The Expendables 2

The top bridge is a thin one they used in 58 only but it shows a more exaggerated bend than most normal size ABR-1s do. When the bottom one starts looking like the top one, it's time to take some action (and I don't mean go get a drink).

No, not the movie this time either (which I also didn’t see). Just the sequel to the last post where I covered things that wear out like strings and frets and plastic parts. Over the very long haul, there a lot of other parts that can wear out. Because the ABR-1 bridge is made out of some really crappy metal, they aren’t very strong and after 50 years of pressure from the strings, there is a pretty good chance that your bridge is falling down (falling down, falling down). They sag in the middle and the nature of the metal is such that it doesn’t bend back very well. In fact it usually breaks and if it doesn’t, it just sags again. So get a repro or a Tone Pros and put the original in the case pocket. Nobody will mind. How will you know if the bridge is sagging? The strings should follow the radius of the fingerboard. If they don’t, the bridge is sagging or the saddles aren’t properly seated. Check the saddles. If they look right, then take off the bridge and remove the saddles. Lay it on a flat surface upside down. It should be dead flat-no light passing under the straight edge. Seeing daylight? Into the case pocket. The saddles themselves get worn out as well. The single most likely culprit when your 335 is sounding dull and plinky (plunky?) is a worn out saddle. If the groove is too deep, it will keep the string from vibrating freely. Usually new saddles are the best solution. I’ve had some luck with filing the tops of all the saddles so that the groove is much shallower but you have to be careful not file them unevenly or you’ll screw up the heights. Again. put the originals in a ziplock in the case pocket and get some new ones. The metal ones are easy to find-the plated brass ones are closest to vintage. If you want nylon saddles, it’s a bit trickier. The original nylon saddles were milled and are hard as a rock. The newer ones aren’t. I haven’t found decent new nylon saddles. The Tusq ones are a good substitute but they are expensive. They work great though. When I get new saddles, I string the guitar up before I notch them to see where the strings cross the saddles without deflection (straight across at 90 degrees). It’s not always the middle. Then I mark the saddles with a sharpie. Then I get out the little teeny file I use and make the shallowest notches I can that will still hold the strings in place. Heading to the other end of the neck, we have another culprit in the “why does my 335 sound like crap” parade. The nut. A lot of folks complain that 335s don’t stay in tune and almost everyone blames the tuners. Klusons are not high tech items. They’re kind of crappy. But they aren’t the reason your 335 goes out of tune. The nut is slotted too tight. So, some wear in the nut slots is actually a good thing because a slightly enlarged slot will help keep your guitar in tune better no matter what tuner in on it. But beyond a little wear, there are other problems like strings popping out of the slot or poor sustain caused by too much play in the slot. Time for a new nut. The originals are nylon and most folks use a nylon replacement. Bone is another choice and, to be honest, I don’t hear much difference and if a guitar has had its nut replaced, I don’t really care what it was replaced with as long as it works properly and was properly (and neatly) installed. I let my tech do nuts. A changed nut shouldn’t impact the value of the guitar very much if its done properly. Next, Part 3 where I go inside the guitar and look at the electronic doo hickeys that give up the ghost after 50 years or so.

These saddles are pretty worn but they work just fine because they aren't too deeply notched. At least half the string should be above the notch.

2 Responses to “The Expendables 2”

  1. RAB says:

    Charlie, good insights as always! Interesting to see this 355’s saddles nearly uniformly adjusted to the rear so the geet must have been playing a little sharp?!

  2. OK Guitars says:

    Actually, I took the photo before I got around to intonating it. It wasn’t quite that sharp, if I recall. The last owner must have had a tin ear.

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