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Best Bigsby model for a Tele conversion

croweband

Member
Messages
33
I'm looking at converting my Nashville-style tele to a Bigsby equipped guitar. I see a few different options on the Bigsby site that all work with solid body teles. Anyone out there have an objective opinion on whether one is better than another?
 

62Tele

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
5,700
This is discussed at length on tdpri.com. I opted for the B5 with strings through the holes in the back of a hardtail strat bridge. This works great on my guitar and there is a variation using an ashtray bridge. You don't have to pitch the neck using this approach but I did find slotted titanium tele saddles made the whole thing work a lot better.

I built one using the Jazzmaster bridge and it sounded a LOT better once I replaced the six threaded saddles with three traditional brass tele saddles.

I've never built a B16 style tele, but I had a good conversation a few years ago with Gary Brauer at Real Guitars in San Francisco and he had done several of both apparently. The B16 requires an EXACT vintage tele contour or the pickup won't lineup with the route. Warmoth bodies won't work for example. You have to pitch the neck on this setup as well, alternately some folks are routing the face of the guitar and recessing the bigsby (G&L also does this with the B5). These look the coolest for sure.

Tonally there is a difference between the different setups. The cut ashtray bridge has good sustain and my guitar actually sounded better with the bigsby. Took on a little chime/ring and actually gained a little sustain while the note focus is preserved. The B5/Jazzmaster setup I did actually suffered a little in the sustain department, but did improve with the tele saddles. The B16 apparently has the nicest strummed tone, lots of ring and all that, but the sustain and focus suffer. Gary's comment was that this makes for a better rhythm guitar. Haven't heard or played a B16 version first hand though so take the comments on this setup with a grain of salt.

Here's some inspiration: http://www.xs4all.nl/~msengers/htm/gallery.htm

And here's mine:

 

croweband

Member
Messages
33
Where would I find a notched ash tray-style bridge plate at a reasonable price? And, did you have to shim the neck?
 

mr coffee

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
2,067
you can get them with or without the fender stamp, shimming is up to you.
I prefer a small shim at the heel. The other bigsby model with the built in tele bridge you REALLY have to shim

 

62Tele

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
5,700
Where would I find a notched ash tray-style bridge plate at a reasonable price? And, did you have to shim the neck?
I did no have to shim the neck on this one. If I wanted a REALLY low action I might like it better with a slight shim. The advantage of the B5 style is the down pressure bar you run the strings under. Trussart does a nice variation on the B17 by adding a down bar. I would love to try one of these - bet it sounds great. Maybe I should just buy a Trussart.

I have a Wilkinson bridge around here somewhere - it's in excellent shape and would be cheap if you want to experiment with notching it yourself. PM me and "we can talk."

BTW - these are the saddles I'm using - they sound great and the strings don't slip around; http://www.gpdusa.com/product.cgi?group=22960&product=24815
 

RomanS

Member
Messages
2,338
Let me just quote what I wrote on the Tele forum the otehr day:

I've got both - one Tele with a B50 (Asian-made licensed B5), in combination with a regular vintage-style 3-saddle Tele bridge (with notches in the back lip, for the strings to pass through), and a Tele with a B16, and a TuneOMatic-style bridge (a Duenberg TOM with stainless steel saddles).

B16
PRO:very soft trem lever action (like on a Gretsch archtop or something like that);
lots of harmonic overtones (als a bit Gretsch-y);
looks even cooler than a cool-looking B5;
CON: doesn't fit on a whole lot of Tele bodies, because the distance from the back edge of the body to the bridge-pickup route has to be withing VERY tight tolerances (it doesn't even work on all Fender-made bodies, and just because a body supposedly fits Fender specs does not mean it will fit - eg. it does NOT fit on USACG Tele bodies);
needs neck shimming - A LOT of neck shimming (about 4mm at the back edge of the neck pocket) - the usual paper stock/cut-down credit card shims won't work here, we're talking about wood wedges, etc.;
your Tele will NOT sound like a "real" Tele with a B16 - much less twang, punch, and sustain, much more harmonic content, an "aiier", Gretsch-y type of tone;
the B16 is rather crudely made - lots of artifacts from sandcasting on the back, not polished very smoothly (the B50 is much better here); you might have to do some minor modding (like enlarging the pickup cutout on the B16 - my Fender Nocaster bridge PU did NOT fit without filing that part wider on the B16!);

B5 (or B50, in my case; also, this is only ture with a notched Tele bridge, haven't tried the JM bridge from the B5-kit myself):
PRO: fits on all Tele bodies;
no neck shimming required;
your Tele will sound almost exactly like it did without a Bigsby - all the punch & twang sill still be there;
CON: much stiffer trem lever action;
 

croweband

Member
Messages
33
I'm definitely decited on the B5...I'll get the conversion kit, but I'm gonna replace the bridge saddles with Graphtech String-Saver saddles. I'm also digging some pics I've seen with guys using "Jaguar" bridge covers on their bridges like this. It should turn out nice. Thanks guys for your input.
 

