Turning a stopbar tailpiece into a '54 wraparound bridge..?

Discussion in 'Tele Home Depot' started by epizootics, Sep 19, 2020.

  1. epizootics

    epizootics Tele-Meister

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    Hey TDPRIers,

    One of my early musical heroes is Johnny Thunders. I remember hearing the LAMF album by the Heartbreakers when I was a teenager and thinking, 'damn, that's the guitarist I want to be!'. Of course I had no idea how the last fifteen years of his life went until later.

    So, I've been thinking of building a guitar with similar guts (but different looks) to Johnny's. He had a few but the most iconic one was his TV Yellow LP Jr. In the early days, this one had a plain, non-compensated wraparound bridge. Those were made of aluminum.

    [​IMG]

    I had a look online but there doesn't seem to be a whole lot of ready-made options out there. The MojoAxe compensated bridge looks nice enough, but there's no way I'm shedding $130 plus shipping for a piece of aluminum. It got me thinking - there doesn't seem to be a whole lot of difference between a bog-standard TOM tailpiece and those old units, apart from the two intonation set screws at the posts. Drilling two holes and tapping them is not the hardest job out there.

    Has anyone here done that before? Is there something I'm completely missing?

    The Gotoh aluminum tailpiece seems to be a good candidate. The technical drawing on Gotho's website states that the top has a 9.8" radius, which is close enough to 9.5" (that's roughly a 0.0016" difference in height for the middle strings). Intonation obviously won't be perfect, but if Johnny didn't care, who cares?

    [​IMG]
     
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  2. jhundt

    jhundt Doctor of Teleocity

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    The stop-bar tailpiece is just a stopbar used as a bridge, pure and simple. There isn't anything special or different about it. Any Gibson or Gibson-type stop bar will work - the Gotoh will be a fine choice.

    I have an old Gibson with that type of bridge, it works just fine. And I wouldn't personally worry about intonation so much. As you say -I'm sure JT didn't.
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    Last edited: Sep 19, 2020
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  3. Alamo

    Alamo Doctor of Teleocity

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  4. fenderchamp

    fenderchamp Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

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    I don't think Johnny Thunders was using a tom tailpiece, he was using a wraparound bridge. if the studs are the same, what's the worse thing that can happen. Faber makes some nice wraparound bridges for about $60. There are many other options to choose for, I see one on eBay for <$20 too.
     
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  5. JRapp

    JRapp Tele-Meister

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    Go for it. I'm a big fan of fabricating what you need instead of paying somebody else stupid money to do the same job.
     
  6. AJBaker

    AJBaker Friend of Leo's

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    Will your guitar have 9.5" radius board instead of Gibson 12"?
     
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  7. epizootics

    epizootics Tele-Meister

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    That's great, thanks a lot! That's pretty much what I was looking for. They did look similar but it's always hard to tell when you haven't seen the parts firsthand.

    Cheers, I hadn't seen this one. That's a more reasonable price and probably what I'd go for if I wasn't bent on trying to customize every single part of my builds :)

    Yup, and he had a few different units on his guitars through the years. But I must say I like his sound on the early recordings better. The cheapo wraparound units on eBay tend to be nasty die-cast zinc alloys, not the ideal material for sound or mods. The good thing with aluminum is that I can re-polish it if I have to alter the shape of the tailpiece (even though it implies getting rid of the plating, which I don't mind).
     
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  8. epizootics

    epizootics Tele-Meister

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    The jury's still out on that. I honestly don't care about the radius on my guitars, as long as it's somewhere between 7 and 14". Any flatter than that starts to feel weird to my hands. The only reason to go 12" would be to keep a Gibson feel going but I guess I'll stay as close to the bridge radius as possible...
     
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  9. JRapp

    JRapp Tele-Meister

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    If it's a problem, radius the fretboard to 50s Gibson spec---10". Close enuf for chinese rocks.
     
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  10. jhundt

    jhundt Doctor of Teleocity

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    the stud spacing is different on a wrap-around stop bar (82mm) abd a tuneomatic (74mm), if this matters in your plans.
     
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  11. AJBaker

    AJBaker Friend of Leo's

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    I didn't know that!

    When did they change to the ubiquitous 12"?
     
  12. guitarbuilder

    guitarbuilder Telefied Ad Free Member

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    The bridge on a reissue LP junior has a more pronounced higher peak in the center (I think ) along with the two allen screws. I have one here.

