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Stainless Tele Bridge, a good idea?

Discussion in 'Tele-Technical' started by Watersilk, Feb 19, 2018.

  1. Watersilk

    Watersilk Tele-Meister

    215
    Jan 15, 2016
    Windhoek, Namibia
    I'm planing to build a Telecaster with 'mainly' Stainless Steel hardware; exceptions to the Stainless theme being the neck Pickup Cover, which has to be Nickel, the Tuners, also Nickel and Jack Plate, which will have to be Aluminium (the closest to Stainless Steel).

    Now the Technical Question!

    A Stainless Bridge would look the part, but how practical is this? I saw this one on the Philadelphia Luthier Tools site:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Please correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't the 'Original' Fender type Mild Steel bridge an integral part of the bridge pickup sound? I think I vaguely remember reading this 'somewhere'?

    If so, would a Stainless Steel bridge have an adverse affect upon the sound of the bridge pickup? If so, how?
     
    PeterUK likes this.
  2. PeterUK

    PeterUK Poster Extraordinaire Silver Supporter

    Mar 4, 2003
    Nottingham, UK
    I’ve been using stainless steel bridges for maybe two decades now and have not noticed an adverse effect on the tone and playability, but have noticed a change in tone.

    I think it was the late, great Bill Lawrence who described the effects of the bridge on a pick up and drew a fancy diagram showing eddy current flows or something and suggested the metal of the bridge would change how the pick up works. I didn’t understand a word of it but I do trust my ears.

    I’ve had some hot pick ups sound ‘hotter’ in a stainless steel bridge, some sound twangier (when compared to the original Fender-style steel bridge).

    A stainless steel bridge had never changed the tone to the point it was horrible but I have disliked the ‘new’ tone compared to the original. Others I have loved.

    There are lots of people here who will explain the eddy currents thingy, and some (who have never tried a SS bridge) that it will change the tone and make it horrible. It won’t.

    You may love it once you’ve tried it, but your ears will decide, not a diagram showing eddy currents.

    Try it. You can reverse the change.

    THe picture is my Pinecaster with a SS bridge, a Bare Knuckles ‘The Boss’ bridge pick up and an Analog Man/Fralin ‘Jim Weider’ Tall neck up. It weights about six pounds and sounds massive.

    The headstock is signed by Bill Kirchen and he played a stainless steel bridge and Joe Barden puck ups and sounded awesome.

    :) Peter
     

    Attached Files:

  3. charlie chitlin

    charlie chitlin Doctor of Teleocity Silver Supporter

    Age:
    57
    Mar 17, 2003
    Spring City, Pa
    I don't know about adverse, but I would think that swapping something that surrounds your magnetic pickup from ferrous to non-ferrous would make a difference.
    Maybe it's magnetic stainless.
     
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  4. rich815

    rich815 Friend of Leo's

    Age:
    55
    Aug 22, 2016
    San Francisco Bay Area
    Yes, the Eddy currents.

    [​IMG]
     
  5. PeterUK

    PeterUK Poster Extraordinaire Silver Supporter

    Mar 4, 2003
    Nottingham, UK
    :lol::lol::lol:. That’s brilliant. I’m chuckling like a mad fool!

    :lol: Peter
     
    rich815 likes this.
  6. Watersilk

    Watersilk Tele-Meister

    215
    Jan 15, 2016
    Windhoek, Namibia
    Hello PeterUK,

    This is good news! Most probably 'good' because I have already bought the pickups... really the wrong way round, research first, then consider shopping!

    Actually the bridge should be good, it's certainly well traveled. I ordered from Philadelphia Luthier Tools, a long time after ordering, I had a demand from customs to pay import duty, I paid it, but no bridge! It would seem that Her Majesty's Customs and The Royal Mail had other plans. After a couple of months, I contacted PLT and they gave me a shipment trail to follow, one which ended in New York. Finally, PLT said that they have the bridge! They sent it again, though this time it didn't even go to customs, in only two days it was delivered to the door!

    It's a rather lovely bridge, nice and flat underneath. I plan to fit a '51/52 Cavalier pickup in there and I think the Lion King in the neck position.

    Currently, Eddy will be taking a back seat with Bill while I try this bridge; however, it would be interesting to try a carbon steel bridge with the same saddles to compare; your'e right though, if your ears can't hear the difference, then there is no difference! The saddles I plan to use will be Glendale's brass and aluminium set.

    A nice-looking Telecaster! I like the pickguard! Where did you find that? The shape reminds me of Jimmy Page's guard on the 'dragon' Tele.
     
    PeterUK likes this.
  7. lammie200

    lammie200 Tele-Afflicted

    Jan 11, 2013
    San Francisco
    Current Eddie, or too much current, Eddie.

    0126-eddie-van-halen-tmz-3.jpg
     
    Last edited: Feb 19, 2018
    charlie chitlin, PeterUK and LocoTex like this.
  8. PeterUK

    PeterUK Poster Extraordinaire Silver Supporter

    Mar 4, 2003
    Nottingham, UK

    I'm amazed (delighted and flattered) how many people comment on the pickguard.

