New Offset Bridge Design - the Toughset

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Deed_Poll
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New Offset Bridge Design - the Toughset

Post by Deed_Poll » Sun Feb 03, 2019 2:36 pm

Hey guys!

My apologies to those of you waiting on projects! Normal service will soon be resumed. Thank you for your patience!

I have stumbled upon an opportunity with a contact who runs a 5-axis CNC mill (the real deal!) that can cut steel, brass, aluminium, etc. so I've been working like a mad man putting together a design for an offset bridge.

A few months ago, with Staytrem winding things down a bit and selling only into the UK, and then only in limited numbers, when it came to choosing a bridge design to build my Juniorbird model around I was in a tricky situation.

And an even trickier situation for our friends outside of the UK!

I've always preferred the 'high friction rocking' design to the 'low friction fixed' approach. I just feel like that was the way Leo designed the Jazzmaster, Jaguar and Mustang to operate. So even excellent designs like the Mastery, or using some kind of roller bridge, were not preferred options for me.

I always loved the StayTrem - these days, the world of boutique guitar parts can be confusing, misleading and rife with opportunists hocking the latest snake oil. John at StayTrem has always stood out as a light in a dark marketplace.

I've taken for granted for many years now that I don't have to worry about what bridge I want to use when making almost any guitar with a behind-the-bridge vibrato, and the idea that the StayTrem won't be around forever or that I won't be able to guarantee a supply chain motivated me to find or develop an alternative.

I decided to develop my own bridge design for the Juniorbird, but in doing so I noticed I was collecting a few simple but, I think, decent ideas that I could apply to a retrofit offset bridge. Nothing revolutionary, just a commonsense approach toward designing a set radius / intonation-adjustable / post height-adjustable bridge that leaves no thread untightened.

It was a bit of a challenge fitting it all in there (mostly, keeping it nice and shallow whilst incorporating the locking features I wanted to include) but I got there in the end. I won't say it's 100% finished, but it's at the point where I have something to give to my CNC contact. I've got all the part numbers and have pretty solid supply chains of all the other hardware, screws and fixings I'll need.

So here it is! I call it the Toughset bridge (geddit?). If you think that's a rubbish name (I mean, 'tough' doesn't even rhyme with 'off', so there's that) then give me your suggestions below!

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I'll be the first to admit it won't be the most intuitive bridge to dial in, but I'm hoping it will be a 'set it and forget it' kind of deal.

Basically, the saddles are threaded from underneath and compressed against the chassis using the 6 bolts on the underside of the bridge.

I'm hoping it will be possible to tighten them just slightly before installation, so they can still be slid up and down their intonation range, but will stay in their place under string pressure.

You then set the saddles where you want them by hand with the strings on, loosen the strings, remove the bridge and turn the bolts absolutely tight. Then that's the intonation set.

To set the height, here's where it gets a little bit complicated. Basically, each post has three separate bolts - a mushroom-head bolt on top (the brass one you can see), a very short set screw below that (the locking bolt) and a longer set screw at the bottom (the actual point that stocks out of the cylinder and rests in the thimble). The bridge post is threaded on the inside and inset into the underside of the bridge chassis, and the three bolts above sit in order going down it.

To set the bridge height, you take out the brass cap (6mm long). Then you undo the locking set screw and remove that.

Now you string up the guitar with those two removed. When you turn the last screw, naturally that will raise and lower the bridge.

Set the height correctly, then drive in the locking set screw until it tightens onto the bottom screw, locking it into place. The locking set screw also ends in a point so that it doesn't grip onto the height screw and turn it around, instead it just locks it into its threads.

Then finally you tighten on the mushroom-head screw, this fully locks the whole bridge post together and onto the chassis.

I hope that makes some kind of sense! You can tell I haven't had time to think about what I'm calling all these different screws yet, I'm hoping to set it out more clearly in future!

Let me know what you think of the design and whether you could be bothered to go through all that! For all that it's a bit of a faff, the benefit is that there's not a single thread that isn't tightened right up against itself. Hopefully this should mean no rattles and good stability.

Cheers!

Dan

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Re: New Offset Bridge Design - the Toughset

Post by higgsblossom » Sun Feb 03, 2019 2:52 pm

Very cool! It reads as if you found a way to mix the simplicity of the Staytrem and the... well... mastery of the Mastery into something new, giving us one more option which in a niche market like this is always a nice thing.

