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Optimizing a Tuno-O-Matic bridge

Discussion in 'Other Guitars, other instruments' started by Wallaby, Jan 1, 2020.

  1. Wallaby

    Wallaby Tele-Afflicted Silver Supporter

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    I'm new to Tune-O-Matic bridges, and want to check some information.

    I've read that TOM bridges are best set up with both thumb-wheels on the same plane, that is at the same height. Also I've read that TOM bridges are not generally of the same radius as the fingerboard.

    With that in mind, it would seem that perfecting the radius of new saddle notches is done when slotting the saddles.

    With the idea that a TOM bridge is probably arced at a larger radius than the *average* 12" fingerboard on a Gibson, does it make sense to set the bridge height using the center D & G strings and then work the saddles of the outer E & A and B & E strings to the correct depth using appropriately gauged nut files?

    Is this all correct, or have I missed important details?

    Thanks for your responses!

    - John
     
  2. old wrench

    old wrench Tele-Afflicted

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    I've always set my tuna-matics up so I've got the best playable action :).

    They always (for me) end up set a bit higher at the low E end compared to the high E end.

    Most of the tuna-matics (all of them I've used) are built to a 12" radius, but I'm sure there are exceptions.

    You are correct about fine tuning or tweaking the radius via the string notch depth.

    Most of my tuna-matic experience comes through Gibson and Epiphone guitars where there was a 12" fret board radius and a 12" bridge radius. Pretty simple ;).




    g
     
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  3. RottenTheCat

    RottenTheCat Tele-Holic

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    Not unheard of to file the saddles to match the fret board radius.
     
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  4. Wallaby

    Wallaby Tele-Afflicted Silver Supporter

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    Thanks old wrench and RottenTheCat, I appreciate it.

    The reasoning for keeping the tuna-matic ( I'm stealing that :) ) thumbwheels level with each other is supposed to be to maximize the mating surfaces on the thumbwheels and the bottom surface of the bridge. It *seems* reasonable, and surprised me, it had never occurred to me.

    The reason I got to this point is that on my new guitar, which has a tuna-matic bridge, I set it up, and set the E strings to their heights ( I went with 3/64's and 4/64's ) and then found the middle strings had buzzing problems in the upper frets.

    It didn't make sense. Then I took a good look with good light and radius gauges and sure enough - the radius at the saddle notches is larger than the radius of the fretboard.

    I bought the guitar used - I have no idea if its been this way since new or if the previous owner had swapped in custom saddles and then kept them when it sold, or what.
     
  5. Frodebro

    Frodebro Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

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    Mine are set up with action and intonation as the main priorities. I don't really worry about how the bridge is angled or how solidly it's sitting on the thumbwheels. In fact, I hadn't even given it a thought until I saw this thread.
     
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  6. RottenTheCat

    RottenTheCat Tele-Holic

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    All those great 59 Les Paul's that everybody would love to own & can't... I'll have the bridge higher on the low side and lower on the high side. Just one example of almost every Gibson solid body made. Nobody it says they've got crap sustained because of it.
    I think you read about a cure looking for a disease.
     
  7. Wallaby

    Wallaby Tele-Afflicted Silver Supporter

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    Maybe so, it's highly possible.

    The concepts are all the same, but the mechanicals are quite a bit different than with a 3-saddle bridge...
     
  8. Peegoo

    Peegoo Poster Extraordinaire

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    That is mostly BS because the thumb wheels are not a super precision fit on the threaded posts. They wiggle a little bit, which allows them to be misaligned with one another and still provide a solid footing for the bridge section.
     
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  9. NashvilleDeluxe

    NashvilleDeluxe Tele-Afflicted

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    ABF04803-53FE-45A9-ADE1-E4342FF99D27.jpeg First, please check that Gibson put the saddle pieces in the right orientation.

    The flat part of the saddle should face the nut, the slopes part toward the tailpiece. It’s rare that my customers’ Gibsons have correctly-oriented saddle pieces.
     
    Last edited: Jan 1, 2020
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  10. Wallaby

    Wallaby Tele-Afflicted Silver Supporter

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    I had to reverse three of them to get enough travel to intonate one of the strings, but yes, they are all "tall side forward" toward the nut.

