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Leaving the factory: Bone, Plastic, or Tusq?


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That looks like you have the standard bone nut they use in Montana. The saddle looks like tusq, though it is not the standard tusq they currently use in Bozeman, which does not have the squared off box around the B string compensation.

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Sorry but you have been missing the point. Almost all the folks that buy a new guitar go out and buy pins that they personally like. They do this at the exact same time they change the strings to the

. I'll mostly agree with Bob.   I'm chiming in because this is one of my pet peeves about Gibson and it's more variable than I'd like. My J-200 came with a bone nut, tusq saddle and plastic pins. I

Tusq is more consistent than bone so they use Tusq for guitars with pick-ups.

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That looks like you have the standard bone nut they use in Montana. The saddle looks like tusq, though it is not the standard tusq they currently use in Bozeman, which does not have the squared off box around the B string compensation.

 

 

thanks much for the info!! i'm so glad it isn't plastic. it's an early 2000's J-50. 2001, i think. i wondered about why it has that squared off portion on the bridge? never had a guitar with that type of bridge.

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That looks like you have the standard bone nut they use in Montana. The saddle looks like tusq, though it is not the standard tusq they currently use in Bozeman, which does not have the squared off box around the B string compensation.

 

+1

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I can't speak for everyone. But I would answer yes to your questions.

 

I know some of the guys like the fossilized bone too.

 

 

whoooa! fossilized bone? i had no idea! haha. i do like the look of ebony pins with the nice mother of pearl inlay on the top. i may go for those. every time i go to a shop though, they usually just have plastic end pins. i need to find a good online site for these things.

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so is the general consensus that plastic pins should be upgraded; that bone or ebony end pins will improve sound tonality overall? i've also heard brass pins can be good...

 

There are many opinions of bridge pin upgrades. Some say they don't hear any change. Some say they do. My opinion is if you expect to hear a change, you probably will. I think there's a placebo effect going on here. The only way to know for sure is to have a friend change the pins (or not) and play for you without you knowing which kind of pins are installed. If you can't identify which pins are which, then you can't hear the difference, if any.

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Anyone have any idea what type of saddle a 1993 Gibson Gospel reissue (made in Bozeman) would have? I certainly can't tell my looking at it. It's a non-compensated saddle if that helps.

 

wish i knew! it would be nice if Gibson had a definitive All Models Spec Page for stuff like that.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Anyone have any idea what type of saddle a 1993 Gibson Gospel reissue (made in Bozeman) would have? I certainly can't tell my looking at it. It's a non-compensated saddle if that helps.

 

I finally heard back from Gibson and they say my Gospel has a bone saddle. Must be why it sounds so good. [tongue]

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Ok guys and gals here is the real reason for tusq vs bone. Bone is organic and can and does have a cell structure. Bone can have weak spots and areas where there are, for want of a better term, vacancies. Soft spots are very common in bone and can't be detected by a visual inspection. They don't pose a problem when a guitar is played acoustically. When you use a under saddle pickup the vibration from the string passes thru the saddle to the pickup. If the bone has a weakness, void, or soft spot that can't be seen the vibration will be diminished and the string played will be amplified weaker than the others. You will have a problem with the amplified balance of the pickup. The the hunt is on. Is it a bad pickup? Is it a bad bridge? Why is this note weaker than the rest?

 

To avoid this problem Gibson went to the tusq saddle. This is a manufactured substance. There are no voids and no soft spots.

 

You might ask your self a couple of questions. Why do people want Buffalo shin bone or Giraffe shin bone? It's because both animals carry a large portion of their weight on their front legs. This is believed to make the bone stronger. Stronger means more vibration transferred. Fossilized Mammoth ivory? Fossilized bone? The same reasoning is applied. Bone can be and is inconsistent. I'm very glad most of you don't find this problem with bone. There are a few that do. Just replace your saddle with your special material and Gibson will try to do the best for the rest of us.

