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For as long as I've been building guitars and basses, the classic Hipshot hardtail bridge has been the mainstay for builders needing a friendly, easy-to-implement 6, 7 or 8 (and now 9!) string hardtail bridge. This classic hardtail became synonymous with single-scale extended range instruments, gracing guitars by both amateur and boutique custom-builders alike. You could even suggest that it played a pioneer role in driving the development of these instruments and it's still just as popular over ten years later, regularly appearing on member builds here on ProjectGuitar.com. Hipshot have released a new alternative to the classic hardtail, adding a compelling new tool to a builder's armoury! ----==---- The simple unassuming exterior hides a whole lot of brass.... Overview The Hipshot Ibby HM is a part-for-part retrofit for the Ibanez Gibraltar Standard I and II, with a range covering the 6, 7 and 8 string versions in chrome, black and gold finishes. As is the norm for Hipshot, the bridge's baseplate is milled from a block of solid billet stock; in this instance brass. All one has to do is unscrew the existing bridge and drop in the new part with zero modification required. High mass components are part of a tone chaser's armoury of tricks in perfecting the sound of their instrument. Whilst some advocate lightweight or other specific materials for dialling in or restraining certain aspects, the visceral sonority that brass add to a guitar or bass's timbre is the strongest draw for most. In its intended form of being a retrofit for Ibanez Gibraltar bridges (cast zinc alloy?) the use of a heavy brass baseplate unlocks aspects to an instrument's tone that simple die-cast materials don't. Fine as many Ibanez instruments can be off the shelf, basic upgrades such as this only make them finer. However....if you're reading this then the chances are you're not interested in this unit as a retrofit item, and want to know how it fares as the basis for a custom instrument. For the most part, the same things apply. Brass is a fantastic material for a bridge, and a great choice to spec in from the outset. ----==---- Fundamentally, the bridge is a simple string-through-body unit fitted individual steel saddles. The baseplate is patterned to match the string-through holes of the Gibraltar bridges it is intended to replace, with six in-line holes and additional staggered holes at either side. These staggered holes allow the saddles for lower strings to intonate further rearwards (lower strings) without creating a sharp break angle over the witness point. Staggered holes feature on both sides of the baseplate, allowing it to be used in both a left and right-handed context. As with any string through body setup, the instrument will require a set of ferrules or a string retainer block to be fitted at the rear of the instrument. For instruments that refuse to co-operate when intonating, Hipshot also include additional adjustment screws of differing lengths to ensure you can dial it in just so. ProTip: Use the bridge itself to mark out ferrule locations on the rear of the body....just remember to get the staggered holes on the correct side! The baseplate mirrors the staggered holes for both righties and lefties! The saddle height adjustment range is broadly similar to the classic hardtail, with a minimum saddle adjustment of 0.33" (8,4mm) from the face of the instrument through to 0.5" (12,7mm) max. This falls almost exactly in between the ranges of the 0.125" and 0.175" base hardtails. Intonation is readily-accessible from the rear via six screws. String spacing is an even 10,7mm (0,423") centre-to-centre for 6, 7 and 8-string models. This slightly wider spacing may require the use of an F-spaced pickup (DiMarzio term) or trembucker (Seymour Duncan) pole spacing. In general it is right on the margin, so either pole spacing should work fine. This is slightly wider than the classic Hipshot hardtail bridge (10,5mm/0,416"), which I presume is down to the spacing on the Gibraltars. Easy access to intonation adjustment. The bridge mounts to the body using two finish-matched screws (supplied). For additional bridge-to-body coupling (a tone-chaser's favourite) these could easily be swapped out for a pair of machine bolts (M4 or 5/32") with threaded inserts sunk into the body, or even through to a custom-made string retention block at the rear of the instrument. It even looks heavy.... The fit and finish is what we have come to expect from Hipshot; the "show" faces are carefully milled and mirror-smooth with little in the way of machining marks or tool artifacts visible in the unseen areas. All hard edges are broken nicely resulting in a comfortable-feeling unit against your hand. Additionally, the string through holes in the baseplate have a softened lead-in to eliminate string breakage. The plating is consistent and clear, with those nicely-broken edges ensuring durability. Overall the unit is smooth and unobtrusive. The 6-string chrome version reviewed clocks in at a whopping 195g/6,9oz; around a third heavier than some zinc alloys! My only gripe is that the outermost saddle adjustment screw's clearance clips into the otherwise smooth internal curve out of necessity to the design. Certainly no issue beyond a minor point of aesthetics. "She may not look much but she's got it where it counts, kid" Conclusion It's maybe true that you can have too much of a good thing. The classic Hipshot hardtail bridge is still as relevant as ever, but ubiquity often makes it difficult to find something that looks different to everything else. Outside of its intended retrofit purpose, the Ibby HM delivers just that; a familiar drop-in format with a fresh alternative look on top of the consistent standards expected of Hipshot. The Hipshot Ibby HM bridge range is available directly from Hipshot (hipshotproducts.com) and via distributors worldwide. Watch our for the bridge appearing in one of our Season One YouTube build videos!