    Mine was purchased on eBay. Here's a similar one:

    http://rover.ebay.com/rover/1/711-5...0001&campid=5338148343&icep_item=321230435858

    [​IMG]

    BTW, one of the big advantages of stainless steel bridge plates (apart from no Mr. Eddy Currents :D) is that they are generally machined dead flat so they make a better contact with the guitar body. I always sand a traditional Fender bridge plate as some are as uneven as a rollercoaster.

    Enjoy your stainless steel Telecaster.

    :D Peter
     
    davidchagrin, Watersilk and rich815 like this.
  9. TNO

    TNO Friend of Leo's

    Apr 25, 2003
    NC-USA
    I recently got a SS PLS plate. Was trying to use a hum-cancelling pickup in the bridge and was getting hum from the ferrous plate. The quality of the PLS plate is AWESOME. Perfectly flat. Trouble is it is so much brighter, even unplugged, that I ended up ordering their ferrous plate with the cut sides. Single coil pickups for me from now on.
     
    telemnemonics and PeterUK like this.
  10. Watersilk

    Watersilk Tele-Meister

    215
    Jan 15, 2016
    Windhoek, Namibia
    Hello TNO, this is interesting!

    I have just recently had a similar experience, in a different way, but really along the some lines. I had bought a Japanese Tokai, LS85F, a Les Paul copy; in my opinion, all Les Paul's made after 1960 are copies, even from Gibson, which is after all, just a brand name.

    While the body, neck and plastic parts were beautifully finished, I had to give this Tokai a complete hardware upgrade, they had used absolute rubbish on that guitar, parts which should have never been used on a musical instrument! I have used Ping Well tuners on my first and only Telecaster build, they are fine, but the bridge and stoptail on this guitar were complete rubbish!. The electrics were most probably fine, but because of the hardware employed, I decided to rip it all out, so at least I had a known base to build upon.

    [​IMG]

    I chose RS Guitarworks' electrical circuit with their CTS 'Superpots' and TVT pots with Luxe Bumblebee caps and Switchcraft selector and jack. The pickups are most probably quite good, I think that they, like the rest of the electrics were of Japanese manufacture; they will be the focus of a modification rebuild in the future (thin nickel covers and long rough-cast A2 magnets). At present I have the Joe Bonamassa, 'Skinnerburst' set in there.

    All was then set for what looked like a promising guitar, what could really go wrong, I had used all the 'right' parts, surely?

    For the bridge and stoptail, I chose the Callaham set. These are made of cold-rolled steel, they are really beautifully made, like jewellery!

    So what did this guitar sound like? It was thin and uninspiring! Unplugged, it sounded like a banjo!

    I'm a great believer in 'Primary' tone. I have a huge respect for Paul Reed Smith, because he has studied cause and effect with every part of an electric guitar; I do believe that vibration greatly influences the final tone we hear from the amp; sticking a set of pickups in a guitar alone, is not the complete answer to achieving that 'sound' you want.

    Apart from paying a 'lot' of money for the pickups, I do believe that Seymour Duncan know what they are doing, so I convinced myself that the pickups were fine; so, what then was the problem?

    I found it, if you put your ear to to the bridge and strum the strings, you can hear the bridge working, this was where the problem lay.

    I'm not criticising Callaham at all, I think, the problem was a 'material' miss match. To test this theory, I changed both the bridge and stoptail to ABM bell brass. These are also machined from solid metal. The result? I was so pleased to hear that the banjo tone had gone, by banjo, I mean a a lot of high-end, less middle and bass, the sound was now warmer and more resonant. Plugged in, the guitar sounded better, not a massive change, but enough to make a difference.

    Stainless steel is said to be bright, so perhaps on a darker-sounding guitar this will help to 'balance' the tone, bringing it more into focus? I find this subject fascinating!

    To end the story, sorry for going on, I have an R9 which didn't sound at all inspiring. Now, the R9 has a warm primary tone with plenty of depth, so I have asked my luthier to remove the 'cast' zinc bridge and aluminium stoptail and fit the Callaham machined steel bridge and stoptail set to this, I'm waiting with baited breath to get her back and hear if they have changed the tone for the better... unfortunately I have also had the pickups changed... so I can only make a true assessment based upon on the primary tone.

    Did you use brass saddles with the PLT stainless plate? They 'might' help to bring a little warmth to the brightness of the bridge plate?
     
    Last edited: Feb 20, 2018
    PeterUK likes this.
  11. PeterUK

    PeterUK Poster Extraordinaire Silver Supporter

    Mar 4, 2003
    Nottingham, UK
    Maybe a change in capacitor or pot might have achieved the same result.

    You experience is similar to mine. The stainless steel bridge does change the pick up characteristics, but it can be adjusted with a change of capacitor.

