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Old 10-29-09, 01:40 PM   #1
maxsmith
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Les Paul Bridge - Which Direction?

As I peruse pictures of Pauls along the information superhighway - I see some bridges with the screw heads facing the pickups, others facing the tailpiece - some with the angled side of the saddles facing the tailpiece and some with the steep side of the saddles facing the tailpiece - which is correct and/or does it matter?

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Old 10-29-09, 02:13 PM   #2
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Re: Les Paul Bridge - Which Direction?

I believe the "correct" way is with the screw heads facing the pickups. If it's put on the other way the strings may contact the heads as they pass over the bridge to the tail piece.
As for the saddles, it depends on intonation. If you reverse a saddle you can get a little more adjustment depending on which way you need to move the saddle.
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Old 10-29-09, 05:39 PM   #3
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Re: Les Paul Bridge - Which Direction?

The "correct" way is whatever works best for you.
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Old 10-29-09, 06:12 PM   #4
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Re: Les Paul Bridge - Which Direction?

On the Nashville the screws face the tailpiece. On the ABR-1 the screws face the pickup.
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Old 10-29-09, 06:30 PM   #5
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Re: Les Paul Bridge - Which Direction?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Gibsononly View Post
On the Nashville the screws face the tailpiece. On the ABR-1 the screws face the pickup.
this is how i usually do it, but i have switched the nashville and never had any problems.
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Old 10-29-09, 06:40 PM   #6
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Re: Les Paul Bridge - Which Direction?

I sometimes reverse the saddles in the bridge to get the intonation right.
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Old 10-30-09, 06:17 AM   #7
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Re: Les Paul Bridge - Which Direction?

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On the Nashville the screws face the tailpiece. On the ABR-1 the screws face the pickup.
This is the convention, but it doesn't matter at all.
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Old 10-30-09, 06:43 AM   #8
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Re: Les Paul Bridge - Which Direction?

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Originally Posted by D'Mule View Post
This is the convention, but it doesn't matter at all.
Thanks to you and Tom for confirming what I have suspected all along
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Old 10-30-09, 08:42 AM   #9
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Re: Les Paul Bridge - Which Direction?

It's a lot easier to get at the screw heads for adjustment when the string comes off the saddle to the nut, rather than when it angles down to the stop bar.
However, I find almost no need to adjust them a second time, so I wouldn't change the bridge orientation for this reason alone.
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Old 10-30-09, 09:01 AM   #10
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Re: Les Paul Bridge - Which Direction?

Quote:
Originally Posted by D'Mule View Post
This is the convention, but it doesn't matter at all.
The exception to this rule is that Gibsons with vibrato tailpieces usually had the ABR screws facing the tailpiece. One day i might get around to changeing the bridge on my Firebird to the "correct" orientation, but I'm not losing sleep over it.
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Old 10-30-09, 09:51 AM   #11
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Re: Les Paul Bridge - Which Direction?

Quote:
Originally Posted by TW59 View Post
It's a lot easier to get at the screw heads for adjustment when the string comes off the saddle to the nut, rather than when it angles down to the stop bar.
However, I find almost no need to adjust them a second time, so I wouldn't change the bridge orientation for this reason alone.
Tom,
last summer when I set up my '76 Custom, 3 different techs agreed with your manner of bridge placement - when I had believed the conventional way was the "proper" way. What do I know, but I'm learning!
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Old 10-30-09, 05:16 PM   #12
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Re: Les Paul Bridge - Which Direction?

It certainly matters if the notches were cut to space the strings out, and you have heavier notches for the wound strings and finer ones for the plain strings. Or if you let the bridge fall off during a cleaning and wonder which way it's supposed to go back on. If you put it on backwards you'll screw up the intonation and possibly the string spacing.

If there's any confusion about whether the screws on the tailpiece should face the neck or face the tailpiece, yes of course it does matter, you have to first determine which type of bridge you have. There are two types of bridges: the earlier ABR-1 and the newer Nashville design. Currently ABR-1's come on the Historics and most of the production run GibsonUSA guitars have Nashvilles (this varies however since some of the Classic LP's had ABR-1's).

