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switched bridge to toploader -- action/buzz/relief question

Discussion in 'Telecaster Discussion Forum' started by jc77, Jul 23, 2020.

  1. jc77

    jc77 TDPRI Member

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    I switched out my Fender ashtray with a (budget, Korean-made) Wilkinson dual-load bridge in order to try top-loading. (Observations so far = tone less meaty/saturated, but clearer, more detail, better sustain. I like the looser feel -- and most importantly there are fewer phantom overtones, less wavery wave things happening -- easier to tune for that reason.)

    (Partscaster. MIM Joe Strummer neck on a USA body, 1989 I think.)

    I didn't immediately adjust the truss rod -- I wanted to see what would happen first.

    What I found was that I needed to raise the saddles (relative to the previous bridge) in order to get the G string not to audibly buzz in the 4-6 fret area.

    The resulting action feels high to me. Nice for bends, though I'm not much of a bender; not so nice for playing Charlie Parker tunes high on the neck.

    I was thinking... with a little more relief, maybe I'd be able to lower the saddles?

    Grateful for any perspectives or advice -- thank you!
     
  2. nojazzhere

    nojazzhere Doctor of Teleocity

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    First off, let me commend you and pay respects for your incredible senses of hearing and tactile sensitivity. I have changed and experimented with several different bridges on one of my Telecasters (both string-throughs and top-loaders) and cannot discern any noticeable difference in "feel" or "sound" in any of them. But I defer to any difference you perceive.
    I never had any problem, other than location of mounting screw holes, with any of them. My final choice of bridge (which I also chose when I built my own "partscaster") is the Wilkinson "dual" bridge, which I like to string as a top-loader for convenience.
    You might benefit from "shimming" the neck to raise its height, and thus allow you to have lower saddles in relation to the neck......IF that is the cause of your "buzzing". While I have done a lot of work in building a guitar, routing for pickups and controls, and even changing necks....I tend to take guitars to a guitar tech for final set-up and "tweeking". The guy I go to has so much expertise, and charges so reasonably, I just can't justify NOT having him do it.
    Good luck, and please report back with whatever your results are. ;)
     
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  3. PhredE

    PhredE Tele-Afflicted

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    I don't have anything significant to add, but will just say --

    Sounds like progress to me.

    My experience with Wilkinson hardware is pretty good. They are not the most expensive, but quality is usually good enough to get the job done ok. I wouldn't feel bad about that bridge swap.
    IMHO: top-loading is a-ok.

    It's always best to measure and document what you are changing or tweaking. Measure the thing you are working with or changing, make a note of it. That way, you always know what the baseline condition was in the beginning. THEN, if/when you change something (I'd recommend only making changes to just one thing at a time), you know how to revert to get back to the baseline. It might sound like overkill, but keeping the process organized and objective will help a lot as you work through the bugs.

    A couple of measurements that would probably be good to snag are:
    Neck relief (as-is), individual string heights over 12th fret,.. you can search TDPRI or google those to get the methods to measure/compute if you need. When measuring string heights ('clearances'), measure the distance from top of fret to the bottom of the string. Having a fine measuring tool is really helpful in doing adjustments.

    Finally, like you, I have 'good ears' (especially in the higher frequencies). I've worked through the same bugs at least a couple times. So, keep working with through the process carefully but moving forward too.
     
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  4. wabashslim

    wabashslim Friend of Leo's

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    But I wonder how much of the change is due to the different make/model/material of the new bridge vs the top-loading alone. I'm assuming you also put on new strings and that could account for much of the improvement if your old strings had any mileage on them at all.

    What you'll have to do now is re-string thru the body using the same string type & gauge and note the difference from top-load. Sound recordings would be nice :rolleyes: but a good observational report like the first would be appreciated.

    I once swapped the ashtray on my 52RI with a Glendale stainless. It shifted the whole tonal spectrum up several notches to where I had to run the tone control down at least halfway all the time & there was no bottom at all. Returning to the ashtray made everything right again.
     
