When is it 'okay' to butcher your saddles?
After going on a year of trying to get the action for my bass to where it needs to be, I'm running out of reasonable options, and need some advice.
It's a mid-80's Tokai Jazz Bass copy (well, more of a Moon Jazz copy), ash body, maple neck, rosewood fingerboard, with a Badass copy for the bridge.
Didn't pay much for it, as it had been in the tsunami, and all the salt water ruined the pots and corroded the hardware. Upon rewiring, the lower notes sound great, and the pickups have proven to be killer.
It's just that after a year of fiddling with different shims, from stacked layers of card stock to custom-cut Honduran mahogany, I'm stuck with an instrument which, when set with little to no relief, and shimmed, still has strings soaring above the frets at the back of the neck.
Last week, when considering other options for getting the thing in order, I realized something pretty important: the bass, being more or less a Jazz Bass, had been equipped with a very nice, very accurate copy of a Badass Bridge...
...but they had copied an original Badass, not a Badass II.
The bass has the same problems that any real Jazz Bass would have with an original Badass installed: impossibly high action, despite all sorts of shimming.
So, I began thinking of what I could do. The amount of 'meat' underneath the grooves for the saddles meant that remachining the bridge wouldn't provide much help, and routing a slot for the bridge into the body would cut into the battery slot.
As far as I can tell, that leaves me with three options: 1.) filing down the saddles super-deep to get the proper action; 2.) installing a large full-pocket hardwood shim to bring the frets at the end of the neck to where they need to be, requiring longer neck screws; or 3.) drill holes for/install a new bridge, which is sort of unappealing because I can't just buy a regular Jazz Bass bridge, because it's only ever had a three-screw Badass on it, and then I'm stuck with this Badass copy that I can't use, and no one wants.
Also, there's a good chance that a replacement bridge might cost almost as much as I paid for the damned thing to begin with.
So, what do you think: is there any reason why filing the saddles down is a 'bad' idea outright? I'm not ruining a real Badass, and all this back and forth with shimming is driving me nuts. Looking online, I can't find anywhere that sells longer neck screws, even if I did put in a huge (I'm guessing 3/16") full-pocket shim.
With a 1/16" mahogany shim installed, saddles on the deck, and relief at nil, the action is still 1/4" at the 20th fret.
I suppose that filing down the three bottom-sections of each saddle is another option, if a bit more difficult outright.
Its your bass do what you want.
I would replace the bridge with an original Fender bent plate style. You should have no issue getting the lower action then. That original Badass bridge I doubt will be able to get as low as you need.
The idea is to dial the bass in so it plays like you want. Doing what is needed to get it there is all good. File the slots if needed; no one cares about a knock off badass on the used market.
As long as it is your bass, you can butcher all day long! ;)
Simple and effective. I think the Badass bridges are terribly overrated.
Sounds like you really need to get a new bass. Why spend all the time and money on the one you have if it's not that great?
original Badass bridges are good. But they won't work well on Fender style basses that are designed to have the low profile bent plate style bridge.
Compare the base thickness, and the saddle height to that of a bent plate bridge. There is your 1/4" right there.
One of my basses used to have an original Badass bridge, so I know how high above the surface the saddles sit. And that bass was designed to have that bridge... so when I converted it to a 5 string, I needed to get a custom bridge made for it that was the same height from the body surface.
Don't worry about the holes... if you get a different bridge, fill the holes with some wood and wood glue, and drill new ones for the new bridge.
Nowadays, everybody thinks everything is a collectible. Mod it and play it. It's only a bass.
I say cut the slots deeper first(you said it yourself, the copy bridge you have is basically worthless), if that does`t work get another bridge. They aren`t terribly hard to locate/install.
I would go with a standard Fender style bridge on it. You can get an aftermarket one for a pretty cheap price, and it will be low enough for your needs.
You could try tapered strings, I use Dr longnecks and had to raise my saddles a bit, these might sit lower
My vote goes two directions:
1) Install Fender type bridge. (I'm not fan of the BA)
After that, and only if necessary.....
2) Shim as needed.
I don't like making permanent changes if smaller, reversible ones can fix a problem.
+1 more to ditching an overly tall bridge for a lower-profile one like a plain ol' fender bent-steel.
Taper strings might help. I think if this bass is as you have described, changing anything on it would be a shame. Leave it as it is, but cut the saddles with deep grooves, just like on the nut. Drop all the saddles down as far as they will go, then cut the grooves until the action is lower than what you are after. You can always raise the saddles to fine tune your action. This will likely look better than sticking some new part on a bass in this condition. Replacing the bridge might take away the mojo. Change the bridge ONLY if you ruin the original...
An older J bass copy almost certainly came out with a standard Fender bridge on it. Replacing the BA with a Fender bridge is the FIRST thing I'd do. The BA is the wrong bridge for that instrument.
For reference, here's a pic from the 1986 Tokai catalogue; mine's exactly the same as the one at the bottom, so I'm pretty sure that's the bridge it came with.
As you can tell, it's trying pretty hard to be the Larry Graham signature model by Moon:
Which actually presents a pretty elegant solution: since it wants to be a LG Moon copy, why not give it the same bridge he has on his, which is... (quick Ebay search) a Gotoh 203B-4.
Mojotone has them for $23. That's not too bad.
I'll order the parts today and tell you all how it turns out.
Problem with shaving-off a BA saddle is the break angle becomes too shallow. Check your desired spacing and snag some bent-metal for it. FWIW, there are several up for grabs in the "Accessories for Sale" forum.
Unfortunately, the whole damned bass is black: knobs, bridge, tuners, headstock, heck, they even painted the back of the neck. Looks killer, but means that all replacement parts are harder to find and cost more. All the bridges up right now seem to be chrome.
Thanks for the advice, though. I've been paying out the nose for stuff through Mojotone and Stewmac, without even thinking about snagging stuff used from the forum. Definitely be hitting that up when I put together my Warmoth.
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