Stringing an 18-hole Classical Guitar Bridge

In the last article I discussed the benefits of an 18-hole bridge. The next question might be, how does one go about stringing one up? Here is an easy step-by-step guide. Let’s start by looking at the hole configuration. There are 3 holes for each string. The left upper hole as well as bottom hole go all the way through the tie block. The top right hole goes half way into the tie block and is used to capture the string end.

In the guide below we are going to string the 4th (D) string.


Step 1 – Start the string-up.3-string

From the front of the tie block, insert the string in the bass-side hole.

 

 

 

 

 


Step 2 – Bury the string end.4

The treble side hole is the “half-hole”. Insert the end of the string into the half-hole until it stops.

 

 

 

 

 


Step 3a. Lock the string.5

Pull on the string, taking up the slack.

 

 

 

 

 

 


6Step 3b.

Pull until the string is taut along the back of the bridge.

 

 

 

 

 


Step 4a – Wrap the string.7

Take the other end of the string and insert it from the back into the lower hole.

 

 

 

 

 


7Step 4b.

Pull the string through so it creates a loop over the tie block.

 

 

 

 

 


Step 4c.8

Finish pulling the string until it is taut over the tie block. Notice two things – first how the wrap locks the string into place at the back by vertically crossing the string. Secondly note how low the string exits the front of the tie block, providing more than adequate break angle over the saddle. From here, you simply string the other end up at the tuning machine.

 


Complete. 13-strung

When all six strings are wrapped, the bridge has a clean look, with a single string over the tie block and no string ends exposed in the back.

 

 

 

 


Very simple, foolproof, and keeps your top safe from string slap. But with that said, how does one remove the string? Simply grab the string from the saddle side and push toward the back until it is all the way through (first photo). The string unloops from the tie block. Once again press the string from the saddle toward the back, and the string end will push back (photos 2 & 3). Simply pull the string through and it is removed.

9-unstring

10-unstring11-unstring

Benefits of an 18-hole Classical Guitar Bridge

In the world of classical guitars we all learned to string bridges with six holes. Simple – one hole per string, or so it seemed. The various antics to hold each string in place, especially those slippery trebles, is often an exercise in classical guitar gymnastics, especially while trying to turn the corresponding tuner with the left hand, the guitar precariously balanced on the lap while the right index fingernail holds the loop of a treble spring on the bridge.

String slap damage behind the treble E string

Aside the antics, there are two issues stringing a traditional 6-hole classical guitar – the first is trying to keep the treble strings steady while tensioning, that is, unless one performs a wrap knot, which I don’t particularly care for. The second is having a treble string that comes loose at the tie block, whips around, its tip slapping the soundboard behind the bridge and gashing the top.

Got a lighter? Good, since one technique involves swelling the bridge-side string end of those pesky trebles with a flame. For the 6-hole, swelling the treble string tips with a lighter is my preferred approach. But seriously, though, there has to be a better way. And there is – the 18-hole tie block.

A Better Tie Block – The 18-Hole Bridge

For each string, three holes are drilled into the tie block. Two of those holes go all the way through the tie block, while the third rightmost hole is drilled from the rear and stops halfway into the tie block. This “half hole” is where the string end is ultimately placed. Let’s take a look at some of the benefits:

  • String ends are cleanly concealed in the tie block, in the 3rd half hole.
  • Since the string end is trapped in the tie block, it cannot come loose. This prevents top damage that can occur from the dreaded string slap, as shown in the photo above.
  • 18-hole bridge fully strung

    The 18-hole bridge completely strung. Note how string ends are buried in the tie block.

    Stringing the guitar is actually far more simple than a 6-hole bridge. Once the tie block is strung one can simply lead the string to the tuner and tension, without the gymnastics of holding the string in place at the bridge.

  • If you wish to string the guitar as a 12-hole tie block, that can be done.
  • With a 12-hole or 18-hole tie block, the break angle increases over a 6-hole – that is, the downward angle of the string from the saddle to the hole is significantly increased. This can be good for sound, and also helpful if neck angle changes over time have caused the saddle to be filed down. This prolongs the need for “slipping the heel” on a spanish neck guitar or doing a neck reset on a more modern neck construction.

In the next article, we’ll walk through a step-by-step stringing of an 18-hole bridge. Hopefully the above information gives some food for thought for converting a 6-hole to an 18-hole, or ordering your new classical with an 18-hole bridge.

Building a Few Legends

Strat in a Gibson Color - Inverness Green Metallic

Strat in Gibson’s Inverness Green Metallic

Undoubtedly the Fender electric guitars from the 50’s are some of the most iconic instruments ever made. This past spring I decided to make a series of tele and strat style guitars, in homage to this classic design. But to make things interesting, a few twists to make them special for their ultimate owners.

The bodies are all made from Alder, selected for quality and weight. The necks are Eastern Hard Curly Maple, finished in amber for that vintage “found this gem in a closet” look. Speaking of finish, I selected nitro lacquer colors that are period traditional, rarely seen, yet gorgeous. Finally the hardware is nearly all American made boutique – the finest one can find, with pickups custom wound for each guitar.

