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My first working bridge cut

Posted by bj on Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Third time was the charm!

The first bridge I cut for the JTL Mediofino fiddle was okay, but needed . . . something. So I did my reading on tuning bridges and got to work trying to make the bridge more responsive . . . and ended up with a bridge with a broken heart. Literally. The little piece in the middle of the heart broke right off when I was trying to bevel cut the heart openings. AARRGGHH!!!!

On the second bridge I found out the importance of using an extremely sharp knife. I ended up taking a gouge out of one of the kidneys when trying to create the bevel. That one strangled the sound when it was in place on the fiddle, though it brought out enough tone for me to realize that it was possible for me to get this fiddle sounding good.

So I tried it a third time. Is it perfect? Probably not, and I will have Bill finetune it when I'm up at Fiddle Hell. But the fiddle sounds GOOD. Really good! Amazingly good. In fact, even though I probably don't have it perfect, I realize this fiddle is probably a keeper as my festival or kick-around fiddle since it's not inherently valuable, but really has a great tone, both sweet and gutsy at the same time. I got at least that much out of it. YAY!

I suspect there's still more meat on this bridge than it needs to have. I erred on the side of caution there, since I've had a bridge warp on me. And I haven't yet tried the fiddle out with this bridge at a jam, but will do that tomorrow night. I had tried it jamming with bridge #2 and it wasn't quite loud enough to cut through the noise, at least not when compared to my Salzard fiddle, but that bridge wasn't optimal and I can already tell that this bridge is allowing it to project much better and ring much clearer, so I think it'll be fine.

My only wish is to dial down the treble just a bit, it's a bit too focused and piercing, closer to what a classical player would like. But I'm going to get Bill's input on that. It may be that the bridge is close enough and the soundpost needs a tweak. I set the soundpost myself, and it looks pretty close to right, and using the card thingie it measures pretty much where it needs to be, but since Bill said he's giving a soundpost setting demonstration up at Hell . . . I think I'm gonna volunteer this fiddle for the demonstration.

I'm also going to have him do the pegwork, if he has the time. I don't have those tools yet. And boy, does it need it!

Now, on to getting one of these other fiddles ready. I'm taking at least one fiddle up to Hell with me to sell, along with a couple other things I have kicking around.

24 comments on “My first working bridge cut”

FiddleJammer Says:
Wednesday, November 3, 2010 @8:23:57 AM

Have the fiddle in the bathroom during a steamy shower, in case the treble is a function of dry wood. Crazy, I know, but I think it works.

More craziness, or at least OCD - for as much as we say that there's no harm in tuning a fiddle up, I think it stresses a bridge. So, I advocate for tuning the fiddle back down when you're done. Before I started doing that religiously, I noticed that my bridge had literally scooted itself over to the left. And, play long enough, and you'll see the bridge tilt forward, requiring an adjustment from time to time.

Good on ya, for getting up into the gears of it all, BJ!

bj Says:
Wednesday, November 3, 2010 @8:49:26 AM

Right now this fiddle can't be crosstuned easily. It REALLY needs pegwork. I can get it into tune with a huge amount of struggle, but have to rely on the finetuners after that or drive myself nuts. So it's in standard tuning until it gets those pegs fixed.

The treble isn't a function of dry wood, or at least not this time, since I've already got the vaporizer running during the day in the room where the fiddles reside. It's just a bit on the bright side. I think that can be tamed down a bit and benefit, though I doubt this one will ever be as complex sounding as the Salzard. I did manage to get the bridge so the fiddle sounds okay, but getting into the more complex aspects of that is magic that will take quite a bit longer to learn, probably at least a few hundred bridges or so.

transplant Says:
Wednesday, November 3, 2010 @2:51:21 PM

Thanks for the email heads-up, BJ. I don't normally go around reading blogs, only forum posts. Sure, your fiddle can be the designated victim for all kinds of shenanigans.

Bridges scoot from side to side all the time, which does not help the sound. Possibly a bigger effect than longways movement, of the feet, that is. If just the bridge top moves longways, then air appears under the feet and the sound suffers. 'Tis amazing that fiddles work at all, considering the obliviousness of so many players to such a simple thing as bridge stance and placement.

fiddlepogo Says:
Wednesday, November 3, 2010 @10:44:55 PM

Treble is a function of stiffness. Stiff bridges only make small movements... small movements = treble.
Thinner bridges (in the right places) flex more... more flex = bigger movements = more low tones.
The challenge is finding the balance of thin enough to get enough bass tones, but thick enough for the string not to cut through and the bridge not to warp too easily.
A similar thing goes for tops... cheap fiddles are often too trebly because not enough wood has been planed off the tops, and they are too thick.... but they are sturdy!

bsed Says:
Thursday, November 4, 2010 @6:09:04 PM

Sharp knife? I used a piece of sandpaper, start to finish. Used the old bridge as my template and made careful markings on the new bridge, and then just sanded until they matched.

