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Fender Vintage-Style Threaded Bridge: Minimum Usable Spacing?

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by Kro, Mar 23, 2020.


  1. Kro

    Kro Supporting Member

    May 7, 2003
    New Jersey
    It's no secret that I prefer tight string spacing at the bridge. For whatever reason, my right hand prefers the strings to be closer together - ideally, at around 16.5mm spacing, string-to-string.

    My StingRay 5 at 17.5mm was just a little wider than I'd prefer, and while I love my Precision, to me it feels like the strings should each have their own time-zone.

    Yes, I know I'm weird, and that for 4-string basses 19mm spacing or thereabouts is standard, but the mad-scientist in me has been running through a few scenarios.

    Scenario 1 is to pick up a 16.5mm Hipshot A-Style bridge, but the mounting pattern is unique, and I'd like to avoid irreversibly altering my bass' body. Odds are if I decide to go this path, I'd just pick up a Warmoth Precision body in some custom color, and mount the bridge from scratch - a rather pricey experiment.

    Scenario 2 involves me picking up four of the fully-threaded vintage-style saddles, and swapping them in with the hope that I can push the strings close enough together to scratch my itch for tighter spacing. To that end, I have two questions that I'm hoping perhaps somebody can answer from first hand experience, or maybe somebody with the vintage saddles will be curious enough to experiment and report back!

    1. Should I expect the vintage style bridge saddles to be compatible with my Hi-Mass Vintage bridge? Primarily I'm curious if the outer height adjustment screws will correctly drop into the channels in the base-plate. I'm assuming that the intonation screw size is standardized?

    For reference, saddle:
    dn9vhaxf7u6fdfrtc4ao.jpg

    ...and bridge:
    7058_Fender_HMV_High_Mass_Vintage_Bass_Bridge_Chrome_0075124000_a_4000x.progressive.jpg

    2. How tight should I expect to be able to push the spacing before the string is either impeded by the intonation screw, or succumbs to horizontal tension and starts jumping the saddle threads? Is there any hope for 16.5mm or thereabouts?

    All in all, scenario 2 would be much less expensive, and would likely cost me something like $30 for a donor bridge (cheaper than buying individual saddles), and maybe a fresh pair of strings. I'm mostly trying to decide if the chances of success are worth the effort, and I'm curious if anybody has ever tried something similar - any feedback would be greatly appreciated!
     
  2. sissy kathy

    sissy kathy Back to Bass-ics Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2014
    Arbutus, MD
    Go to the right place for saddles and save. Top row last column.
    Guitar Parts Factory - Bass Saddles

    To get the spacing you want the D string needs to move toward the center 1.25 mm, that's doable; but the E string now has 20.25 mm spacing' so it now needs to move 3.75 mm (0.147".) IMO that is pushing the envelope of doable with stock saddles; but, hey, you can file those suckers so the saddle groove is deep enough that the strings won't jump.

    Whether the grub screws will hit the slots or not is something I can't answer. Once you find out it would be appreciated if you post that information here. I can tell you the grub screws on my threaded saddle measure 0.660" outside to outside, and 0.448" inside to inside, making center to center distance 0.554"
     
    RSBBass likes this.
  3. Kro

    Kro Supporting Member

    May 7, 2003
    New Jersey
    Awesome, thanks for that. $7 in shipping brings the two closer together, but it looks like Sweetwater is out of stock, so I may just pull the trigger. I wonder if they're the exact same thing - are the Guitar Parts Factory Saddles OEM?

    As for the math, yeah I've done it myself. The E and G strings would basically need to be on top of the intonation screw. I did think of filing the slot I'd need, but I wonder if it'd still be too much.

    Thanks for the measurements on the grub screws, I'll measure mine shortly and will reply back. I suspect they'll fit.

    Hmm maybe this will work after all - one more question if you're willing - do you know what the approximate spacing is thread-to-thread on the vintage style saddles? Just trying to get a visual representation of how many threads they'd have to be moved on the outside. It looks like it's about 1mm per...
     
    fhm555 likes this.
  4. sissy kathy

    sissy kathy Back to Bass-ics Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2014
    Arbutus, MD
    Yes, the last time I bought there the saddles were OEM.

    I can't measure the individual grooves, the point on my vernier caliper isn't fine enough (or the grooves aren't deep enough); but the saddle is 19.01 mm wide and has 16 grooves in it. plus a 1/2 groove at either end. All 12 of my saddles (three four string basses) are the same.
     
    Kro likes this.
  5. Kro

    Kro Supporting Member

    May 7, 2003
    New Jersey
    Thanks! So, I figured for under $30 I might as well just place an order and do some experimenting. I ordered a full bridge from eBay. The fact that it's guaranteed to be OEM and had fast shipping (Fast 'n Free delivery guaranteed for Saturday) was to my mind worth the extra couple bucks.

    At the very least I should get $30 worth of entertainment from the process, and will dutifully report my findings.
     
  6. JKos

    JKos Supporting Member

    Oct 26, 2010
    Torrance, CA
    For the E and G strings, would it be possible to swap the string and intonation holes. Basically flip the saddles over and swap holes.

    Well, you may need to drill four new holes, but that's my $0.02.

    - John
     
    Kro likes this.
  7. Kro

    Kro Supporting Member

    May 7, 2003
    New Jersey
    That is an interesting idea. I believe the height for each is a little different, and I'm not sure if the saddle would still sit straight horizontally. I'm also not sure about the size. I may have to give that idea a good hard look later tonight once I can get my bass on my lap.
     
