Crawls Backward (When Alarmed)

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Finishing Bigsby and Compton Install on the Gibson ES-225

I believe I mentioned that I didn't get a new Bigsby because it might look out of place, i.e., too new, for this guitar.

I managed to find a 'vintage' B11.  A little tarnish here and there, but pretty much used-but-not-abused looking.  The worst part is the light rust on the arm's attachment pin - you can see it where the arm meets the body.

So I got out my usual polishing compounds and went at it.

Came out really well.  The rust spot came right off.  Now it looks old but well-cared for.

You'll note that the B11 looks a little more 'art deco' than the more common B3 and B6 models.  I thought it was a good change; it looks a little more lightweight.  And it is, but only like 4 tenths of an ounce!

I'm reasonably sure that the holes for the old tailpiece, as well as the seam where the sides meet at the bottom of the guitar, are aligned with the neck.

But that didn't stop me from double-checking.  The last thing I want to do is have a crooked tailpiece.

So I used a long straightedge to 'extend' the sides of the neck down to the end of the guitar.  I made marks on a piece of tape there.

You can see the marks here - they're the outside ones.  Then I made a center mark between them.  The seam is also in line with that.  So I can use those center lines to make sure the Bigsby lines up correctly.

You can also see that I soldered a ring onto the ground wire.  I'll put that under one of the screws when I put the new tailpiece on, so the strings (and bridge and tailpiece) will be grounded.

If you've ever played an electric guitar and there is hum that stops when you touch the strings, the issue might be that the strings aren't grounded.  When you touch them, your body is acting as a ground.

One more check.  With the Bigsby just sitting on the end of the guitar, I used some tape on the body and on the tailpiece to check the side-to-side alignment.  The end of the Bigsby is more flat than the guitar's body is, which means that you can 'tilt' the tailpiece to one side or the other.

I'm lining it up so it will be straight when I drill new holes.

As it turns out, the bottom original tailpiece screw hole, and the big center hole for the endpin line up perfectly with the new tailpiece.

But there are 2 other holes on the bracket that don't line up with the old holes - they're further in than the old ones.

So I have to drill 2 new holes.  Didn't want to, but they're small and they'll be covered up by any tailpiece that ever goes on the guitar.

I believe I used a 7/64 bit for these pilot holes.

We're dealing with maple here, which is a very hard wood.  So I put some Pro-Cut on the screw threads and screwed all three in before I put the tailpiece on.

I had visions of the Bigsby sliding all over the guitar, so I wanted to be safe.


Here it is mounted on the guitar.  Bigsby tailpieces come with felt on a couple of spots where they touch the guitar top, and I decided to put some more on the two long 'rails' on either side.  That way the finish won't get scratched up.

Not that this thing is coming off any time soon.

Some of the other Bigsby models have a more square mounting with 4 screws.  I think this one looks a bit better.

After attaching it, I put the spring in (I'm using a 7/8 for now but I also have a 1 inch on hand), and strung it up.

Here's how it looks with the new/old Bigsby and the new Compton bridge.

Pretty cool, don't you think?

This arm is the standard 6 inch one, but I do have a 9.5 inch version on order.  Just something to experiment with.  I have a feeling the longer arm might wind up on the Gretsch.

You see so many Gretsches and Gibsons from the 50s with Bigsbys - it just looks right.

Plus you can do the occasional bwwwowwww vibrato with it.  Very cool.

Closer shot of the wonderful Compton bridge.  If you're wondering about the lack of individual saddles, the intonation is exactly spot on - I used my Peterson strobe tuner and it's right on the money.  (Unless I knock the bridge out of alignment, but I'm pretty careful).

I'm using .012s on this guitar (and my Gretsch...) with a wound .024 third string.  Plays just perfectly set up that way.  Not too hard to bend strings given the 24 3/4 inch Gibson scale length.

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


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