I'm about to start restoring a Washburn parlor guitar from the early 1890's. The bridge popped loose ages ago, and someone added a tailpiece and floating bridge, and strung it up with steel strings. As a result, the top is sagging a great deal. I was wondering if anyone knows what the radius of this top would have been originally. Thanks!

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Ian, I have some experience with old parlors in general but not specifically washburns so take that into account. That said, I don't recall ever seeing any parlor size guitars from this time that had more radius than can accounted for by tension on the bridge. Don't quote me but I don't think that (pre)arching a top was something that was being done then so that most guitars were pretty much flat on top to begin with. 

 Remember that all of that is based on my limited experience so it's completely possible that someone with more experience will come along to explain just how wrong I am. 

My 1907 Washburn parlor's top is flat.

Really? The back has a pretty good radius to it, I wasn't sure if the top had a matching radius or not. I guess that would explain why the top sagged so much from the floating bridge.


 I think the arched back is a much a much earlier feature. I've seen designs/drawings of Baroque guitars with arched backs so I think that it's possible that a truly flat back is probably more rare than one with an arch.

Ian, here are some shots of a ca 1900 Washburn.  The backs were radiused in both directions for structural and tonal reasons.  The top, even though this one has a 'bubble', I would treat as flat, for your repair.  Under tension it will form its own 'dome'.  These guitars are built very lightly, and very well built, with top shelf materials.  Tom

Alrighty, cool, thanks for the replies everyone! The sag is already less pronounced, after I removed the floating bridge, tailpiece, and steel strings, and humidified for a week.

While I've got your attention, could someone send me the rough dimensions of the original pyramid bridge? I've got reference photos from a couple similar instruments I've worked on, showing how the pyramid points are sort of rolled, but I never recorded measurements, and the footprint left over on this guitar isn't well defined, as there's a lot of finish damage from the floating bridge getting knocked around while this thing was in someone's closet.

The example I pictured above measures:  6 3/16 x 15/16, 3/8 tall at the saddle, and the 'plateaus' measure 11/16 x 3/4 and rise 1/4 above the top, although these dimensions likely vary from guitar to guitar, but that's something to work with. 



Hi Ian,

Tom is very close with his measurements, and I agree that the tops are pretty flat.  The pictures are of 2 NOS Washburn bridges, one used bridge, and one on a guitar. The measurements are all very similar for all 4 bridges:

0.890 wide

6.250 long

0.210 thick at truncated pyramid

0.300 thick at front edge of "plateau"

0.390 thick in front of saddle

0.225 at back edge of "plateau"

0.120 at thinnest between "plateau" and truncated pyramid

0.667 width of top of pyramid

0.825 length of top of pyramid

If the bridge pin holes are not evenly spaced, that is, they are spaced 3 and 3 with a wider section in the middle, then you may have had a "Durkee Patent" bridge.  Let me know, and I will take a picture of that.


The last picture:

Bridge pin hole spacing is even all the way across. Thanks for sending me all of that!

Looks like you've got steel strings on that one in the last pic? What strings are you using? I was planning on going with nylon, since the top is so lightly braced.

I bought that guitar in a pawn shop many years ago, and it had steel strings on it at the time.  It seems to tolerate them, but I always use extra light strings.  I suspect that like most guitars of that era it was meant to have gut strings.

George, is there another style of bridge that might be wider, front to back, than the dimensions you listed here? I'm looking at the footprint on my guitar, and it's definitely wider than .890".


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