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Drilling out the posts on a Bigsby

PostPosted: Mon Feb 03, 2014 3:33 pm
by Ray Bohlken
Some folks were talking about modifying their Bigsby units this way to make string changing easier. I wondered if any one tried it and liked how it worked out.

Re: Drilling out the posts on a Bigsby

PostPosted: Mon Feb 03, 2014 5:34 pm
by LMark
Bigsby was a pretty smart fellow. I have wondered for some time why he designed the bar with pins instead of holes. LMark

Re: Drilling out the posts on a Bigsby

PostPosted: Mon Feb 03, 2014 6:17 pm
by Norm
To answer Ray's question my Bigsby was one of the older ones where the pins were allen-screwed in, not pressfits so it was easy for me to back them out. After emailing back and forth with Paul about this I took them out and was pleased with the result.

I think what worries people is whether the Bigsby effectiveness will be compromised. It is not. It works fine with the strings running straight through. Never fear. There is no change in the operation of the unit and it is EVER so much easier to change the strings. Haven't broken a string yet and I use my Bigsby constantly. Other guys I know who went this route also said they experienced no problem doing the straight thru modification. Just be sure you chamfer the holes a bit to eliminate any sharp edges.

Now for speculation on why Paul Bigsby used pins to begin with as LMark questions....

Back when Bigsby was working on the concept, guitarists didn't have the single string access of multiple guages we have now thanks to Ernie Ball and his marketing experiment. Some guitarists, looking for a lighter guage string to use on their first two strings often used banjo strings and banjo strings have a loop end, they don't have the little brass grommet. That is the only reason I can think of as to why Bigsby would use pins.

As a matter of fact, the Selmer-Macaferri company that made Django's guitar used loop end tailpieces exclusively on their guitars. Django's Macaferris couldn't use ball end strings and I think while the industry may have been turning to ball ends it was still in transition and Bigsby knew there were guitarists using loop end strings and wanted his device usable by all guitarists.

There is no other logical reason for use of pins on the Bigsby. Adding pins to the units means extra labor and machine wear and tear, both of which add to the cost of the units not to mention the tricks one must learn to string the darn things.
Why didn't someone figure this out after Bigsby sold his company? You would think it would be a no-brainer because anyone who has ever restrung a Bigsby equipped guitar had to ask themselves "why don't they just run them straight through"?

Probably because rather than think about it and experiment with straight-thru string bars everyone associated with the company assumed there had to be some mystical reason Bigsby did it that way.

Re: Drilling out the posts on a Bigsby

PostPosted: Mon Feb 03, 2014 6:59 pm
by Roger Pratt
Ray.....I bought a pre-drilled bar from Callaham guitar parts for $40 and I have been very happy with it. Simple to install and you don't have to drill the pins out. Take a look:


Re: Drilling out the posts on a Bigsby

PostPosted: Tue Feb 04, 2014 1:35 am
by bill raymond

The tailpieces on the Selmer guitars, both the Maccaferri models and the post-Maccaferri models take BOTH loop or ball end strings. The anchor posts were drilled through. The loop end strings are, of course, a bit quicker and easier to replace than the ball end and the Savarez Argentine strings that most gypsy jazz players use on these guitars conveniently come in loop end (although they are also made in ball end style).

Re: Drilling out the posts on a Bigsby

PostPosted: Tue Feb 04, 2014 1:52 am
by Norm
Didn't know about the posts being drilled through!

In a way, though, it makes me think Bigsby had the loop end users in mind because, again, since the drilled thru rods don't cause any problems why go through the extra labor and expense of making a pin system? It just makes no sense to go that way if you didn't have to.

This pins/no pins discussion comes up often on the gretschpages and I have never heard anyone say they tried straight through string bars and regretted it. No one has said they wish they hadn't done it in the comments I've read over the years.

People say "Well, Bigsby must have had a reason."
He did. Some of the pros he knew probably refused to use ball end strings. Musicians are like that. In his day the guitar string and tailpiece design was going through transition

Re: Drilling out the posts on a Bigsby

PostPosted: Tue Feb 04, 2014 11:58 am
by Ray Bohlken
I didn't think I would be able to do the change on the Bigsby for removing the posts and drilling out the holes, but after watching the video, I probably could have accomplished it. I'm glad the changes worked for your guitar, Norm. I bought a Vibramate Spoiler for my guitar and it works really well and I can change the strings quickly and it seems to work fine - no changes in Bigsby action or the guitar's tone when I play it. It did cost $35, though. Roger, I was unaware of the predrilled bars that were available...I probably would have done that instead of the certainly would have removed my anxiety about doing the drilling myself and proving my incompetence in another area.

Re: Drilling out the posts on a Bigsby

PostPosted: Tue Feb 04, 2014 7:19 pm
by Norm
the topic is being growled and snarled over at the gretschpages right now ... 745/page1/

Re: Drilling out the posts on a Bigsby

PostPosted: Wed Feb 05, 2014 1:22 pm
by Larry Marchino
I've read these discussions for quite a while and never posted so I finally decided to add my two cents worth on this topic. I have never really had too much problem changing strings on a Bigsby. It is no worse than on my ES335 with the trapeze tail piece. On the 335 the ball end slides into a slot under the tail piece and if you don't keep tension on the string it comes out. Pretty much the same on a Bigsby--you just have to keep tension on the string to keep it from sliding off the pin. I will say that when I change strings I rarely have all the strings off at the same time. If you just change one string, tune it up then go on to the next you don't have the issue of the Bigsby flopping around. I do see the advantage of the drilled through Bigsby if you need to replace a string in a hurry on stage. As far as the Bigsby response, I can't see how it could make a difference in the response as long as the circumference of the bar is not changed. The bar rotates and as long as the circumference is not changed seems to me the response should be the same regardless of the way the string is attached to the bar. As long as the bar rotates with the same radius throughout the turn at the points where the string meets the bar it seems to me that the response should be the same. Anyway that is my two cents worth on the subject. I always find reading these discussions interesting. Thanks.

Re: Drilling out the posts on a Bigsby

PostPosted: Wed Feb 05, 2014 8:03 pm
by Norm
I used to prop a pink pearl eraser wedge under the pin on the Bigsby at string changing time which works great but not as great as just snaking the string straight thru the bar.

There are all sorts of "all ya gotta do is..." methods to keeping the ball end on the pins but, again, just snaking the string through the hole has them all beat.