    The originals seem to be similar with more of a peak that is parabolic. You can see how light reflects differently.


    https://www.ebay.com/itm/Jumbo-Riftsawn-Honduran-Mahogany-Turning-Square-9-185-x-3-775-x-3-740-in/223348071948?hash=item3400951e0c:g:0OwAAOSwNqRcTj7I DSC08440.JPG

    https://reverb.com/item/1395283-1957-gibson-les-paul-junior-wraparound-bridge-tailpiece-free-shiping
     
    Last edited: Sep 19, 2020
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  13. Peegoo

    Peegoo Friend of Leo's

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    Here are some close-up shots of the bar bridge on a '58 LP Jr. The stud spacing is identical to the stop bar on a Les Paul. Notice how intonation is established by offsetting the angle of the bridge. There's a little grub screw in each end of the bar for fine tuning. It's not perfect, but it works...because this is a rock and roll guitar. I've never seen a jazz cat play a Junior on a gig :twisted:

    Note: From the perspective of intonation, these work far better with a wound G, because that's what the vast majority of guitar players used in the 50s and into the early 60s. It wasn't until the mid-60s that a plain G became the standard for electric guitar in blues and rock and roll--even though players like James Burton and several session cats had been substituting banjo strings for a few years. But intonation with a plain G is good enough for rock and roll!

    The bridge has a lot to do with why a Junior sounds the way it does.

    Which is Glorious.

    [​IMG]

    I currently have a custom Junior build underway; same format as above, with a few cosmetic and ergonomic tweaks:

    [​IMG]
     
  14. pshupe

    pshupe Tele-Meister

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    There has been a lot of talk about the late 50's Gibsons, specifically the bursts and other Les Pauls, being 10" radius boards when measured. I do not think this was an intentional thing. If it was then why did the bridges have a 12" radius? I imagine that likely the template / machinery / hand sanding back in the day was rushed through and may not have completed to the full depth of the 12" radius, which would have left a slightly flatter top. Look at the graphic below. At the widest point the difference is 11/1000"


    Capture.JPG

    Also keep in mind if you are switching from a regular bridge to a modified stop tail to become a wrap around that the studs would have to move slightly towards the bass side because having the strings wrap around they have to start higher on the bass side to then have the string path be correct for the angled bridge.

    Cheers Peter.
     
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  15. tubegeek

    tubegeek Friend of Leo's

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    I'm working on it. My '60 Melody Maker's original bridge went bye-bye some time ago. This is an Epiphone lightning bolt I bought cheaply, in the process of grinding off the ridge with sandpaper and a file. My plan is to shape it, along the lines of the $$Mojoaxe$$ piece. I've got the Quan Badass studs still in there, so I had to thin the bridge down very slightly to fit into them.

    So far so good. I think it sounds livelier than the Quan did. Waiting on fresh strings before I check intonation beyond "sounds OK to me."
    20200907_165802.jpg 20200907_170922.jpg
     
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  16. Peegoo

    Peegoo Friend of Leo's

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    Don't worry too much about bridge radius.

    If the strings' arc is identical to the fret tops' radius, you will have one of two problems; (1) the two E strings will be too close to the frets, or (2) the D and G strings will be too far from the frets.

    Think about it this way: when you set string height (action) over the frets for optimal playability and tone, the fatter strings are farther from the frets than the skinnier strings. Which means the strings' arc has to be a larger radius than that of the tops of the frets.

    This fact is why I have no use for radius gauges when setting up a bridge. All I need to do is use a string height gauge at the 12th fret for each string. That automatically sets a radius.

    The only time my radius gauges get used is when a client asks me what radius their guitar neck is. Otherwise--they stay in the drawer.
     
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  17. epizootics

    epizootics Tele-Meister

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    Thanks guys...but those are all pot metal. I have a few units like that in my drawers and while not all of them are bad, most of them are poorly machined and kind of ugly-looking.

    I don't have many beliefs about what makes a guitar sound a particular way, but one of them is that the type of metal used in the bridge and/or saddles is a big factor. I am after that 'aluminum sound', not the most popular material in general but one of my favorites.



    Well spotted! It doesn't really matter since this will be a scratch build, but that's one of the things I'd overlooked. I assumed the post spacing was the same.

    Thanks. That's one of those things that are always hard to tell from pictures. Some of the bridges on the old Gibsons, especially '54 gold tops, seem to have a pretty flat top. I saw a few videos on Youtube where it's quite obvious that the bridge sitars out on the high strings. The profile shown on the Gotoh technical drawing seems to have enough of a peak to avoid that, but I guess there's no telling until I have one in my hands!



    Looking very sweet! Is it a full-neck-width tenon? I like the plain old, straight-into-the-body neck to body joints of the cheaper Gibson models.
    Good shout about the plain G string, too. I usually play with silly gauges anyway (13s or 14s), and they come with a wound G.
     
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  18. Peegoo

    Peegoo Friend of Leo's

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    Yes it is. Probably thicker and longer than the original Gibson version too, because the only plans I followed were the ones in my head.
     
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