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J45 Bridge Pins

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My guitar is a 2008 J-45. It's got an Adi top and is one of the guitars the set that became the "TV" line a few months later.  For strings I use either John Pearse PB Mediums or D'Addario EJ17 Medium PB.  I was messing with my bridge pins today and had a few questions so i figured i'd share. I ordered a set of antique acoustics J45 to try out.

This started because after a recent setup and i was trying to figure out if i should get the bridge pin holes tapered so the pins fit in there a little more tightly and consistently. I also don't have much saddle left on the guitar and so slotting the holes to increase string angle came up which got me exploring this.

For kicks i tried out the original white plastic pins that came with the guitar from the factory, i've had a hybrid set of ebony (EAD) and water buffalo horn (GBE) in there for the last 10 years or so and never found any issue with them. The white plastic factory pins seat in there real well and tend to pitch to an angle under tension. The hybrid set i've been running don't sit perfectly but they stay put, and the antique acoustics sit up about 1/4+" proud of the bridge - so either they need to be shaved down or the holes need to be reamed to make those fit properly.

I've been searching around a little and i know i'm opening up pandora's box here but i'm wondering if tapering the holes for a solid fit and notching the bridge is a worthwhile for the guitar long-term.  To be honest when i had the "antique acoustic" pins in the guitar it sounded like crap (relatively speaking) but i don't think they were able to properly lock the strings in due to being so much larger than the holes.  I've got it back with the larry cragg i've been using - couldn't tell any difference in sound between the factory plastics and the hybrid set, but i like the black pins better.

I measured each set of pins with a caliper as i was changing them out, checking taper using this site:

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Antique Acoustics - 5 degree taper
Collar: 5.56mm
Heel:     4.65mm

IMG_0503.jpg.9f4ed31b2f61a9daf43347a5de704f3b.jpg

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Larry Cragg Hybrid - 4 degree taper (the high e broke while i was tuning up)
Collar: 5.54mm
Heel: 4.77mm

IMG_0508.jpg.2d57f42e076c1896749edab73dc4d85d.jpg

IMG_0509.jpg.900ca7ee5ebfbb088b03053bbb406cac.jpg

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Gibson Plastic Whites - 6 degree taper
Collar: 5.33mm
Heel: 4.2mm

IMG_0505.jpg.dbc4c50b05696a167905b167a974ecce.jpg

IMG_0506.jpg.9b44db5c3982863228906065f80fa038.jpg

IMG_0507.jpg.5951fc5cb83c1066de76d4ff57c77a55.jpg

 

 

 

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Sometimes pins make a difference, sometimes they apparently don't. About nine months ago, I bought a one-owner 1950 J-45, from the original owner. The original black plastic pins came with it (note: sometimes pins were white in that period, sometimes black), but were shrunken and unusable.

To make a long story short, the guitar went to Ross Teigen for a neck re-set, brace re-glue, and bridgeplate conservation (filling and re-drilling worn pin holes). Ross suggested going with unslotted pins to improve string ball end contact, as long as we were doing bridgeplate work.

I put in a set of unslotted Antique Acoustic pins. These are fitted so that they sit very slightly proud of the bridge, more so on the wound strings than the plain strings. With unslotted pins, both the bridge and bridgeplate need to be saw-slotted to accommodate the strings. This has the side effect of increasing the break angle.

Because the neck was being re-set at the same time, we could fine-tune the saddle height to further adjust the break angle to what I was looking for.

Although I don't have a frame of reference for this particular guitar, it sounds really fine with the Antique Acoustics pins and my standard DR Sunbeam light (12-54) PB's. I like a warmer tone.

However, I also like to experiment with pins and their impact on tone. All of my other conventional flat tops have bone pins, mostly from Bob Colosi.

It's hard to get really black bone pins, so Bob made me two sets of pins. One is buffalo horn, almost coal black. Bob says these are softer than bone, but generally harder than plastic. He says there is unlikely to be a definable tonal change from the Antique Acoustics pins.

He also made a very dark brown set of bone pins, but those are definitely dark brown rather than coal black.

This guitar is due for a string change, and I intend to put in the set of bone pins. Since those are unslotted, it will almost certainly require some fitting for a good fit in the bridge. I do this by sanding/scraping the pins, not by reaming the pinholes. The pinholes were re-drilled and reamed for 5 degree taper pins, so I want to fit the pins to the bridge, rather than the other way around.

For better or worse, that's the way I do it.

The way your white plastic pins tilt forward in the bridge may mean that the pins are either too small, or have the wrong taper for the pinholes. The black Antique acoustics pins are clearly too large for the holes, one way or the other.