    :) Peter
     
  12. Watersilk

    Watersilk Tele-Meister

    215
    Jan 15, 2016
    Windhoek, Namibia
    Yes Peteruk, that would do it, but something inside me is screaming NO!

    It's a bit like the British Government trying to solve teenage drug problems by increasing the tax upon alcohol; treating the symptoms rather than the cause.

    My belief so far, is that the structure of an electric guitar does more than simply hold the strings apart so they can dance for the pickups. If you take the whole structure, a mixture of materials, wood, plastics or bone and metals involved, that structure has a frequency. Changing components of that structure to different materials will affect the frequency at which the whole structure resonates. So, what I suggesting, is that adding a Stainless bridge, which should resonate at a high frequency, to a bright-sounding Ash body and Maple neck, might achieve as a whole, a high frequency structure, something that the pickups are 'surely' going to replicate.

    I think it's better to get the structure frequency, sustain and attack right, before moving on to the electrics; the capacitor can then be used to work with the pickup and pot value characteristics.

    Understanding the structure is fairly simple, all the components need to be well connected. Understanding the structure 'within' each component is far more complex! The grain structure, whether wood or metal, density and mass, these characteristics all play a role; all we as humans know is, hey, I like the sound of that guitar! For everything, I believe there is a reason, not some kind of magic, finding the truth behind the magic can be a lifelong quest. I watched a video on YouTube the other day, a guy who finally reached his goal, sonic bliss! The video is a shocker, something we perhaps should not watch; sometimes ignorance is bliss. The problem is, once something is learnt, you step forward, it's not possible then to step back and unlearn what you now know to be the truth.

    Please correct me if I'm wrong, it's a bit of a work in progress! :)
     
  13. Watersilk

    Watersilk Tele-Meister

    215
    Jan 15, 2016
    Windhoek, Namibia
    Sorry I have to apologise! I wrote that I liked your pichguard, after writing this I clicked on the picture of your Tele to get a better look... Good heavens!

    Peteruk, what an amazing guitar! You really do it no justice at all by calling her a "Pinecaster" that wood is so close-grained, and the colour... !!! The control plate and bridge plate look like they've been cut from the dashboard of a 1930's Bentley with all that machined finishing... the pichguard is just the cherry on the cake! So original... I love it!

    I also did some research on the neck pickup, fascinating... I can feel another pickup purchase coming on....
     
    PeterUK likes this.
  14. acrylicsuperman

    acrylicsuperman Tele-Holic

    991
    Nov 17, 2010
    Arizona
    I think I caught that you were from Europe, right? Hopefully, I am correct. If not, this company has an American site as well.

    At any rate, WD Music UK offers a couple different versions of that pickguard. Here is a link to one of them. WD Music in the USA also carries this pickguard.

    http://www.wdmusic.co.uk/pickguards-c62/fender-telecaster-c216/telecaster-f-hole-c343
     
    PeterUK likes this.
  15. TNO

    TNO Friend of Leo's

    Apr 25, 2003
    NC-USA
    To answer the questions above I used PLS brass saddles on the SS plate. Using a .05 cap that should be big enough to roll off plenty of highs.
     
    PeterUK likes this.
  16. FenderLover

    FenderLover Friend of Leo's

    Jun 11, 2009
    Minnesota
    If you meant South Africa, you'd be right on. ;)
    (Windhoek, Namibia)
     
  17. acrylicsuperman

    acrylicsuperman Tele-Holic

    991
    Nov 17, 2010
    Arizona
    Haha. My mistake. I was going through this thread barely awake. Who knows what i was thinking or where i even thought that. Sometimes, coffee is a must. Either way, hope it helps.
     
  18. Watersilk

    Watersilk Tele-Meister

    215
    Jan 15, 2016
    Windhoek, Namibia
    Thank you for the link!

    Well, actually a born-again African. WD have an English branch, but they are not too reliable, I ordered two of their 'Epiphone' pickguards, different colours, but they were different shapes and sizes! Clearly from two different suppliers, one even fitted my R9... very odd company.

    Perhaps their Telecaster guards are a better fit. I think I have seen that shape on the WD site, but it was the first time that I've seen it on a guitar. Fitting it could be a little tricky, if it doesn't line up exactly with the neck pocket and set the control plate parallel to the bridge.
     
    acrylicsuperman likes this.
  19. Watersilk

    Watersilk Tele-Meister

    215
    Jan 15, 2016
    Windhoek, Namibia
    Hey, South Africa is a long way away, that would be like saying, oh, you live in London, that's Egypt right? :)
     
    telemnemonics likes this.
  20. Sconnie

    Sconnie Tele-Afflicted

    Age:
    26
    May 1, 2017
    Denver, CO
    Plain steel for the "classic-est" tele sound. Stainless is a sexier material on the surface (ba dum tsh!) but it's nonmagnetic so it won't do the funky-weird-whatever-the-hell-it-does to the magnetic field the same way as plain steel.
     
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