    Good suggestion, thanks.

     
  11. Freeman Keller

    Freeman Keller Friend of Leo's

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    I am far from being a ToM expert but I have built a half dozen guitars using them and here are some things that I look for. Remember that there are three different flavors of stud style ToM's (ABR-1, Nashville and"modern"). I have also built hollow bodied jazz guitars with floating ToM's. Last, but not least, I like a roller ToM's for use with tremolo's like a Bigsby.

    When I build the guitar I always set the neck to the bridge that I will be using - some of them have different heights and I like the string plane set to the absolutely lowest setting of the bridge (you will never go below that and it seems to give reasonable adjustment range). I always locate the most forward adjustment of the high E saddle just beyond the scale length - again, you will never go forward of that and locating it there give maximum adjustment range. Obviously on a guitar that is already built you have no control over these but its worth checking.

    The bridges that I have used all have 12 inch radius and I've never used them with fretboards with any other radius. I do like my action slightly higher on the bass side which means that the bridge is going to be tilted - I don't thing that hurts anything. If I set the high E at, say 0.060 and low at 0.080 that means the bridge will be tilted 40 thousands - there simply is no other way to get there. I do check the middle strings because I like to see the action raising smoothly from high to low E, but honestly there is nothing you can do about it. Many of the bridges that I use either have no slots or very shallow starter slots - I'll often take a couple of passes with a nut file but I do not try to make big deep slots - just enough to position the strings and keep them from moving sideways. Obviously the location of the slots spaces the strings at the bridge end - I do that based on the distance from the string to the edge of the f/b.

    If the neck angle is good the bridge will be comfortably within its adjustment range. Here is an old LP custom that has a bad neck angle (actually it had been damaged and repaired) - in my opinion this Nashville bridge is way too high - the posts are pretty wobbly in the studs

    IMG_4436.JPG

    One thing that you can do and there are a lot of different opinions here, is change the break over angle. I think that is very important on a hollow body - the break angle is what loads the top and I like to see somewhere in the 12 to 14 degree range. If I have 165 pounds of string tension and a 13 degree break I have about 35 pounds of down force perpendicular to the top.

    IMG_4548.JPG

    Whether this is important to a solid body or not is debatable but certainly something you can experiment with. You can thread a stop bar either directly thru the holes or wrapped around the bar, and you can crank the bar up and down to change the break angle. I'll let you decide if you hear more "sustain" or not.....

    IMG_3643.JPG

    There are a group of people who think that ABR-1 style bridges are somehow better - after all thats what the vintage LP's have, right? In fact there are folks who pull the bushings for Nashville or modern bridges, plug the holes and install the vintage ones. I've seen enough wobbly old ABR's that I prefer bushings for guitar that I build, but just be aware that as you crank them up they can get pretty shaky.

    With a Bigsby I like roller bridges, every time you work the trem on this one the bridge rocks. That can't be good

    IMG_5113.JPG

    I like this a lot better

    IMG_3417.JPG

    I've set up a couple of guitars with the one piece bridge and stop bar, most of these are precompensated. I've never been happy enough to want to use one on my guitars but lots of folks including PRS and Gibson do use them. To me they just seem like a cheap way to go and I can't see any reason to use one.

    So, for what it is worth, I like ToM's, I use them on a lot of guitars, I don't think they are any more difficult to set up than others (certainly easier than a Floyd). I build the geometry into my guitars that I know I will have the range of adjustment that I need and they work pretty well.
     
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  12. gregulator450

    gregulator450 Tele-Afflicted Silver Supporter

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    I have found on the least expensive guitar I work on with TOM's that the radius of the bridge can be kind of all over the place; it's usually off on one or two of the middle four strings, and it's almost always been visually noticeable. When I run into an issue like that, I will file the string slots of the offending saddles with my nut files to bring the strings into an acceptable radius at the bridge. As with anything else on a guitar where I'm removing material, I try to take as little as possible to get it to play right. The better-built TOM's sometimes vary a bit from the 12" radius, but in my experience those variations rarely have a negative effect on playability. If it's not spot-on at the same radius as the fretboard, I would prefer to see it err on the side of a slightly larger [flatter] radius instead of a smaller [rounder] radius. I have also found that some guitars play very well when the bridge radius is slightly larger than the radius at the fretboard. Just my $0.02.

