Replacing the PUs of a Special (batman pickguard) without changing the bridge setup

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by Lhvr, Jun 6, 2015.

  1. Lhvr

    Lhvr Active Member

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    Well, the headline says everything, but I doubt there is a way. But maybe can you help me how to mark the height setting of the bridge? Thanks a lot.
     
  2. CATMANDUE

    CATMANDUE Well-Known Member

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    I would say before you do anything, take a small slide ruler which measures in 32th and 64ths and, write down what your settings on your pickups are now. You can also check with Gibson/Epiphone for the factory spec settings. I don't see you having to even mess with the bridge setting, if it is set proper right now. After you got it all together check for proper intonation. If you don't know what you are doing, perhaps it might be best to pay someone who knows to install them for you. It can turn out to be a can of worms for you real fast, if it is the first time you've decided to play "guitar mechanic."
     
  3. Col Mustard

    Col Mustard Well-Known Member

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    so, like the cat above says, pro setup is worth it in hassle you don't have to experience.
    I don't mind paying my luthier, because my guitars are a pleasure to play afterwards.
    I don't mind paying for professional tune ups on my car either, because it drives so well
    afterwards. Also, I'm older now, and the thrill and adventure of busting my knuckles working
    on a car has paled a bit for me. *laughs

    having said that, I'll give you my recommendations for how to go about your guitar project with the least
    amount of angst, sturm und drang. You should own a good 6" Steel ruler from a hardware
    store, one that measures fine fractions of an inch as well as millimeters. If you don't own one,
    get one. Then, ignore the fractions of an inch and measure everything in millimeters. Measure the
    height of your bridge thumbwheels off the top of your guitar and write it down. Measure the height
    of the strings above the pickups with your finger on the 12th fret, and write that down too.

    You should own Dan Earlewine's book: "How to Make Your Electric Guitar Play Great."
    If you don't own this, you're like a blind man in a dark room. Get it from StewMac, and get the signed
    version. *laughs This book has radius gauges included, as well as a DVD of very handy and well
    explained guitar work video. Everybody should read this. It answers so many questions...
    http://www.stewmac.com/How-To/Books/How_To_Make_Your_Electric_Guitar_Play_Great.html

    I'll also recommend Dan's video: "How to wire a Gibson Guitar." If you have never done it, you can follow
    this step by step as you work. It's only $15 but saves you much anxiety, seeing how a master does it.
    http://www.stewmac.com/How-To/DVD/How_to_Wire_a_Gibson_Guitar_DVD.html

    While you're on the StewMac site, get their metric String Action Gauge. With this you can measure accurately
    very fine tolerances and write them down, and repeat them when you're done soldering. Very useful.
    http://www.stewmac.com/Luthier_Tools/Types_of_Tools/Straightedges/String_Action_Gauge.html

    So... with a few tools and some know-how from book and video, you can do this. Getting the new p'ups
    installed on the pickguard is fiddley and the springs can exasperate you by ska-poinging across the room
    just when you think you've got it in there... But you have this joy to look forward to. *Grins. Take a
    deep breath... exhale your frustration with the stale air. repeat PRN...

    While you've got the pickguard off, I recommend you cut a couple of pieces of stiff foam to go under the
    rear edge of each pickup. The idea here is to level your new pickups with the strings, not the guitar top.
    I use foam about 20mm high for the neck p'up, and about 25mm high for the bridge p'up. The height
    depends on the stiffness of the foam and how high you want your pickups to protrude from the guard.

    Getting the foam cut just right involves putting the pickguard and bridge on and off numerous times
    and checking the angle, and cutting new foam and doing it again... it's fiddley also, but very worth it
    IMHO. By the time you've got the foam just right, you'll be familiar with all the ins and outs of this
    job, and will go about it fearlessly. While you've got the strings off, lube the nut slots and bridge saddles with StewMac's guitar grease, or Nut Sauce, or a home made mixture of vaseline and powdered graphite.

