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High Mass Bridge and Ball End Design

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by La Faro, May 22, 2020.

  1. La Faro

    La Faro

    Jun 20, 2016
    Da Nang, Viet Nam
    Every time I restring a bass I have the same thought.

    'Why do the ball ends sit like this?'
    Ball ends are cylinder in shape, the string goes through a round hole, the the cylinder makes contact with the bridge at a single point each side of the string. The cylinder is free to rotate.

    On the bent plate, this makes sense, it's just a plate, but on my cast bridge it sits on top too. Some machined or cast bridged have a recess which hides the ball cylinder (and look tidier), but they contact the same way and are free to rotate.

    If the recess was a 45 degree cut, the contact points double and the end would be more secure. Also they would align, and look tidier.
    A curved cut would allow the cylinder to nest even more securely

    Or is this a thing and some manufactures already do this, or actually it's not a good idea for some reason

    high mass1.jpg
    KeithAlanK likes this.
  2. mmbongo

    mmbongo Five Time World Champion Supporting Member

    Aug 5, 2009
    You want the ball end to be free to spin so the string doesn't twist while installing it. So having the ball locked in is not a good thing.
    packhowitzer, Koog, Chrisk-K and 5 others like this.
  3. La Faro

    La Faro

    Jun 20, 2016
    Da Nang, Viet Nam
    If you were to install it without twisting, would it be a better anchor?
  4. eastcoasteddie

    eastcoasteddie Supporting Member

    The holes that the strings pass through are larger than the string, for example, the average low B is .130” and the hole it passes through is about .150” (I didn’t measure...). So the ball end would actually contact the bridge at 2 points of its arc (actually 4 points; 2 on each side of the string core wrap).
    I think that machining the bridge to beautifully accept the ball end is more work than actual pay-off. As long as the anchor point is secure, it’s enough. It is more important to make the bridge base strong enough so that string tension won’t pull it off the body.
  5. La Faro

    La Faro

    Jun 20, 2016
    Da Nang, Viet Nam
    I see what you mean. I had counted for both side in my first post, but yeah, with a larger hole, it's like its contacting on four corners of the cylinder.

    Except on closer in spetcion of mine, it's not. It's being pulled to the side a little so 2 points on the cylinder meet the hole, and just one on the otherside. This pits a tiny tilt on the cylinder.

    In a cast the groove would just need to be made into the original cast. and a 45 degree bit probably wouldn't add much work to a CNC process.
  6. Volker Kirstein

    Volker Kirstein Blippy the Wonder Slug Supporting Member

    Heh. Putting a string on without twisting it is a long, tedious process, because you start with a straight string and wind it the whole way, rather than manually looping the first loop or two. And even that is no guarantee you won't have a twist in your end product. Many times have I taken off a string that I thought was straight, only to have it flop around when I pull it off the tuner.

    Anyway... the vibrating part of the string effects sound, the non vibrating part of the string effects tension. Making the ball receptacle hold the ball "more securely" effects neither, and is more time/money in manufacturing.

    Which is not to say someone hasn't done this as a marketing ploy. I don't know of any off hand, but it sounds like something a marketing department would do.
    La Faro likes this.
  7. I like this topic and am interested to see if it goes anywhere.

    My bridges are all different designs, and how the ball sits varies.
    On my two main basses I've indulged my OCD on this exact point because I soak my strings for several days in denatured alcohol periodically to reclaim that "just broken in" fresh tone whenever they get too dead sounding. The best way to do this is with a slotted tailpiece so you don't have to straighten out the tuner wraps to get them through the hole at the tail--saves a TON of time removing and re-installing the strings post-soak. Loosen them for a little slack, then the whole string pops right off at both ends fully intact and ready to re-install with just some turns on the tuning keys. Saves wear and tear on the wraps, and promotes consistency in how the strings sit on the bridge and nut, etc etc--you get the idea. Installed a slotted aftermarket bridge on one of these basses (Iceman) for this very reason.
    With this in mind, I've noticed that the tailpiece contact situation is a little more complicated with a slotted tailpiece because it's not a simple hole anymore. After careful examination I decided that having the ends line up straight across as if there were a dowel running through them sits the best and has the most contact on one bass, while the other works best with the holes facing the audience, so I string the first time accordingly. Takes a bit more time and effort, but once done correctly I don't have to do it again for literally years, as I can easily refresh my strings many times (I'm at 6x on one bass and 9 on the other) so any extra work the first time has paid off repeatedly. (I soak my strings in a sealed PVC pipe, so they stay straight and true--coiling them up for boiling in a pot on the stove works....but isn't optimal by any means).
    I've been enjoying the most consistent and even tone by far (both basses) that I've ever experienced in 45 years of playing, and while paying attention to a small detail like this may have nothing to do with it, I figure it can't hurt. It's also fun for me to get obsessive sometimes in a world where I have no choice but to let a lot of things that bother me slide.
    Last edited: May 23, 2020
    La Faro and Volker Kirstein like this.
  8. Volker Kirstein