ABR-1 tune-o-matic bridges have the saddle adjustment screws facing the neck. Nashville bridges are installed with the screws facing the tailpiece. So how can you tell which one you have? 
Here's a good shot of each one, and if you look carefully you'll see several important differences. I borrowed this picture from parts is parts, a nice resource:




If your bridge has a wire holding the saddles it's an ABR-1 and the screws should face the neck. (There are now no-wire ABR-1 bridges on the 2009 Historic Reissues - because the tune-0-matics on any Gibson model did not have wires until the sixties so it's a more accurate historic reproduction - but otherwise, the wire was the giveaway).



If your bridge studs look like headless bolts or machine screws that thread directly into the wood without any bushing or socket, it's and ABR-1.



If you bridge has little thumbwheels that spin separately from the studs like nuts, it's an ABR-1.



If your bridge is nickel instead of chrome, it's probably an ABR-1. 



If two or three of the saddles face backwards instead of slanting away from the neck, it's probably an ABR-1. The saddles are meant to have the speaking part of the string coming off the vertical face of the pointy part, kind of like the nut does. However you can't move the saddle back far enough to get proper intonation adjustments so it's common to have the low E, A, and quite often the D turned around so the takeoff point is further back. If three saddles are facing one way and three are facing the other way, it's an easy enough mistake to put the bridge on backwards when restringing. In that case make sure the notches - if it's an old enough bridge has different sized notches - match up with the strings wound vs. plain. And of course you'll get used to remembering the proper orientation of the screws.(Nashville is further South than Kalamazoo, so I think of a Nashville bridge facing South, not necessarily a helpful memory trick though since I got it backwards the first time I typed this).



Here's another shot of the ABR-1.



OK so much for the ABR-1 style bridge. If, on the other hand, your bridge sits on little contraptions that have an integral wheel stuck permanently/moulded onto a stud that's threaded underneath the wheels and smooth above the wheels, weyall then whatchagotthere is a Nashville bridge. The saddle adjustment screws face the tailpiece.



If you have metal threaded inserts that look like little washers stuck to the guitar top under the bridge, then it's a Nashville.



If your bridge has string notches that are all the same size and all exactly centered on the saddle, it's a new Nashville (word has it that Gibson switched from the German made Schaller Nashville bridge and now uses Ping Works bridges from another continent, and the newer bridges are unfortunately pre-notched which is a gripe for another discussion).

If all six saddles have the bevel facing the same way, it's a Nashville, and the correct orientation has the vertical face closer to the neck, with the bevel slanting backwards towards the tailpiece. Since the bridge is wider, and these saddles have more travel, there's plenty of adjustment room for compensation of the saddle placement. As a consequence, you will probably never see a Nashville bridge with any of its saddles flipped around backwards.

When you flip the bridge over and you see openings going all the way through and the saddles are visible from underneath, it's a Nashville.

If you have little black metal spring clips holding the saddle screws from underneath, it's a Nashville. If you ever wanted to remove the saddles you need to gently press the spring with a flat-head screwdriver while backing out the screw, all the while holding the bridge with your third and fourth hands. (If you wanted to remove a saddle on an ABR-1 bridge, then simply let one of your strings break while playing on a dark stage...)





On the other hand, if you had the bridge off, and didn't notice that the bass saddles had big notches and the treble notches were smaller, or you didn't notice how it says "ABR-1" stamped underneath, then you might be a redneck...


If you have a Nashville you may have discovered that the body of the bridge is wider than the ABR-1 so it's possible to spot them on this feature alone. Practically speaking you probably won't be able to crank the tailpiece all the way down because the high and low E strings will start to hit the back edge of the wider Nashville bridge (again, another thread entirely on the subject of tailpiece height).

For those who dislike the Nashville bridge and want more of a vintage vibe from an ABR-1 bridge, it's really not too easy to convert. As far as original equipment is concerned, the Nashville and ABR-1 bridges are not interchangeable because the post spacing is slightly off. There are some aftermarket ABR-1 bridges where the holes are conical, or simply sloppy, so it's possible to jam some of them onto the Nashville studs (so I'm predicting that someone is going to talk about the All-Parts original-style bridge or whatever it's called), but you still have not accomplished a full conversion to ABR-1 if you have the heavier Nashville hardware under there. A complete ABR-1 to Nashville conversion would require that the metal insert bushings be pulled, the wood patched with face-grain plugs (not dowels since the grain runs the wrong way), and new threaded inserts drilled and tapped into the wood at the new spacing location.

