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Converting an old Hagstrom from wooden bridge to adjustable/metal.

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by S.F.Sorrow, May 18, 2018.

  1. S.F.Sorrow


    Dec 6, 2014
    So, I've got an old HagstromF400 BII from around 1966/67. Instant 60s sound both with fingers and muted picking. The neck is one of the best I've EVER tried on any bass/guitar. It's extremely thin so I like to think of it as a "guitarist-bass". The action can be set so low it almost plays itself and there's not even a hint of buzz or rattle anywhere on the neck. It has never required even the slightest adjustment in the 15-20 years I've owned it. And with the climate and seasonal changes where I live that's highly unusual. I believe it must be considered a medium scale bass (I did a rough measurement in centimenters and it should be around 32") and it sounds absolutely wonderful on all strings, perfectly balanced, no flabby E like on most shortscales, although a bit limited tone wise with only a couple of switches, no tone knob.

    In short: I absolutely LOVE it!

    The problem is intonation. It has a wooden bridge that is glued to a metal plate so no adjustments are possible. It's just a piece of wood witch notches for the strings really. As simple as it gets. The original bridge had serious intonation issues when I got it. Plus the bridge was rather worn so I had a local luthier make me a new one. He was a VERY competent guy, almost legendary in the local scene and also got some attention internationally for his guitars (retired now). The intonation was probably set as close as possible for whatever strings he put on it (they had black slik wrapping so I suspect they were the "old" Fender roundwounds from years back). The intonation got a lot better but not perfect. The angle of the bridge is now rather extreme in contrast to the stock bridge which was set completely straight across all strings. Plus the bridge he made is slightly taller/thinner than the stock bridge so it MUST be glued to avoid falling over when tightening the strings. I don't know why he made it this way, the stock bridge looks a lot better balanced. But like I said, he was very highly regarded so he must have had his reasons.

    The problems started when I decided to put flatwounds on it. Which I probably should have done from the start but back then I wasn't really into music where flats would be suitable. But last week I put my favourite flats on it, Pyramid Gold, and wow...I loved it before but this is on a whole different level. Even with it's rather limited tonal range I can see this being one of my main studio instruments now. Unfortunately the intonation is now WAY off, to the point of being almost useless without adjustments.

    I tried moving the wooden bridge but the grooves for the strings doesn't line up properly when it's angled where I need it to be. And I can tell that the intonation won't be anywhere near perfect even if I get a new wooden bridge made specifically for these strings. Ideally I needs separate adjustments for each string.

    So, I found a Bronco bridge on ebay. Cheap enough to give it a go. Only adjustments for 2+2 strings, not individual, but it seems to fit the string spacing more or less perfectly and will probably get me close enough. I have searched everywhere I can think of online and I can't find any other bridges that will fit. I will have to drill a couple of new holes, and the holes from the stock bridge will probably be visible but this doesn't bother me as it already looks a big ragged. But after ordering the bridge I got some second thoughts...

    That's the background, now for the questions:

    1) Are there any other "off the shelf" bridges that can fit this instrument (think Bronco string spacing) AND give me adjustments for each individual string? Any problems to be aware of with the Bronco bridge in this scenario?

    and most importantly:

    2) How much will a metal bridge change the sound (vs wooden) and HOW will it change the sound? Brighter I suppose? Will it make a lot of difference with flatwounds? Will I lose some of that "organic" thud that I love to much about it? The bridge is glued to a metal plate so it's not directly in contact with the body. I suspect this can make the change to a metal bridge less dramatic than it would be for a wooden bridge directly connected to the body?

    If a wooden bridge is the way to go I'm prepared to spend a little to make it right but the problem is that after the luthier I mentioned retired there are nobody in my local area that I trust. I've had a bad experience with one guy and it's not something I'd like to go through again. And although I don't mind drilling a few holes (it's not exactly in visually mint condition anyway) I think I would rather not do it if a metal bridge is likely to change the sound a lot.

    Any advice on this will be very much appreciated!!! :)
    Last edited: May 18, 2018
  2. Perhaps if Guild gets more of these in stock or you might be able to find one somewhere else. This site doesn’t really say what the string spacing is but I remember the original Guild basses being on the narrow side and I believe Hagstrom actually made the original bridge. You probably want to find the actual measurement somewhere but the wooden saddles could have different notches cut in them to change the spacing.

