Ashtray Bigsby (post pics and help please)

static111

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I have an incoming tele and it will be pretty standard tele spec wise. So I have the itch to Bigsby my partscaster using the ashtray bridge I have on it now or buying a pre cut vintage style bridge. i have no doubt in my abilities to perform the task I was just looking for a little info as to what anyone else has done such as Bigsby placement etc. the guitar has a 9.5-12 radius neck, if I intonate the bridge as is will I have to re intonate once the Bigsby is installed? Please post any pics of your guitars and any insight you can offer! Thanks
Gerald
 

Ira7

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You're still going to have to manually notch out your existing bridge or a new one to install a Chigsby.

And the Chigsby is gonna bring its own kind of tuning issues, and there's nothing you would really do with a 3-saddle to help that at all.

In other words, your intonation is determined by the position of your saddle. And the Chigsby isn't changing that at all.
 

RomanS

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One insight: place your B5 as far away from the ashtray bridge as possible (as close to the edge of the body as possible) - this will help with tuning stability;and use notched saddles (or use nut files to notch your unnotched saddles) - Bigsby strign spaving is more narrow than the average Tele string spacing...
Also, if your string break angle above the bridge saddles allows: loosen that set screw on the bottom of your B5 that holds the axle of that extra string pressure bar in place; then push out the axle with a thin screw driver; remove the thick sleeve around that axle; move the axle in place again, screw in the set screw, and mount the Bigsby; the thinner string pressure bar resulting from this will give a more shallow break angle over the saddles, and this will make the action of your Bigsby slightly more like that of a "real" (= no extra pressure bar - B16 B3, B6) one.
 

Widerange Hum

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So I'll second the motion to use notched saddles. But otherwise, I went the opposite direction and tried to get the sharpest string break angle as I could on the saddles. That's what all the research I did recommended. (Disclaimer: beats the crap outta me which way is the "right way." It's just the way I did it.) As far as Bigsby placement goes, that doesn't make much difference, because there's really not a ton of real estate back there to mess with anyway. I put the forward most Bigsby mounting point maybe 1/16" or so from the back of the ashtray. As the gentleman says, string alignment is not exact, but it's not a problem with notched saddles. It's all quite easy, really.

As for intonation, you're not going to be able to adjust it with the Bigsby on. It'll be too tight a fit for a screwdriver to get in there. So I would recommend mounting the bridge first, setting action and intonation. Then take precise measurements of saddle position. Ditch your strings, remove the bridge to cut it for string passage, put the saddles back in, remount it, adjust the saddles back to the positions you measured, and mount your Bigsby. Intonation should be pretty much spot on then. Bigsby won't affect it. It just makes it hard/impossible to adjust once it's on.
 

Ira7

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As far as Bigsby placement goes, that doesn't make much difference, because there's really not a ton of real estate back there to mess with anyway. I put the forward most Bigsby mounting point maybe 1/16" or so from the back of the ashtray. As the gentleman says, string alignment is not exact, but it's not a problem with notched saddles. It's all quite easy, really.

As for intonation, you're not going to be able to adjust it with the Bigsby on. It'll be too tight a fit for a screwdriver to get in there. So I would recommend mounting the bridge first, setting action and intonation. Then take precise measurements of saddle position. Ditch your strings, remove the bridge to cut it for string passage, put the saddles back in, remount it, adjust the saddles back to the positions you measured, and mount your Bigsby. Intonation should be pretty much spot on then. Bigsby won't affect it. It just makes it hard/impossible to adjust once it's on.

1) Exactly. You literally have zero play on where you install your Bigsby.

2) Intonation is why I discarded the idea of using a vintage bridge on my recent Surfcaster with Chigsby (Chinese knock offs) dedicated for surf music. Instead, I got a special 6-saddle roller bridge from GFS, because first, the rollers are like a baby's bottom to the strings. No string wear at all, regardless of break angle. Plus, you adjust intonation from the TOP of the saddles, so the Bigsby doesn't get in the way.

However, your Tele will no longer sound like a Tele--mine is a partscaster, and since I wanted surf, I didn't care.

If I wanted to retain Tele characteristics, and perfect intonation, I would find a 6-saddle bridge solution where you can intonate from the opposite side, or at least be able to fit a right-angle screw driver between the bridge and Bigsby. (Good luck with that.) And as you know, 3-saddle intonation ain't ever going to be perfect anyway.

It's a matter of compromise.

image.jpeg
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BorderRadio

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LOTS of ways to go about this, but I'll try to keep it short:

-Get a USA B5, better for upgrades and replacement parts. Not B50, B500, but the original USA sand-cast or Allparts version.

-RomanS is spot on about the tension bar, you want to have a decreased break angle, which is counterintuitive but best for tuning stability and 'feel'. That said, "medium" break isn't too bad either, which is where I am, I think.