Basically it is, after setup, a drop in replacement, right? It will not alter the guitar in any way.
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Re: New Offset Bridge Design - the Toughset

Post by Deed_Poll » Sun Feb 03, 2019 3:24 pm

Hi Higgs! Yeah it's designed to sit in standard thimbles spaced at 2-7/8". I think that's the same for all MIJ, MIM and AVRI so it should retrofit those models and vintage JMs, Jags, and Mustangs without any modification.

I don't want to seem like I'm shilling, I literally just finished the design today and if they become available it won't be for quite a long time!

More that I wanted to share the design process and take some suggestions and some feedback on the functionality, whether it sounds like a nightmare to set it up, and on the aesthetics of the design.

Thanks for the kind words! It's definitely more StayTrem than Mastery I would say. Though the Mastery is very well made and functions well for what it is, my criticisms are

1) it's very expensive
2) you can't properly intonate a wound G string
3) it's a fixed post / low friction system and I prefer rocking (YMMV!)

It's definitely a really interesting design though, and there are a lot of interesting and inventive ideas! So I don't want it to sound like I'm ragging on Mastery!

They also make the best offset vibrato out there. Though I'm still a bit annoyed that they wouldn't let me use them in my guitars because I prefer the StayTrem bridge design! In fairness to them it probably wasn't only that, I also wanted to engineer a different shaped mounting plate and they didn't like that either :D

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Re: New Offset Bridge Design - the Toughset

Post by N0_Camping4U » Sun Feb 03, 2019 3:28 pm

Amazing!! Very intriguing! Great work. Any chance this can be used with the mute?
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Re: New Offset Bridge Design - the Toughset

Post by Deed_Poll » Sun Feb 03, 2019 3:49 pm

Cheers dude! Alas, I didn't think of the mute! It's slightly broader than a normal offset bridge so I fear not.

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Re: New Offset Bridge Design - the Toughset

Post by kdanie » Sun Feb 03, 2019 3:50 pm

I like it, once it's set up it should never be an issue again...

ken
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Re: New Offset Bridge Design - the Toughset

Post by MechaBulletBill » Sun Feb 03, 2019 4:00 pm

Is the spacing staytrem-approved 52mm??

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Re: New Offset Bridge Design - the Toughset

Post by Deed_Poll » Sun Feb 03, 2019 4:05 pm

Hey Ken! Hope you're good :)

Yeah that's what I was thinking, it would have been fairly straightforward to make it easier to adjust if I had a bit more thickness to work with - but it's easy to forget just how compact and flat the offset bridges are.

There's also the issue that because lots of offsets have shims in the neck and lots don't, you have to accommodate a very wide range of bridge heights and that compounds the thickness issue because you have limited space to allow for adjustment and locking mechanisms along the axis you need them.

For simplicity's sake, a locking bridge post could be done by screwing a long threaded rod with a pointed tip down though post holes in the bridge until the right length is sticking out of the bottom, tightened against the bridge with a nut from the top (no room on the bottom) and cut off next to the nut. But then you can't adjust it to raise the bridge or you'll run out of thread; and you can't adjust it to lower the bridge without the rod spiking you in the hand!

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Re: New Offset Bridge Design - the Toughset

Post by mbene085 » Sun Feb 03, 2019 4:09 pm

Honestly, it's cool that you're working on this underserviced market, parts-wise, but that bridge looks too time-consuming to set up for me to be interested, personally. Having to take the bridge off the guitar for intonation adjustment makes something hard that is currently easy on every other Offset bridge.

This is just off the top of my head, but if each saddle had a hole drilled on either side with a set screw recessed inside, you could use the same principle of screwing the saddles down while making it possible to set intonation with the bridge on the guitar and still keeping screw heads away from the side of your palm while playing.

I'd be interested in one if the setup didn't involve removing the bridge repeatedly. I'm very meticulous about setting intonation and I don't want to have to decide between getting the lastcouple of cents of accuracy and taking the bridge off for the fifth time.

