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Compensated Tele Bridges


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I been experimenting with my newest Tele build which I installed a 3 saddle bridge.  The first tele I owned back in the 70' s had straight barrels.  The One I've had for the past 10 years has a 6 saddle bridge. 

Compensated saddles for Tele's weren't available when I owned my First tele.  Maybe some luthiers used a file on standard saddles to get better intonation but I hadn't seen any.  Now you can find them for chump change.   

These are the first ones I tried.   As you can see the Apex of string contact is moved by the beveling of the barrel.  This definitely compensated but whoever came up with this design over compensated by quite a bit.  Maybe they'd be ideal if you used 11's with an unwrapped third.  For 9's the angle is too much you wind up with one string on each saddle sharp and one flat, or one correct and the other flat.  After I figure out there was too much compensation, I used a needle file and reduces the distance between the two contact points.  Still not perfect but better.  Still not completely happy though. 

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I checked out the following.  These are similar to the ones above.  They simply bevel the grooves differently to get different contact points.  I was tempted to buy these because they were only $9 a set but I suspect I'd be doing the same thing filing them back to get the right intonation. 

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These were the first compensated saddles I saw years ago.  Someone got the bright idea to drill screw holes at an angle to get intonation compensation. 

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These are the newest I've seen available.  These allow you to tilt the saddles to any degree of compensation between the two strings you need.  The mass is pretty good too so that should have decent sustain.  I don't typically need a lot of angle on the first two strings, maybe 1MM increase in length between the 1st and 2nd then 1mm between the 2nd and 3rd.  I set the 4th string length to match the 2nd string then match the 5th string to the 3rd and add one additional mm to the 6th string.  It works out being nearly ideal every time and only small tweaks beyond that. 

Anyway, these look like the ticket for what I need.  If they don't work out I may switch over to a 6 saddle bridge like my other tele has, but I do like the tone a 3 saddle bridge produces. There's more downwards pressure on the saddle screws so the saddles don't more around like they can on a 6 saddle. The strings sustain better in pairs of 2 each too

 

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It was the intonation that kept me away from Telecasters until about 5 years ago when, I got my first 6 saddle...arguably not great, as mentioned, regarding tone/twang, but at least it tuned up accurately. I am replacing the bridge on that first one [a 'copy', not  my Fender], as well as the bridge p-up with a Buzz Feiten [from his estate sale]...as soon as my new workshop is set up. I've been looking at those 'compensated 3-barrel' assemblies for a while, as well, but I'm still not sure they have all the mechanics where they should be...so I will be very interested in your outcomes.

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I'll let you know how the tilt type work out.  The bridge is still new so I only needed the saddles.  The lowest price I could find was $12 plus 3 shipping.

The least expensive were the first two sets above. You can find both for under $10 with free shipping. 

As I said, the first set has at least a 3mm difference in length which is a bit extreme for the strings and frets I use.  I could reduce that distance by counter beveling the cutaway. I got it close and anything below the 12th fret plays very well.  Leads above the 12th aren't too bad.  The tuner shows each saddle having either one string sharp or flat depending on which string you intonate perfectly.  I cant stand flat notes so I wind up with 3 strings perfect and the other three slightly sharp above the 12th. 

I could continue to narrow the distance between peaks using a file but I'd likely have to remove the set screws.  I may do that just to have backups using a Dremil tool with a grinding tip. 

I also got a decent deal on a different set of pickups.  The ones I have in there now are just cheap squire pickups with ceramic magnets.  Actually they don't sound that bad.  Ceramic magnets give pickups a tight overdrive which can sound pretty good using drive boxes.  Its not the same for tone or touch compared to Alnico V pole magnets however.  The ones I got weren't expensive custom made,  just generic no name. They look to be well made and the DC resistance looks OK so I'll give them a shot.  Hard to go wrong for $20.

The vintage style split shaft Kluson clone tuners haven't been working out so hot either.  I like how they bring the string close to the headstock but they have nylon shaft gears instead of metal and they don't turn as smoothly as a modern tuner.  I found some 18:1 locking tuners which aren't bad.  I put a set on 2 Strats I built recently so I figured they should be OK on a tele.

