is sometimes optional. :D I will begin to tune in this manner and see if it makes a difference.

    As far as sourcing bridges, I have used Met Music, Lemur, Upton and International Violin. I talked to two of the four suppliers and think I understood them correctly when they said they can not get A&B quality Despiau bridges any more. I usually buy 10-20 bridges at a time so some are lying for a few years before we use them. Good to know that qualifies as a “seasoning” period.

    I was hoping for a new source for bridges but it seems we all order from the same places. I was also curious if bridges are made in house by luthiers? It would seem time consuming to cut from raw stock but on the other hand you would know the wood source and how seasoned the wood is. From talking with these suppliers I learned more how they select bridges for their hardness and timbre.

    Jake once suggested thumping on the top of a bass. Sometimes when it is very quiet in the workshop I go around to all the basses and thump on the top plate just below the bridge over the bass bar. It is interesting to hear the variety of tone for each bass. The sound really varies. It is amazing to me how much can be learned about each bass by listening to the tone of the wood from a non-playing position.

    Thanks for the input and answers!
  7. Don't go giving me too much credit! :D We're talking about a sample size of maybe 50 basses, far less than Jake and the other pros see in six months. Still, the physics make sense.

    I got into the habit of holding the bridge when I was messing around with weedwacker strings. Those things stretch so much they'll pull your bridge over while you struggle to get them up to pitch.

    It dawned on me one day that almost every warped bridge you see bends toward the fingerboard. I ran my string-friction theory by a few experienced luthiers, who agreed with me.
  8. Jake deVilliers

    Jake deVilliers Commercial User

    May 24, 2006
    Crescent Beach, BC
    Owner of The Bass Spa, String Repairman at Long & McQuade Vancouver
    As GRASSHOPPER says, the stretchy strings are the worst offenders; Weedwackers, Obligatos, Innovation Silver Slaps. Spiros are the most stable, naturally.

    I don't hold the bridge when I tune but I will deliberately look at the bass once in a while from the side, so as to see if the bridge has crept forward. You can put it up on the bed/couch/dining room table with the end block up against your stomach and just *ease* the bridge top back into place.

    I describe it as 'seating' the bridge, rocking the bridge back on its heels rather than 'pulling' it back.

    Same technique for violin and cello bridges, too - they are the most fragile, being cut the thinnest and usually having nice, stretchy synthetic core strings! ;)
  9. I do the spot-check too, but usually use the Karate-chop technique or the spine of a book to tap the bridge back into place.
  10. When I change strings, during the tuning up of the string I lift the string on both sides of the bridge to let the string slip along the bridge grooves more easily (I do lubricate the slots and also have them wide enough, of course). A bit hard to do this close to the final tension, but it helps a lot with the initial stretching of the string.
    And every few hours of playing and retuning I have look at the bridge angle to be sure everything is OK. At home I sometimes check the angle with a geometry triangle (don't know the correct english term for that). I only use it because it is already there. Anything rectangular would do the job as well. Just have a look which side of your bridge is curved and which is straight. (The bridge of my bass is straight at the fingerboard side.)

    If I need to remove all strings at once (for changing the bridge, removing the endpin etc.), I often start with the bridge leaning a little bit towards the tailpiece. This usually helps a bit to get the bridge straight under tension, but helping the string sliping over the bridge is always a good idea.

  11. Exactly what do you mean by, ". Ultimately, no bridge has a chance if players don't regularly straighten their bridges out."?
  12. Mark Gollihur

    Mark Gollihur Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jul 19, 2000
    Mullica Hill, NJ
    Owner/President, Gollihur Music LLC
    I think that what he means is what DoubleMIDI says in the post above:

  13. Jake deVilliers

    Jake deVilliers Commercial User

    May 24, 2006
    Crescent Beach, BC
    Owner of The Bass Spa, String Repairman at Long & McQuade Vancouver
    Joey referring to the fact that if the player ignores the bridge, it will tip forward with tuning and playing.

    This diverts the linear thrust of the strings' tension from a direct line through the bridge into an angular pressure that, because its more intense on the back of the bridge, will turn it into a potato chip fairly quickly.

    This is true of all violin family bridges, especially when they've been cut thin enough to sound really good. We could leave them thick and sturdy but then your instruments would sound, uh, thick and lifeless! ;)

    Strings with elastic cores, ie. Dominant, Obligato, seem to exacerbate the phenomenon.
    Please check your bridges and rock them back on their heels at regular intervals.
  14. lowEndRick

    lowEndRick Supporting Member

    Apr 8, 2006
    I don't want to further hijack Mollykay's thread, but I have just one question.

    Jake, is it safe to say that if we check our bridge and both feet are sitting flat against the top that we have done what you suggest?
  15. Jake deVilliers

    Jake deVilliers Commercial User

    May 24, 2006
    Crescent Beach, BC
    Owner of The Bass Spa, String Repairman at Long & McQuade Vancouver
    Yes - but if you have adjusters, you need to also check to see that the upper part of the bridge is in line with the feet. It can creep forward at both waist and feet.

    You can check it with a ruler, the spine of a paperback or a CD case.
  16. powerbass

    powerbass Supporting Member

    Nov 2, 2006
    western MA
    I regularly adjust my bridge after tuning. I find that if the bridge leans out of square (toward neck) my bass has a tight, choked sound.

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