Providing High Quality Bridges for Your Banjo

Welcome to Kat Eyz Banjo Bridges

Kat Eyz banjo bridges are made by Mike Smith from hard rock maple and your choice of selected top hardwoods.

Kat Eyz introduced McCormick Spice Factory Hard Maple from the flooring of the old McCormick spice factory, built in 1904. This historic maple has proved to be a great tone wood for banjo bridges.

Also available: old submerged timber (maple and birch) recovered from the bottom of the US Great Lakes and tributary rivers. Also a great choice for your next banjo bridge!

Snuffy Smith New Generation Banjo Bridges

Kat Eyz continues the legacy of the late Joe "Snuffy" Smith! Mike Smith now builds the popular Snuffy Smith banjo bridges from Snuffy's original design, with the same care and craftsmanship that Snuffy himself put into them.

Kat Eyz Frequently-asked Questions

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.