Floating Wooden Bridges

I've gotten a lot of enquiries lately asking after how our bridges work: How does it intonate?  Isn't the wood weak?  How can it sustain like brass?

So here's an open response that I hope is useful to others wondering these same things.

The wooden bridge will provide superior tone and removes weight and mass from the instrument.  Mass is the enemy of tone; mass absorbs vibrations that would otherwise contribute to tone.  Aside from some advantage in longevity and providing a counterbalance to heavy headstock tuners, there's not a single good reason to use brass on any part of a musical instrument that contacts the strings.  Yes, talk to ten builders and you'll get six or eight opinions on that, but this is mine.  We even have this noted in the headline of one of our magazine adverts: "If Brass was Good for Tone it Would be Used on Violins."

And that's the truth.  What instruments are renowned for the greatest voice?  Violins, violas and cellos.  Closer to the world of guitar and electric bass, the most finely voiced instruments are archtop guitars.  What bridge material do these instruments use?  Maple for the orchestral instruments and ebony for the archtop guitars.  This is my influence for the decision to utilise a wooden bridge and nut.  Yes, the nut too. On the cello, violin, viola ... and a very few archtop guitars ... ebony is the nut material of choice.  We use Soloman Island ebony as well as a New Zealand native timber, black maire, which is harder than any species referred to as ebony for our nut material.  Sometimes I'll use bone.

Also note that on these fine instruments there is not an intonating screw of any kind.  The angled bridge saddle provides more than adequate compensation.  The bridges 'float' (ie not glued or screwed to the body) so adjustments can be made if string gauge is changed or if for some reason a tweak is needed.  The floating bridge is moved forward or backward to set the low string intonation and again for the high string intonation.  The other strings fall into the zone of where they need to be and any error is realistically beyond the realm of 99% of our ears.  As some rightly point out, this minor amount of error is not such a big problem on fretless instruments, but on an archtop guitar there's no mercy: you're playing a clean signal and in front of jazz musicians.  Not intonated properly?  Bad tone?  Hit the road, Jack.

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