Need Suggestions for maintaining proper bridge ground

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by Bellflower, Nov 20, 2015.


  1. Bellflower

    Bellflower

    Nov 20, 2015
    I've been playing my favorite bass for nearly a decade without ever having any significant issues. To be honest, I had never even noticed that the manufacturer had settled on a cheap "fixed" bridge, because intonation was always perfect as it were from the factory. However, I had switched to flat wound strings which seem to have a slightly different string diameter than conventional strings, and had to make some adjustments to the action. I like to keep it shallow for more consistent tone and quicker/easier play.

    Unfortunately, the adjustment to keep the action the same cause the intonation to vary a bit, enough to be almost a full semitone off note by the 13th fret. I am addicted to the feel and sound of my premium flatwound strings now and can never go back to conventional at this point. The only almost-workable solution for now is to raise the action well beyond comfortable playing levels in order to keep the intonation close to correct.

    I've resolved to make the more permanent and practical choice to simply replace the bridge, but the only truly affordable option in order to not be left with an instrument that I do not like the look and feel of, is a set of four individual string style bridge sets, which can be had inexpensively in my preferred choice of hardware color (either gold or brass finish), while still having tone and action adjustment, in a budget of under $50. My current bridge seems to be a cheap, non-adjustable Type-A knock-off, using 4 mounting screws and a single (wedged between bridge and body) ground wire. I am looking for suggestions and recommendation on how to handle grounding for the very different, individual string, bridge set.


    (This is an image of the type of bridge set I am considering changing to)
    61%2B9vZrlWvL._SL1000_.jpg

    Also, to a lesser extent, I'd also like some opinions on how to deal with any possible filling of previous screw holes and the indention left by the original ground wire end, caused over time. Also note that drilling fresh holes is fine if needed, and string-through-body is also being considered. All suggestions are welcome.

    Thanks in advance,
    Bellflower
     
  2. Bellflower

    Bellflower

    Nov 20, 2015
    Apologies, I had forgot to mention that if anybody knows of any other bridges available that may be better suited, the criteria I would consider are as follows:

    A-Style, or similar is most preferred for the looks and style. gold or brass would best compliment other hardware. Chrome or black would clash or not show at all (the instrument itself is black with brass screws and machines.)
    It MUST have tone adjustment and adjustments for action/string-height.
    I do not like the looks of vintage, folded metal plate styles such as "L bracket", nor the simple vintage bridges with round saddles that look like cut and polished dowel rounds.
    If a bridge uses 4-in-a-row mounting screws, it has a better chance of matching the existing screw holes to save on filling, drilling, and refinishing.
    I really cannot afford the "best" option or brand at this point, being priced upward of $80+, and not comfortable paying that much for something I could quickly and easily make myself if only I had access to a bench-top milling machine.
     
  3. You could try this bridge. I'm not sure if the holes would line up, but it fits your requirements.
     
    Bellflower likes this.
  4. Bellflower

    Bellflower

    Nov 20, 2015
    Thanks for the suggestion. That is similar in style and appearance to what I was looking for, but "oversized" sounds like a bit of a risk, and the tech drawing only indicates 1mm of adjustment to the action, which would mean I'd likely still need a little machining work to lower the saddles a little more than what they are capable of. The description and photos also doesn't not give any guarantee or reasonable confidence that the front-to-back tone adjustment is there. It would be a bit of a buyer's risk to only assume that it should. Do you know of anybody who has or uses that model, who could give details?

    I think for the looks I imagine, I may go with my first idea mentioned in my first post, if I could work out a decent grounding solution, as well as to go ahead and convert to "string-through". It's only a greater-than-50% appeal, not entirely set in stone.
     
  5. Garun

    Garun Guest

    Sep 8, 2015
    Look where strings touch each other. If you have string tree on head-stock which connects strings, that can be a conductor. Not sure what bass that is, but you can ground 1 string (bridge) and connect them trough head-stock elements. If that's not possible, i think you will have to place an unisolated wire on the bridge and connect the bridge pieces. That will be seen a bit, but you can paint the wire (if your bass is in color), and it won't be noticeable.
     
  6. sissy kathy

    sissy kathy Back to Bass-ics Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2014
    Arbutus, MD
    For grounding of the mono bridges; attach 1/2 inch (12mm) of copper tape across the width of the proposed location of the bridges, trapping the ground wire under the tape as you apply it. Ideally it will also cover the blemish of the dent from the earlier installation. The bridges get mounted close enough together that the tape is very innocuous when all is said and done. After everything is mounted to your satisfaction, you can paint the exposed portions of the tape (between the mono bridges) w/clear nail polish to keep it bright looking.

