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The ABR-1 “Tune-o-matic” Bridge

Every ES 335 ever sold from 1958 until now has had one of two bridge types. The ABR-1 (also called Tune-o-matic) from 1958 to 1975 or so and the Nashville from 1976 until 1989 or so. Then it was back to the ABR-1. ABR-1 bridges came in a few varieties and that can be helpful when trying to get a handle on the date of your ES 335/345/355. The earliest variety was nickel plated (or gold plated for 345 and 355) and had no little retaining wire to keep the saddles in place. the saddles were plated brass. This type had the designation “Gibson ABR-1” on the underside and a trademark from the company who manufactured them. These were used from 58 until sometime around 1962. Gibson never makes a change over night-they begin to use new designs while they still are using the older design to transition into a new configuration. the next ABR-1 had the same markings, same saddles but had a small retaining wire which held the saddles in place so when you broke a string on stage you didn’t have to crawl around looking for it before you could restring. Drag.  Then, in 63 sometime, they decided to change the saddles from metal to plastic (nylon, apparently). Some felt this helped eliminate string breakage while others felt (and still feel) that it made the guitars dull sounding.
Clapton’s 335 had nylon saddles and it didn’t sound dull to me.  The bridge continued to have nylon saddles well into the 70s. During 64-65 they phased in 2 new elements. We start seeing a different inscription on the underside with smaller writing which said “Gibson Pat# 2,760,313” in late 64. We also start seeing the use of chrome plating rather than nickel. The overlap is such that you can have a chrome bridge with the old inscription (i had that on my 66) or a nickel bridge with the new inscription (which was on my 64). It’s this transition that makes it difficult to use the bridge for dating a 335 from mid 64 until late 66. There were just too many combinations. The change in inscription also changed on the gold plated version found on the 345 and 355 at around the same time. The ABR-1 remained chrome throughout the period until the Nashville bridge with its longer travel and screwed in saddles replaced it in 1976 or so.  We’ll talk about that in another post.
This is a no wire ABR-1
Below it is the underside which is the same
for the wired type until mid 64-65
Below that a wired type
and below that, the “patent #” type in gold

4 Responses to “The ABR-1 “Tune-o-matic” Bridge”

  1. Jim R says:

    Just came across this page. Minor point, but I believe that the nylon bridge saddles were introduced in 1960 or ’61, not in 1963. According to Duchossoir, they had become standard by 1961. I believe the ’61 date, as I’ve owned a few ’61 and ’62 Gibsons which had nylon bridge saddles.

    What I’m having trouble verifying is when Gibson decided to go back to metal saddles. Some years ago, I recall reading that this occurred around ’63 (so the nylon saddles were only standard for a couple of years). I’ve also read (more recently) that the nylon type continued to be used to some extent into the 1970’s.

  2. OK Guitars says:

    Not true no matter what Mr. D says. Gibson introduced nylon saddles before 63 but not on the 335. I’ve had at least 50 pre 63 ES-335s and 345s and none of them had nylon saddles. I had a 62 SG with nylon so, I know they existed on Gibsons before 63. I come by my knowledge through experience and my experience just tells me that they became standard in 63 and they lasted into the 70’s. I have a 62 upstairs thats 100% original down to the strings (OK, maybe not the strings but they look like they could be original flats) and the saddles are metal. I sold a 62 a month ago-again, all original and again, metal saddles. I’ve had early 63’s with metal as well. Could all of them have been switched out? I’m sure some weren’t original but all of them? Not likely.

  3. Bruce Pittenger says:

    Hello, I bought what I believe by serial number to be a 1972 Les Paul Custom
    Black beauty, Fretless wonder, Norlin S/N 966497 Gold plated, wired, nylon saddles ABR installed. Would this be a true original bridge for this guitar of that era? I’d would appreciate any input. The only thing odd about this guitar is it looks like the guy routing the pickup cavities had a rough day that day.

  4. cgelber says:

    I’m not a Les Paul guy (nor 70’s guy) but I believe that is correct.

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