All in all there are 6 guitars in flight. A strat on order from a client in Inverness Green Metallic, a Burgundy Mist Metallic tele, two Curly Maple over mahogany body guitars that will be nitro bursted. Finally my favorite – a matching pair, tele and strat, in a rare Capri Orange color with white binding and hardware details.

Eastern Hard Curly Maple

Eastern Hard Curly Maple

Curly curly maple

I am a big fan of Maple necks for guitars, including acoustics. If Maple is good enough for violins, it is good enough for guitars! Eastern Hard Curly Maple is a superb neck wood – elegant with visual depth, bright and clear tone which mellows slightly over two to four years of playing. An electric guitar is acoustically influenced more by the neck than the body, making the neck especially important to the overall sound.

So yes, the necks are curly, with rosewood fretboards, abalone fret markers and rosewood skunk stripes. They are completed with bone nuts and Gotoh staggered height adjustable vintage tuners, which in my opinion are the finest quality vintage style tuning machine.

Hardware bits

No corners are cut with the hardware. The highest specification components are made in the USA. One exception is for the Gotoh vintage tuners, as the Japanese product is simply the best quality in my experience doing repairs. The bridges and saddles are custom milled by Callaham in Winchester, VA or Rutters in san Diego, CA.

Pickups are hand wound and individually ordered from a crew I work with out of North Carolina. The rest of the hardware all American made from CTS, Switchcraft, CRL and Oak Grisby. It costs more to build guitars this way, but the end product is uncompromised. Of course all wiring is vintage pushback with oil-filled boutique capacitors, high tolerance pots and finally treble bleeds to keep tone balance across the volume range.

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A Few Attentions to Detail

Since many of my clients play on stage, and single coils are the noiseful bane of every stage musician dealing with fluorescent lighting, careful attention is paid to shielding. Specifically the bodies are shielded using a special shielding paint in cavities and wire channels, which is then locked in during the clearcoat stage. Pickguards are shielded in copper, and ground wires connect the shields to the circuit ground.

Necks are carefully finished, dressing fret ends and ensuring smooth fretboard edges for comfort in playability. The bottom of the neck pocket is cleaned and leveled, ensuring a tight connection and proper angle for correct saddle height adjustment.

Finishes are very thin, allowing for the instrument to be resonant. It would be difficult for a factory to finish guitar in nitro lacquer as thin as I do, and warranty the instrument – one of the differences of a hand crafted guitar. To make a thin finish requires tedious attention to careful wet sanding – body, sealer, basecoat and clearcoat. Body color matched headstock logos and Morelli neck plates round out a few small touches without interfering with the essence of these iconic guitars.

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The Orange Creamsicle Set

In researching colors from the 50’s and 60’s I found that many of the Fender colors were borrowed from automobiles of the time. They are often pastels, soft in mid-tone color. Interestingly enough, Capri Orange is from a later era. For about one year, Fender painted Stratocasters in the late 70’s in this color, which is reminiscent of a childhood treat – the orange creamsicle. If one didn’t know any better, one might conclude this was a 60’s color, along with the rest of the famous Fender hues.

Once completed and in the hands of a future owner, they will be one-of-a-kind. Stunning partners with a unique look and quintessential sound of their original 50’s inspirations. Having the opportunity to work on guitars with this attention to detail in concept, style, sound and execution is exciting as a luthier. This is what brings me passion and attention into focus.

The telecaster received double white binding, set against the orange, framing the guitar’s presence. White single ply pickguards finish off the contrast. The necks are sprayed in an amber tint, with enough orange hue in the yellow transluscent base to compliment the bodies. As a finishing touch, both guitars receive matching orange owl straps made by Couch in Chicago.

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Final trimmings

These guitars will be protected by new Fender ABS hardshell cases which are form fitted to the bodies. While I often prefer the look of tweed cases, the new hardshell molded cases simply provide superior protection, especially for the gigging musicians where the cases are going to see a lot of public use.

As with all Morelli guitars they will come with hand-written hang tags, a numbered Morelli Guitars white pearl pick, Morelli Guitars microfiber cloth, a signed Build Sheet detailing all of the build specifications, and a lifetime warranty as is customary as I stand behind all my instruments.

Shad Peters Unfortunate Event Becomes an Opportunity

Once in a while we have the opportunity to witness a tragedy turn a new leaf, or a wrong made a right. Even better, sometimes we are blessed with the opportunity to participate in the blessing.

Peters Instruments Burns Down

Peters Instruments Burns Down

On New Years eve, Shad Peters had the great misfortune of having his shop burn down. This was a travesty, with all equipment, guitars in flight, other shop-related items all extinguished by a rapid flame.

Well what happened as a tragedy on New Years Eve has now become a groundswell by the luthier and guitarist community to help Shad rebuild. Folks from all walks of life are pitching in and with a bit of perseverance and faith, Shad will be back on his feet and creating beautiful instruments again for his clients in 2015.

