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Thoughts on Ceramic Adjustable Bridge


Holiday Hoser
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My 1964 Hummingbird has a ceramic adjustable bridge and the way it's designed the saddle does not

make contact with the bridge and therefore the top of the guitar. I seems I saw a disassembled view once

and there was some sort of folded metal spring that sat between the ceramic bridge and saddle. Of course in my

guitar that is long gone so I am thinking of removing the screws and made a hardwood shim for the ceramic saddle to fit onto

after marking the bridge with a pencil to gauge the correct height. Bridge had also cracked as the nuts under the bridge

were loose and allowed the studs to pitch forward. Fixed with super glue and 1/2" wrench but I'm wondering if full contact

would give me better tone. It has that kind of Rolling Stones clicky attack if that makes sense. Still sounds great, don't get me wrong

but as we are always on the search for TONE...Thoughts please.

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As a hater of adjustable bridges, being it is a rather higher end guitar, I would run, not walk, to my favorite luthier and hand him something like this Ebay offering, ask him or her to rip out the metal sleeves along with the bridge, and put on a full on old school bridge and bone saddle. Probably run you close to a hundred bucks, depending on where you live.

 

https://www.ebay.com...ar/332578639538

Edited by jedzep
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LMI sells replacement saddles for Gibson ADJ Bridges so you might try that before going the more extreme route.

 

But replacing the bridge or installing an insert is not the final solution. The ADJ bridge guitars also have oversized stiff laminate bridge plates that were needed to support those things (which weigh three times as much as a regular pin bridge). So dealing with the bridge but not replacing the bridge plate with a traditional maple one will only get you half way there.

 

The only guitars I have owned with an ADJ saddle bridge are B45-12s. I tend to prefer them on 12 strings.

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As a hater of adjustable bridges, being it is a rather higher end guitar, I would run, not walk, to my favorite luthier and hand him something like this Ebay offering, ask him or her to rip out the metal sleeves along with the bridge, and put on a full on old school bridge and bone saddle. Probably run you close to a hundred bucks, depending on where you live.

 

https://www.ebay.com...ar/332578639538

 

The trouble there is that the guitar has a old black respray and I don't think without a complete overhaul of the finish it could handle the removal of the rosewood bridge.

post-96456-042635900 1542750492_thumb.jpg

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No secret that I lOVE the original adjustable concept and have 4 in action on a regular basis.

 

The 1963 Southern Jumbo of my avatar - ceramic

The 1963 J-45, which even has the hollow plastic bridge - ceramic (something else there)

The ragged 1965 Country Western - but with a full size old-vase ivory insert (absolutely different from the 63 SJ - some would say better)

The 1968 Southern Jumbo with clean ceramic (came with rosewood)

 

Okay the last one isn't played much, but works great with capo and can add serious flavor when recorded.

 

I totally understand your Stones clinky reference and see the clink or clang effect as an exotic, yet genuine 'modern' Gibson flavor.

 

Let's not forget the following artists -

 

Of course Stones - mostly ceramic, but also rosewood saddle

All the Beatles J-160E and Epiphone Texan stuff, , , including fx Give Peace a Chance and Yesterday. Both w. plastic bridge - all w. ceramic

All 60s Donovan songs - ceramic

Golden age James Taylor including Fire and Rain - rosewood

Early John Rebourn (Pentangle) - both ceramic and rosew.

Wizz Jones - ceramic in plastic to this day

 

This just to name a few fantastic sounding classics, , ,

and (as before on these pages) to underline the paradox that everyone sees the Stones things as carrying the quintessential Hummingbird sound, , ,

and often thumb down the adjustable concept as they speak - eeehhh, a major and humorous example of amateurism for the world to enjoy.

 

! I sincerely ask people not to fix their original bridges. Enough of these original Kalamazoo wonders have already been 'spoiled'.

If one doesn't like the sound, get a rosewood insert with an ordinary sized bone saddle and slip it down the slot. It's all good.