    An alternative way to do it (if you haven't got access to copper tape) is to replace the ground from the control cavity with longer wire and loop it under all of you mono bridges.

    Welcome to TB.
     
    Last edited: Nov 20, 2015
  7. bholder

    bholder Affable Sociopath Supporting Member

    Sep 2, 2001
    Vestal, NY
    Received a gift from Sire* (see sig)
    The ground wire will need to contact each of the monorail bridges, so a one piece bridge has simplicity going for it. With the singles, the ground wire has to touch all 4, so it comes down to hiding the ground wire in between them. Not sure how to do that without routing a channel and covering.

    Old screw holes are best dealt with by plugging them with glued in dowel section of the right diameter. Doesn't really hide them unless you're very good at matching finishes and such, but it's about the best you can do.
     
  8. bholder

    bholder Affable Sociopath Supporting Member

    Sep 2, 2001
    Vestal, NY
    Received a gift from Sire* (see sig)
    Ah, a much simpler solution. One could even paint the section of copper tape showing between them (or even just black tape over the gaps) to make it even less obvious.
     
  9. mech

    mech In Memoriam

    Jun 20, 2008
    Meridian, MS, USA
    I just did this on a black bass. Used a piece of small diameter solid wire and colored it with a sharpie. Basically invisible.

    Polished brass shim stock made the footprint of all the bridge pieces would work well, too. Should be available at hobby shops (radio control stuff) or any metal supplier.
     
  10. sissy kathy

    sissy kathy Back to Bass-ics Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2014
    Arbutus, MD
    You are misreading the tech drawing. The two center saddles sit 1mm higher than the outside saddles to help approximate the radius of the fret board. If you look at the bridge you can see the base plate is thicker under the center saddles than the outer ones. I would still steer clear of this bridge though. You cannot adjust the intonation while at tension, nor with precision. That makes intonating a hit or miss operation at best.

    I haven't ever found monorail bridges for less than $25 USD each, totaling $100 USD for a 4 string. $100 USD will buy you almost any bridge your heart desires. Ok now I have:
    SET Bass Bridge Tailpiece Individual String Container Screws gold
     
    Last edited: Nov 20, 2015
    Bellflower likes this.
  11. OOD

    OOD

    Jul 29, 2009
    image.jpg
    Would one of these work if it touched all strings?
     
  12. walterw

    walterw Supportive Fender Commercial User

    Feb 20, 2009
    alpha-music.com
    huh?

    that seems really unlikely; what kind of bass are we talking about here, pics would be useful.
     
    Growlmonkee likes this.
  13. Growlmonkee

    Growlmonkee

    Jan 30, 2013
    Florida, U.S.
    If intonation was good before the string swap, and it's off almost a full semitone, and the string diameter is different, it had round wounds, and now has flat, there are a few things that might bring it closer, 1st are the new strings sitting correctly on the nut?, that will have an affect on intonation, 2nd just for example, flatwound D'addario Chromes, long scale 45-105 have about 220 lbs. tension, round wound D'addario XL's 45- 105 long scale have about 175 lbs. tension, the difference will always cause excessive relief in the neck, and a truss rod adjustment after putting flats on is required, (most brands work out about the same as D'addario), the extra bow in the neck will make intonation difficult, even on an adjustable bridge, unless a truss rod adjustment brings the neck to where it should be, and a proper fit at the nut is important, (both how the strings sit in the nut, and break angle at the nut)(bad break angle at the nut, or bridge will make intonation impossible). Even if the flats are smaller diameter than the rounds, they still probably have more tension now. All that being said, it may come out closer with a great setup, and it's worth trying, but for me changing to flats always puts my bridge adjustments in a different place then where they were, in relation to each other, so I agree with the OP, that an adjustable bridge would surely be better. also Welcome to TB Bellflower.
     
  14. Coolhandjjl

    Coolhandjjl Supporting Member

    Oct 13, 2010
    Appleton
    That's a headstock mounted string tee, correct? I thought that how the ground is supposed to get across to all strings when using individual bridge sets.
     
    Bellflower likes this.
  15. mech

    mech In Memoriam

    Jun 20, 2008
    Meridian, MS, USA
    If the strings and string tree are metal, it makes no difference where the strings are all connected as long as one string is grounded.
     
    Bellflower and Coolhandjjl like this.
  16. Gilmourisgod

    Gilmourisgod

    Jun 23, 2014
    Cape Cod MA
    Would a brass nut serve the same purpose to connect strings electrically then just ground one saddle?
     
