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Wired ABR Bridge?

Black Lab

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Mar 22, 2009
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45
Hello,

I'm wondering about the use of the retaining wire on the ABR-1 bridge.
I've read about it, seen pictures of bridges that have the wire on them, but my '09 G0's bridge is "wireless".

Seems that the custom shop goes back and forth, using the wired bridge or not using it.

Anybody know the rhyme or reason of why some guitars/ years/ models get a wired bridge, and some do not?

From a historical accuracy perspective, did any of the golden years guitars have wired bridges, or is it a modern invention?

Also, safe to assume that the wire is there to keep the saddles from falling out when strings get changed?
 
R

R9.

Guest
They did have wireless bridges back in the day.
Gibson started using them again this year.

Also, safe to assume that the wire is there to keep the saddles from falling out when strings get changed?
...or for when a string breaks.
 

Guitar Whiskey

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The wireless is generally preferred since the tolerances are supposedly better and the individual saddles stay in the slots better. The wire is a band aid to keep the sloppier workmanship bridge from having the saddles fall out. The wire can also be annoying by causing a sitar like sound. Do a search on this; there are many discussions.
 

DoubleBoogie

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Messages
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They put the wireless ABR-1 in the Historics made in 02. They went wireless again this year. Other than that, you have to go back to the 50's and ealry 60's to get a wireless ABR-1.
 

Mark Kane

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Jul 18, 2001
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the original bridges were wireless. They are no better than later ones and if you've ever broke a string and had a saddle pop out on a dark stage you would stick to the later wired bridges.
 

Guitar Whiskey

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the original bridges were wireless. They are no better than later ones and if you've ever broke a string and had a saddle pop out on a dark stage you would stick to the later wired bridges.

I agree, the only downside to the wired bridge is if it developes the sitar phenomina.
 

Black Lab

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Mar 22, 2009
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45
Cool, thanks for all the responses.
The saddles on my bridge are in there pretty tight, no way they'd fall out under any circumstance. When I had to flip a few of the saddles around to intonate it, I had to pry them out with an awl. It's hard to get them back in as well- I really had to press, and my A string was making a wonky sound afterwards until I really gave the saddle a good shove to seat it fully.

Funny thing about that sitar sound- my E and B strings did the sitar thing when I first got it, I guess because those saddles weren't fully seated. The strings were just touching the back of the bridge because the angle was too great too, so it could have been that.
It was a really, really realistic sitar sound as well- the effect would gradually swell after the note was plucked- sounded amazing. I wanted to record some Indian sounding scales and patterns, then loop them later to use in recordings, but I was in a hurry to get it properly set up. Now I'm thinking about trying to un-do what I did and try to get it to do it again. Maybe not, though...
 

j45

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Jun 14, 2002
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The wireless is generally preferred since the tolerances are supposedly better and the individual saddles stay in the slots better. The wire is a band aid to keep the sloppier workmanship bridge from having the saddles fall out. The wire can also be annoying by causing a sitar like sound. Do a search on this; there are many discussions.

I didn't do a search but I've never heard of this. I have owned and played literally hundreds of both wired and wireless bridges. I have several spares of each of each in my parts bins. First of all, there were no specs changed with the addition of the wire. Same die, same bridge and saddles. This is easy to tell because of the imperfect cast mark in the frame next to the foundry mark is retained. If they would have changed specs this would not have remained. The problem with loose saddles comes from adjustment and day to day use. Both wired and wireless are intitially tight when new and pressure "snap" into place when brand new. I've always swapped bridges on my non-wire era players that I gig with. The non-wire bridges unless new will loose a saddle when a string breaks. It is a poor concept for a working musician.

