Classical bridge - rosewood or ebony

Construction and repair of Classical Guitar and related instruments
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Les Backshall
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Classical bridge - rosewood or ebony

Post by Les Backshall » Mon Jun 25, 2007 9:15 am

Thanks in no small measure to your help, I'm now at the stage of making the bridge for my first build. I have rosewood and ebony blanks and, for aesthetic reasons, would prefer to use ebony. But I've read that, for classical guitars, it is not as good at transfering the string vibrations as rosewood - although it's commonly used in steel string acoustics. Is there a major difference? Certainly the majority of classical bridges seem to be rosewood.

As usual I would much appreciate your thoughts on this.

Les

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Michael.N.
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Post by Michael.N. » Mon Jun 25, 2007 11:31 am

I think the standard theory on this is that the Ebony is a little too heavy for nylon strings but is fine with steel because of the increase in the available energy from that type of string.
I once made a Baroque guitar and initially used Ebony for the very slim bridge that those types of guitars have. Ebony is not the easiest to glue and that bridge popped off a few months later. I remade the bridge in the much lighter Pearwood (as used in Lutes) and it really did improve the response of that particular instrument.

Marcus Dominelli
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Post by Marcus Dominelli » Mon Jun 25, 2007 3:10 pm

Hi Les,
Go ahead and use the ebony for your guitar. Michael N. is right, and that's why most people use rosewood. Whenever I make bridges, (and I use ebony, african blackwood, Indian, and Brazilian rosewoods for them) I am more concerned with thier stiffness and weight.
Try to keep the bridge weight under 25grams. To do this with ebony you won't have any waste wood on the bridge. It will probably be 26mm by 180mm and the wings wont be more than 3mm thick - but it will work fine.
If the guitar's response is not great, you can always do what Michael did - replace the bridge with a lighter one. Then you'll really start to get an idea of how the bridge affects the sound.
Some builders, like Greg Byers, prefer heavier bridges. He uses ebony regularly, whereas guys like Jeff Eliot go lighter and prefer the rosewoods.
It really depends on how your top is braced, and what sound you're after.
Cheers,
Marcus Dominelli

Pepe Vergara

Re: Classical bridge - rosewood or ebony

Post by Pepe Vergara » Mon Jun 25, 2007 8:27 pm

leschas wrote:Thanks in no small measure to your help, I'm now at the stage of making the bridge for my first build. I have rosewood and ebony blanks and, for aesthetic reasons, would prefer to use ebony. But I've read that, for classical guitars, it is not as good at transfering the string vibrations as rosewood - although it's commonly used in steel string acoustics. Is there a major difference? Certainly the majority of classical bridges seem to be rosewood.

As usual I would much appreciate your thoughts on this.

Les
Remember the following when chosing the bridge:

1) The bridge should be the first thing you choose when making a guitar. Make the guitar around the bridge (R.E. Brune)
2) The bridge is anothe bracing you are placing on the top. Treat it as a bracing. Fleibility? mass with higher inertia?, etc.
3) I use Br. Rosewood for classical bridges and weight about 30 gms without the bone. (height of the wood, about 7.5 mm)
4) I use Indian or BR for flamenco and weight of about 15 gms.(height of the wood, about 5.5 to 6 mm). Brune recommends for flamenco the use of mahogany as the best wood for bridges.
5) According to an article I read (and later confirmed by Nacio), De la Chica used mahogany for the bridges in his flamencos. He dyed them black.
6) I have seen bridges made of ebony. I do not like the look of ebony for bridges. I like to match the headplate with teh bridge.
7) Paduak is another great wood for bridges in flamenco guitars.

ATorres

Re: Classical bridge - rosewood or ebony

Post by ATorres » Tue Jun 26, 2007 2:56 am

pepe wrote:
leschas wrote:Thanks in no small measure to your help, I'm now at the stage of making the bridge for my first build. I have rosewood and ebony blanks and, for aesthetic reasons, would prefer to use ebony. But I've read that, for classical guitars, it is not as good at transfering the string vibrations as rosewood - although it's commonly used in steel string acoustics. Is there a major difference? Certainly the majority of classical bridges seem to be rosewood.

As usual I would much appreciate your thoughts on this.

Les
Remember the following when chosing the bridge:

1) The bridge should be the first thing you choose when making a guitar. Make the guitar around the bridge (R.E. Brune)
2) The bridge is anothe bracing you are placing on the top. Treat it as a bracing. Fleibility? mass with higher inertia?, etc.
3) I use Br. Rosewood for classical bridges and weight about 30 gms without the bone. (height of the wood, about 7.5 mm)
4) I use Indian or BR for flamenco and weight of about 15 gms.(height of the wood, about 5.5 to 6 mm). Brune recommends for flamenco the use of mahogany as the best wood for bridges.
5) According to an article I read (and later confirmed by Nacio), De la Chica used mahogany for the bridges in his flamencos. He dyed them black.
6) I have seen bridges made of ebony. I do not like the look of ebony for bridges. I like to match the headplate with teh bridge.
7) Paduak is another great wood for bridges in flamenco guitars.
...I do agree!, thanks Mr. Pepe.

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Les Backshall
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Post by Les Backshall » Tue Jun 26, 2007 9:21 am

Thank you all once again for your interesting and helpful comments.

The reason I was considering ebony is that the back, sides are walnut, and the headstock has a matching walnut veneer. I just thought that in this instance ebony would make a more pleasing contrast than rosewood. Or how about walnut itself for a complete match?

Pepe wrote:
Remember the following when chosing the bridge:

1) The bridge should be the first thing you choose when making a guitar. Make the guitar around the bridge (R.E. Brune)
This sounds very interesting, and it’s something I’ve not come across anywhere else (I haven’t managed to track down the Brune article). Do you mean just the wood, or the finished bridge itself? Would it be possible to expand on this for me please?

Thanks once again

Les

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Alexandru Marian
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Post by Alexandru Marian » Tue Jun 26, 2007 10:34 am

Walnut would work, as any other hardwood, but keep in mind that only rosewoods are the traditional choices for a classical. You risk altering the sound in a way that even if it sounds OK, it is not orthodox. I am not against innovation or departure from old norms, but as a novice builder you might want to stick to these norms. And the bridge is one major part of the guitar engine !

What will matter are both wood and finished bridge. Two bridges of different woods, of same weight and stiffness will still sound different because they are other factors as well involved, for example damping, or the speed at which vibration travel within it.

How about using garnet shellac for the RW bridge ? It will become quite dark. Don't forget to fill the pores. With all due respect for the SS guitars and their builders and players, I think ebony bridges look kind of boring especially if lightly and satin finished.

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