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FDP Forum / Guitar Mods, Repairs, and Projects / New Mandolin Set-up


USA, Lubbock

Anybody got a band-aid?
Jan 26th, 2018 09:26 PM   Edit   Profile  

What is the best way to set the bridge on a mandolin with the least amount of pain?

I saw a quote that you'll play mandolin for 30 years and spend 15 years tuning it and the other 15 years playing out of tune.

So, where does the bridge have to sit and what is the best way to get the bridge to stay in place.

Contributing Member

Tried vegetarian:

miss steak.
Jan 27th, 2018 02:58 AM   Edit   Profile  

Loosen the strings a little bit so you can move the bridge.

Measure from the front of nut to the top of the 12th fret. That is the distance the high strings' saddle should be from the top of the 12th fret. Set the bridge roughly square to the axis of the neck. That's the starting point for setting the intonation.

But before you do that, make sure the nut slots are low enough. Most Mandos come with nut action that is laughably high.

Once everything is set up, draw around the bridge with a sharp pencil so you know where to place it after a string change.

Mick Reid
Contributing Member


American-made in Oz!!
Jan 27th, 2018 03:14 AM   Edit   Profile  

I just realised that I know *absolutely* nuthin' about mandolins.

After a quick glance, am I correct that a mando bridge is not fixed?
If not, WHY?

Oh, loved your quote! Made me LOL!

Contributing Member

Las Vegas NV

Can't complain but sometimes I still do
Jan 27th, 2018 06:46 AM   Edit   Profile  

"But before you do that, make sure the nut slots are low enough. Most Mandos come with nut action that is laughably high."

I have a rather cheap mandolin that Queenie gave me for X-mas a couple of years ago. It has that "action that is laughably high" and I bet it is the nut causing most of it.

Thanks for the tip on where to start ... once I get my attention on it. ;)

Contributing Member

Bakersfield, CA

I'm not a guitarist . . .
Jan 29th, 2018 09:04 AM   Edit   Profile  

Nearly everything I know about stringed instruments I learned here (😜), so I’m far from being an expert. But I did do a setup on an older Fender mandolin for my church a couple of years ago. IIRC I found some info on the innerweb and followed essentially the same process as I would on a guitar.

I removed the bridge and sanded the base to match the radius of the top (a la archtop guitar) and spent some time on the nut slots. Carefully set intonation as close as practical by spacing the bridge per Obi Wan Peegoo’s procedures and you’ll be fine!


USA, Lubbock

Anybody got a band-aid?
Feb 3rd, 2018 09:42 PM   Edit   Profile  

Thanks for the learning. What a wonderful instrument the mandolin is. Really makes you think about chords and stuff. Every guitar player should try it out sometime.

Mick Reid
Contributing Member


American-made in Oz!!
Feb 3rd, 2018 10:13 PM   Edit   Profile  

Sorry to re-poke this topic, but I'm still curious about my previous question:

"...am I correct that a mando bridge is not fixed?
If not, WHY?"



New Jersey

I'm back with the otters again
Feb 4th, 2018 09:59 AM   Edit   Profile  

My thoughts... Generally speaking, most mandolin bridges are not fixed although there are some types of mandolins that have fixed bridges. The mandolins with fixed bridges are no where near as loud or have anything near the tonal pallet. The A and F-style mandolins that are common are a relative to the violin in tuning, scale length, and construction. The bridge for these instruments is designed to be rigid yet as light weight as possible so it can transfer string energy to the top of the instrument efficiently and effectively with minimal loss of string energy across a wide range of frequencies. A heavier bridge will reduce the energy transfer. Ultra light and very stiff natural wooden bridges are quite brittle and will easily fracture if they are stressed in the wrong way or if the instrument is accidentally mistreated - they can break, and they can also warp and fail so they often need to be replaced. I replace at least one violin bridge a month at the shop - sometimes up to four or five. It would be a serious problem for the player and the luthier to remove and reinstall a bridge that was fixed every time it needed to be replaced.

On a violin, its a different concept but on a mandolin, because there are frets, intonation becomes a serious factor. With different strings from different manufacturers using different materials, the position of the bridge needs to be adjustable so the intonation offset can be adjusted. If you invented a new mandolin bridge with adjustable offsets, it would inevitably be heavier. Far better idea to keep the bridge simple.

Consider that in an emergency, anyone with the patience and a little bit of skill could fabricate a replacement bridge with nothing more than a pocket knife and a stick. The same applies to banjos, archtop guitars, and many instruments from around the world.

If you have a mandolin with adjustable wheels to set your string height, you can change the tonal response of your instrument by replacing it with a single-piece non-adjustable bridge. It may or may not sound better but it will sound different. But then, adjusting string height due to seasonal changes will become much more complicated.

(This message was last edited by wrnchbndr at 12:01 PM, Feb 4th, 2018)

Mick Reid
Contributing Member


American-made in Oz!!
Feb 4th, 2018 03:04 PM   Edit   Profile  

Thanks wrench!

Interesting stuff. Now I've realised I know even less about violins!


Contributing Member

So. Cal. USA

Feb 9th, 2018 04:36 PM   Edit   Profile  


Mick, About 8-9 years ago I was given Grandpa's violin by my Dad. It was in sad shape as his brother, my uncle, had abused it by using it on Halloween as a prop for his costume years ago. The top is beautiful and the back and side are highly flamed/figured. The ebony tailpiece is amazing. It was hand made by a builder in Cleveland, OH circa 1910.

Knowing nothing about violin repair and set up I took it to a local violin shop. It needed a bridge(broken), the sound post replaced (I didn't even know a violin had a sound post!), new tuning pegs fitted(ebony), strings and the bow re-haired. A few other smaller items too.

I spent a few hundred making it right, bought a nice case for it as the original was literally falling apart and had it appraised. I was shocked at the value, much higher than I thought. The bow is worth almost as much as the instrument, go figure.

So it sits with it's bow in a display stand on the top of my Hammond RT3 in the living room. I haven't played it since the day I brought it home from the shop. I don't even remember how to tune it!

Mick Reid
Contributing Member


American-made in Oz!!
Feb 9th, 2018 04:46 PM   Edit   Profile  

Great story Hammond!

FDP Forum / Guitar Mods, Repairs, and Projects / New Mandolin Set-up

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