    Volker Kirstein Blippy the Wonder Slug Supporting Member

    That is brilliant! I really like this idea, and will probably incorporate a slotted bridge in a future build.
    KeithAlanK likes this.
  9. La Faro

    La Faro

    Jun 20, 2016
    Da Nang, Viet Nam
    The one above was just mentioned in another thread. I don't particularly like it, but it does have the cup design I was suggesting. I also found this by KSM, but in finding a good picture I found it with just a hole too, so I assuming the design evolved into this.
    Volker Kirstein likes this.
  10. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    Well at least you obsess on the important things :D
    salcott likes this.
  11. La Faro

    La Faro

    Jun 20, 2016
    Da Nang, Viet Nam
    How many times have toy painted the same bass black :smug:
    JimmyM likes this.
  12. How about some sort of washer that goes over the string end? String could still turn to keep from twisting but increase the contact area with the bridge.

    I don't think it will make difference with tone, but, it's an idea.
  13. La Faro

    La Faro

    Jun 20, 2016
    Da Nang, Viet Nam
    I'm not looking to change anything, mines fine. Just chatting about design.
    GreggBummer likes this.
  14. -Asdfgh-


    Apr 13, 2010
    The witness point is at the saddle, not the tail, so the only really important thing is the hole for the string being smaller than the ball-end so it doesn't suddenly coming flying out the bridge.
    Zooberwerx likes this.
  15. MustangWally


    Feb 5, 2019
    Houston TX
    B-Mac, KeithAlanK and Volker Kirstein like this.
  16. Zooberwerx

    Zooberwerx Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 21, 2002
    Virginia Beach, VA
    I'm not a big fan of bridge designs which "force" symmetrical ball-end alignment for the sake of aesthetics. As mentioned, you want the ball end to spin freely until it engages the anchor plate. Of course, once tuned to pitch, you can de-tune til the coil is slack and pull off the tuner post. Allow the coil to spin on its axis to assume a near-normal orientation and replace on the tuner post.

  17. CyberSnyder

    CyberSnyder Gold Supporting Member

    Jun 19, 2003
    I Endorse Alien Audio Basses
    It's not very difficult, especially with a power driver. I think this is the one I use and then picked up an adapter on Amazon for the tuner post. Works great and easy to control the speed, plus it has enough power to turn the tuner, unlike an earlier, cheaper attempt.

    DEWALT 8-Volt MAX Lithium-Ion 1/4 in. Hex Cordless Gyroscopic Screwdriver with Battery 1Ah, 1-Hour Charger-DCF682N1 - The Home Depot

    Volker Kirstein likes this.
  18. CyberSnyder

    CyberSnyder Gold Supporting Member

    Jun 19, 2003
    I Endorse Alien Audio Basses
    Oh *snap*. Heh.
    La Faro likes this.
  19. Killing Floor

    Killing Floor Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2020
    Austin, TX
    There is another thread today about higher mass bridges, the same question in different context.
    @La Faro the issue is that too often in musical instrument design, gifted artisans attempt to solve physics with philosophy. Physics shows us that clamping the string and/or fully setting the ball end (increased contact) as you have drawn would more effectively transfer the string motion into the body. The philosophical challenge is that far too many musicians and instrument builders do not incorporate vibration mechanics into the design. The string vibration and the body vibration are the same and consequential to the musicality of the instrument. Or in other words, luthiers don't interpolate to solve for Newton's Third Law. And they are not constrained by acceptance that Newton's Third Law is true and proven. Resonance is important to the whole instrument. Your question and your solution has engineering merit. The challenge is that if you wait long enough you'll see hundreds of posts that simply don't believe physics. I suppose the "crude" answer is that Fender stamped and bent cheap sheet metal bridges back in the 1950's and there is nostalgic baggage that the market cannot shed.
    B-Mac, KeithAlanK and La Faro like this.

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