I'm not a huge fan of locking tuners.  I learned how to wrap strings so they lock themselves off when I was very young and never had issues with string slipping.  This seem to be the most popular lately. They are well made and only cost $20 too.  The free Winder comes in handy too. 

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FWIW, I am using the first ones you have pictured on both my '62 Custom Tele reissue (usually running 9's) and on my Duo Sonic (usually strung with 10's) and I've been happy with the intonation on both guitars - and I'm pretty picky about tuning and intonation. I think those brass saddles cost me ten bucks per set from RS Guitarworks (although they are now selling ones with a different design, and are charging $40 for a set of them). IMO they're a huge improvement over the stock uncompensated saddles.

Having said that, the "tilting" ones look like a really good idea, since they would allow you to get the compensation dialed in exactly how you want / need it to be, regardless of the guitar or string gauges. I'll be interested in hearing what you think of them once you get a chance to install and test them out! :snax: 

 

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On ‎2‎/‎19‎/‎2020 at 12:51 AM, Phil O'Keefe said:

FWIW, I am using the first ones you have pictured on both my '62 Custom Tele reissue (usually running 9's) and on my Duo Sonic (usually strung with 10's) and I've been happy with the intonation on both guitars - and I'm pretty picky about tuning and intonation. I think those brass saddles cost me ten bucks per set from RS Guitarworks (although they are now selling ones with a different design, and are charging $40 for a set of them). IMO they're a huge improvement over the stock uncompensated saddles.

Having said that, the "tilting" ones look like a really good idea, since they would allow you to get the compensation dialed in exactly how you want / need it to be, regardless of the guitar or string gauges. I'll be interested in hearing what you think of them once you get a chance to install and test them out! :snax: 

 

Those $40 ones are similar to the ones in the second pic I posted.  Looks like they created the composition through the same method of filing back the center point of the barrel, except those copper ones only cost $10.  They do angle the grooves to be on a tilt however so that extra $30 may actually be what's needed for that type to work. They are still fixed for the pairs of strings however tweaks between them requires a file. 

The tilt type I bought have no grooves so I likely need to add a slight notch with my nut files.  Otherwise a slight nudge to the left or right changing strings can throw the intonation way out.     

As far as the type you have not working so well for me,  its because of the super jumbo frets I use.  Normal Fender type frets are about half as high and string bend is stopped by the fret board.  The super jumbo have a fluted fretboard touch so string touch is a much bigger factor in getting the intonation right.  Its darn close with the extra filing I did on those other saddles but not as close as I can get it with 6 movable saddles.   

I got those pickups in yesterday. I was able to install them along with the extra shielding tape I posted about in another forum.  That copper tape was pretty thin but I layered it so it should be fine.  I reused the old strings because the new tuners should be coming in today or tomorrow and I'll change them then.  If the saddles take longer I can change the, without stringing it again but I'm likely going to wait changing them till the next set of strings is needed. 

I was knocked out by the tone of those new pickups.  I wasn't expecting that big of an improvement. I set the bridge to 3mm and the neck to 4mm with the top fret depressed and I get an even balance on the selector.  The pickups obviously have better dynamic range.  You can play light for cleans and dig in for drive. The range is natural to the way your hands feel the notes.  The tone was much better especially on the low strings. The bass was round and the output on each string was much more even.  You'd thing it would be the other way around using a bar magnet, but the individual poles do something very cool to isolate the output of each string.  The Alnico V magnets really do give the pickups that classic drive too. 

I'm going to be playing that one a lot.  May even wind up being my favorite, thought that lightweight sister I built using the same kind of body is winding up being fantastic too.  I have the intonation set on that one to perfection with a floating bridge that comes back to proper pitch. Used it recording this week and it really does the classic Strat thing nicely. 