    And this is something you need to do for yourself. I don't think paying luthier prices for this work
    is cost-effective. I'd be inclined to do all the soldering work, and get the pickup height and the pickup
    angle set perfectly, glue the foam into the body with a couple small dabs of glue
    and THEN take the guitar in for pro setup. Let the luthier check your neck straightness,
    nut slot depth, fret level & polish, check your solder joints and set the intonation precisely.
    and tweak all the adjustments.

    Good luck!
     
  4. Biddlin

    Biddlin Well-Known Member

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    Do a proper setup while you're messing about, for gosh sakes. once you've got all the parts and strings in place, bridge flat on the deck, tune up to whatever pitch you call standard. Play the low E from fret 15 to 22(4) raise the bass side of the bridge until the notes are all buzz free. Do the same thing with the high E, on the treble side. Retune between each adjustment. Now play the lower frets, tightening the truss rod (turn clockwise) to decrease relief (lowering the strings) loosening (turn counter-clockwise) to increase relief(raising the strings) Use enough relief that strings don't buzz on frets 1-14. Some payers can play with almost no relief, while others require more . once the neck relief is set to your satisfaction, set the bridge saddles for proper intonation.
    The saddle positions are adjusted by the individual screws located on the bridge, sliding the saddles forward or back-ward. To check the intonation: Use an electronic tuner and tune the guitar to a standard pitch. Play the harmonic at the 12th fret, and compare it to the fretted
    note at the 12th fret.
    These notes should read the same on the tuner.
    If the 12th fret harmonic pitch is lower than the fretted note, slide the saddle
    back (toward the tailpiece)(turn clockwise). If the 12th fret harmonic pitch is higher than the fret-
    ted note slide the saddle forward (toward the neck)(counterclockwise.
    Then have fun adjusting pickup height.
    ;>)/
     
    Last edited: Jun 7, 2015
    lineboat and Crazy_8 like this.
  5. Lhvr

    Lhvr Active Member

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    Thanks for your help. I am not sure if I wrote right or not. I have my beloved 90 Special, want to change the PUs and after it I want the same the setting again. Intonation and string position are great but I must remove the bridge because the pickguard sits under the bridge screws.

    Ok, I just checked the Gibson SG manual book. They say that I just should meassure it. Well ... before I was searching for different coins and put them between the pickguard and the bridge screw - just untill there was no space left.
     
  6. flatrockmobile

    flatrockmobile Well-Known Member

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    I've use a set of digital calipers. Great tool for many things. Without one, after you take the strings off, count how many turns it takes to bottom out each of the two height adjusting screws on the bridge. Then remove them and now you have a reference of where to put them back.
     
  7. flatrockmobile

    flatrockmobile Well-Known Member

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    Or, use a set of feeler gauges to measure the height under the thumb wheel adjusters.
     
  8. smitty_p

    smitty_p Well-Known Member

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    As you've observed already, you'll have to remove the bridge.

    But, getting it back in place is no big deal. Use a small ruler graduated in millimeters (or 1/64ths of an inch if you're in the US). Measure the high and low side. When reinstalling, just set it for the measurements you took. You can also try the feeler gauge idea, which flatrockmobile suggested.

    Regardless, it's still likely you'll have to do some sort of adjustment afterwards. Use Biddlin's post above for that.

    Personally, when I remove my bridge (which is rare) I never even bother to measure. I mean, I do sort of "eye-ball" it to be able to reinstall it close to where it was, but that's about it. I just put it back on and set the bridge to be buzz-free, similar to how Biddlin described.
     
    Last edited: Jun 19, 2015
  9. Dave_Death

    Dave_Death Well-Known Member

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    Basically what I did was set it up as best I could after changing pickups etc, tried a few different string sets and other things (including wiring changes) until I had it sounding pretty good, and then when I knew what I wanted exactly took the guitar to a professional to have it set up. While I had it set up fairly good it always came back from the tech playing better than before and he tidies up any of my amateurishness in the control cavity etc

    Generally I have had set-ups done when I had some other work done that I didn't really want to do myself, like installing a new nut. With my Standard that wasn't the case, but I thought it would be a good time to install the TonePros set I had, so I just took that along and asked him to switch that over with the stock bridge and tailpiece when he did the setup
     

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