Any of the bridge issues below will rob your instrument of tone and volume and are responsible for more players going on a new string brand or gauge hunt because their instrument just doesn’t sound like it used to. The picture is how you feel when this happens.
I know I’ve posted on this topic a few times before, however recently Bruce has gotten quite a few instruments in for miscellaneous work and noticed almost all had bridge issues: poor fit, leaning towards the fingerboard, some bases flipped bass for treble, and messed up saddle slots. It doesn’t matter what kind of bridge you use or prefer, if they aren’t fit properly to the soundboard or any of the other issues listed above, they’re all the same: Worthless for all but a string holder.
Bruce’s Take. The bridge is responsible for efficiently transferring vibration from the strings to the soundboard and on a mandolin has a footprint of about 1.4 square inches plus or minus some depending on the builder. Now picture the bridge leaning towards the fingerboard with only the bottom edge of the base making contact with the top of the instrument. This is usually due to a recent string change pulling the top of the bridge saddle as the string are brought to pitch. The footprint has been reduced to less than .5! Not much contact there to carry anything from the strings to the soundboard. The bridge should be sitting perpendicular to the top and not looking like it wouldn’t take much to push it over. Check out on our site for the fix.
Another issue that reduces the footprint intended by the builder is a poor fit. Fitting a base to an arched top instrument is tricky if you’ve never done it. The base should sit seamlessly on the top and not have a convex shape across the width of the foot or gaps. If you hold your instrument up with the peghead pointed towards a light and look closely at the bottom edge of the bridge on the tailpiece side you shouldn’t see any light passing under the bridge base where it meets the top or visible gaps. If that doesn’t work for you try pushing a piece of notepaper under the bridge base from all angles. If it slips between the base and instrument at all, it’s time to visit your local luthier. Another way to check the fit is next time you have all the strings off take a look at the finish where the bridge sits. Most will have a slight imprint in the finish or a slightly different color. Is it the same size as your bridge base?
One more. Swapping the bass and treble ends of the bridge base is pretty easy to do, especially if you don’t have mark on the bridge base indicating which is which. When we install a bridge here we mark the bottom of the base on the treble side with a T written in pencil. Check it out next time you do a string change.
As long as we’re on bridges and you’re checking your fit, take a look at your saddle string slots. The slots should be of equal depth and should have a consistent angle pointed down towards the tailpiece and not an inverted V which can cause a string or strings to sound fuzzy. A good luthier can solve this issue in minutes by dressing the slots.
As always, give Bruce a call if you have questions. We love to help players, and their instruments, sound the best they can.
Thanks so much for the Ranger, it arrived a few days ago but as I’ve been working in France I didn’t get much chance to play it until yesterday evening. I’m really so impressed with the build and the mahogany is more beautiful than I expected (I’ve never been wowed by mahogany on instruments before). But most of all, I find that this one projects sound really well for a smaller body and it’s effortless to play. I love the fact you will do a radius board for the Rangers, it’s the only thing I miss with the Aspen (though I fell in love with it regardless when I found it in a music store). I’m now somewhat pleased I missed out on the Sweet Pea because the customisation options you provide on the Ranger really sets it apart. The build is flawless, just as I was expecting.
I’m taking this to Italy next month for an ocarina festival there. I make ocarinas but don’t play them much anymore so the Ranger is going to keep me entertained while I sell my own instruments! The soft bag is nicely padded too and I’m glad you provide them as it means I don’t have to shop for a ukulele case that won’t fit it exactly.
This really is the perfect travel mandolin for me. The solid build, standard scale and the radiused fretboard trumps the pocket mandolin I already own (which is flat narrower board, shorter scale and ultra light strings). So looks like I’ll be selling the pocket on as I think the Ranger is all I’m going to need for my travel.
One question I have is the string gauge. From the looks and feel I’m guessing they’re mediums? If they are then it’s perfect as it’s my preferred gauge on the Aspen.
I’ve attached a little happy family shot of the two mandolins together. I’m very pleased, huge thanks to you and Bruce for continuing to make such quality instruments.
Almost all mando players would like a little kick-around mando for when they want take it hiking and other adventures. Or, perhaps somebody needs a good quality beginner mando.
Our Ranger Travel Mandolin is perfect!
Everything is hand-made, here in the shop, so get your orders in early.
Please don’t hesitate to Contact Us if you have any questions, or would like to chat about possibilities.
Order now and receive a Deluxe Gig Bag for your Ranger! They will be available for only the next couple of months. We include a little travel mandolin chord book and Montana Lutherie Badge with each Ranger, too!
If you are considering customizing your Ranger, here are a list of the favorites with pricing:
Wide Nut- No Charge
Radiused Fingerboard $20
Ebony Veneer with Pearl Star $20
Ebony Fingerboard with Pearl fret markers $20
Internal Twin Pickup with End Pin Jack $50 (includes installation)
Mahogany No Charge
Cherry No Charge
Below is a Ranger we just built to a player’s specs with a wide nut, radiused, ebony fingerboard, and pickup with endpin jack. Classy looking too!:
Several Music Stores now carry Rangers: Starr’s Guitars, CO. A Sharp Music Co., WA. Homestead Pickin Parlor, MN., Bernunzio Uptown Music NY., Melodee Music, VA., Todaros Music, PA., Denver Folklore Center, CO. The Mandolin Store, AZ, and Mandolin New England, MA.
*Interested Dealers Contact Us*
*Check out the Music Stores near you that carry Rangers at the bottom of this post!
We’ve added an ‘Instruments‘ Page to this website where we will update you on new instruments built by Montana Lutherie and also Bruce’s instruments for individual players (these will be coming out this summer).
Right now we are offering the Ranger Travel Mandolin who is a friend you can take on any adventure. GO HERE to check them out and to order. We’re offering free USPS shipping and they can be customized.
Several Music Stores now carry Rangers: Starr’s Guitars, CO. A Sharp Music Co., WA. Homestead Pickin Parlor, MN., Bernunzio Uptown Music NY., Melodee Music, VA., Todaros Music, PA., and Denver Folklore Center, CO.
*Interested Dealers Contact Us*