Hand-crafted Banjo Bridges and Banjos

Kat Eyz Frequently-asked Questions

This page has answers to some questions that really are asked quite frequently! If you don't find your question answered here, feel free to email Mike Smith.

Bridges FAQ

What bridge height do I need?

The most common height is 5/8-inch. If you like your current bridge height but don't know what it is, you need to measure it, which can be a little tricky without removing it. A good way to measure without removing is to take a toothpick, place it upright behind the center of the bridge, mark the bridge height on the toothpick, and then measure the height on the toothpick.

Digital calipers are the very best for measuring... I use them to measure all my bridges. If you order a 5/8" bridge, it's going to be 5/8 on the button. By the way, the measurement is from bottom of the bridge foot to top edge of the top wood... not to the bottom of a string slot.

What is string spacing?

String spacing is the span between each string along the top of the bridge. I offer Standard, Crowe, and custom spacing. Standard spacing has an overall span of 1-11/16 inches from the 1st to the 5th string. Crowe spacing is a slightly wider overall span of 1-3/4 inches. I can also do custom spacing to your specifications.

Which string spacing do I need?

This is totally a personal preference. Spacing affects the feel of both fretting hand and picking hand. About 70% of my bridges are ordered with Standard spacing. A caveat for the slightly wider Crowe spacing is that the 1st string may run a bit too close to the edge of the fretboard on some banjos.

What is Top Width? (Regular-Wide-Narrow)

This is the width of the bridge top measured from front-to-back, the way the string slots run. Regular is around 1/10-inch. Wide is around 1/8-inch, maybe slightly more. Narrow is slightly less than 1/10-inch.

Top widths are my way of offering different tonal values for any given bridge. Narrow top width produces a brighter than average tone with pretty fast note decay. Wide top width produces a fatter, fuller tone with highs levelled off a little, plenty of bass, and more sustain. Regular top width is middle-of-the-road tone with good highs and lows and adequate note decay. This all goes hand in hand with the final gram weight of the bridge. Wide top is heavier, Narrow top lighter. Most of my customers order Regular top width.

What are the tonal effects of different top woods?

It's a hotly debated topic! I can only offer my own opinions based on my experience and my ears. Pound for pound, I do think that top woods affect tone. I think regular Ebony and Snakewood produce brighter tonal values. Purple Heart seems to deliver the most mellow tone quality... not muddy, but mellow. Rosewood and Purple Ebony (a.k.a. African Blackwood) are sort of in the middle.

Always remember that the final gram weight affects tone much more than top wood choice. For example, a thin, light bridge with Purple Heart will likely produce a brighter tone than a thick, heavy bridge with Ebony or Snakewood. The variables go on and on.

What's with the pegged top – is it better?

I can't prove that my pegged-top design is a better bridge, but in theory it should be. The fact that 70% of my customers order pegged bridges would seem to indicate that pegged is preferable for many players, but that's pure conjecture. The higher price for pegged models just reflects the extra labor involved to make them. Pegs are of hard maple, and you can optionally order any Kat Eyz bridge with a pegged top.

Which maple is better - submerged timber or McCormick?

In my opinion, both the old submerged timber maple and the McCormick Spice factory maple are extremely good. I have tried both on my own banjos, (I realize most of you don't have this luxury) and I really can't call one "better". In fact, I'd go crazy if I had to choose only one to offer! I think the McCormick maple seems to have a little dryer tone and very slightly quicker note decay. My advice is to be your own judge and go with the one that's most interesting to you.

What is a "radiused" top? Do I need it?

A radiused top has a degree of arch, or radius to it (as opposed to being flat). Generally, you would only want a radiused top bridge if your banjo has a radiused fingerboard (as many guitars have). Most banjos have a flat fingerboard and need a flat-top bridge. The height of a radiused bridge is measured from the highest point in the radius in the center of the bridge span. Not all radiused fingerboards have the same radius. Common radii are 12, 14, and 16 inch. You ideally want the same radius in a bridge as the one used in your fingerboard.

What's better: single or double radius?

Another hotly debated topic. Some say double delivers better tone because the top wood is the same thickness across the top, as opposed to single with uneven top wood thickness. There's logic in that argument, but you can also argue that the double radius has an uneven amount of frame wood under the top wood. Tone-wise, I have to say it's pretty much a toss-up (my opinion, of course). But there are other considerations.

The Kat Eyz double radius is more expensive than the single because it is much more labor-intensive. I have to match up those 2 radii at the marriage of the top wood to the frame wood, and I don't simply bend the ebony over the maple and glue it. Rather both woods are radiused so there is no stress along the join.

What does "compensated" 3rd string mean?

Strings are spaced significantly closer together as they cross the nut at the top of the fretboard than they are when they cross the top of the bridge. Due to this "fanning out", the 3rd string, in the middle, has the shortest distance between its nut slot and its bridge slot. This can result in the 3rd string sounding slightly sharp when fretted.

A "compensated" 3rd string slot on the bridge helps correct the intonation. The front side of slot is notched back slightly, adding just a bit more length to the 3rd string, giving it a comparable length to the other strings and making it ring truer when fretted.


Capos FAQ

What happened to Kat Eyz capos?

In early 2013 I decided to stop making capos. After I acquired the trade name and bridge designs of the late Joe "Snuffy" Smith, it quickly became clear that I needed to focus my available time and resources on building the best banjo bridges available.

Today there are many more capo options out there than when I started making them, and my capos just took too much time to produce. I found every capo order was making it hard for me to meet the demand for bridges. It just didn't make good business sense to continue them.

And so, at least for now, the Kat Eyz capo is relegated to banjo history. Thanks to all who purchased them. I know they'll serve you well for many years.


Banjos FAQ

I need more info about prices and options for your banjos.

Asking and answering questions about Kat Eyz banjos is much easier done by phone. I encourage you to call me at either of the numbers below. I'm located in the U.S. Central time zone. For my overseas customers, here's my local time right now:

Phone: +1 217 364 4179     Mobile: +1 217 416 0295


Ordering/Shipping FAQ

How much do you charge for shipping?

Shipping and handling are charged per order based on destination:

  • USA: $4.95
  • Canada: $16.00
  • Elsewhere: It varies. You may incur additional importation/customs fees or duties, depending on your country.

The actual shipping amount for your order is calculated on the PayPal checkout page. You can check it in the Shopping Cart page when there are items in your cart.

Shipping/handling are not a profit-making item for me. I simply cover my costs for packaging materials, transporting to shipper, and actual shipping costs.

How soon will you ship my bridge after I order?

I know you are anxious to receive your order and I strive to get it to you as quickly as possible. The time really depends on how my orders are running.

Bridges: Sometimes I can ship next day, other times it may be 4-5 working days (Sunday is not a working day for me... if you order on a Friday, please keep it in mind). If it starts to look like more than 5 days I will notify you.

How long is the average mailing trip?

US lower 48: 2-4 days
Canada, Alaska, Hawaii: 7-9 days
Other: about 7 days for most international.

How do you ship?

U.S. Postal Service (USPS) for bridges, capos. UPS for banjos, unless you request something different.


Still have questions? Just ask!

If you still have any questions or need clarification about bridge options, ordering, etc. please don't hesitate to email Mike Smith .