 

Gibson uses the cheapest bridge pins possible for their guitars to keep costs down. They know you all have opinions as to what material is the best so they put cheap pins on the guitar knowing full well you will swap them out at some point. Why put in expensive pins and charge you for them when you will probably change them anyway? How could Gibson possibly know what you like? When they send the guitar to a dealer for his inventory no one knows who will buy the guitar or what they like. So.... Gibson is trying to save you some money and you should appreciate that not criticize them for it.

 

Tusk is better for acoustic guitars with pickups. Simple. Plastic pins are cheap and will cost you less. You can throw them away and put your special blend on as you see fit. Simple....

 

Shame on anyone that uses ivory... I don't care who you are there is no excuse for that.

 

You people can't possibly think that Bob Colossi stays in business just because of unsatisfied Gibson players. I will tell you this. It's only a matter of time before some smart guy will start selling mixed sets of pins. Let me see. Brass for the low E string to make it more crisp.The A-D-and G strings will have fossilized mammoth ivory for mid range clarity and the B and E strings will use ebony to even out the twang.

 

Have fun and experiment. Gibson is not trying to injure their guitars with bad product. They are trying to look out for you.

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I'm sorry Hogeye, but I can't see the reasoning behind Gibson's use of such cheap bridge pins.

 

To keep the cost down...?

 

Of all the components that go into the building of an expensive guitar, the cost of the bridge pins has to be the most insignificant. If you or I can buy a set of bone bridge pins from AllParts for $12 retail, how much do you think it would add to Gibson's cost to buy enough similar pins, for say... a thousand guitars, at Manufacturer's wholesale prices? Maybe three or four dollars per set? (Maybe...?)

 

If Gibson really believed that bridge pins had any significant impact on a guitar's tone, it would make very little sense for them to skimp on that specification and, at the same time, go through all the arduous quality control procedures that are an integral part of their acoustic guitar production.

 

I think it's more likely that they just don't believe (as your last paragraph seems to indicate you also do not believe...) that bridge pin material has any impact on the quality of a guitar's sound.

 

In fact, if they believe that it does matter, shouldn't Gibson warn their new guitar customers that the Company assumes the buyer of a new Gibson guitar will be changing the pins, and explain that that's the reason the plastic bridges pins they've included on the acoustic guitar (for which that customer may have just paid as much as $4,000), are of such inferior quality compared to the rest of that instrument's components?

 

It makes no sense for Gibson to build a guitar like my "SJ-200 True Vintage" (with an MSRP of $6,330) and then expect me to have to correct defects in the quality of its sound because, (in the name of "keeping the cost down"...MSRP $6,330...?) they have made the decision to use some parts that they know are at a level of quality which is far below that of the rest of the guitar's construction and design standards.

 

I really HOPE the reason that Gibson's bridge pins are so cheap is because they don't think the material of the bridge pins has any impact on the quality of a guitar's sound at all.

 

While I can't agree with that premise, it might, at least, help to explain their use of such inferior quality bridge pins on such expensive acoustic guitars. Trying to cut back costs on a quality guitar by using what are known to be less than quality materials makes no sense at all...

 

If Gibson had chosen quality bridge pins for any of the many new Gibson acoustic guitars that I currently own, I wouldn't have had to buy replacements from Bob Colosi at his retail prices. I didn't have to go into that retail market to replace (at top dollar prices...)the bridge pins on any of my new Martin acoustics.

 

Gibson is just trying to save me money?.... I don't think so...

 

Obviously, I am a player who does believe that the use of different materials for bridge pins can have a definite impact on the quality of a guitar's sound... and for the small extra amount that it would cost Gibson, I believe they should supply their customers with a product that is "quality" from top to bottom, instead of assuming that the buyer will know where the builder has made compromises that may negatively impact tone (unless remedied by that buyer, after purchase).

 

Jack6849

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.

+1

 

 

Well done Jack. . . B)

 

Yeah but... I just bought a relatively cheap Martin HD28-V (MSRP @ 4100) and it came with plastic pins, too.

 

Maybe they all think we're all going to change them anyway.

 

Plastic < Bone?

