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12 April 2015

How to make a banjolele bridge

This post is a poke in the eye to all the conventional bridge-makers out there. I'm pioneering a return to grass-roots banjo-building and it starts right now with the bridge!

A short while ago I made a Pete Seeger-style bridge for my Highwayman Banjo. As lovely as that fancy bridge is, it has sparked in me an interest in single-foot bridges which just won't go away.

Today I'm going to share with you my first foray into banjolele bridge-making. Let me explain...

Although these bridges mark the start of a new era in luthiery history, I'm starting with quite a conventional first step. Here I am gluing a thin veneer of ebony to a thicker block of maple.

Having let the glue dry, I set to the block with my table saw. Very, very carefully, I cut off thin slivers. 

Here's one for size. It's slightly taller than 5/8 inch and I have a range of thicknesses to play with... all of them thinner than the conventional ones you'll buy. 

Because I can... Here they all are laid on top of each other. What a beautiful grain that maple has! 

Okay - down to action. I took one of the blanks and cut it in half and squared it. Here I am sanding the bottom flat. That piece of wood being held by the clamps has been carefully placed to allow anything over 5/8 inches to poke over the side of the bench to be sanded off. Easy!

I rounded the top edges a little for the ebony and cut slots. Job done!

Well, not quite job done. Surely I needed to see if it would hold in a banjolele and play...

Hold on... first here's a quick side-by-side of a conventional bridge and my revolutionary King Uke version. Cute, isn't it! 

I grabbed my dusty Dixie banjolele for this little test. Here's a picture of the bridge fitted. Looking good! But would it play?

By the way, my Dixie post has been creating quite a stir recently. It seems that I'm not he only person with a fancy for these metal banjoleles.

Here you go. I'm a little bit rusty on the old banjolele but there are still a few glimpses of the old King Uke magic shining through. What do you reckon? Are you going to make a single-foot bridge for your instrument? Of course you are... DO IT!

And when you've done it I want you to come back here and show me a few pictures of your handiwork! In fact... I want to see ALL the homemade bridges!

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