 

Be sure whatever you do has full top contact. All mine have and it's not the big prob many claim it to be, , , haven't been here anyway, could of course depend. .

 

P.S. - the nuts went back inside the 63' SJ to tame it a bit. That dry old mother leaned toward boomy.

And the cherry J-45 still has the rectangular metal 'lifting-spring' (whatever) between the clay and the top spruce - the nuts there are intact too.

This is not about gettin' the guitar as light as possible by all means. It's about combining components by ears and feel.

 

My 5 Yen ^ (ever intriguing topic)

 

Edited by E-minor7
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I have had several of the ADJ and I am a fan. I prefer the ceramic but have all of the options, rosewood, bone and Tusq an easy switch out to get a different arena of sound.

The the bridge that Mr. Zep points out has a slim chance of lining up correctly; saddle location, footprint of the original, pin holes. I agree with Mr. 7th try an insert made of rosewood w/traditional drop in saddle. That will get you a feel for the difference. Then if motivated you can spring for a custom made bridge.

As Mr. Woof points out attention to the bridge plate would most likely be necessary to complete the transformation. Depending on the year not all had the oversized ply plate. I have a '61 J50 w/small maple plate and adj. bridge, and '57 J50 with no adj. (original) and small maple plate, sound as different as night and day. I find that I don't prefer one over the other.

My prediction and 2¢ you will find a difference but not what you think. Just different. Best of luck in your decision!

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Mr. Zep! I like the sound of that. Thank you Mr. Phobias. And right you are. I was suggesting a bridge 'like' the one listed for general shape, but a good luthier would be able to find the most suitable replacement.

 

Guess I'm just a believer in that simplest direct contact of top and string torque without any intervening middle translater, but ultimately the ear wants what the ear wants.

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I've never understood the "lifting spring" referred to by Em7. Once you have spring tension on the adj saddle, it will bottom out on the shoulder of the adjustment screws, so the saddle can't rattle around. I'm not really sure what it's there for, and removed it long ago on the adj bridge that used to be on my j-45. I originally had a rosewood saddle, but slotted that for a bone insert, which I preferred.

 

Now that adj is gone from that guitar, living in my parts box, and I went back to the original 1948-'50 bridge with slot-through bone saddle. Nowadays, if I bought a vintage guitar with an adj, I would just leave it that way.

 

But I probably wouldn't buy one. Adj's are fine on electrics, 12-strings, and archtops. On flat tops? Not really my style.

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I've never understood the "lifting spring" referred to by Em7.

Isn't it to be seen as an elevator floor. When you fine-adjust with all 6 strings tuned'n'tight, the screw will lift via the plate, not the porcelain.

No issue really when lowering, but that crucial hair up can cause the 4 ceramic grip-wings to crack, which you really don't want to happen.

They are pretty fragile, , , especially after a couple of years, , , 4-5-6, 40-50-60 on duty.

 

I understand and respect people who can't cope with adj. concept. But if you run into an early 60s J-45/50, do yourself the favor to try it out.

Some of these semi-oldies sound magnifik.

 

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Isn't it to be seen as an elevator floor. When you fine-adjust with all 6 strings tuned'n'tight, the screw will lift via the plate, not the porcelain.

No issue really when lowering, but that crucial hair up can cause the 4 ceramic grip-wings to crack, which you really don't want to happen.

They are pretty fragile, , , especially after a couple of years, , , 4-5-6, 40-50-60 on duty.

 

I understand and respect people who can't cope with adj. concept. But if you run into an early 60s J-45/50, do yourself the favor to try it out.

Some of these semi-oldies sound magnifik.

 

 

Maybe, but the spring wasn't stiff enough to apply much vertical moment to the saddle compared to the downward string compression on it. I never tried to adjust the saddle when the strings were under full tension. It seemed to be asking for trouble.

 

Having said that, you are probably correct in the original thinking.

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Maybe, but the spring wasn't stiff enough to apply much vertical moment to the saddle compared to the downward string compression on it. I never tried to adjust the saddle when the strings were under full tension. It seemed to be asking for trouble.