Since I had a few days off from work I also swapped pickups in two other guitars, I moved the Mini HB's with their full sized HB adaptor rings from my Epi Dot to my Plexiglass Flying V And moved the 57 PAF Clones to the Dot.  I was hesitant because that Dot really sang nicely with those mini's but I have 4 guitars with Mini's.  Those 57's are ideal for that guitar. Again, the Alnico V magnets and classic wind gives them the ideal amount of drive without overdoing it.  I can dial it back and get a clean jangle or add additional gain and get the notes to sound violin like while maintaining the pick attack.  These PAF's sounded great in the V but Plexiglass has a very generic tone. The wood tones of the semi Hollow really were a much better match and the V does sound better with the narrower string nodes those pickups produce. 

Edited by WRGKMC
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12 minutes ago, WRGKMC said:

I think it might be the super jumbo frets I use that make the difference. Normal Fender type frets are about half as high and string bend is stopped by the fret board.  The super jumbo have the touch of a fluted fretboard so string touch vs intonation need to be finely tweaked. Its darn close with the extra filing I did. 

You might be right about that - both of the guitars that I have those saddles installed on are in fact equipped with standard, vintage-sized Fender frets, not jumbos. 

 

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On ‎2‎/‎19‎/‎2020 at 12:25 AM, onelife said:

That's a really cool bridge design. Not available yet however. My guess is it will cost close to $200 for the aluminum version. 

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2 minutes ago, Phil O'Keefe said:

You might be right about that - both of the guitars that I have those saddles installed on are in fact equipped with standard, vintage-sized Fender frets, not jumbos. 

 

I have a bunch of guitars with the stock frets and setting the intonation is easier compare to having really tall frets.  The strings you use make a big difference too.  I spend a couple of years trying out different string brands till I found ones that had the right tension balance so I didn't wind up with the low frets bending sharp in comparison to the upper frets. 

These are the ideal strings when using those frets. Strings get a real beating being bent at the frets and you need something that recovers without becoming bent at each fret.  These retain their tone longer and are far more durable then anything on the market.  I was reminded of that when I put a set of D'Addario on my Strat.  They sounded excellent the first week. Second week they started getting dull and wouldn't stay in tune.  3rd week that sounded awful. Couldn't play a chord without sour notes.  The high frets bend the strings at the frets too much.  

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I should add, I'm a huge string bender too. Guess it comes from Playing a lot of slide (and playing violin before guitar)   Strings need to come back to pitch instantly or you wind up with a bunch of sour notes.  Even if you lube the saddles, those beveled angles that taper towards the ball end of the string produce several unnecessary millimeters of friction which prevent the string from returning to pitch quickly. A rounded saddle top has less friction so the string recoils more quickly to pitch after a bend.  At least I hope they will.  The bridge I bought allows top loading too so I could always try that too but I dislike how the saddles can move when you slam a chord so I'm going to try and make the through body work. 

 

 

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I had looked at the Babicz 'Z' bridge assembly not long ago...[zzounds has them for under $80 ]

The main issue was I need top mount for my cheapie, but even at $78,  it is more investment than I wanted to drop on a sub $200 ax. I like the 'no gap' concept, I'm sure it provides much better sustain, and probably better 'quack'. I also am liking the the idea that the strings can't shift L-R. But it also is not a 'traditional' 3-barrel bridge, but in the name of better intonation, I would go with individual saddles.

I'm not clear as to what the newer version improved on from the 'Z'?

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20 hours ago, daddymack said:

I had looked at the Babicz 'Z' bridge assembly not long ago...[zzounds has them for under $80 ]

The main issue was I need top mount for my cheapie, but even at $78,  it is more investment than I wanted to drop on a sub $200 ax. I like the 'no gap' concept, I'm sure it provides much better sustain, and probably better 'quack'. I also am liking the the idea that the strings can't shift L-R. But it also is not a 'traditional' 3-barrel bridge, but in the name of better intonation, I would go with individual saddles.

I'm not clear as to what the newer version improved on from the 'Z'?

Is it possible you have one of those Affinity Squire Tele's with the oddball sized top load bridge?

