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Plastic Bridge on 1963 Gibson J-50

#1 User is offline   Joe B 

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Posted 09 February 2012 - 06:03 PM

I have a 1963 Gibson J-50 with the plastic adjustable bridge. Although this bridge is supposed to kill the tone, this guitar sounds amazing. Better than many 50's Gibson I have played. The bridge is bolted on and just starting to show signs of age. Can anyone tell me where I find a replacement of that exact plastic adjustable bridge?

My luthier would like to replace the whole bridge, but it sounds so good now. My instincts tell me to try and keep it original. I would like to try and keep it simple and just put a NOS replacement on and hold on to the old one. Any feedback?

#2 User is offline   jedzep 

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Posted 09 February 2012 - 06:18 PM

View PostJoe B, on 09 February 2012 - 06:03 PM, said:

I have a 1963 Gibson J-50 with the plastic adjustable bridge. Although this bridge is supposed to kill the tone, this guitar sounds amazing. Better than many 50's Gibson I have played. The bridge is bolted on and just starting to show signs of age. Can anyone tell me where I find a replacement of that exact plastic adjustable bridge?

My luthier would like to replace the whole bridge, but it sounds so good now. My instincts tell me to try and keep it original. I would like to try and keep it simple and just put a NOS replacement on and hold on to the old one. Any feedback?

Youch! never heard of someone looking to find, not replace this bridge. I've seen just one or two on Ebay over the years. If you say yours is just starting to show it's age you may have many years left. I've had several of these switched out however, by my trusted luthier, with rosewood bellied replacements that are a perfect fit for the old imprint. I live in the sticks and even my little music shop did a nice job replacing it. At that point you can choose to ditch the adjustable hardware and get a fixed saddle setup, or have it kept intact as adjustable. I can almost guarantee you though, that the tone will hang in there just fine.

Where have I seen plastic bridges? Off the top of my head, Ebay sellers 'stringtech1' and 'hankeroo' have been helpful. I have a few more parts guys I can turn you on to, but I have to go look them up. Good luck.
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#3 User is offline   Stubee 

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Posted 09 February 2012 - 09:31 PM

The plastic bridge was really not a great idea in most respects but there is no doubt that some guitars wearing it sound just great. Guitars are like that, they sometimes don't care about things that humans get all lathered up about.

IME I'd not worry about losing the great tone of your old J-50 by having a well done RW bridge put on that guitar when the plastic one finally gives up the ghost. Many would claim it would sound even better, but if it sounds so good already, who cares? I do not think you'll find a 'reproduction' plastic bridge and wouldn't spend any time looking for one. I had a few of the 'adjustable saddle' wood bridge Gibsons and while they can sound just fine I'd opt for a fixed saddle because frankly a saddle requires very little adjustment over the life of a guitar.

For more detail on the Gibson plastic bridge & adjustable saddles find yourself a copy of "Gibson's Fabulous Flattops", a good book in any regard.

A nice RW bridge that is glued on properly will look good, transfer a lot of string vibration to the top--you kinda want that--last basically the rest of your life, and sound just fine.

#4 User is offline   slimt 

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Posted 09 February 2012 - 10:03 PM

J50.... Plastic Bridge ? or adjustable saddle?

Plastic Bridge was on a LG0 ...

#5 User is offline   pfox14 

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Posted 10 February 2012 - 08:57 AM

Never heard of a 60s J-50 with a plastic bridge. Weird. If the guitar sounds good now, then why mess with it?

#6 User is offline   j45nick 

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Posted 10 February 2012 - 09:32 AM

View Postpfox14, on 10 February 2012 - 08:57 AM, said:

Never heard of a 60s J-50 with a plastic bridge. Weird. If the guitar sounds good now, then why mess with it?

Actually, my luthier (Ross Teigen) told me he had replaced several plastic bridges on J's. It blew me away, as I thought that was just an LG/B feature.

Gibson strikes again.......

#7 User is offline   slimt 

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Posted 10 February 2012 - 09:48 AM

View Postj45nick, on 10 February 2012 - 09:32 AM, said:

Actually, my luthier (Ross Teigen) told me he had replaced several plastic bridges on J's. It blew me away, as I thought that was just an LG/B feature.

Gibson strikes again.......


Out of all the late 50s to mid 60s J50s Ive owned.. Not one had a Plastic Bridge,, as for saddles.. they were white Plastic(Ceramic) or Wood..

Lg0s and some Lg1s had plastic Bridges..

#8 User is offline   Spot 

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Posted 10 February 2012 - 10:07 AM

View Postslimt, on 10 February 2012 - 09:48 AM, said:

Out of all the late 50s to mid 60s J50s Ive owned.. Not one had a Plastic Bridge,, as for saddles.. they were white Plastic(Ceramic) or Wood..

Lg0s and some Lg1s had plastic Bridges..



My '63 CW apparently came with a plastic saddle and ceramic bridge as they were in the case when I bought her...

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#9 User is offline   Craig910 

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Posted 10 February 2012 - 10:32 AM

Gibson used plastic bridges from 63-64, it was a terrible idea and they were history by '65.

You say yours is "showing signs of age" - if it's not broke, don't fix it, as they say. If and when it gives out, have a respectable luthier replace it with a fixed rosewood bridge, don't replace a sh***y bridge with another sh***y bridge.

Here's what the underside of your plastic bridge looks like, with all its hardware. You really don't want to replicate all this mess, do you?

Posted Image

#10 User is offline   j45nick 

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Posted 10 February 2012 - 10:53 AM

View PostCraig910, on 10 February 2012 - 10:32 AM, said:

Gibson used plastic bridges from 63-64, it was a terrible idea and they were history by '65.

