Unconventional Bridge Carving Techniques

October 1, 2016 at 06:07 AM · My nicer violin is in the shop having some peg work done to it, so in the mean time I'm back to playing on my old violin for a week or so. It's a somewhat okay sounding vso that cost about $150. I swapped the strings and did some work to the pegs a while back so they would turn smoother. I'm finding that it's rather unplayable at the moment. The other night I, rather successfully, carved down and reshaped the arch of the bridge so the strings would be at approximately the proper height. Perhaps I might work on the arch a little more to get the e string a tad lower, but overall it helped a lot to do so. All I used was my trusty pencil/compass, rough grain sandpaper, a fine grain sandpaper, a good old swiss army knife, and an x-acto knife. (Luthiers everywhere are more than likely cringing at that).

Next, I want to take a stab at thinning out the bridge. Based off my ruler the top of the bridge is ~2.75mm thick and the bottom is ~5.9mm, so I believe some thinning could be in order. Of course not necessary, but why not go for it anyway? Anyone have ideas on how I can thin this down relatively evenly with tools I'm likely to have here at home? I know that you're supposed to keep the front side slanted straight and not curved, so that's where I'm scratching my head a bit. Like I said this is just a relatively low end student instrument, so I'm not really too worried about any consequences of messing up. Worst comes to worst I just buy a new blank and start over. It is most certainly not worth it to have a professional luthier fit a new one.

Replies (18)

October 1, 2016 at 06:33 AM · Great fun!

I'm not sure about the front face being flat rather than curved, though.

Luthiers hate sandpaper, as it can leave grains in the wood which damages their tools.

Try googling bridge trimming: lots of ideas, but one must pick and choose.

October 1, 2016 at 07:48 AM · I use a plane, I think most luthiers do. You want to be about 4.5mm at the base, 4.5mm in the lower middle, and about 1.5 mm at the top, but there's additional carving to do to make the bridge more flexible, for that you'd have to get a book on violin set up.

The reason not to use sandpaper iMHO is the dust particles clog the pores of the wood potentially dampening the vibrations.

October 1, 2016 at 08:21 AM · You think you are making luthiers cringe? Watch this:

Put the flat side of the bridge on a belt sander and grind it down to the desired thickness!


October 1, 2016 at 08:47 AM · The side you thin down is not supposed to be flat, Fox, what are you, a luthier now??

October 1, 2016 at 08:54 AM · No Lyndon, I'm not. Just making everybody cringe! ;)

October 1, 2016 at 09:03 AM · OK well you got me there!!

October 1, 2016 at 12:10 PM · @Lyndon How do they achieve a perfectly curved arch on the top without the sandpaper?

October 1, 2016 at 04:18 PM · Baily, I use files.

October 1, 2016 at 05:12 PM · Wouldn't files have the same effect of clogging the pores? Both create dust

October 1, 2016 at 08:46 PM · But the dust from sandpaper is much finer. :)

October 1, 2016 at 08:49 PM · My luthier uses a knife.

October 1, 2016 at 11:48 PM · Will "clogging the pores" really have any noticeable affect in the tone of a $150 violin?

Go for it!

We won't tell, if you don't...



October 2, 2016 at 12:15 AM · You use a file on the top curve because you can control it more than sandpaper.

October 2, 2016 at 01:05 AM · Well, if you tape/stable sandpaper on a rod, or piece of wood, it's often more finer than using a file. I used to make small chess pieces, and I often favoured sandpaper over file.

Just on the side, I do play around with bridges on violins that are under $200. Basically on violins that I don't think is worth taking to my luthier for, I reshape the bridges myself.

They can be good, or can go wrong(like in my profile picture). If you decide to start thinning the bridge, make sure to do it incremental, and keep the tailpiece side straight.

October 2, 2016 at 01:38 AM · Only your hair stylist would know.

Does sanding clogs the pores? I would say no, but I'm not an expert on this topic. Sanding opens the pores, at least that's what I've been told. The pores don't get clogged by the dust, but by the tearing of the wood. Using pore (pun intended) quality sandpaper or a dull blade tears the wood, apparently.

If you are using a knife or a planer you're going to need the tools and knowledge required for a well honed edge.

The bridge transfers sounds. So is clogging the outer pores a big deal? I would say no, but I'm not a Luther.

October 2, 2016 at 02:15 AM · Theoretically as mass increase, intensity/tonal transfer decreases. However, being that the loudness of sound is no means linear to the intensity, it starts to taper off at a certain point. I'm assuming that's why paper thin bridges are relatively equivalent to the standard 1.2mm thickness. However, the mass created by the dust simply wouldn't be enough to cause a noticeable affect to this either.

October 2, 2016 at 03:07 AM · Imagine a surface full of small tube like holes, then you pass over it with sandpaper, creating particles smaller than the hole that make their way into the holes and get stuck there, then imagine you are trying to vibrate the material, the particles stuck in the holes can slightly act as shock absorbers for the vibrations. A plane takes a slice off the top of the wood and leaves the holes open, not filled.

Its also the reason a planed surface looks different and shows off the grain better than sanded surface.

It has nothing to do with a mass increase from sawdust filling the pores, which is miniscule.

October 2, 2016 at 04:52 AM · The dust acts as a shock absorber because the dust has mass... mass = electrons = deflection of waves/other particles In simple terms.

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