 

Bone < Walrus tusk?

 

Walrus Tusk < Fossil Mammoth tusk?

 

They might be right.

 

I've decided to leave my guitar alone.

 

It sounds pretty good just the way it is.

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I'm sorry Hogeye, but I can't see the reasoning behind Gibson's use of such cheap bridge pins.

 

To keep the cost down...?

 

Obviously, I am a player who does believe that the use of different materials for bridge pins can have a definite impact on the quality of a guitar's sound... and for the small extra amount it would cost Gibson, I believe they should supply their customers with a product that is "quality" from top to bottom, instead of assuming that the buyer will know where the builder has made compromises which may negatively impact tone unless remedied after purchase.

 

 

I think Gibson's reasoning makes perfect sense. I think most people who spend multi-thousands on a guitar are tweakers by nature, always looking to "improve" the sound. Had your Gibson come with TUSQ pins, you probably would have changed them to bone. Had it come with bone pins, some would change to another kind of bone or maybe even to TUSQ. If you believe bridge pins affect the sound (I am personally skeptical), then consistency is important and plastic or TUSQ will be more consistent than bone.

 

Let's face it, Gibson is run by MBAs and their main objective is to make money while satisfying their customers. They are probably achieving both those goals.

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When I bought a new Martin D-18 in 1971 it came with plastic pins. A few years ago when I bought a new Martin OM-21, it came with plastic pins. Plastic pins are in fact the industry standard. The pins are an inexpensive accessory; you can keep the stock pins or choose what suits you among the many materials and styles available. Gibson has no way of satisfying every individual taste on this matter. They choose, like most other manufacturers, to keep the cost down on this item and let you customize to your liking.

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I've had a few guitars that came with ebony or rosewood bridge pins, and I changed them out to plastic due to visual preferences. Imho, bridge pin material will make little to no difference. They are primarily a safety stopper for the strings, as the majority of string force & tension should be riding on the ball as it rests on the bridge plate. If there's a significant amount of pressure on the pin, the string is not seated properly. On the other hand, saddle material can be a big game changer since string vibration is flowing directly through the saddle. If I thought pins made a significant difference, their visual aspects would be less of a priority. Thankfully, this is one area where we can easily experiment to our heart's content.

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What originally got me going on the issue of Gibson’s bridge pins was not just that they were plastic, but that they were so poorly-constructed.

 

The ones that came on my 2009 “Southern Jumbo”, my 2010 “SJ-200 True Vintage”, and the 2011 “J-200 Jr.” that I special-ordered from the Bozeman Custom Shop, were all the same. Not just plastic, but two-piece injection-molded plastic with halves that were completely mismatched and stuck together with overlaps on both the horizontal and the vertical axes.

 

The quality of those pins was completely inferior to the standards reflected in the rest of the guitar.

 

The point that other manufacturers, like Martin, also use plastic bridge pins is valid, however on guitar models at the top of their price list, (those in the same category as the Gibson acoustics I mentioned above), Martin’s bridge pins are usually bone, and in some cases “fossilized Ivory”.

 

But even when Martin chooses to use plastic pins, they are of a quality far superior to the ones Gibson supplies on new guitars.

 

For acoustic guitars this expensive (and well-made) to come with such inferior bridge pins (even in plastic) is, in my opinion, a puzzling inconsistency, especially in light of Gibson’s otherwise obvious commitment to quality. Perhaps any bridge pin material may satisfy some players tonally, but how much more could it cost Gibson to supply a factory-installed bridge pin (even a plastic one…) of decent quality?

 

Disregarding the issue of a bridge pin’s effect on the sound of a guitar, even “cosmetically”, Gibson’s cheap, poorly-made bridge pins do not belong on guitars of such beauty and artistic merit otherwise.

 

Of course players are always free to change any guitar’s bridge pins if they prefer something else, (for reasons “cosmetic” or “tonal”), but on an expensive acoustic guitar, such poorly constructed pins (of any material) are not appropriate, and are certainly not in keeping with the standard of quality reflected in the rest of the guitar.

