I make the bridges for my instruments myself; they are made from a combination of woods with a saddle made from bone. The bridges have a wedge-shaped piece that can be slid in and out and changes the action height. The bridges are not glued to the body and can be moved back and forth as a means of adjusting the intention. I got this idea from a famous archtop maker called D’aquisto who might not have invented the idea but was the first person to integrate the technique into his instrument building. I use the wooden wedge bridge design for the following reasons:
1 - I feel it’s right to ‘make’ as much of the instrument as I can. It’s important to me to take full responsibility for the quality of the instrument. I love the natural organic sound of acoustic instruments and I also love the response and tone shaping of electrics. I want to combine these characteristics and the wooden bridge is a key part of this.
2 - On any instrument it’s the vibrations of the whole that make up the sound; any change to any part will have an effect on the overall tone. On an acoustic, it’s more the properties of the body that effect the sound whereas on electric, the neck and bridge are more important. To my ears, a wooden bridge creates a warmer, more earthy tone, a sound more reminiscent of an acoustic instrument, a very clear, colourful sound that is beautifully bright but never harsh. Good quality semi-acoustic bass manufacturers use wooden bridges in combination with Piezo pickups. Piezo pickups can be very harsh sounding and a wooden bridge acts as a natural filter to remove the higher, harsher overtones that can come from a metal bridge.
3 – Making the bridge yourself gives you options. Different woods have different densities; these differences lead to differences in the sonic properties. The vast majority of wooden bridges are made from ebony, a very dense wood. This transmits the vibrations very quickly, giving a bright tone. A less dense wood would have a more mellow tone more applicable to bass instruments. Therefore, making my own bridges gives me a means of shaping the sound unavailable to most electric makers.
4 - Electric instrument players have become accustomed to being able to change the height of the strings. This is important for correctly setting up the instrument or if you want to change the gauge of string. I have owned many instruments with many different bridge designs and this wedge system, as far as I’m concerned, is the quickest and easiest way to change the action height. There is no fiddling with tiny Allen keys, no rounding off bolts which become unusable and also, no change of a bolt that has become seized with rust.
I know from the instruments that I have made with wooden bridges and from other makers that use wooden bridges that they in no way sound muddy or dull. They have all the natural clarity and definition that you would want and expect from an acoustic instrument with all the advantages and tone shaping possibilities that you would want and expect from an electric instrument. Wooden bridges are also very rare on electric instruments and are a large part of what gives my instruments their unique tone and character. They provide a familiar tone in a new and interesting setting that works well with and complements any style of music and playing.
If you want to learn more about the use of Piezo pickups with wooden bridges, I recommend the following video. It explains well how the use of the wooden bridge softens the tone and makes it sound more natural.