Bridges: Finished or Unfinished?

Larry U

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Why are most ukulele bridges left unfinished? I just took a look at my modest collection, including a few luthier-built instruments, and noticed that except for my two Jupiter ukuleles, all have bridges made from unfinished wood. Is it just for appearance or is there some functional reason for not applying finish to a bridge?
 
I would be interested in a luthier's opinion, but I would surmise that any wood which makes contact with the strings (like fretboards and tie-bridges) would be susceptible to finish damage from the rubbing of the strings-- although this maybe wouldn't apply to thru-bridges or pinned bridges--
 
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I have noticed that all of my ukuleles and all of my guitars except for a 1958 Swedish Goya M-26 have unfinished bridges.

Goya bridge.jpg
Goya on couch with fishman.jpg
 
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It is a manufacturing issue. Most makers spray the finish on the body before the bridge is glued on as it is much easier for final sanding and any rubbing out without the bridge in the way. The finish on the bridge area of the top is then removed and bridge glued on.
 
I've seen where classical guitar finishers separately French polish the bridge (shellacked) and attach them at the end as Brad explains above.
 
How about vintage.Martin sopranos? The bridge looks finished on mine, and others I've owned. In fact, it seems that they applied the finish after the saddle had been fit, as the ends of the saddles often look covered with finish, locking the saddle in there.

One thing is for sure, I really dislike it when a uke has a nice dark fretboard, paired with a very light colored bridge, spoils the whole look.
 
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I've seen where classical guitar finishers separately French polish the bridge (shellacked) and attach them at the end as Brad explains above.

I oil my bridges with two of three coats of tung oil (matt finish) and rub out with a cloth to give a mellow finish that brings out the grain. Doesn't really looked "finished". Rosewood bridges. Works also with ebony. So I guess not all bridges are "un-finished". Note: Must be careful not to get any on the bottom which could interfere with gluing. Easy and quick.
 
I oil my bridges with two of three coats of tung oil (matt finish) and rub out with a cloth to give a mellow finish that brings out the grain. Doesn't really looked "finished". Rosewood bridges. Works also with ebony. So I guess not all bridges are "un-finished". Note: Must be careful not to get any on the bottom which could interfere with gluing. Easy and quick.
Same here. I think the bridge should approximately match the fretboard lustre.
 
Same here. I think the bridge should approximately match the fretboard lustre.
As Larry originally pointed out, my bridges are finished. I finish them before gluing them to the finished instrument, with the under-bridge area scraped of finish. I finish the bridge for aesthetic reasons, no structural reason that I can think of. I feel the bridge is sitting in the middle of a nice shiny finished top and so it should also looked finished. I guess this comes from looking at instruments over the years and thinking that an unfinished bridge just looked to me like the job was kind of incomplete.
 
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