The wire was incorporated into the design as a solution for Gibson owners who were loosing saddles. There just aren't any other differences or changes that took place when the wire was added. If there are some who say the wire was added to compensate for sloppy workmanship they must be referring to the original non-wire ABR-1 and not understanding that it was wear, not workmanship that caused issues. I've owned as many "mint" or like new non-wire Gibsons as I have wired ABR-1 guitars. I've had many opportunities to notice that the fit is tight on both when new and the saddles "snap" into place nicely with each. I've also lost several from non-wire ABR-1's that have begun to loosen. I believe a lot of the stories and myths concerning vintage guitars on the internet are sometimes innocently created in discussions trying to speculate and explain why certain things take place or changes were made. I've probably removed and replaced the retaining wire on an ABR-1 several dozen times over the past 30 years. Considering the design and fit of the wire I honestly can't see that it could be a source of sitar effect. This occurs on just about any bridge with improperly cut, fitted, or heavily worn saddles.
 

DoubleBoogie

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I didn't do a search but I've never heard of this. I have owned and played literally hundreds of both wired and wireless bridges. I have several spares of each of each in my parts bins. First of all, there were no specs changed with the addition of the wire. Same die, same bridge and saddles. This is easy to tell because of the imperfect cast mark in the frame next to the foundry mark is retained. If they would have changed specs this would not have remained. The problem with loose saddles comes from adjustment and day to day use. Both wired and wireless are intitially tight when new and pressure "snap" into place when brand new. I've always swapped bridges on my non-wire era players that I gig with. The non-wire bridges unless new will loose a saddle when a string breaks. It is a poor concept for a working musician.

The wire was incorporated into the design as a solution for Gibson owners who were loosing saddles. There just aren't any other differences or changes that took place when the wire was added. If there are some who say the wire was added to compensate for sloppy workmanship they must be referring to the original non-wire ABR-1 and not understanding that it was wear, not workmanship that caused issues. I've owned as many "mint" or like new non-wire Gibsons as I have wired ABR-1 guitars. I've had many opportunities to notice that the fit is tight on both when new and the saddles "snap" into place nicely with each. I've also lost several from non-wire ABR-1's that have begun to loosen. I believe a lot of the stories and myths concerning vintage guitars on the internet are sometimes innocently created in discussions trying to speculate and explain why certain things take place or changes were made. I've probably removed and replaced the retaining wire on an ABR-1 several dozen times over the past 30 years. Considering the design and fit of the wire I honestly can't see that it could be a source of sitar effect. This occurs on just about any bridge with improperly cut, fitted, or heavily worn saddles.

I was always under the impression that the tooling that made the bridge and the saddles didn't have tight tolerances to begin. As a result, there were some early examples that were nice and tight and others a little loose when new. As they made more and more, the tooling became more worn creating more slop in the tolerances and saddles started getting lost. Instead of replacing the tooling, Gibson opted for a retaining wire which was obviously a lot cheaper and served them well for a long time. The idea of wear being the issue doesn't make much sense to me because once the intonation is set, those saddles will go untouched for a very long time. I wouldn't think they would wear from being adjusted every once in a blue moon. Corrosion from sweat perhaps???
 

Black Lab

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Mar 22, 2009
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So, why did the custom shop switch to the authentic wireless bridge in '02, then stop from 03-08, then start again now?
Schizophrenia? There must be some reason.
 

sidekick

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Jun 20, 2005
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So, why did the custom shop switch to the authentic wireless bridge in '02, then stop from 03-08, then start again now?
Schizophrenia? There must be some reason.

Your question was answered by Geoff, (the previous GibsonCustom forum admin) some time back on the early GibsonCustom forum... It was due to the fact that Gibson felt the '02 quality/tolerances of wireless bridges could not be maintained in any great number....

IMO, j45's post really sums it all up... Fact probably is, that the wired ABR-1 bridge, (when introduced in the early 60's) was considered an upgrade by Gibson... It is only some 'purists' that felt the no-wire ABR-1 more 'correct' on a historic and the chances are that the Pigtail no-wire ABR-1 is w-a-y better than the Gibson current one... I can't even get the saddles off a Pigtail ABR-1 type bridge that was sent to me... :dang
 

j45

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I was always under the impression that the tooling that made the bridge and the saddles didn't have tight tolerances to begin. As a result, there were some early examples that were nice and tight and others a little loose when new. As they made more and more, the tooling became more worn creating more slop in the tolerances and saddles started getting lost. Instead of replacing the tooling, Gibson opted for a retaining wire which was obviously a lot cheaper and served them well for a long time. The idea of wear being the issue doesn't make much sense to me because once the intonation is set, those saddles will go untouched for a very long time. I wouldn't think they would wear from being adjusted every once in a blue moon. Corrosion from sweat perhaps???


