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Top quality bridge: can you tell by looking?


Allan Speers
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Allan, it's a pretty rough job and wouldn't earn you a place in my shop. Contrary to your opinion, neatness DOES count, because it's an indicator for a whole host of attitudes about finding out what the right thing is and doing it properly. Talking lofty talk about tone is often a screen for "doesn't really have a clue about violins", so I wouldn't give many points for that unless we're counting BS points. And your other comments seem to be reinforcing that impression. Without a single other clue, I bet I know who did your bridge, though I've never seen one from this person.

Here, Alan. No beavers were utilized or harmed in the carving of this bridge:

bridge-sm.jpg

and finally,

obscure family member Rocky Wurlitzer, with a few of the hundred thousand or so guys who claimed to be "tonal experts" in their advertising:

00144u.preview.jpg

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The bridge blank, itself, is fine. As Jeffrey said, what you do with it is *much* more important than the wood, after a certain minimum is met. With a fingerboard as you have described it, there isn't a chance in heck that your violin is sounding it's best, anyway, so I wouldn't be worrying about the wood in the bridge.

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quote:


Originally posted by:
Allan Speers

Very pretty.

So, can someone answer my original question? I think GMM tried, but

I don't understand what he wrote.

I promise, if someone gives me a clear answer, I won't talk about

science and measurements and stuff for like a whole month!

Remember, you promised!

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quote:


Originally posted by:
Allan Speers

Jeffery, I agree that nice looks could indicate more care overall,

but I am not super troubled by this.  Still, it's good to see

you opinion concerning this.  The feet seem perfectly matched

to the table, to my untrained eye. What Jeffery mentioned could be

a trick of that particular photo.


It's not a trick of the photo, Allan, it's your untrained eye.

The toes don't contact the top and I can see gaps in the center. One cant get an exact fit with a dull knife.

Check out the cutting on Adele's and Michael's bridges. They both show that they were cut by hand, but the integrity of the lines indicte that they knew where they wanted to go and were using sharp tools to get there. Even though one is older and one newer, the surface of the wood has a clear (not punky) look, showing that the shaping of the faces were done carefully. While this doesn't ensure a better sounding bridge on it's own, it sure doesn't hurt.

Again, I'm not trying to pick on the person who cut your bridge, I'm just saying that using a "better" blank probably wouldn't have improved the end product, considering the flaws present in the workmanship.

GMM did answer your original question about blank quality. It's a mid-range Aubert. They make two bridges that are generally better better quality (a "Lux" and a "Deluxe"), but the blank mid-priced blanks are very usable if you're selective (sort through a batch and cherry pick).

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The cutting's a little choppy, the knife was probably dull, and the grain gets wider than on blanks I typically use.

Who's to say that any of this has a negative impact on sound though?

I don't think I'd have a problem using that blank unless I suspected that I needed a very stiff bridge.

Perhaps the blank was chosen because the luthier thought the violin would benefit from a more flexible bridge. Now we can get into an argument about whether grain spacing is an indication of strength.

4 mm between the post and the bridge isn't necessarily excessive. Mine work well that way, sometimes with more. Depends on the fiddle.

David Burgess

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quote:


Originally posted by:
David Burgess

The cutting's a little choppy, the knife was probably dull, and the grain gets wider than on blanks I typically use.

Who's to say that any of this has a negative impact on sound though?


I don't think anyone singled out those two details as having a negative impact on their own... or maybe I missed it? Sometimes I miss a detail as I cruse though the threads...

As I mentioned, I've seen worse in both respects... and much better. I imagine that using less dense wood, or wood with wider or narrower gran, can be compensated for by the cut and thicknesses... and some fiddles do better with bridges that are on the soft side anyway... but we're probably all a victim of what the "norm" is (as far as raw materials chosen) in our shops (and learn to use these accordingly).

I think that having the feet fit is a critical factor, however, as is the profile (which we can't see).

I can't for the life of me figure out why Allan didn't take you up on your offer (made a month or two back), David. I know your feet would fit! Maybe the offer was just for adjustment...? Can't remember this morning.

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quote:


Originally posted by:
Allan Speers

The feet seem perfectly matched

to the table, to my untrained eye.

A really great bridge fits so perfectly that the feet almost look melted on. I don't know how else to describe it. Of course, you also pay... a lot... for that skill.