-Consider Callaham's upgrades, I've gone that route and am very satisfied. I drilled out my stock bar myself though, because I have the drill press and machining experience. It's still narrow string spacing but doesn't matter with the Callaham grooved roller.

-A slotted saddle is best, less important if you get the grooved tension roller bar. I'm using Glendale Groovies right now, but a creak I can't get rid of on the B/E saddle has led me to pull the trigger on a Mastery M4.1. COMING SOON.

-Intonation can be set easily if you mod appropriately. I made a jig to cut slots on the opposed side of the intonation screws. Works like a charm.

Finally, tighten that handle down for no slack. I used some bronze bushings on the handle screw to keep friction low, and use a Reverend soft spring. Everything that moves, all of it including the touching saddles and intonation screw heads get a drop or two of Tri-flow. Exception was the bearings, which are already lubricated. Smoooooooth...

Pics:
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RomanS

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My reasoning behind moving the B5 away from the ashtray: a B5 will have a very stiff trem lever action compared to a "real" Bigsby (B3, B6, B16), anyway - and the softer the break angle, the softer the lever action - every little bit helps (that's why I like to remove the sleeve around the axle of that pressure bar, too).

As for adjusting intonation: try using a straight blade screwdriver, even though the intonation screws have Philips heads - makes it easier!
 

BorderRadio

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My reasoning behind moving the B5 away from the ashtray: a B5 will have a very stiff trem lever action compared to a "real" Bigsby (B3, B6, B16), anyway - and the softer the break angle, the softer the lever action - every little bit helps (that's why I like to remove the sleeve around the axle of that pressure bar, too).

As for adjusting intonation: try using a straight blade screwdriver, even though the intonation screws have Philips heads - makes it easier!

There are several guys out there who make products just to reduce that break angle, your method is quick and dirty but effective. Some, especially those arched top Epis/Gretsches with B5s have terrible break angles.

I wish Callaham would make his solid steel roller in a much smaller diameter for the same reason. His roller is steel on steel, machined to much tighter tolerances. He doesn't give intstructions--one must use the tri-flow on the shaft during installation to keep that roller running smooth!
 

Ira7

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Lots of great info and pics! It's been a while since I had a Bigsby!
I wouldn't want to modify my main player guitar to take a Bigsby. Sure, there are a thousand guys out there who did it perfectly.

But my skills are far from perfect, so I did it on a spare new build. Yes, I would be interested in trying it with a vintage 3 in the future, but that's the far future. (Too many other projects in mind.)

And just FYI:

There's a thread here somewhere about the quality and tonality of the ridiculously inexpensive Chinese Chigsbys compared to the very expensive real Bigsbys, and the 100% agreement of those who own both say there's no difference at all.

China breaks patent laws, and you benefit.
 

BorderRadio

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I wouldn't want to modify my main player guitar to take a Bigsby. Sure, there are a thousand guys out there who did it perfectly.

But my skills are far from perfect, so I did it on a spare new build. Yes, I would be interested in trying it with a vintage 3 in the future, but that's the far future. (Too many other projects in mind.)

And just FYI:

There's a thread here somewhere about the quality and tonality of the ridiculously inexpensive Chinese Chigsbys compared to the very expensive real Bigsbys, and the 100% agreement of those who own both say there's no difference at all.

China breaks patent laws, and you benefit.

Ira7, you have a nice set up there and I've used some of those parts before. It's not a bad thing if they work, and I'm sure they fit for what people want in a 'side guitar'--or occasional vibrato wagglers.

I can't say there is 100 percent consensus about 'no difference' since I can't agree with the notion that the B500 is as good a performer as the USA counterpart. So it's 99 percent ;)

I use a B60, it's fine, no problems, the bearing is decent needle variety just like the USA. The finish is not sand-cast so it actually has cleaner lines. The only bad thing I've seen about those models is the tendency to snap at the mounting plate. Not sure the alloy is up to snuff. Hard to buy a new mounting plate when import Bigsby have no parts available, while on the other hand the USA stuff is easily found.

The B50 tension bar has plastic sleeve bushing instead of the steel rod set in the metal frame--which is why it won't work with some after-market parts. That proabably has the most negative impact on function when comparing models.
 

Ira7

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Ira7, you have a nice set up there and I've used some of those parts before. It's not a bad thing if they work, and I'm sure they fit for what people want in a 'side guitar'--or occasional vibrato wagglers.

I can't say there is 100 percent consensus about 'no difference' since I can't agree with the notion that the B500 is as good a performer as the USA counterpart. So it's 99 percent ;)

I use a B60, it's fine, no problems, the bearing is decent needle variety just like the USA. The finish is not sand-cast so it actually has cleaner lines. The only bad thing I've seen about those models is the tendency to snap at the mounting plate. Not sure the alloy is up to snuff. Hard to buy a new mounting plate when import Bigsby have no parts available, while on the other hand the USA stuff is easily found.