From my perspective, fitting the pins to the holes is a better solution than the other way around, even though the result may or may not be a fit that is absolutely perfect. Patience is called for when fitting pins.

Edited by j45nick
error corrected

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9 minutes ago, jedzep said:

Nick is extremely wise in this, despite his sun and salt sea baked brain.

I resemble that remark, at least the second part of it. A few people have accused me of being wise  about a few things over the years. Usually it goes some something like this: "you're a bleeping wise-***", followed by a punch in the face.

That probably came from my father, who became a boxer in the Marine Corps because his big mouth was getting him punched so much. Unfortunately, I didn't inherit his fighting skills, and my "fight or flight" gene is totally missing. It's a miracle I've survived as long as I have.

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As a new J-45 owner and inexperienced with guitars in general if I want to replace my bridge pins for a 2019 J-45 standard are there pins that will fit correctly as purchased? Is there a correct taper, manufacturer  or size I should look for? Also any recommendations on a material that you would suggest for  me to try?

TIA

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jschmitz asked about good fitting pins for a j-45. Yes in stewmac you can buy ivoroid white ball pins which fit both my 2013 Hbird and my 2015 J-45 standard with no modifications what so ever.  Also if you prefer ebony..Martin pins will fit perfectly with no modifications to pin or holes either.

https://www.stewmac.com/Hardware_and_Parts/Endpins_and_Bridge_Pins/Waverly_Ivoroid_Bridge_Pins.html

As for drilling bridge pin holes...I would never drill the pins holes larger, not even on a cheap guitar, let alone a Gibson. I have had much success reshaping and carving pins, both plastic, ivoroid and wood pins..for various guitars, with a very sharp, firm, pocket knife..carefully whittling slowly and evenly around the base upward toward the pin head.  Keep checking as you go for fit so as not to over cut the pin making it too thin. It is tricky, tedious work I must warn you however. I worked for me.

Edited by ALD323

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8 hours ago, jschmitz54 said:

As a new J-45 owner and inexperienced with guitars in general if I want to replace my bridge pins for a 2019 J-45 standard are there pins that will fit correctly as purchased? Is there a correct taper, manufacturer  or size I should look for? Also any recommendations on a material that you would suggest for  me to try?

TIA

Below is a link to Bob Colosi's website. He has good discussions there on bridge pin sizing and fitting. Just click on the "products" tab, and follow it to the bridge pin section.

Lots of us here get pins and saddles of various material from Bob. He will custom make virtually anything you want or need, and it isn't expensive.

http://www.guitarsaddles.com/

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I tend to like the Antique Acoustic pins you can buy from Elderly

 

https://www.elderly.com/collections/category_acoustic-guitar-bridge-pins-endpins?_=pf&pf_v_brand=Antique Acoustics

 

They fit my Martin and my J50 just fine when I had them. I like the product. 

 

Additionally my Martin D15 came standard with Ebony pins. They have not been replaced. I wonder what difference I would hear if I moved to plastic/galalith  pins...

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One thing i forgot to check yesterday is how the pins are drilled in the bridge. From what i've read gibson drills the holes straight through whereas Martin tapers the hole.

If the hole in the bridge is tapered to the same angle as the bridge pin there will be more purchase on the mechanical connection between the pin and the bridge/top/plate which should result in a stronger connection.

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I think part of the confusion with the Antique Acoustics is that there are several options for J45 pins.  When I had my 2015 Southern Jumbo Supreme, I used these without issue.  As Nick mentioned, I had the bridge slotted and ramped to accept these.

Antique Acoustics Bridge Pins

IIRC, there is a long thread on UMGF about ramping and slotting bridges.  I recall reading that pins don’t have to be tight in the bridge to serve their purpose.  

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2 hours ago, thegreatgumbino said:

I think part of the confusion with the Antique Acoustics is that there are several options for J45 pins.  When I had my 2015 Southern Jumbo Supreme, I used these without issue.  As Nick mentioned, I had the bridge slotted and ramped to accept these.

Antique Acoustics Bridge Pins

IIRC, there is a long thread on UMGF about ramping and slotting bridges.  I recall reading that pins don’t have to be tight in the bridge to serve their purpose.  

Those are the pins in my J-45 now, but in black. The bone and horn ones that I just got from Bob Colosi are to that same spec. 

Colosi sometimes makes pins very slightly oversize from the spec to accommodate pinhole and bridgeplate wear in vintage guitars.