I don’t personally know Shad, at least face-to-face. But we participated on a luthier forum together for a few years. I knew Shad as a curious, industrious and always kind individual. It an Internet of faceless names, his kindness struck me, enough so that I welcomed the chance to help in whatever little way I could. And it seems that Shad has touched others in the same way.

Here’s how you can help:

You can keep track of updates at Peters Instrument Facebook page.
Financial donations can be made at GoFundMe.
If donating tools or supplies, I have set up a Google Sheet.

May God bless you, Shad!

Filippo

The retrospec – Tasty Bits, Part 3

[The previous articles can be found here: The retrospec – Introduction, Part 1 :: The retrospec – The Core Design, Part 2]

Sorting out the parts for the retrospec

Sorting out the parts for the retrospec

Unlike a classical or steel string acoustic, electric guitars are chock full of electronic goodies and accessories. My uncle once told me that the more controls on an amplifier the less the chance you’ll ever find the sound you are looking for. I must say I’ve come to realize the wisdom in his comment.

But with that said, the retrospecss is an electric guitar so choices we must make. Thankfully this is one of several places where my co-conspirator, Saleh Sabat, is a whirling dervish of gear. So into the deep end of the pool!

From Tuners to Bridge

Let’s start at the headstock and work to the body. Telecasters, for the most part, have always had string trees. We opted to go with staggered Gotoh tuners, requiring no string trees. Tuners will be mounted without top nuts, but rather with the shafts sleeved and free floating in the headstock.

Snake Oil pure Nickel Strings with Buffalo Bone white nut material

Snake Oil pure Nickel Strings with Buffalo Bone white nut material

From the tuning shafts we mount pure nickel Snake Oil strings. As the strings come to the fretboard, they are supported by a white Buffalo bone nut, which is very hard. This is a small but important detail. The nut slots are polished and facilitate string bending. How so, you ask? We designed the headstock slightly longer than a stock Fender neck, then removed the string trees, ensured the string are a straight line from bridge to tuners.

We then went with the hardest nut material we could polish – all of this to create additional unencumbered string length behind the nut to ease string bending. These are the kinds of details we think about when spending six months designing a guitar!

Evo wire on a Ziricote fretboard.

Evo wire on a Ziricote fretboard.

The strings make their way over Evo fret wire, which is a fairly new fret material made by Jescar. Evo wire is harder than regular nickel frets (better bends and better wear) but doesn’t feel different like stainless steel frets. A shiny gold color when new, Evo wire eventually oxidizes to a dull gold color which looks very attractive, both on maple necks and darker fretboards. Underneath the frets is a two way truss rod, which can be adjusted by removing the neck pickup backplate.

Finally at the body end, the strings crest the brass saddles of a Rutters Chopped Bridge. Machined from cold rolled plate steel, it is both elegant and tone enhancing. The strings finally pass through the body and are secured by flush mount chrome ferrules.

Custom steel bobtail bridge with compensated polished brass saddles

Custom steel bobtail bridge with compensated polished brass saddles

Unlike Fender guitars which mount the neck perfectly horizontal to the body, the retrospecss will have a mild neck back angle. This allows us to project a slightly higher string height over the saddles, which we find better contributes to the guitar’s tone. The added height will add a sixteenth of an inch of saddle height, without requiring a taller neck mount or higher neck pickup setting.

Pickups
The retrospecss is available with four different pickup configurations. The first will be the standard Telecaster bridge/neck pair. The second, a Nashville version which adds a third middle pickup and unique six-way toggle switch. The third configuration will be the minimalist’s guitar – a single bridge pickup. Finally a special Charlie Christian version of

Custom wound pickups, specific to the retrospec

Custom wound pickups, specific to the retrospec

the retrospecss will be a hollowbody with archtop bridge using Charlie Christian style jazz pickups. These will be excitingly unique guitars and offer a wide range of capability atop the retrospecss core design.

Unlike the Telecaster, our pickups will be rear mounted and rear adjusted. The front body routs will allow the top of the pickup to protrude through the body. The back plates will be made from the same body wood material, yet carrying more wood mass behind the pickup. The pickups will mount to the back plates and their height adjusted from the rear.

Electronics and Control Gear

High quality electronics are important to an accurate and well focused sound. The retrospecss starts with CTS pots with 10% tolerances. The tone pot is no-load, so it can be completely taken out of the circuit (along with the capacitor). Wiring is vintage cloth. The capacitors are oil filled, new old stock from Russia, which are known for great tone. The jack is Electrosocket mated to a Switchcraft jack, which is a far superior solution to the traditional Tele cup. Finally the switch is a 3 way toggle, as one would see on a Gibson, but still maintaining the round Telecaster style switch tip.

Like the pickups, the tone and volume controls will be mounted through the rear. Instead of being surface mounted, the front routs will allow for the knobs to protrude through the top. Controls will be mounted on an inner cavity plate, allowing the knob depth to be adjusted.

Assembling the parts for the retrospec