What wood for a bridge?

Discussion in 'Setup & Repair [DB]' started by WhiteLightning, Jan 12, 2015.

  1. im considering trying to make a bridge, ( or a few) from scratch. I know that many use quarter sawn hard maple, but I was wondering if other types of wood are acceptable. I might be able to get some Amish quarter sawn rock maple, but I also have a few large logs of black walnut from a tree I cut down I've been saving, possibly to make a banjo or at least the pot. I figure I might be able to take a couple slabs off the end with a chainsaw to get some quarter sawn pieces big enough for a bridge, and not really use up much of the log I'm saving for other projects. The wood has been air drying, not out in the weather but also not in a heated environment for a few years now. I know that in other types of instrument making, black walnut can be used for some of the same applications that more commonly use hard maple, like guitar necks and banjo pots. Any thoughts? Also fyi this is for a really cheap Engelhardt, I'm not a luthier, and I'd like to try this for fun.
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2015
  2. hmm. I think this post went over like a fart in church. In any case, I just bought a decent set of bass nut files and a nippon-knife. I'm going to try it. Density of walnut is fairly close to hard maple from what I've read. (surprisingly to me, density of black walnut is on the low end of the maple scale...) Couldn't find anything about walnut UB bridges but on a fiddle forum I did find a few posts saying 'I used to know an old-timer who made bridges out of other woods like walnut and dogwood.'

    I did read on one site about how to cut it like a slice of pie so you might see meds on both sides. I'm going to try it. Worst that can happen is I own more tools (I look for any excuse to own more tools) and I still need to find a good piece of maple.

    I also might be able to cut the blank on a CNC water saw, but I'm not sure if that would mess up the humidity of the wood? I kind of think it wont, those things cut so fast I can't see the wood soaking up much water.

    If anyone's got a decent cad file template it might be helpful.
    Last edited: Jan 14, 2015
  3. powerbass


    Nov 2, 2006
    western MA
    You might consider making a few bridges out of different woods at the same time, like a mini production run, then you can test them out and report back here, I'ld like to know. I just bought a bridge from Gollihur Music, impressed by the lovely quarter sawn maple
  4. I'd love to do that, but I don't really have the $$ to buy all the other woods I think might be acceptable. (This is why free walnut is my top pick at this point.) Also, I don't think the bass I own would really be a proper testing ground. I probably at least should get some Maple to try that as well, but I'm not sure what other woods are even close. Maybe mahogany but in guitars I've seen that mahogany kills the higher tones. Maybe in a bass this would be good. If anyone wants to send me some 8" thick full rounds of log ends, I'll send half of it back as blanks. :)

    Also, concerning Amish wood, that might be a good idea in the long run, but I think most of the Amish wood I have access too hasn't been fully dried properly. However I do know someone I jam with who's brother lives in PA and supposedly he has several barns full of all different kinds of stuff that's been air drying for years. It's not quarter-sawn, but even with flat sawn wood, the center board from the log is the same as quarter sawn.

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