 

For me, the material used in bridge pin construction makes an easily perceptible difference in a guitar’s tonality. For others, it is obviously a matter of little or no concern.

 

In any case, using such poorly-constructed parts on a guitar with the inherent quality of a Gibson, especially when superior alternatives (even in plastic) are obviously available to competing builders, seems to me to be inappropriate, unnecessary, and at the very least, ironic in the extreme.

 

Jack6849

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What originally got me going on the issue of Gibson’s bridge pins was not just that they were plastic, but that they were so poorly-constructed.

 

If Gibson's plastic pins are as bad as you say (and I have no reason to believe they are not), then I agree. [biggrin]

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I haven't seen the plastic pins on Jack's guitar, but the ones on my Gibson guitars are pretty similar in quality to those supplied by Martin. It's possible they had a crappy batch of pins and Jack got lucky, I suppose. I am sorry to hear that those pins don't satisfy. Luckily, they can be replaced at almost any music store for the price of a pack of strings.

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I just took a look at the plastic pins on my 08 J-185. There is a visible ridge on the plastic ball of the pin along the join of the two halves, which I never noticed before. To me it looks OK but I can see why someone might not like them. Cheap fixes are to be found at any music store.

 

Pins_on_185.jpg

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I'm sorry Hogeye, but I can't see the reasoning behind Gibson's use of such cheap bridge pins. ... If Gibson really believed that bridge pins had any significant impact on a guitar's tone, it would make very little sense for them to skimp on that specification and, at the same time, go through all the arduous quality control procedures that are an integral part of their acoustic guitar production.

 

If Gibson really thought those inexpensive plastic bridge pins were "poorly constructed" and not of "decent quality", they wouldn't use them. They think they're the least expensive perfectly good alternative, that they look fine and function perfectly well. You apparently get the rationale for going with the least expensive sufficiently high quality option, but. obviously, you disagree with the quality assessment. The problem is that, just because the pins offend your aesthetic and aural sensibilities, you shouldn't assume that Gibson considers them to be of sub-standard quality and "skimps" by using them anyway.

 

-- Bob R

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Of course, you're right about the ease of bridge pin replacement Jerry K. The fact is that virtually every time I buy a new acoustic guitar, I go ahead and immediately order a set of replacement pins, bone or fossil Ivory, from Bob Colosi.

 

At $31 (plus shipping... with or without his beautiful Abalone dot inlays...) his artistically-made one-piece bone pins seem to me to be a bargain.

 

I don't even mind spending a few extra bucks to add the "Vintage" look of fossil Ivory to a quality guitar now and then... On a recent Custom Shop Martin "D-45V" that I ordered with a premium-grade Adirondack Spruce top and wide string spacing, I replaced Martin's stock bone pins with a set of Colosi's Fossil Ivory pins that are inlayed with highly-colored 4mm Abalone dots. They are really beautiful and add a very special touch.

 

Even though I picked that set mostly for looks (and to add an authentic "Vintage" vibe to such a special guitar), the use of fossil Ivory resulted in a very definite improvement to the Martin's tone.

 

As you say, if some players regard Gibson's choice of bridge pins as a "problem", well... at least it is a "problem" that is easily remedied.

 

It's a "problem" that I've solved for myself many times, and it hasn't ever stopped me from purchasing my next quality acoustic guitar, be it a Gibson "Jackson Browne Signature - Model 1", a Martin "D-45V", or (as happens way too often these days) something that hasn't even occurred to me yet.

 

I just find the inferior quality of the bridge pins that Gibson supplies with new acoustic guitars, even on its most expensive models, to be curious, puzzling, and a worthy Forum discussion topic.

 

Thanks,

Jack6849

 

To rar:

 

I agree with your comment, Bob. Gibson surely must not see the quality of those pins as "substandard". I just can't understand how they've reached that conclusion. I've kept all the bridge pins that were supplied with my new Gibson guitars. They are, at best, of inconsistent quality, and at worst, an embarrassment to the use of the term "quality control".

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