I have one of those. They aren't bad players at all at all once you do a few mods. New tuners, definitely.  The stock frets are a bit rough but you can get some playing out of them before re-fretting.   You're stuck with the bridge however.  I looked high and low when I had a saddle thread strip.  Had to buy the same one as a replacement.  Regular Fender bridge doesn't fit, they aren't long enough.  I guess they did that so people couldn't turn them into regular Squire Tele's or simply save money.  The fact they are top load isn't so bad as but the gap between saddles drove me crazy. What I wound up doing is I cut a Fender medium celluloid pick in narrow slices about 1mm x 3mm, then glued them to the side of every other saddle. Worked perfectly to get rid of saddle movement.  I thought about making it a string through by drilling through the existing bridge, but since I built this other tele I haven't bothered. 

I got the new tuners in yesterday. They were much better then expected.  Much better then the last set too.  They have excellent gears with no schlock in them.  They used the right kind of pressure washers between the buttons and housing too so the tuning is smooth too.  That came with very little grease so I added some high quality silicone grease which I get from work designed specifically to prevent wear on brass gears like this, and wont liquify and leak given these are locking tuners that are semi exposed. 

I did find the pressure screw for the high E string didn't lock the string off properly.  Looks like the hole wasn't drilled as straight as it should have so the pin cant bite down on a string so thin.  When I change strings I'll swap it with the Low E string which is thick, problem solved.

There was a slight difference in tone and the way the strings snapped down near the nut with these new tuners. Granted I had installed new strings but this is besides that.  Probably not something most people would notice unless they switch from Vintage to modern like I have. Even then they might not notice or mind the changes.  The strings don't wind as low because the pegs protrude above the fretboard higher then the vintage style. The breakaway angle from the nut is less on the 4 strings that don't have string retainers. 

Without the extra downward pressure on the nut the strings are a bit more flexible in the lower registers and I even had to tweak the truss to get rid of some string buzz on the lower strings. The tone has changed too. You can tell there is more mass at that end of the string, steel which produces a more generic sustain and less wood tone from the neck. 

I'll likely keep it this way for awhile. It does tune like a dream with those 18:1 tuners, but that small drop in vintage tone those vintage tuners gave me will be missed.  I may have to price up some actual Kluson/Fender type that have metal worm gears instead of crappy nylon.  Too bad. If it wasn't for that flaw they'd be more durable then the original Fenders which cost about $60. 

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I got tired of dealing with poor intonation with those Wilkerson saddles so I flipped the saddles over and ran the Allan screws back through the opposite direction. 

I now have stock saddles and dam near perfect intonation.  I can press the 12 or last frets and the strings are in pitch. Chords sound excellent too.  The saddles do have some tilt to them even without the beveled edges so they must have used saddles that had angled screw holes.  The best part is, the strings return to pitch much quicker after bending strings.  The string friction on those wide bevels were most likely part of the issue getting strings in pitch. 

I'll still install the  the compensated saddles when they show up but for now problem solved. This guitar simply didn't need much compensation with the frets and setup being used.   

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I got the new saddles in finally.  Guitar was due to be restrung so I did that while installing the saddles. 

The quality was remarkably good. took about an hour to get them properly tweaked.  The easiest way I found to tweak them with the strings tuned to pitch was to use an long thin Allen wrench, placed under the center of the saddle so I could lift it off its screws and angle the barrel to intonate two strings at a time.  Of course one string would go sharper while the other goes flatter when doing this.  If both wound up being sharp or flat by the same amount then you'd use the intonation screw to bring both in.  

Tone wise it actually changed a little bit towards the denser side.  I guess that steel screw in the center and the base swivel does add some mass.  I was very familiar with the others but this one isn't bad.  I haven't notched the string position either.  What I might do is wait till its due for a string change then use a small Hammer and Peen and tap the string top to create a notch. It really doesn't take much to get the groove going.  Normal wear and tear will do the rest.  I could use nut files but its a really tight fit and you can wind up with all kinds of string buzz if you're off by the slightest amount. 

It played fine when I got done. The saddles I had originally were over compensated. They might be fine for heavier strings but I use 9/46 set to Fender Specs which is about as low as you can go without string buzz.  The tall frets make it easy to bend strings too.  It does sound killer now.   I'd have no problem playing that one anywhere.  Slide sounds great on that one too.     

Edited by WRGKMC
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