You say yours is "showing signs of age" - if it's not broke, don't fix it, as they say. If and when it gives out, have a respectable luthier replace it with a fixed rosewood bridge, don't replace a sh***y bridge with another sh***y bridge.

Here's what the underside of your plastic bridge looks like, with all its hardware. You really don't want to replicate all this mess, do you?

Posted Image


Essentially, four lag screws (with washers against the bridge plate) come up through the bridge plate and the top, and tap into the recesses in the underside of the bridge. If the bridge is intact, but simply distorted or pulling up, you might be able to re-torques the lag screws by reaching inside the soundhole with a small ratchet wrench and socket. (I think we've had this discussion here before: it's coming back like a bad dream that repeats itself)

If the threaded recesses in the bridge are stripped or split, you could try filling them with epoxy, re-drilling slightly undersize holes, and re-tapping using the threads on the lags as taps. This can be done with the bridge off the guitar to make it simpler You could even replace the old lags with new stainless ones, if they are corroded or the threads have deteriorated.

If it were me, however, I'd simply replace the plastic POS with a new rosewood and bone bridge and saddle. Cost should be no more than about $100, if the bridge plate is sound.

No J-50 should have to wear a plastic brdige. It just ain't right!

#11 User is offline   jedzep 

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Posted 10 February 2012 - 12:48 PM

FYI...there's a nice quality bellied r'wood replacement bridge that pops up on Ebay from time to time that goes for $24.99. I thought I was being smart and bought one to give my luthier for a plastic bridge I wanted to replace. No go! It comes up a little short after shaping and didn't cover the old footprint completely. Let your guitar guy pick his own parts. Just a heads up...
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#12 User is offline   j45nick 

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Posted 10 February 2012 - 04:07 PM

View Postjedzep, on 10 February 2012 - 12:48 PM, said:

FYI...there's a nice quality bellied r'wood replacement bridge that pops up on Ebay from time to time that goes for $24.99. I thought I was being smart and bought one to give my luthier for a plastic bridge I wanted to replace. No go! It comes up a little short after shaping and didn't cover the old footprint completely. Let your guitar guy pick his own parts. Just a heads up...


You can also buy very slightly over-sized belly bridges specifically designed for retrofits that would not otherwise perfectly cover the original footprint. Stewmac has them in Martin belly-down pattern, for example, but I'm sure other luthier supply houses have other versions. A lot of the Gibson wood adjustable bridges are belly-down, by the way, although I note this plastic one is belly-up.

#13 User is offline   KL 

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Posted 10 February 2012 - 07:48 PM

Hard to believe Gibson ever did that, but they did!

Like the others said if you like it then keep on going it might last for years.

In addition to all the other suggestions a good luthier will make you a perfect replacement rosewood bridge.


#14 User is offline   E-minor7 

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Posted 10 February 2012 - 08:47 PM

My 1963 Southern Jumbo had the plastic bridge, but it was replaced before I got it.

Met a pro Gibson guy in London, who told me they sometimes sound good.

Spotondrum speaks about his C&W – I have the feeling they came on some Birds too. . .

#15 User is offline   Joe B 

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Posted 26 March 2012 - 03:00 AM

It's actually the best sounding Gibson I have

#16 User is offline   Spot 

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Posted 26 March 2012 - 03:47 AM

View PostJoe B, on 26 March 2012 - 03:00 AM, said:

It's actually the best sounding Gibson I have


I think the porcelain Saddles helped the tone on these...

Here's a picture of the Plastic Bridge and Porcelain saddle combo set originally on my '63 Country Western...It's nice that the original owner keep all the bits & pieces for provenance..

Posted Image


FYI - Here's an interesting link on a replacement of a Gibson Plastic Bridge and Porcelain Saddle replacement....

Paul Hostetter, luthier

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Guitars

'58 LG-2 w/
Bob Colosi Black Buffalo Horn Bridge pins
'60 ES-125T
'63 Country Western
'64 J-50 w
/ Bob Colosi Bone Bridge pins
'79 ES-335 TD

'82 Epi Sheraton (MIJ)
'97 Epi Sheraton II (USA)

'49 Martin 00-17 w
/ Bob Colosi Bone Bridge pins


..........................................................and a few Harmony's

#17 User is offline   j45nick 

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Posted 26 March 2012 - 05:58 AM

View Postslimt, on 09 February 2012 - 10:03 PM, said:

J50.... Plastic Bridge ? or adjustable saddle?

Plastic Bridge was on a LG0 ...



They actually appeared on J-45's and J-50's for a short time as well. I didn't believe it until Ross Teigen showed me one he was replacing, and I have since seen another. Ross told me he had replaced several on mid-60's J-45's.

#18 User is offline   rustystrings 

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Posted 26 March 2012 - 06:58 AM

The guy who taught me most of what I know about acoustic blues playing had a J-50 he purchased brand-new off the wall of Bibb Music on Cotton Avenue in Macon, Georgia in 1962 for $162.50. He said it came stock with a plastic bridge with an adjustable saddle which Randy Wood replaced with a hand-made rosewood non-adjustable bridge.

It was a great sounding guitar that I always enjoyed hearing and playing.

#19 User is offline   pfox14 

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Posted 26 March 2012 - 08:18 AM

All things considered, I would go ahead and replace the plastic bridge. Putting on a custom made RW bridge without the adjustable saddle will not hurt the guitar's tone, but probably enhance it.

#20 User is offline   fortyearspickn 

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Posted 26 March 2012 - 08:38 AM

I'm going to get around to replacing the plastic bridge on my (my son's) '64 LG1. Here and other threads on the subject assume that rosewood is the best/only choice. I was assuming ebony would be better - because it is a harder wood (plus it more closely batches the black plastic) ... any one have any thoughts? Thanks in advance!

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