If they are untouched they will stay tight for decades. Every ABR-1 I've had that was virtually unplayed was pretty tight, even the wired versions. As you said, corrosion and sweat are a big issue. I have pics of well worn ABR'1's that have nearly 50% of the ear crumbled off from corroision. Also saddles that have corners rounded off at a 45. For most players the brunt of movement and force from contact of the picking hand is inflicted directly on the ABR-1. Look at any well played old Gibson and the ABR-1 shows every bit the wear of the guitar....and we've all seen ABR-1's that collapse in the middle. I also think a lot more players fool with saddle adjustments than you may think.

The other thing I should mention is that the pressure fit is from the screws, not the saddles or bridge body. Saddles won't make a bit of difference. It's the screws that snap into place. If there was any poor workmanship it was from whoever made the screws. They will only snap in and out so many times or take so much contact before the fit loosens. As I mentioned above the bridge does flex and change shape ( the plating also wears) as played which also no doubt leads to loosening of the screws.
 

j45

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OK, I went and grabbed a handful of old ABR-1's out of my parts drawer to take a closer look. I found one original 1950's no-wire that was still in pretty decent shape. One of the saddles was still snug and the screw snapped in nicely. It's the second saddle from the end shown in the no-wire pics. For fun I took a pic of a wired ABR-1 that shows average wear. You can see the flaking from sweat/corrosion and contact from the picking hand.

I also took a photo of the bottoms of a non-wire and wired ABR-1 to show the "step" in the frame of the ABR-1 logo area, right next to the maker's foundry mark. Everyone can now start complaining that the current Historic ABR-1 is not historically accurate and lacks the step from the die error.

Most relevant to this discussion is that while I was fooling around with the ABR-1's i snapped the screw in and out of the still snug saddle repetitiously for a minute or two. Guess what?....it falls out now......


Below:

An original 50's no-wire ABR-1. The "snug fit" takes place when you place the tip of the screw in the tiny hole then "snap" down on the bridge body. The saddle itself does not make any significant contact. The little lip below the screw head forms a pressure fit. After repeating this process briefly the screw is no longer snug and falls right out. i really think this is the answer to the "why" question.
abr15.jpg


Another angle of the original 50's no-wire:
abr12.jpg


An early 60's "wired" ABR-1 with some player wear. This screw (repro..notice non-beveled edge) was replaced a while back and also saddle cut indecisively at some point.
abr13.jpg


On the right side of the logo frame you will notice a little "step" at the edge. This step is a die flaw and is on all original ABR-1's. The "step" is only on this end....the other end is square to the edge. The "step" is not duplicated on the Historic ABR-1's. (good way to tell a repro from original)

abr16.jpg


abr17.jpg
 
Last edited:

buckaroo

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Feb 17, 2009
Messages
938
I agree, the only downside to the wired bridge is if it developes the sitar phenomina.

the sitar problem is fixed for good in seconds with the push of a screwdriver to bend the wire slightly. As referenced in Erlewine's book. Once that is done the wired ABR-1 works great...plus it keeps the saddles in place without worry. Seems like the benefit of wireless is mostly for nostalgia sake to me.
 

j45

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Very interesting posts and pics! Thanks for sharing that with us.


It was educational for me as well. Never gave this much thought, just handled a bunch over the years and going by what I recall. I wish someone who knows how the process of die casting works could add something. Since it was molten metal poured into a die I wonder if there would have been any "tooling" wear at all like we see in the changes over the years in PAF covers that were stamped. Also the metal seems a bit porous if you ever crack one. I recall one that had worn way down through plating and felt almost sandy as if it was starting to crumble.