 

Having said that, you are probably correct in the original thinking.

I raise/lower it every now and then - especially now the season turns cold.

As you know it's only a matter of under a quarter turn and playing half a step down, it works. Have to be careful though.

In this temple an original ceramic saddle is considered a jewel.

A few years ago I found an intact clay-saddle in US on the web for a very small tag. Had to buy, , , then celebrate.

Actually saw one yesterday on either Reverb or Gbase - that sweet little innocent thing did cost a mansion.

Didn't press, but they are nice to have in case one finds a stellar old Gibson, , , featuring the rosewood version.

 

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Thanks to all. After playing it just now I am still in love. I figure if it's good enough for Kef it's good enough for me!

Found an old thread here from 2011 where all this was discussed.

Love to all, and to all a Happy Turkey Day.

Yeah - enjoy that certain extra cllinggg. Not least within the bass timbre.

Cheers

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Have to agree with EM7. Personally like the adj, but not the rosewood or Tusq incarnations. That metal strip will keep a ceramic saddle from breaking, unless someone gets carried away making adjustments under full string tension. They're harder to find than intact ceramic saddles, though - so if you have one, either use it or keep it safe. The change from wood is one of my first alterations w/an adjustable, mainly due to a preference for the more lively flatpicking result. Fingerpickers and those who record a lot have their own, valid reasons for using rosewood. They can always be switched back and forth if needed. A nice chunk of bone can be fashioned to fill the usual opening if the notion of full top contact is something you'd like to try - use the adj saddle as a template and compensate to your liking once the bone insert is installed.

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Over the years, as I have come to embrace different sounds, I have become less critical of the ADJ Saddle bridge. While I am on my second ADJ saddle B45-12, the only similarly equipped six string I own is a Kay K-24. This is a ladder braced guitar with the standard spruce bridge plate that stretches 2/3 of the width of the guitar so also not the best thing for sound or, in fact, survival. When I get a chance I am going to bring it up to the repair guy and see what he recommends with regard to replacing at least the plate. With the saddle suspended on a couple of screws though, the guitar comes off as the cosmic love child of an archtop and a flattop. Granted though, that is not to everybody's taste.

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Have to agree with EM7. Personally like the adj, but not the rosewood or Tusq incarnations. That metal strip will keep a ceramic saddle from breaking, unless someone gets carried away making adjustments under full string tension.

The metal strip under the ceramic saddle is thin & quite flexible. My belief is that it contributes virtually nothing, either in strength or transfer of tone. A number of years ago, I removed it from my '66 Epi Cortez, with no ill effects to the ceramic saddle.

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The metal strip under the ceramic saddle is thin & quite flexible. My belief is that it contributes virtually nothing, either in strength or transfer of tone. A number of years ago, I removed it from my '66 Epi Cortez, with no ill effects to the ceramic saddle.

 

The only thing it seems useful for is to keep the saddle from rattling around when there is no string pressure on the saddle. That same strip was under the rosewood saddle as well. I took mine out years ago.

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Have to agree with EM7. Personally like the adj, but not the rosewood or Tusq incarnations. That metal strip will keep a ceramic saddle from breaking, unless someone gets carried away making adjustments under full string tension. They're harder to find than intact ceramic saddles, though - so if you have one, either use it or keep it safe. The change from wood is one of my first alterations w/an adjustable, mainly due to a preference for the more lively flatpicking result. Fingerpickers and those who record a lot have their own, valid reasons for using rosewood. They can always be switched back and forth if needed. A nice chunk of bone can be fashioned to fill the usual opening if the notion of full top contact is something you'd like to try - use the adj saddle as a template and compensate to your liking once the bone insert is installed.

I have a few loose ones which are rather bend or uneven. Sometimes wonder if the sting pressure will straighten them out - actually think it will.