  8. sissy kathy

    sissy kathy Back to Bass-ics Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2014
    Arbutus, MD
    Good idea, you are thinking, but, that won't work. You won't get enough of a break over the saddle to intonate.
     
    Last edited: Mar 24, 2020
  9. JKos

    JKos Supporting Member

    Oct 26, 2010
    Torrance, CA
    Thus the four new holes. Two below the current intonation screw holes for the strings, two above the current string holes for the intonation screws.

    - John
     
  10. sissy kathy

    sissy kathy Back to Bass-ics Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2014
    Arbutus, MD
    Maybe just two new holes, for the strings under the screw holes. Then switch the pan head screws for oval head, that would allow then to sit in the string holes centered. It would look like dodo. I'd reserve that as a last resort.
     
  11. Kro

    Kro Supporting Member

    May 7, 2003
    New Jersey
    I'm not drilling any holes. :laugh:
     
  12. sissy kathy

    sissy kathy Back to Bass-ics Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2014
    Arbutus, MD
    Spoil sport.
     
    imabuddha and Kro like this.
  13. Kro

    Kro Supporting Member

    May 7, 2003
    New Jersey
    With the kids down, I've had a chance to dig into this a little more.

    Using this as a base - 19mm is a very logical value for the width, and given that I counted 16 full grooves on the saddles I just purchased as well, there are probably somewhere in the realm of 16-18 "grooves" in total for mathematical purposes (depending on if the ends are true half-grooves, or slightly more or less).

    That should mean that each groove runs somewhere between 1.056mm and 1.188mm.

    I've done the math on a few different scenarios, including asymmetrical adjustments (example: "A" moves towards the center one full groove, and "D" moves towards the center two), and it seems like optimally, to get into the range that I'd want, roughly 16.5mm spacing, the center strings should both move inwards one groove, with the outer strings moving three.

    On the high end that would net me 16.889mm spacing, and at the low end 16.625mm spacing. Seems close enough for me, and without actually having my threaded saddles on hand to test, I'm fairly confident that my IRL results will fall within bounds.

    So then, visually what does that mean? See below... I'd pretty much need the outer strings right over top of the intonation adjustment screws. Could be a tough one...
    Screenshot 2020-03-24 22.03.42.png
     
    Last edited: Mar 24, 2020
  14. sissy kathy

    sissy kathy Back to Bass-ics Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2014
    Arbutus, MD
    I just examined my P bass. My G and E strings are on your green line. The strings sit high enough that I think I could move them over top of the screws and have no issues. I think your only issue is keeping them there. If you dig in much they aren't going to stay without some filing. I play with a light touch; it would be a non issue for me.
     
    Kro likes this.
  15. fhm555

    fhm555 So FOS my eyes are brown Supporting Member

    Feb 16, 2011
    I ordered a set of just the saddles from GPF and they sent me an entire bridge but all the fasteners were metric. I emailed and asked if a mistake had been made and they said no, that was how they sold the saddles. I didn’t want a mix of metric and imperial so i just bought a Fender Pure Vintage bridge from Arkansas Musicworks through their eBay store. They are on the web so i’m sure they’d deal with you direct if you don’t use eBay
     
    Kro likes this.
  16. Kro

    Kro Supporting Member

    May 7, 2003
    New Jersey
    I appreciate that - it looks like I've made the right decision to go with a known OEM version from an authorized (eBay) dealer.

    I had considered going with the Pure Vintage bridge, though in looking at it, I realized that the threads on the bridge were much smaller/narrower than the... Unpure Vintage bridge. Given that one of my biggest concerns is likely to be the string slipping during play, I opted to go with the normal Vintage Series version.

    Before yesterday I had never considered there to be much of a difference between those two bridges.
     
    fhm555 likes this.
  17. fhm555

    fhm555 So FOS my eyes are brown Supporting Member

    Feb 16, 2011
    I started using them on my MIM basses when Walter W mentioned they were good for getting the strings centered between the pole pieces and in so doing also solved the problem i had dragging my saddles out of position because of my atrocious right hand. I’ve been working on my right hand so that’s less of an issue these days but the only thing i’ve found better at insuring my strings are always in the same place is a Babicz bridge with it’s (almost) knife edge saddles. TBH, the first time i saw the saddles on the Babicz i almost balked over concerns with cutting strings, but after a number of years everything is still working just fine.
     
    Kro likes this.
  18. Kro

    Kro Supporting Member

    May 7, 2003
    New Jersey
    After looking at it more, I can safely say that one thing is for certain, there's no way I'd be able to utilize the string-through option (not a big deal).

    This is what my bridge and break angles currently look like. :p
    Full.jpg
     
  19. vaesto

    vaesto

    Jun 21, 2010
    Hi. Now you have standard spacing between E/A and D/G pairs. And narrow between A and D. I think the purpose of these grooves is not to allow norrow spacing, but to align strings with pickup magnets/neck position.
     
  20. Kro

    Kro Supporting Member

    May 7, 2003
    New Jersey
    I do not, that is even spacing center of string to center of string. That is the setting for dead even 19mm spacing. Given the varying string heights, it's hard to show with a single ruler shot, but I assure you that is the case.

    It is not, the magnetic fields are surprisingly wide, I had another thread somewhere in here that talked about all that fun stuff. :thumbsup:
     
    Last edited: Mar 27, 2020
  21. 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.

     
    May 14, 2021

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