809 mandolin bridges

Red Henry

809 bridges. That's right, 809 of them. That's how many mandolin bridges (mostly maple) I have made since I started making them in the summer of 2002.

About 130 of the bridges were experimental models made while I was developing the idea and the design. Here are some of the bridges I made while I experimented with designs and woods:

--as you can see, I tried lots of things. Altogether, I tried about 25 mandolin bridge designs and over 30 different woods. In the end, though, maple proved to be the best-sounding wood, and I settled on just two designs for my production bridges, the 11-hole design and the winged design shown above.

All these experiments showed that maple usually provides the best combination of tone, volume and sustain for a mandolin bridge, and I eventually began selling the bridges. Over 750 bridges have been made for sale and shipped them out to customers, and most of those bridges are now installed on someone's mandolin. I have several site-pages devoted to the bridges, including my "hard-sell" page.

So, what conclusions can I draw from selling bridges for eight years? Well, for one thing, making and selling mandolin bridges won't make you rich. But the bridges are certainly worthwhile, when you see the look on a mandolin owner's face when he or she first hears their mandolin with a maple bridge on it!


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About Red Henry

Began playing mandolin, guitar, fiddle, and banjo in 1967-69. I married Murphy in 1974. We led the Red & Murphy bluegrass band, playing professionally, from 1975-87. Since then I've handled the technical side of Murphy Method cassette, videotape, and DVD production. When you call I usually answer the phone, and I'm normally the one who sends out the orders.

5 thoughts on “809 mandolin bridges

  1. Red Henry

    Thank you both for your interest in banjo bridges. Actually, I have made about a hundred of them, of many different designs and several kinds of wood, but I have never made any of them for sale.

    The reason for this is that every banjo seems to like a different bridge. And there’s no way to tell whether one bridge design or another will sound best, except by trying several bridges on every banjo.

    In addition, banjo bridges need to be made in all heights from about 1/2″ to 13/16″ high, and this would multiply the number and kinds of each bridge design I’d need to keep in stock. So I will have to stick to mandolin bridges for the present!


  2. Ben from Back When

    I’ve not yet made much time to learn my way around the mandolin, but I am happy with the sound of the bridge I bought from you a few Florida Folk Festivals ago, Red.

    Is the ebony along the top of a banjo bridge necessary to keep the strings from cutting into the wood, in your opinion?

  3. Red Henry

    Post author

    On a banjo bridge the ebony strip is there for that purpose, but it is not really necessary. My banjo bridges were all-maple, without any top strip.

    It’s interesting how people can get something conventional into their heads and think it “has to be that way.” I know one great banjo player who has a bridge without an ebony top-strip. He likes the bridge’s sound a great deal, but he took a magic marker and blackened the bridge-top so that other musicians wouldn’t keep giving him a hard time about how his bridge “needs” an ebony top!


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