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I prefer unslotted pins, if you do have slotted pins and want to change, you have to slot the bridge....unslotted pins help the ball ends of the string to be easy on the bridge plate and on the pins themselves. I am also going to try the Plate Mate on my other guitar to see how it goes, if I like I will put them on all my guitars.

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I'm no expert, but I've always felt you should fit the pins to the holes and not the other way around. When I had my J-45, I stuck StewMac slotted ebony pins in it without any trouble. On my J-35, I replaced the stock injection-molded plastic pins with machined camel bone pins.

Whichever pins you go with, make sure you angle the tips: https://www.stewmac.com/How-To/Trade_Secrets/Chopping_the_ends_off_bridge_pins.html

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8 hours ago, Violeiro said:

I prefer unslotted pins, if you do have slotted pins and want to change, you have to slot the bridge....unslotted pins help the ball ends of the string to be easy on the bridge plate and on the pins themselves. I am also going to try the Plate Mate on my other guitar to see how it goes, if I like I will put them on all my guitars.

An affordable, and reversible-enough experiment. And the comparo can be done quickly with the same set of strings simply by partially detuning the guitar, putting on the capo, and tuning down enough to get the pins out (preferably from inside-out). A good way to get some volume out of a quiet guitar, but you will also hear an increased brassiness to the sound. Check back in if/when you give the PlateMate a try. Maybe an a/b sound clip?

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On 11/22/2019 at 6:01 PM, 62burst said:

An affordable, and reversible-enough experiment. And the comparo can be done quickly with the same set of strings simply by partially detuning the guitar, putting on the capo, and tuning down enough to get the pins out (preferably from inside-out). A good way to get some volume out of a quiet guitar, but you will also hear an increased brassiness to the sound. Check back in if/when you give the PlateMate a try. Maybe an a/b sound clip?

 

Received today my plate mates and tried on my Taylor. First time I took pictures of the inside, so please forgive me :).

I am a newbie, no pretension to know the technical details and intricacies of how the whole guitar system works....so with that out of the way, looking at how the bridge plate looks like now, I can see the wear and the need to eventually get work done. Installation was pain free, the material is very very light and the plate mate is really nice. I have NOT noticed a change of how the guitar sounds at all....maybe I will be able to as I play some more. For now I am very very happy and have one to install on each guitar I have. 

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25 minutes ago, Violeiro said:

 

Received today my plate mates and tried on my Taylor. First time I took pictures of the inside, so please forgive me :).

I am a newbie, no pretension to know the technical details and intricacies of how the whole guitar system works....so with that out of the way, looking at how the bridge plate looks like now, I can see the wear and the need to eventually get work done. Installation was pain free, the material is very very light and the plate mate is really nice. I have NOT noticed a change of how the guitar sounds at all....maybe I will be able to as I play some more. For now I am very very happy and have one to install on each guitar I have. 

10763506_3b51319143828295c2ad7e5eedb97f1

10763506_7fdc7c2467ce543045c7c43f6c71923

Very good. And well done getting photos of the inside- always a bit of a challenge, balancing light, camera (or phone), and hands, to frame a pic that makes sense. Maybe the nature of a Taylor guitar might not make the installation of the PlateMate as noticeable- maybe your next subject will allow that. 

Btw- that is not terrible wear to really call for the PlateMate- and even if it were, there are options now that do not require the complete replacement of the bridge plate, as was once the usual fix. Let us know what you hear when the Gibson gets it's turn.

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This morning installed my my Martin D38 '37 AA, and again same experience...IFF I can hear any change is a bit more sustain, but it could be my ears... Really like the idea of this product to protect the structure of the guitar without sacrificing tone.

 

Next will be my Gibs 👍

Edited by Violeiro

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Just installed on my HB, sounds as good as without and I have peace of mind on a $4K guitar that it's structure will not be damaged by the damn pins digging into the wood.

 

I have one more coming for the J-45.

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Here is a tip if you do get them, remove the glue with alcohol, install the high E then the low E with just the pressure of the ball against the plate, really nice, easy to remove... completely non-intrusive.

I have installed three so far and will always get them on every guitar from now on.

 

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Bridge pins made of fossilized whale penis are best for the sound.

For bridge plates to get gouged out by ball ends it would need a very long time, a bridge plate made of the wrong material, size or thickness, or straightup wrong string installment I imagine.  But even if they do over a long period of time, the holes can just as easily be plugged when the guitar is in for a then-much-needed overhaul. In any case metal parts don't belong anywhere inside my acoustics.

 

Edited by Leonard McCoy

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