    If I was your tech and you told me your middle strings only buzzing at the upper frets, I would want to know what amount of relief you have in the truss rod and how many/which specific frets are causing buzz. Many times I have seen people adjust bridge height to proper spec when a guitar has too much relief in the neck, and it creates a situation where the 15th-22nd frets are actually closer to the strings than the 12th fret, causing excessive fret buzz on the upper frets. In those cases, a proper truss rod adjustment and a minor bridge readjustment usually remedies the problem.
     
  13. EsquireOK

    EsquireOK Friend of Leo's

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    There’s no advantage to having both thumb wheels at the same height.

    You make the radius whatever you want it by slotting the saddles.

    Saddle radius almost never exactly follows your fretboard radius, or follows a radius at all, when you have achieved a “perfect” setup. That is why it is very important to slot your TOM saddles for each guitar.
     
  14. Wallaby

    Wallaby Tele-Afflicted Silver Supporter

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    Thanks for that, it is what I've guessed but haven't found a source that actually comes out and states it plainly.

    My relief is at .007" right now, and I don't detect any kind of hump or ski-jump or twist. I really think it's just a matter of fine-tuning the saddle slots, it's the only possible way I can see of doing it.

    I appreciate it everyone!

     
  15. Wallaby

    Wallaby Tele-Afflicted Silver Supporter

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    So I went to work with my radius gauges and machinists rule and nut files and got it just right.

    The radius is matched to the fingerboard, slightly higher on the bass side.

    My wound strings are seated in their slots partway, but the thinner treble strings are buried deeper. The standard guidance is to keep the strings perched on top of the saddle and slot rather than *in* the slot, and I see why now. The unwound strings that are deeper in the saddle slots have taken on a "hollow" sound - not exactly a sitar sound but headed that way.

    I am guessing there is some kind of damping happening, where the string vibrates freely except at the beginning, maybe the excursion of the string is greater when the note is initially struck and its contacting the walls of the deeper slots?

    I have another set of saddles where the slots are truly minimal, and I switched back and the hollowness went away.

    Is there anything that can be done with the deeper slots to eliminate the hollow sound? Perhaps widen the slots slightly while leaving the floor of the slots alone?

    I have seen abrasive dental strips on Amazon, the kind that dentists use between teeth when fitting crowns or braces, I wonder if they could be glued to a feeler gauge for this purpose.
     
  16. Wallaby

    Wallaby Tele-Afflicted Silver Supporter

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    Thought I would bump my own post and quote the important part.

    Anyone?

    I appreciate any help I can get.

    Thanks,

     
  17. Freeman Keller

    Freeman Keller Friend of Leo's

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    I lightly radius the saddle slots with a nut file a few thousands bigger than the string I will be using. I don't make them very deep - the treble strings might be just buried, the bass ones about 1/2 of their diameter (just like a nut). I have never heard the "hollow" sound you are describing.
     
  18. Wallaby

    Wallaby Tele-Afflicted Silver Supporter

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    Maybe that is the answer, having it *slightly* wider than the string diameter.

    I appreciate your reply very much.

     
  19. NashvilleDeluxe

    NashvilleDeluxe Tele-Afflicted

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  20. Paul G.

    Paul G. Friend of Leo's

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    None of this matters in the least. Set your action and intonation by using the various screws and thumbwheels. The saddles face whatever way gets you to correct intonation. The radius of the bridge may or may not match that of the fingerboard. Big whoop. The greatest recordings and performances ever were probably done with guitars that aren't "perfect". If the guitar plays right and in tune you're there.

    GET OFF THE INTERNET AND PLAY YOUR GUITAR! TAKE LESSONS! LEARN SONGS! PRACTICE! PLAY WITH OTHER MUSICIANS! If you get better, your guitar will get better, without special equipment, without a file, without the internet.
     
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