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ABR Bridge Repair and Replacement

Sometimes a TM/ABR can be noisy. Check if the saddles pivot on the intonation screw side to side, if the strings can move laterally (side the side) in the saddle notch and if the retaining wire is causing the buzzing. A wire can be crimped, clear nail polish or super glue can act as a buffer for loose saddle contact and saddle notches can be recut. I typically prefer replacement though. Replacement saddles are available from Allparts as part #BP0535-(001 for nickel, 002 for gold). Saddle screws sometimes are bent and will not adjust or lie properly; the replacement part # for those is # GS3370-(001 nickel, 002 gold).

An important thing to check with old ABRs is bridge base sag. This can usually be gently straightened in a vise. I have made up a jig to do this as I perform this task often. Please be advised that some older ABRs and Nashvilles may be brittle and can be cracked when attempting to straighten out a collapse.

There are two main replacement ABR bridges I like and recommend:

I really like, use and recommend the Tone Pros AVR II. The tolerances are better than OEM parts. The retaining wire is cosmetic only as the saddles are held in the base by tiny E clips on the saddle intonation screws – so I remove the retaining wire. The price is very reasonable as the part is made overseas. The materials appears to be the same and sound the same to me as the OEM part. I do like the fact that the bridge can be “locked” to the post via the grub screws. I don’t know if that helps tone as much as the tight fitting saddles per se, but it certainly is convenient for string changes and maintenance.

I also really like and use Steve Rowen of Pigtail Music’s ABR1. Steve’s ABR is made just like the best of the old ones; there was no retaining wire, yet the saddles and base were fitted just so. The Pigtail ABR is the best choise for a conversion or vintage restoration or replacement. Steve also makes an aluminum version with brass saddles. Steve’s wraparound stoptail, steel studs and adjustable wraparound are all also excellent products and well worth using; they are all super high quality USA made products.

Another trick I do with a ABR is I replace the stock ¾” to 1 “ long soft brass 6/32 machine screw thread posts with longer SS 6/32 posts. I simply take a 6/32 SS 1.5” machine screw (pan head) and cut the head off and reshape the end as if it were a post. Before removing the old bridge, I make sure the set up is correct and then I measure the height of the bridge base top (not saddles) where the post holes are to the top. Depending on neck angle and top carve it can vary from 16/32” to 21/32” for LPs. I remove the old bridge and remove the posts by tightening two 6/32 machine nuts on the post against each other, lining up the hex head and using a nut driver to back the post out (usually 5/16”, same at the TR wrench). Then if I need to drill the post hole deeper, I drill it undersize (measure the post and bit with calipers, probably common sense for you) and use the reverse of the post removal method to install the new posts. I usually set them to 1/32” less than the bridge base height of the previously measured properly set up old bridge to make sure they aren’t felt during palm muting ( I also round over and polish the low E saddle corner for the same reason). This a good cure for a post too short in the bridge base (a pet peeve of mine, seen on lots of 70s pieces and SGs) and loose, wobbly posts. Two other things help with loose, wobbly posts: lightly coating a post hole (post removed) with fresh super thin CA glue (a little dab will do, apply with pipette carefully, to harden threads in wood) and use double thumbs wheels, one pair against the top, other for height adjustment. The new TP AVR II and some other new bridges come with thumb wheels, so there is the second 6/32 pair.

After all this, its time to space the strings and create the notches. I like to get the bridges unnotched and do it myself for complete control. Gibson is not very consistent in this regard. I assume the bridge post holes are drilled during body routing/boring operations and the neck sets are not held to a tight tolerance, so the saddle notches are used to make up for that – prenotched bridges don’t let the individual control for variance in side to side string placement IME.

I notch bridges the same way Gibson does, by sacrificing a set of strings used in the set up. Line the strings up for the side to side and pole piece relationship you desire and triple check for even spread. With the strings tuned near concert pitch, I place my left hand lightly on the picking area of the string and tap firmly but not too hard on the string at the saddle peak with a brass face hammer to create the string notch. This kills the string. Upon restringing I then adjust the notch depth to match the radius, provided the general action and bridge height has been accounted for.

 

 

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