After I posted the pics I realized that I have an original NOS early 60's nickel ABR-1 wired version that is new in it's original orange box. It is a nylon saddle version that started in 1963 but screws and body are identical to the brass saddle version. With the wire off there is no way you could shake the screws out. The lock in with a tight "snap". A few were so tight that I could barely get them out. I hadn't put saddles back when I took the pic but here's a couple of shots. I really think this dispells the idea that Gibson added the wire due to poor workmanship or tooling wear. In the photo the saddle on the end is from an old no-wire bridge that has wear. The old screw is loose in the no wire but still snaps in tightly in the NOS wired so it seems that the body itself is giving a little when they loosen.

abox.jpg


abox2.jpg
 

harveyP

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Apr 22, 2003
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I thought the screws are slightly different on wire ABR-1s. Don't they have a collar that takes the thickness of the wire?
 

guitarvoodoo

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I thought the screws are slightly different on wire ABR-1s. Don't they have a collar that takes the thickness of the wire?

There is a VERY small difference in the collar length of the wore and non-wire saddle screws. Interestingly I was sitting measuring the two kinds the other day with digital caliper.... due to a slight screw mix-up and I needed to sort them out again.

The screws from a ca. 1960 non-wire have a collar (the skinny bit that 'locks' into the bridge slot) that is approx .066 in long.
A wire ABR-1 from 1963-4 has screw collars .073 long.
That's a tiny difference and I don't know it was intentional and had to do with the addition of the wire. Could just as well be a new batch of screws or a new screw manf.

The most obvious difference between screws is the various edge bevels. It varied several times between mid-50's and early 70's.

My ca. 1960 non-wire has almost no bevel at all on the screws.
'63-64 ABR-1 wired has a fairly large bevel (but not as much as the 50's in j45's pics)
Mid 60's Pat # nickel has a slightly smaller bevel, sort of in-between version.
Late 60's Pat # wired about like the previous one, but the screw collar has gotten a lot longer, making for a very sloppy fit where the screws can slide back and forth in their slots too easily.

j45, do you have more info on the bevels? Your 50's screws have a very pronounced bevel indeed.

/GV
 

j45

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Jun 14, 2002
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There is a VERY small difference in the collar length of the wore and non-wire saddle screws. Interestingly I was sitting measuring the two kinds the other day with digital caliper.... due to a slight screw mix-up and I needed to sort them out again.

The screws from a ca. 1960 non-wire have a collar (the skinny bit that 'locks' into the bridge slot) that is approx .066 in long.
A wire ABR-1 from 1963-4 has screw collars .073 long.
That's a tiny difference and I don't know it was intentional and had to do with the addition of the wire. Could just as well be a new batch of screws or a new screw manf.

The most obvious difference between screws is the various edge bevels. It varied several times between mid-50's and early 70's.

My ca. 1960 non-wire has almost no bevel at all on the screws.
'63-64 ABR-1 wired has a fairly large bevel (but not as much as the 50's in j45's pics)
Mid 60's Pat # nickel has a slightly smaller bevel, sort of in-between version.
Late 60's Pat # wired about like the previous one, but the screw collar has gotten a lot longer, making for a very sloppy fit where the screws can slide back and forth in their slots too easily.

j45, do you have more info on the bevels? Your 50's screws have a very pronounced bevel indeed.

/GV

Here's a pic of varied bevels on wired and non-wire ABR-1 screws. The extra space on the wire screw occurs outside of the bridge body and doesn't effect the fit of the area that makes contact for a tight fit. The bevels are even smaller on the NOS unused ABR-1 in the pic above and snap tight. The old no wire bridges I have are every bit as loose as the old wired ABR-1's. Interesting is that if you take the NOS screws from the ABR-1 in the box and place them in a the old 50's no wire they are loose as can be. The screws from the 50's no wire are tight in the NOS wired but loose in the used wired bridges.

abrscrew.jpg
 

harveyP

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Apr 22, 2003
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This is a pic of the ABR-1 on my '59 330. I am pretty sure this has never been messed with and so has its original screws and saddles. It shows the thin headed screw heads and the minimum of collar width. I have seen several variations of original screws. I'll try and put some more photos together.
P1010705.jpg
 
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