Small Project: An Improvised Banjo Bridge

On arriving in Hawaii, I had a small (but expected) disaster: the goatskin head on my banjo lost its tension due to the incredible humidity here. This caused the strings to rest directly on the fingerboard, which made sound production totally impossible.

I decided that waiting for one of the goats to kick it was not an option, so I opted for the short-term fix: making an oversize bridge. This would raise the string height enough to hopefully make a workable sound.

I found a chunk of fallen strawberry guava wood--admittedly a bit more rotted out than I should have sprung for--and cut the sides off to make a squarish blank. I then used my existing bridge as a stencil, extending my trace lines for additional height and thickness. I then whittled the new bridge into being using my knife (an ESEE Candiru), and used some sandpaper on a flat table to true up (I’m using the term generously) the feet and flat side of the bridge. I then cut the notches for the strings using my knife.

the top of a banjo pot with a handcarved bridge

It will never be the prettiest girl at the prom, but by gum, it plays! The sound isn’t even that much tubbier than it was beforehand.

~slothbear, 05/15/2022

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