    Last edited: Nov 21, 2015
  17. walterw

    walterw Supportive Fender Commercial User

    Feb 20, 2009
    alpha-music.com
    absolutely, as long as the strings aren't coated.

    i once "cheated" with an old acoustic guitar that had a strange pickup rig-up by running a narrow strip of copper foil tape on the back of the peghead underneath the tuners, so as to connect them together.

    normally those individual multi-piece bridges have a wire that runs crossways underneath all of them. (yes you can see it and yes i'm not a fan)
     
    Last edited: Nov 22, 2015
  18. Bellflower

    Bellflower

    Nov 20, 2015
    I've done a lot of repairs for some things with string instruments over the years, but admittedly, my luthier education was cut short barely half the way through when my teach, Ed Roman passed away before I was finished. Hit-and-Miss intonation is something I am accustomed to and easily handled by calculating the string length in comparison to the desired tone frequency. It's not any kind of magic "imstant precision", but nothing that a little time, patience and redoing a few times until perfect doesn't solve. What bothers me just a bit, is that I am really liking what I imagine my bass could look like if I make use of the mono-rail style individual bridge pieces, but cannot find any non-China manufacturers or even sellers in order to get them for less than $100 for the set. Having worked as a machinist before, I am very uncomfortable with the idea of paying that much for approximately $5 in materials, which even if made by hand with jeweler precision and quality would not account for more than about $40 of labor and shop overhead costs for a complete set of four. I am inclined to believe the available sellers likely mass produce with uncertain quality, and nowhere near worth the price if a set is above $25, as an import. I'd allow for nearly double that price if domestic simply because domestic manufacturing is more likely to have the added costs of fair labor practices. Not to mention, it's not easy trusting any company who's name isn't even able to be typed with a US keyboard, with my credit card information.

    I'd be too embarrassed to even say at this point. The manufacturer already gets a bad rep when people buy their cheaper product lines from catalogs and retail music stores, not knowing that they also made very good quality instruments if you have them custom built or make special requests through authorized retailers or specify which factory you wish to have it shipped from. I was one of those annoying brand-fans in the 90's when their pricier, "premium" lines were much better made, and I know how to call to usually get the good stuff. What really "got" me, was that the bridge they had used was made in a way that it actually looks to be adjustable, but the grooved ridges at the sides of the saddle brackets were only for looks and not functional at all. The brackets are either part of the bridge casting itself, or they were permanently fused in position. Otherwise, it was made to look indistinguishable from a Hipshot style A-Type.

    It's a combination of string diameter and weight that needs to be adjusted and compensated for. I switched from common conventional round-wound to a harder-to-find, tungsten carbide core flatwound, that was released as a test market at NAMM 2014. I admit, I did not replace the nut, but instead filed a little then filled with a mixture of cyanoacrylate and sodium bicarbonate, and new channels filed in the resulting low-malleability acrylic resin. I kind of hate how forgetful I can sometimes be. I completely forgot to check the truss rod adjustment this time. There is nothing visually apparent to seem bowed or out of shape, but we can't always go by visual inspection alone. Will do ASAP!

    I've actually never seen brass used as a nut material other than on banjos and mandolins. Has anybody had experience with using it on a bass, and is it fairly durable? It would certainly solve the grounding, as well as compliment the overall desired look.

    Several other replies mentioned that a change in tone could not be adjusted by change in the action, but really it is simple geometry, albeit "ugly". Consider when you stretch or tremolo the strings, or a manual vibrato. The variance in tone comes from stretching or bending the strings. For very minor changes in tone, the same can be done by using any slack given in the saddles, by pushing them to either top or bottom edge if any clearance is given, and then a small bit more by raising the action on the bridge end. But as any string musician knows, it is uncomfortable, ugly, and just plain wrong. Nothing more than a sometimes needed compensation when all else doesn't work.
     
  19. Gilmourisgod

    Gilmourisgod

    Jun 23, 2014
    Cape Cod MA
    I have brass nuts on two out of my three basses. You can buy pre-cut brass nut blanks, even roughly pre-slotted for Ibanez, Ric and Fender style basses through a company called Axemasters on EBay, among others. I think I paid $18 for a pre slotted brass Ric blank. I don't think it makes much difference tone wise, except in open strings, but they look great polished up.
    AxeMasters SLOTTED BRASS NUT made for Fender PRECISION P Bass Guitar Squier
     
    Bellflower likes this.
  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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