    Newark St. Collection Bass Bridge Assembly | Guild Guitars
  3. Turnaround

    Turnaround Commercial User

    May 6, 2004
    Toronto Canada
    Independent Instrument Technician, and Contractor to Club Bass and Guitar - Toronto
    I can't help you with respect to a bridge that would fit. But if you want to hear what effect metal saddles would have, get yourself a metal rod slightly larger in diameter than the height of the wood saddle, and slip it in behind the existing saddle. The strings will now rest on the metal rod rather than the wood saddle. Try it out - the intonation will likely be way off, but you will at least be able to get a sense of what the metal saddles sounds like.
    JLS likes this.
  4. S.F.Sorrow


    Dec 6, 2014
    VERY interesting, that looks like it could be perfect. Too bad it's out of stock, I'll check ebay. Thanks!
  5. S.F.Sorrow


    Dec 6, 2014
    Good idea, thanks! I think I've got a lapsteel slide that could be used for this.
  6. Moody Tuner

    Moody Tuner

    Jun 30, 2017
    Why not just have another wooden bridge made custom for your new strings?
  7. S.F.Sorrow


    Dec 6, 2014
    Two reasons:

    1) I'm replacing the one I've got because I can't intonate the bass properly. Getting a new wooden bridge and reposition it would make it better but without being able to adjust the strings individually it would still be a huge compomise and far from perfect. The Bronco bridge will only make it possibly to adjust 2+2 strings but it will (hopefully) get me close enough. The E+A will probably be fine but I will have to compromise a bit with the D+G. One of them will be a bit off. But a lot better than with a fixed wooden bridge.

    2) The only local luthier I trusted has retired and I know for certain that he will not take ANY jobs. There's only two other guys I know of locally. One of them did a really poor job for me a couple of years ago so he's not an option. The other guy only builds classical guitars. He has a decent reputation but he isn't interested in jobs like this. Except for these two guys the nearest I can think of is 7-8 hours of travel each way.

    I tried contacting Guild about the bridge someone posted earlier. It won't be back in stock until they have found a way to replace the rosewood with a non-CITES kind of wood. Probably not anytime soon so it looks like I'm stuck with the Bronco bridge. I probably won't want to drill more holes for a THIRD bridge so it's a difficult decision to make. If Guild had given me an estimate on when the CITES-free bridges becomes available I would have waited but they didn't seem to have a clue.
  8. Dadagoboi

    Dadagoboi CATALDO BASSES Commercial User

    Jul 1, 2005
    Florida Swamp
    CataldoBasses: Designer/Builder ThunderBuckerPickups:Consultant
    Guild spacing is narrower than Bronco.
  9. S.F.Sorrow


    Dec 6, 2014
    Good to know, thanks! I'm actually worried that the Bronco bridge won't fit. I haven't received it yet. The Hagstrom is VERY narrow so perhaps my only choice will be to wait for Guild to sort things out with CITES. At least the Bronco bridge was very cheap so no big loss if it turns out to be useless. I obviously won't drill any holes before I've measured it. I'm actually starting to hope it WON'T fit because the Guild bridge is clearly much better quality. Might be worth waiting for. Someone mentioned in a previous post that Hagstrom used to make bridges for Guild back in the days so if the Bronco is wider I have a feeling it won't fit (and probably a poor choice anyway but I was getting desperate).

    Thanks for everyones help! I needed a reality check on this and the more I think about it the more stupid it seems to even consider putting a cheap Bronco bridge on such a wonderful old instrument. On the other hand, if it DOES fit it means the Guild bridge probably won't... I'll just have to wait and see I guess.
    Dadagoboi likes this.
  10. The Guild bridge was me. I just saw a picture of an old Hagstrom bass and a newer Guild Jetstar, or whatever they're calling those Gumby basses now, side by side and it pooked like the same bridge or, at least a copy of that bridge. Both of them had BiSonics also. The new one was, obviously, their reissues but still.

    Seems like you're in Europe? Maybe eBay or if a Reverb seller will ship overseas? Although an original bridge will probably be expensive but if you’re patient you can probably find a deal.
  11. Dadagoboi

    Dadagoboi CATALDO BASSES Commercial User

    Jul 1, 2005
    Florida Swamp
    CataldoBasses: Designer/Builder ThunderBuckerPickups:Consultant
    If the Bronco bridge doesn't work for you (the spacing on mine is 19mm, same as long scale Fenders) I'll buy it from you. The saddles work for vintage early single coil Precision Bass type bridges, which are unobtainable at the moment.

