Mandolin Acclimation

Here is a repair I did a few years ago, a report I’m re-posting for the new site here.

I replaced the bridge foot on this Stiver mandolin after fabricating the new one from an ebony blank. The need for this repair was due to a typical northern Arizona instrument problem.  (Check out this page for more info on our climate issues in NAZ.) Stiver makes high-end instruments and this mandolin had been dried out while the owner attempted to “acclimated” it to our dry environment, which significantly altered the geometry of the instrument. The neck angle was so high that the original bridge could not be raised tall enough to yield appropriate playing action… the strings were too low to the fingerboard and it was buzzing like crazy. While I was at it, I leveled frets and did a complete setup with a new bone nut.

After making the new bridge foot, it was important to sand the bottom to precisely match the contour of the mandolin top.

This enables the best possible transfer of vibration from the strings, through the bridge, and into the body of the instrument.  Anything other than an absolute perfect fit is unacceptable in this case.

Here you can see the old bridge foot,

the new one made from scratch,

and both side-by-side.

The new bridge foot is about 1/4″ taller than the old one. I made it just tall enough for the strings to setup at a proper height, while still using the original bridge-saddle. I didn’t want to make the new piece any larger than necessary. By making it as close to the original size as possible the original tone of the instrument would be preserved as much as possible.

Oops! I didn’t take any final pictures of the completed project. But this repair was a complete success and the customer was extremely pleased with the renewed playability of the instrument.

(Post Script)- It should be noted that trying to purposely acclimate a fine instrument (such as this one) to the dry humidity of Flagstaff is usually unrecommended, if not highly discouraged. It is much easier on the instrument, and on you as the owner to simply invest in and learn how to use the appropriate humidifier, and more importantly get in the habit of keeping the instrument properly hydrated. The owner of this instrument was lucky we didn’t have cracks to fix or any major structural repair worse than shown above.  Check out our Climate & Instrument Wellness page for more info.