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Re: New Offset Bridge Design - the Toughset

Post by antisymmetric » Sun Feb 03, 2019 4:18 pm

Great concept, it has the locking features of the Wilkinson roller bridge that I like so much, but in an offset style bridge. Everything locked down tight, plus losing all those adjuster screws and springs etc makes for a pretty elegant unit IMO. I guess radius would be adjustable via shims if necessary(?) I've been unable to come up with something I'd truly want to use in my JM build until seeing what you've done here. I was going in the direction of Compton, but what you're doing is really nice, I'd be up for one if they get made. 8) 8) 8)
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Re: New Offset Bridge Design - the Toughset

Post by PJazzmaster » Sun Feb 03, 2019 4:36 pm

Subscribed

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Re: New Offset Bridge Design - the Toughset

Post by timtam » Sun Feb 03, 2019 4:44 pm

I like your novel 'no compromise' design solutions to key issues ...
- locking screw on height adjustment to prevent sinking
- lockable intonation, with no need for intonation screws / springs
- low friction Mosrite-like string bearings with deep grooves
- no front/back walls so no string fouling

Somewhat complex but probably manageable. It's not like it's going to sell to the sort of player who has a jag/JM for years and yet never realizes that the classic bridge has a height adjustment ! But for those who want the simplest drop-in solution it's not quite like Mastery's KISS principle approach.

Top-locking Wilkinson roller bridge saddles might be a preferable saddle locking mechanism to the the underside saddle screws. That's the main drawback to my mind. Mosrite-like adjustment could be another option, but brings back TOM-like intonation screws.

The only thing it lacks is adjustable radius. But avoids more screws by omitting it. You could just supply different sets of fixed radius saddles (eg just the 4 outer ones). And maybe a rocking and 'snugger' set of posts ... do your posts actually detach ? It looks like they might.

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Re: New Offset Bridge Design - the Toughset

Post by Deed_Poll » Sun Feb 03, 2019 5:01 pm

Hey Mike!

Yeah I understand what you mean, I guess I'm going to have to find out when I get the first one made how easy it is to tighten those screws just to the point where you can push them into the right place, but not so loose that they'll be jogged out of position when taking the bridge off to lock them down. I've already been thinking about potential 'hacks' for this, like setting them loose (just string tension keeping them down) and maybe using a bit of blu tac either side to keep it in place just until you can get underneath it? But I agree, it isn't ideal. I'm hoping it will only need to be intimated once because that would definitely be frustrating to have to take it on and off several times!

What you suggest would definitely work, but it would mean making the saddles a lot longer to allow for the intonation range and that would mean moving away from the lathe and into more modern territory, and one of the things I personally like about the design is that it has a simple turned appearance to the saddles (like the StayTrem / Mustang bridges). As it stands, I think a bunch of these saddles can be made all in a line with only two processes, and since they're released on the lathe they will have that cool finish to them straight off the machine.

Cheers Antisymmetric! Yeah I have been looking at the Compton bridges as well, they look really decent and one of the things I like about those is the choice of materials. I'll chat to the CNC guy about making some sets of saddles in brass and steel, and maybe making a lightweight version of the bridge in polished aluminium. It will be interesting to mix and match and see if I can hear a difference.

Thanks PJazzmaster! Good to have you aboard ;)

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Re: New Offset Bridge Design - the Toughset

Post by Deed_Poll » Sun Feb 03, 2019 5:16 pm

Hi timtam,

So despite appearances, the saddles would not be rollers, much as that would be cool! They're just plain old threaded barrel saddles like you'd have on a Mustang bridge, only they're threaded and locked in to the back like you say. If anything, I'd like to go higher friction! The best functioning offset vibrato I own is the original rusted out bridge on my '65 Jazzmaster and that is all friction!

You raise some good points as mbene085 did before regarding the impractical adjustment, I guess I'll have to wait and see how that goes.

You could probably only get the posts to detach, with a lot of effort! They'll be press-fit 3mm deep into the bridge base, and tightened down (up?) additionally by the brass mushroom headed bolt at the top.

The rocking motion won't take place at the top of the bridge, that will all be rigid as hell, but instead it will rock on the base of the bridge thimbles as per the original Fender design.

For different radii, I think I'll make different saddles and mount them to a common bridge 'chassis'. This one is 7-1/4" radius, but the actual arc of the bridge plate top surface is 12" to keep a bit more thickness at the ends. I guess the customer will specify the radius they want when they buy the bridge, like a StayTrem, and I'll put the bridges together as they're ordered. But honestly that's thinking a long way ahead :)

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Re: New Offset Bridge Design - the Toughset

Post by rank » Sun Feb 03, 2019 5:38 pm

This looks extremely interesting
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