Crawls Backward (When Alarmed)

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Bigbsy B11 and Compton Bridge Install on Gibson ES-225

I've been thinking for a long time about putting a Bigsby vibrato on my 1958 Gibson ES-225T.  So this weekend, I finally did it!

You may recall I did a lot of work on this guitar, and I wound up putting a trapeze tailpiece and traditional wood archtop bridge on it.

The more I looked at the guitar, the more I thought it might be cool to have a Bigsby on it instead of the trapeze tailpiece.  I like the Bigsby on my Gretsch, and Bigsbys just seem to look right on this style of guitar.

That lead to a lot of research and thought about what type of Bigsby to put on.  I finally decided on a B11, and as luck would have it, I snagged a vintage one!  I was concerned a new one would look too...well, new on my 56-year-old guitar.

So I started the installation by putting some drafting tape on the guitar more-or-less in alignment with the old bridge as a reference before I took it all apart.

Took the strings and the old bridge and tailpiece off.  I forgot I had run a ground wire out to the old tailpiece.  I'll need to connect that to the Bigsby when it's installed.

In addition to the Bigsby, I'm going to ditch the wood bridge for a new Compton bridge.  This particular one is stainless steel.  You may recall I have a titanium (!) one on my Gretsch.

Wayne Compton's bridges are beautifully made.  One of the things I like about them is that they're made from a solid billet of material - so there are no small parts to suck up vibration...and therefore tone.  You might wonder about the intonation, but it's excellent.  More on that when we put strings on the guitar.

This particular bridge has a "tone chamber" machined out of the bottom.  This probably contributes some to the tone - from my perspective it will make the bridge lighter and (maybe) transfer vibration better.

Look at how nicely it's machined.  Just fantastic work.

Speaking of vibration transfer, this is something I always do when setting up an archtop.  Note the blue arrows in the picture of the new wood bridge base.

The legs of the bridge aren't fully touching the top of the guitar.  What this means is not all the string vibration will be passed to the guitar top.

I put a piece of double-stick tape on the top where the bridge will go, and then attach a piece of 100 grit sandpaper to it.

Then I move the bridge back-and-forth parallel to the direction of the strings.  This will sand the legs on the bridge to the arch of the top.

Now the bridge fits the top exactly.

This is an easy trick to fine-tune your archtop setup.

Stew-Mac sells a jig that holds the bridge while you sand...a nice tool but probably not necessary unless you do this a lot.

I'm not wild about the rosewood color against the blond finish, so I'm going to stain it with an ebony stain.  (The height adjustment screws spacing on the old ebony bridge is non-standard, which is how I wound up with a proper 2.9 inch spacing Gibson-style bridge.  I couldn't find an ebony one, though).

Next we'll hang our Bigsby on this puppy!

The entire ES-225T project:
1. Starting - making a custom moulded caul for headstock break
2. Headstock break repair using hide glue
3. Filling headstock crack pt 1
4. Filling headstock crack pt 2
5. Repairing divots in top
6. Installing the tailpiece, bridge, enlarging tuner holes
7. Making a bone nut
8. Installing tuners, and wiring
9. Installing nut and pickup
10. Completed - photos of completed ES-225T

Updates March 2015:

11. Bigsby B11 Installation, Pt. 1 (This page)
12. Bigsby B11 Installation, Pt. 2


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