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  5. boris bubbanov

    boris bubbanov Tele Axpert Ad Free Member

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    Almost all of the 1989 Fender T bodies are going to be American Standard in configuration. Which means 3 mount screws BELOW 6 bunched up, high on the body through holes.

    Which would make a switch to a Top Loader a very tempting conversion. However, that cheap 4 screw hole ABOVE six widely spaced, low down through holes bridge from Sung Il wouldn't mount directly to that '89 body unless it had been substantially modified before then. Could be your '89 T body is a '52 style but those were not major sellers yet. Maybe you could post an image of this body in broken down form.

    I'm belaboring this because the source/style of the body plays a role in how the finished guitar geometry works out and how the set up tends to go.

    +

    Also, don't forget that when you make these kinds of conversions, adrenaline comes up and expectations cry out to be met and over and over, we hear improvement that may or may not be real; may or may not last the week. I almost always like a thinner plate over a thick one - especially those Pot Metal ones that FMIC used a lot in those days. I just prefer basically every other thin plate over that particular one you chose. But the good news is my opinion is far from universal.
     
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  6. jc77

    jc77 TDPRI Member

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    >>However, that cheap 4 screw hole ABOVE six widely spaced, low down through holes bridge from Sung Il wouldn't mount directly to that '89 body unless it had been substantially modified before then.

    Yes it was substantially modified -- holes filled & redrilled by luthier two ownership generations ago. The through-holes and bridge are not aligned -- strings pulled against metal in some spots, wood in others (one motivation for top-loading is to take this out of the equation).

    Here is a link to the builder's FB photo album documenting the project: https://www.facebook.com/pg/TheWizardMiller/photos/?tab=album&album_id=629181223895323

    (I said USA 89... the seller said 88.. but there were a couple dates stamped in the neck pocket. One may have been 88 (hard to read), the clearer one I think was 89 -- the older one would be a better document of manufacture, but it wasn't fully legible to me. P'ups and TBX circuit are original.)

    >>we hear improvement that may or may not be real

    Yes, absolutely. Tendency to seek confirming evidence etc etc

    >>It's always best to measure and document what you are changing or tweaking.

    Yes, you're right -- if I'm going to tinker like this I should get the tools that would permit things like measurement. You all are scientists!

    >>You might benefit from "shimming" the neck to raise its height, and thus allow you to have lower saddles in relation to the neck......IF that is the cause of your "buzzing". While I have done a lot of work in building a guitar, routing for pickups and controls, and even changing necks...

    Neck height/angle I can't quite get my head around. I've been so cavalier about setting the guitar up myself because my last truss rod adjust (with the old bridge) somehow brought the action low with no (amplifier-audible) buzz, whereas my last two pro set-ups left me very unsatisfied. What I need is to find a luthier I can really connect with.

    >>I'm assuming you also put on new strings and that could account for much of the improvement if your old strings had any mileage on them at all.

    It's kind of gross but I kept the old strings on while I'm tinkering, getting things roughed in. I have a set of Pyramids waiting, but I didn't want to subject them to excess neck-on/neck-off tinkering.

    >>What you'll have to do now is re-string thru the body using the same string type & gauge and note the difference from top-load.

    Y'all are scientists!! This is what makes tdpri the best resource. What a document this collective effort is! Very glad to have found this forum.

    >>shifted the whole tonal spectrum up several notches

    the top-load vs. bridge spec question is fascinating. to me, the plate thickness looked comparable; i went with the will/sung compensated barrels (rather than my gotoh's, whose narrowing vertical channel i was concerned could introduce side-to-side buzz, vs. the flat horizontal of the wilkinsons), further spoiling the control group -- getting better intonation results using the uncompensated side of the d/g barrel.

    In fact, I am experiencing a tonal spectrum shift to the higher end -- missing some of the jazzy thumpy lows with tone rolled 80% off, but also liking ringier/airier vibe
     
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  7. jc77

    jc77 TDPRI Member

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    shims installed... action improved, li'l buzzy still on the g but not audible in the amp. i'll take it, for now!!

    pic of stamps IMG_6774.jpg
     
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