Humbled by this instrument Says:
Thursday, November 4, 2010 @8:08:53 PM

Maybe this'll help:

bj Says:
Friday, November 5, 2010 @5:18:27 AM

I guess you didn't bevel the sides, the kidneys or the heart . . .

transplant Says:
Friday, November 5, 2010 @9:09:59 AM

Not much beveling going on, the way I cut them. Little facets on the dangly thing in the heart. Pointy ends on the wings (1/8 chisel for that). Actual bevels on the outer sides of the wings, with the crest of the resulting ridge biased towards the tail side.

In process of putting an ebony handle on a 3 mm knife I just made from a piece of electrician's snake. A sharp little scraper is indispensable for fine adjustments. Sandpaper for rough thicknessing and forming the crowns, knives, files and scraper for everything else.

With access to a belt sander, the thicknessing and crowning goes really quickly.

bj Says:
Friday, November 5, 2010 @9:14:13 AM

I've got the Chimneys instructions for cutting a bridge, and they use bevelling of almost all the inner surfaces, it seems. Hmm. I guess there are a lot of ways to get a result with this stuff. After my experience just TOUCHING the dangly thing in the heart and having it break right off, I dunno if I'll ever get the nerve to "facet" one!

transplant Says:
Friday, November 5, 2010 @9:24:30 AM

Knife needs to be sharp. I usually take two cuts per facet, so I'm not hogging off too much wood at once. That's where you can get enough strain to break it off. I'll bring that new little knife to Fiddle Hell, and sell it to you for a trifle, if you like. Bad luck to give away a knife.

I don't think I've ever seen a bridge cut by a pro with bevels besides the ones I mentioned. Maybe slightly at the ends of the feet, but usually I don't bother with that.

transplant Says:
Friday, November 5, 2010 @9:27:14 AM

P.S. I think it is easier to break that little thingy off on lower grade bridge blanks. I will bring a few decent ones to FH: mostly Despiau "no trees" and a hidden stash of Aubert N 7's.

transplant Says:
Friday, November 5, 2010 @9:29:19 AM

I guess the blog engine doesn't like the little superscript "o" with a line under it. (Number sevens.)

bj Says:
Friday, November 5, 2010 @9:30:01 AM

Could be. I've been using cheapies for my practicing. And easy doesn't come near to describing how this happened, it was barely nudged!

Translate Despiau "no trees" please . . .

transplant Says:
Friday, November 5, 2010 @9:37:27 AM

Despiau indicated different grades of bridge by the number of little trees stamped under their name. Three trees is the most deluxe, I think. I get the ones without any trees, and select to suit the fiddle. Another good choice is Aubert number 5, for most purposes.

transplant Says:
Friday, November 5, 2010 @9:38:03 AM

Damn damn damn can't edit.


bj Says:
Friday, November 5, 2010 @9:50:08 AM

Thanks! Katpeacent already sent me a knife I suspect will do the job if I just learn how to sharpen the damn thing and buy myself some proper sharpening stones. Sharpening seems to be an art unto itself. I've had more luck just using the roofing blades on utility knives, but that is wasteful, I know.

bj Says:
Friday, November 5, 2010 @9:52:19 AM

And now you've got me thinking of giving it a fourth try!

bj Says:
Friday, November 5, 2010 @9:54:29 AM

correction, it wasn't the chimneys, it was some other lit I read about tuning by bevelling. Chimneys uses faceting, same as you. Number four try coming up! LOL!

Humbled by this instrument Says:
Friday, November 5, 2010 @4:22:29 PM

Chim chiminy, chim chiminy, chim chim cherewwwww, good luck will rub off when I shakes hands with you--

bj Says:
Friday, November 5, 2010 @4:30:11 PM

Or blow me a kisssss . . . and that's lucky tooooo . . .

Humbled by this instrument Says:
Friday, November 12, 2010 @7:02:30 AM

Okay, been over a week. Write somepin else!

transplant Says:
Saturday, November 13, 2010 @7:30:17 PM

DIsappointed to report scarcity of BJ, perhaps amounting to total absence, at FIddle Hell Fri and Sat. Will pick up shattered pieces of life & move on, but it won't be the same.

Arise girls, arise, wipe the sleep from off your eyes
Go and fetch to me some beer that I might swallow :|

|: I can climb up to the top :|
Without a ladder or a rope...

bj Says:
Saturday, November 13, 2010 @7:52:19 PM

I guess you didn't get my email, Bill. My pet sitter cancelled at the very last minute, and I have charge currently of a houseful of animals, including two dogs. So I won't get to see you this Hell. Maybe soon some other way. Dunno yet. My fiddles miss you . . . so do I.

Tennessee Tom Says:
Tuesday, November 16, 2010 @10:41:09 PM

Keep on keepin' at it, BJ!

Pls post pics when appropriate. Would like to see how these projects turn out.

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