npirt.89

Member
Messages
174
I put a B5 bigsby on mine. I left the ashtray on and just cut slots in the bottom of it for the strings to go through. I think it looks a lot better than putting on that flat piece for the stray.
 

croweband

Member
Messages
33
Well, I got it, installed it, and did adjustments...I love it! I did shim the neck a tiny bit. The action was intolerable after initial installation.So, a cut up business card and a retune later and I love it. Still have a bit of intonation to work out...just tired after a day of work and a gig. I will probably get some string-saver saddles by graphtech. These saddles just scare me. Bigsby needs to rethink that part. :huh

Also, I'm gonna get some good gotoh tuning machines...these stock ones are even more obviously terrible now with a trem. ;)
 

The Real Tim

Member
Messages
220
I have a B5 on my Tele and it came with a Jazzmaster bridge which was awful. I was even regretting the purchase and considering converting it back to a hardtail, but somehow I came across the Mastery bridge website. I ordered one. It showed up a few days later. It was a breeze to install and my Tele is like a brand new guitar. It's expensive but definitely worth the money, so I'd recommend checking it out.

www.masterybridge.com
 

Yup

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
97
Can anyone comment on wether it's better to use the "F" Labeled B5 or the "Bigsby" Labeled B5?

It would appear that with the "F" labeled B5 you can get the Bigsby closer to the bridge plate, thereby increasing the break angle of the strings over the saddles. Is this preferable for performance or is it simply a matter of taste?

I've searched and been unable to find any threads which address this particular question.

Thanks for any info.

:aok
 

norumba

Member
Messages
694
Tele with a B50 (Asian-made licensed B5), in combination with a regular vintage-style 3-saddle Tele bridge (with notches in the back lip, for the strings to pass through)...
I put a B5 bigsby on mine. I left the ashtray on and just cut slots in the bottom of it for the strings to go through. I think it looks a lot better than putting on that flat piece for the stray.
can anyone post pics of this mod? i'd be curious to see this, as i can't quite visualize how this is done...
 

pfflam

Member
Messages
7,124
I have both a B-16 and a B5

The B16 = shim the neck and notched the body

Both are great - the B-16 has the strings sit far from the body but it is really springy and feels good.

See how its notched into the body - it looks great. I managed somehow to do it right the first time, with a chisel, and not crack the paint around it hardly at all:


Its a funky whammy on a funky guitar - the only real drawback is that the bridge is compensated for a wound G string . . . and finding plain G wound rocker bridges is tough.



Here's the B5, this is my absolutely #1 guitar, everytime I play it I feel fuzzy-love goodness. . . . I won a high end Ric, and a vintage great Gretsch . . .and this, my customized MIM-O-caster is by far and above the best guitar EVER!



The only thing that remains from the original MIM is the body wood and probably the strap buttons.

 

norumba

Member
Messages
694
sweet guitars! :) thanks for these pics, that's very helpful.

I may be buying a Tele with a Bigsby on it, but it has a jazzmaster type set-up; if i get it, i may reconvert to the ashtray mod based on the tone considerations others have mentioned.
 
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62Tele

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
5,700
Well, I got it, installed it, and did adjustments...I love it! I did shim the neck a tiny bit. The action was intolerable after initial installation.So, a cut up business card and a retune later and I love it. Still have a bit of intonation to work out...just tired after a day of work and a gig. I will probably get some string-saver saddles by graphtech. These saddles just scare me. Bigsby needs to rethink that part. :huh

Also, I'm gonna get some good gotoh tuning machines...these stock ones are even more obviously terrible now with a trem. ;)
So you're using the Mustang bridge with the six threaded saddles? If so, I did a mod with one of these a few years ago that worked great. I removed those nasty little steel things, drilled three holes and put three brass saddles in there. Resonance improved, less extraneous vibration and fewer moving parts. This setup requires that you slot the saddle or the strings will move. The slotted titanium KTS saddles are a good sounding (a lot like brass), well made option that are already slotted if you get the right set. These aren't compensated but sound great in my guitar:

http://www.gpdusa.com/product.cgi?group=22960&product=24815
 

cacibi

Member
Messages
956
One of the things I periodically campaign for is that:

G&L does the best telecaster bigsby mount in the WORLD.

If you've ever seen a bigsby mounted on an ASAT from the G&L factory - you'll notice that they recess the B5 into the face of the guitar about 1/8". Same with the tune-o-matic bridge. This provides the perfect break angle from the back of the bridge - and as well as just the right tension on the saddles. Nobody does it better.

That being said - I do like the idea of doing a bigsby with the ashtray - 'cause I love me some brass saddles.
 

zombiwoof

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
5,900
I thought I'd mention that there is a new Vibramate Bigsby mounting plate for Teles now. Has anyone tried that? I haven't heard a word about it.

Al
 






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