The B50 tension bar has plastic sleeve bushing instead of the steel rod set in the metal frame--which is why it won't work with some after-market parts. That proabably has the most negative impact on function when comparing models.
If you'll notice, I in no way bragged about this bridge. And I can't even highly recommend it:

It's just the only thing out there that does what it does. In addition, it's also drilled for string through body, in case you want to string normally, and just run the B on the Bigsby/Chigsby to make a B bender.

But seriously, tonality wise, there really is no significant different between a Bigsby and a cheap Chinese Chigsby. Sure, a Bigsby is as cool as it gets, but a couple of hundred bucks compared to 40 bucks makes it a no brainer for some of us.
 

BorderRadio

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If you'll notice, I in no way bragged about this bridge. And I can't even highly recommend it:

It's just the only thing out there that does what it does. In addition, it's also drilled for string through body, in case you want to string normally, and just run the B on the Bigsby/Chigsby to make a B bender.

But seriously, tonality wise, there really is no significant different between a Bigsby and a cheap Chinese Chigsby. Sure, a Bigsby is as cool as it gets, but a couple of hundred bucks compared to 40 bucks makes it a no brainer for some of us.

I used that bridge on a Gretsch Pro Jet, it was good for the money. "Rolling saddles" are a hope and a prayer, the best part about the bridge was that it allowed the string to not touch the base, which would cause hang-ups and bad tuning stability. As for the rollers, Tri-flow....makes it all better...

I agree with you, these things are simple designs made with motorcycle parts. Tone isn't different between the B500 (probably same un-branded as yours), B50, to the USA B5. I'm merely pointing out the technological differences, which on the 'problematic' B5 design become sort of critical. While BiggsFix and Vibramate cater to both import and USA, I think only Callaham makes stuff for a B5. This is boutique-ism at its finest, I'll admit, but I lack a lathe in the 'shop' (garage) at the moment...
 

RomanS

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Another thing about Chigsbies: they are usually about twice the weight of both American and Asian made Bigsby brand ones - the Chigsbys are made from chromed brass (at least those that I have had), real ones are made from aluminium.
 

static111

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So i'm slowly getting things rolling. Looking like I am going to by the callahan roller bar with the grooves. Would I still want to mount the bigsby as far back as possible or do the string grooves relax the break angle enough? I will either notch my saddles, or if I am feeling like a baller after putting up the money for the Bigsby buy myself a 4.1 mastery bridge. I had the regular mastery bridge with a previous Partcaster that had the whole tele setup with the special bridge and bridge plate and it worked like a dream.
 

BorderRadio

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So i'm slowly getting things rolling. Looking like I am going to by the callahan roller bar with the grooves. Would I still want to mount the bigsby as far back as possible or do the string grooves relax the break angle enough? I will either notch my saddles, or if I am feeling like a baller after putting up the money for the Bigsby buy myself a 4.1 mastery bridge. I had the regular mastery bridge with a previous Partcaster that had the whole tele setup with the special bridge and bridge plate and it worked like a dream.

The Callaham roller doesnt' relieve the break angle, so moving it back is best. I think it might be thicker than stock.

Baller, right? I just ordered my 4.1, seeing how well it worked on my Jazzmasters. Groovies were buzzing too much...I couldn't figure it out, I might need to reverse shim the neck because they are a little high.
 

badtrevor

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I have an incoming tele and it will be pretty standard tele spec wise. So I have the itch to Bigsby my partscaster using the ashtray bridge I have on it now or buying a pre cut vintage style bridge. i have no doubt in my abilities to perform the task I was just looking for a little info as to what anyone else has done such as Bigsby placement etc. the guitar has a 9.5-12 radius neck, if I intonate the bridge as is will I have to re intonate once the Bigsby is installed? Please post any pics of your guitars and any insight you can offer! Thanks
Gerald
So i'm slowly getting things rolling. Looking like I am going to by the callahan roller bar with the grooves. Would I still want to mount the bigsby as far back as possible or do the string grooves relax the break angle enough? I will either notch my saddles, or if I am feeling like a baller after putting up the money for the Bigsby buy myself a 4.1 mastery bridge. I had the regular mastery bridge with a previous Partcaster that had the whole tele setup with the special bridge and bridge plate and it worked like a dream.
 

tombob

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This thread is a bit old but I thought I'd throw out this crazy idea I have and see if anyone has any ideas about it. I have a Tele with a B5 and 3 brass saddle ashtray bridge I notched. My vib use is pretty subtle so it's working fine for me but I keep thinking maybe next string change about running a string (maybe high E) through the body to get some pedal steel sounding bends. Just a crazy idea but if anyone has tried something close or has any thoughts on it I'd love to hear about it.
 




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