I should point out that in my opinion there's nothing wrong with a Nashville bridge other than the fact that it is not historically correct. If you're paying for a Historic Reissue of a fifties 'burst, you should expect accurate hardware, but that doesn't mean the Nashville was a mistake and it certainly wasn't some kind of cost-cutting measure (although Gibson has been accused of a lot of things). The newer bridge design is less prone to collapsing or bending and losing it's radius. It allows greater intonation range. The saddles don't fall out, and they don't rattle. The heavier studs and threaded inserts are not prone to bending or leaning like the older ABR-1 often did (sometimes you see an extra set of bridge thumbwheels planted down against the guitar top to try to stabilize the threaded posts of an ABR-1). If you have a newer Nashville bridge, you might consider having your luthier replace the pre-notched saddles and custom cut the notches on the new ones. This way you can properly space the strings from the edge of the frets and proportionally space them in between so the wound strings aren't crowded. Notching the saddles by eye used to be a hallmark of Gibson hand work that you did not get from the imports or copies, but unfortunately they no longer do this on those models of GibsonUSA guitars where they're using pre-notched saddles.


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Old 10-30-09, 09:50 PM   #13
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Re: Les Paul Bridge - Which Direction?

Anybody tried the Rainbow Bridge?
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Old 10-31-09, 03:01 PM   #14
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Re: Les Paul Bridge - Which Direction?

BobV - there are a few ABR-style bridges that fit perfectly on Nashville posts (you mentioned the Allparts Old Style Tunematic, there is also a Gotoh, the Faber, and some other cheaper bridges). Although it is not a complete ABR conversion (retaining the Nashville post system), using one of these bridges accomplishes a couple of things: They are narrower, and make it possible to lower a high tailpiece if the strings are hitting the back of the Nashville....and in the case of the Allparts bridge, it increased the sustain and just sounded better than the Nashville bridge it replaced. My feeling is that replacing what I think is an ugly and tone-sucking Ping Nashville with the (in my case) Allparts ABR is a worthwhile conversion, and requires no mods to the guitar.

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Old 10-31-09, 03:40 PM   #15
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Re: Les Paul Bridge - Which Direction?

I like my ABR1s to face east.
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Old 10-31-09, 05:16 PM   #16
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Re: Les Paul Bridge - Which Direction?

ABR-1 faces screws towards nut so that it can be intonated. Wether or not it needs intonation is moot.

Saddle's "sloped face" to face rear button to provide proper break / knife edge for string to sit across....unless it needs to be flipped around for increased range of adjustment.

This is standard.

Anything else will work.
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Old 10-31-09, 05:51 PM   #17
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Re: Les Paul Bridge - Which Direction?

BobV - that was the answer I was looking for and a lot more :-) Thanks!

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Old 10-31-09, 06:50 PM   #18
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Re: Les Paul Bridge - Which Direction?

Quote:
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If two or three of the saddles face backwards instead of slanting away from the neck, it's probably an ABR-1. The saddles are meant to have the speaking part of the string coming off the vertical face of the pointy part, kind of like the nut does. However you can't move the saddle back far enough to get proper intonation adjustments so it's common to have the low E, A, and quite often the D turned around so the takeoff point is further back.
Great post!!

I disagree with a small detail though. It's actually the low E and the G that often need to be turned around....the A,D,B, high E are typically closer to the nut than the low E and the G.
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Old 11-01-09, 09:53 AM   #19
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Re: Les Paul Bridge - Which Direction?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Gold Tone View Post
Great post!!

I disagree with a small detail though. It's actually the low E and the G that often need to be turned around....the A,D,B, high E are typically closer to the nut than the low E and the G.
Sure, when a tech needs to flip one around, you're right it's often the G - but those guys know which way the bridge is supposed to face so the post is not written for them. The idea is how to identify a bridge the way they often look coming out of the factory. In my limited experience Gibson ships guitars with ABR-1's with the E & A or the A, E & B flipped around. If somebody's bridge fell off and they didn't know which way to put it back, I was trying to offer a few clues.

And not for anything, nobody's bothered by the lame Jeff Foxworthy joke?
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Old 11-01-09, 01:20 PM   #20
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Re: Les Paul Bridge - Which Direction?

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Anybody tried the Rainbow Bridge?
If there is a better album, I would like to hear it.
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