IMO, an average blank superbly fitted will far outperform a stellar blank with mediocre fitting. Always nice to have both, though...

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quote:


Originally posted by:
Jeffrey Holmes

I can't for the life of me figure out why Allan didn't take you up on your offer (made a month or two back), David. I know your feet would fit! Maybe the offer was just for adjustment...? Can't remember this morning.

The offer was just for adjustment.

I don't have time to fit feet well any more anyway. Most of my time is spent looking for my glasses!

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"Your eyes were always better than mine, David. At this point, if I'm not wearing my glasses, looking for them will do me little good!"

Ha ha ha!

Now that's funny.

I'm the same way - I have to keep a spare pair of glasses in the bureau drawer that I can always get, when I have to look for my main pair...

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quote:


Originally posted by:
Allan Speers

...and did I mention that the string height over the newly-shaped FB is 4mm / 2mm ?

 Egads...  He said he left the FB high because the lift

 will settle, but that much? (forget for a moment that I

specifically instructed him to fit a new FB, not use a lift

...)

I'm curious what others think, but to me it makes more sense to cut the bridge with a proper string height and then re-adjust later if needed.

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Cutting and fitting a bridge is a fetish for violinmakers.

A lot of work was done at Oberlin Acoustics with bridge acoustics.

I've come to some conclusions, not carved in stone, about bridges.

I look at the side of the bridge to see that the growth rings are perpendicular to the surface, the difference in stiffness between 90degrees and 45 degrees is a factor of 10! Vastly greater than spacing of rings which is arguably, zero. I've seen a lot of variation in this on Aubert bridges.

The three parameters that affect the sound the most are thickness in the area between the heart and crotch, thickness in the area between the heart and top, spacing between the kidneys. The shape of the 'belly' and back of the bridge. In my experience small gaps in the fit between the foot and the top have no effect on the sound (but I think are really bad form for a competent violinmaker ;-) What I've been seeing more often is poor spring spacing, which I find annoying as a player and a greater sin than some slight tool chatter in the cutting of the bridge.

Oded Kishony

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quote:


Originally posted by:
DarylG

I'm curious what others think, but to me it makes more sense to cut the bridge with a proper string height and then re-adjust later if needed.


I tend to cut the bridge to the proper height for the player *unless* they live, or are traveling to, a very different environment and we decide to compensate for it a litte.

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As well stated by Oded

"Cutting and fitting a bridge is a fetish for violinmakers"

I also have to applaud that guy who says he's Jeffrey (cannot get used to that photo!) for the candid comments.

I will be more blunt. I don't think that the fine carving was done with a knife or even a file. The rough texture is a look of material left after using a medium rasp.

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quote:


Originally posted by:
Oded Kishony

In my experience small gaps in the fit between the foot and the top have no effect on the sound (but I think are really bad form for a competent violinmaker ;-)


Not with you on that one, Oded... My experiences are different.

I find that poor fitting of the feet often does more harm than just limiting contact (which already isn't a good thing). Poor fit can often torque the bridge, building in tension and eventually causing them to warp slightly. Not a good thing for sound either.

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You might try straightening it a few times during the tuning process, and perhaps compensating slightly by taking it a bit farther back than normal, but make sure the feet remain in full contact with the top. The slots might be too slick, causing the bridge to slide forward easily. You could loosen one string at a time and clean the slot(s) with a slightly moistened round toothpick. But beware, the next thing you know you will want to make your own violin.

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Hi Jeffrey,

> I find that poor fitting of the feet often does more harm than just limiting contact (which already isn't a good thing). Poor fit can often torque

>the bridge, building in tension and eventually causing them to warp slightly. Not a good thing for sound either.<

I agree with your statement above. I limited the poor fit to 'small gaps'. If everything else is right, a small gap in the fit will have a very minimal effect on the sound or playability. Let's be clear, I don't advocate poor fitting bridges, there are other negative repercussions including possibly harming (denting) the top at the bridge location etc and it's certainly not something I'd ever let out of my shop, but if I see an otherwise good bridge with some gap showing I don't necessarily advise replacing it. Sometimes the bridge foot gets a 'dent along the way which will show as a gap but not be indicitive of an otherwise good fit.

Oded

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