 

 

The metal strip under the ceramic saddle is thin & quite flexible. My belief is that it contributes virtually nothing, either in strength or transfer of tone. A number of years ago, I removed it from my '66 Epi Cortez, with no ill effects to the ceramic saddle.

I removed it from my SJs as well. Regarding the plastic bridged J-45 I want the whole darn thing to be as original as possible.

Seller had placed a bone-saddle/insert and praised it, but I insisted he sent me photos of the clay to assure it was there in the package.

He wondered a lot about my enthusiasm and kept claiming the bone version was louder/better.

And sure, it was louder - yet I desired every % of the pure Kalamazoo concept, , , and enjoy it almost every time I pick up that cherry.

Even searched and eventually found a nylon block for the home-carved wider spaced nut.

 

Could be fun though to return to bone fx next summer and see what is heard.

By then the porcelain sound will be soul-grounded and It'll be possible to sense every nuance of the switch.

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I have a few loose ones which are rather bend or uneven. Sometimes wonder if the sting pressure will straighten them out - actually think it will.

 

They should be bent in an arc. They're a spring. The string pressure only seats the "ears" of the saddle on the shoulders of the adjustment screws. Pressure can't push the saddle lower than that. Depending on how low the saddle is cranked, the saddle will flatten the spring, or not.

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Desperately trying to follow this thread- pics or maybe a scribbled out drawing would help, but I do remember and follow along with what Nick is saying with the transfer of most all of the energy going through the hardware. And Mr. E. . . sound going through a plastic bridge? The ADJ acoustic era genuinely tests the breadth of one's tonal palate.

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. . . sound going through a plastic bridge?

The plastic bridge is probably the purest example of this system when examined closely. In essence, you could completely remove the plastic bridge shell, and you'd see the archtop-oriented system still functioning, save for a place for the strings to ramp through the top & rest the bridge pins.

 

There's really nothing else too it. Sound is being transferred almost entirely through the two metal adjusting bolts.

 

The four tiny screws that hold the flexible plastic bridge shell to the top, add almost no strength or rigidity to the area (except for the limited areas of the hollow plastic shell that touch the top).

 

Conversely, the rosewood bridge version changes things up by adding a significant degree of strength and rigidity to the mounting area, as it is glued to the top. But sound is still primarily transferred through the two metal adjusting bolts.

 

Anyway, all of this results in a sound that, on a good example, rings with slightly metallic overtones. And some of us love that sound!

Edited by bobouz
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The plastic bridge is probably the purest example of this system when examined closely. In essence, you could completely remove the plastic bridge shell, and you'd see the archtop-oriented system still functioning, save for a place for the strings to ramp through the top & rest the bridge pins.

 

There's really nothing else too it. Sound is being transferred almost entirely through the two metal adjusting bolts.

 

The four tiny screws that hold the flexible plastic bridge shell to the top, add almost no strength or rigidity to the area (except for the limited areas of the hollow plastic shell that touch the top).

 

Conversely, the rosewood bridge version changes things up by adding a significant degree of strength and rigidity to the mounting area, as it is glued to the top. But sound is still primarily transferred through the two metal adjusting bolts.

 

Anyway, all of this results in a sound that, on a good example, rings with slightly metallic overtones. And some of us love that sound!

 

The attachment method of the plastic bridges may vary. Some I have looked at had several short hex-head lags coming up through the top into molded bosses on the underside of the bridge. The material of the adjustable saddle seems to have a dramatic impact on sound. The rosewood saddles seem to subdue the general tone of the guitar. The ceramic ones seem to brighten it. Both are a bit of an acquired taste.

 

I've re-tightened several loose/"broken" plastic bridges just by reaching inside the soundhole with a compact socket and tightening the lags. I can't remember who showed me that trick. Sometimes the plastic bosses strip out. You may be able to fill the holes with a bit of epoxy when that happens, carefully re-drill the filled plot holes, and re-attach.

 

 

Never cared for the look or the concept of the plastic bridges. The rosewood adjustable bridges are another story. They have their place.

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