    As far as the Guild 'Harp' bridges, the one on my '70s M-85 required extending the slots in the bass plate (towards the neck) to allow the E and A strings to properly intonate. It's also a problem with Starfires. Obviously most players don't care or notice it. There's a thread somewhere on TB about that. Here's the M-85 bridge after slo extending and with new saddles I cut. The problem with the slots could have been solved by relocating the bridge, maybe Guild finally got around to it.


  12. S.F.Sorrow


    Dec 6, 2014
    Yeah, I'm in Norway. Many ebay/reverb sellers will probably ship it to Europe (if I can find one) but it could end up being confiscated in customs. Best case scenario is finding someone who can provide the necessary paperwork and get it imported the right way. But the current processing time over here for CITES-items are several months. Plus I have no idea how much paperwork and documentation is required and I doubt the average ebay seller knows either.
  13. S.F.Sorrow


    Dec 6, 2014
    I wasn't aware of the intonation problems with Starfires. Thanks for mentioning it. It might not be a problem for me though as I can position the bridge as required. Is the range of the adjustments large enough that I'm likely to get the bass intonated if I position the bridge in the right spot?

    The Bronco bridge is 19mm??? I thought it was 17! That's why I purchased it.... I still haven't received it (will probably arrive at the post office today) but there's no way 19mm will fit my Hagstrom. I guess I'll start looking for a Guild "harp" bridge. The ones with metal saddles seem to be available lots of places (or are they a different size?) but I would really wooden saddles...

    I'll have to measure the Bronco bridge against the bass to make absolutely sure but if it doesn't fit (and it probably won't) you can have it for free if you pay for shipping. It will just be a waste of space for me. I'm in Norway though, where everything is hideously expensive, so even with just the shipping costs I wouldn't be surprised if you could find one cheaper in the US. If I send it unregistered/not insured as a regular letter in a jiffy bag it might be around $15-20. I'll have to check.

    Just to be clear: This is a new Squier Bronco bridge, not something vintage. Are you sure it will fit a vintage P? Aren't most cheap "made in Asia" instruments made to metric standards? Or won't it matter?

    Send me a PM if you're interested. I'll know in a day or two if it fits (but I'm pretty sure it won't).
  14. Dadagoboi

    Dadagoboi CATALDO BASSES Commercial User

    Jul 1, 2005
    Florida Swamp
    CataldoBasses: Designer/Builder ThunderBuckerPickups:Consultant
    Look forward to your results! I replied in the body of your post.
  15. S.F.Sorrow


    Dec 6, 2014
  16. That’s closer. The auction says 2 1/16” which is 52.38mm. I think you said you needed 17mm and 17x3 is 51 mm so if I’m adding right and if you have a little extra space on the neck, you might be in business.
  17. S.F.Sorrow


    Dec 6, 2014
    Yeah, that should be 17.46 and that's close enough. Thanks!
  18. S.F.Sorrow


    Dec 6, 2014
    I got the Bronco brigde today and it's actually 18mm. The packaging said it was a Bronco '99 CT bridge assembly so perhaps an older model???

    It's just a bit too wide for me so let me know it you want it Dadagoboi. It will cost you around $15 in shipping costs, possibly slightly less if it's under 350 grams including packaging (but I suspect it's not). Probably not what you need though if you're looking for 19mm spacing. When placed over a regular P-bass bridge it is considerably narrower in total.

    Out of curiosity I measured my only Squier P-bass (Classic Vibe 50s) and it turned out to be 21mm! Now that's a surprise, it has never felt particularly wide to me. My Fender AVRI '57 has the expected 19mm and feels pretty much the same near the pickups. But the Squier "50s" has a more tapered neck, a lot thinner at the nut, so I guess that's the reason. Squier being Squier after all... can't expect historical accuracy in the Classic "Vibe" series. Still a very nice instrument though, once I changed the pickup.

    One thing is certain: Squier does NOT use standard Fender string spacing in all their models. Not even the P-basses.

    I think I'll just get the Guild bridge from ebay, a bit more expensive but it looks perfect! My wonderful old Hagstrom deserves it.

    Thanks everyone for your excellent advice! :)
  19. Dadagoboi

    Dadagoboi CATALDO BASSES Commercial User

    Jul 1, 2005
    Florida Swamp
    CataldoBasses: Designer/Builder ThunderBuckerPickups:Consultant
    Thanks for the info!

    As to the Bronco bridge, I'll pass. The last one I bought in the US was $12 including shipping. Thanks, anyway. Post a pic when you get the Hagstrom done!
  20. Primary

    Primary TB Assistant

    Here are some related products that TB members are talking about. Clicking on a product will take you to TB’s partner, Primary, where you can find links to TB discussions about these products.

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