As a reviewer it is easy to use a lot of superlatives and comparatives. Bigger-cheaper-best-easiest, etc. Opening this product review, I realised that just using words wouldn't properly convey the correct emphasis and impact. The "Tune-O-Matic bridge and stop tail" is a mature design combination and are common items produced by many manufacturers. Highlighting one more in the mix does not seem to really provide much useful information since established designs are usually done very well by the manufacturers that produce them. So a picture (or seven) is definitely worth a thousand superlative words, especially when they demonstrate one of the exceptions that stands out from the crowd. I am glad that I had some cotton gloves handy when unboxing these! The quality of ABM's design, manufacturing approaches and finishing virtually sings at you straight out of the packaging. The beautiful 24k gold plated finish on these components is flawless - so much so, it almost feels a shame that these will be mounted to an instrument rather than being displayed in a jewellers cabinet. The perfection of the surface finish - especially on the stop tail pieces - resembles the perfection of a mirror destined for a space telescope. Remarkable would be putting it mildly to say the least! ABM's series 2500 range consists of every combination of Metric, Imperial and conversion mounting possible in addition to ABM's custom-specification and finishing services, making sourcing the right parts simple. All of the bridges and tailpieces are available in resonant bell brass, lightweight aluminium or hard wearing carbon steel and are all outfitted with bell brass saddles. Designwise, ABM have positively evolved the bridge unit both in visual aesthetic and functionality without any fundamental alterations. Importantly to most, the intonation ranges have been increased significantly over ABR-1 and Nashville bridge designs, pretty much to their theoretical maximums. As a retrofit item, the additional forward saddle displacement may not be as useful the all-important rearward range however both will help tame instruments with problematic intonation. Out of the box, saddles are provided un-notched giving you the ability to select your preferred string spacing whilst on the instrument. Alternatively, pre-notched saddles with perfectly-angled falloff and witness points are also available from ABM along with an exhaustive range of spare parts should you require them. Visually, the milling and finishing of the bridge and tailpieces pays special attention to the show faces of the components. The curves of the tailpiece arches gracefully in the right places with complementary crisp and clean edges. Even the heads of the adjustment screws are perfectly shaped attractive features. Overall the components resemble fine jewellery, almost like comparing the paint on a plain dealership Ford to that of a Bugatti. All of the components are milled from swage-drawn metal rather than simpler die-cast stock. Physically, drawing makes materials more durable and eliminates the internal voids and inconsistencies which casting processes always add in. From a production standpoint, milling ensures that all dimensions are produced to exacting tolerances with none of the deformations or variances inherent in cast components. Ultimately this results in components that align and mate perfectly. All of the bridge's saddles moved smoothly and consistently across their intonation adjustment range; whilst intonation is mostly set-and-forget, not feeling like you are fighting against a component that doesn't want to co-operate is gratifying and reassuring. In place, the bridge is confident and secure. No rattling saddles from loose screws/circlips, and a snug fit between the bridge and the height adjustment posts. All of the boxes for solid coupling are ticked. Whilst I do like the locking systems that manufacturers like TonePros use, the perfect coupling of these components makes that unnecessary. The actual components we unboxed were a 2506G Tune-O-Matic bridge and both a 3020G and 3020GA tailpiece. The 2506G bridge is entirely milled from bell brass (both body and saddles) and is patterned to fit M8-threaded inserts with 6mm posts. Other standard finishes cover nickel, chrome and black chrome however their excellent custom shop service can provide options beyond standard such as the true "lemon gold" 24k gold plating, levels of vintage aging and non-standard finish options. Certainly, as choices go for the most configurable in terms of dimensional and material options with the highest quality in all aspects ABM fulfil the spot of "price is no option here". At the same time, you are guaranteed returns in what you pay for. These parts demonstrate how a relatively simple component can be - and should be - elevated to the jewel in your guitar's crown. ABM continue to maintain their position as a premium manufacturer of guitar hardware without compromise. Their waste-conscious approach, ethical working standards and environmental initiatives (including plating operations) exceed EU guidelines, making them a world-leader in their field. Products can be purchases directly from ABM via their website at www.abm-guitarparts.com
Have been in the business of making superb instrument hardware for almost thirty years, the Hipshot name is synonymous with refinement, high quality and experience. Most importantly Hipshot maintain friendly two-way customer contact which - being fed back into the products - ultimately makes the products the result of players, luthiers and of course the expertise of guys at Hipshot. Products are manufactured and personally inspected at each and every process rather than dropping off the conveyor into the box. Aside from certain specialised processes such as gold plating, every process from the cutting of bar stock to final shipping is carried out in-house at Interlaken, NY. One of the more recent products in their line-up is this classy bass bridge system which co-mingles comprehensive adjustability, distinctive looks and solidity. The D style bridge is a two-part system consisting of a solid lockable bridge and tailpiece. The system is available with a range of common string spacing options, high quality finishes and in both four-string and five-string versions. Additionally the bridge itself can be bought as a standalone unit sans tailpiece for instruments using only string-through-body or alternative methods of string retention. Packaged, the system comes complete with all adjustment tools, threaded body inserts, mounting posts, through-body stringing ferrules (front and rear), nylon washers and alternative-length saddle intonation screws. All components (other than screws and springs of course) are machined from solid brass resulting in a feeling of substance straight out of the box. The noticeably weighty bridge sits on two height-adjustable posts which in turn are mounted to the body via two threaded inserts pressed into the body. Subsequent to basic height adjustment the body is then locked tight to the mounting posts via two hex nuts. Nylon washers ensure that these nuts remain secure. The tailpiece simply screws tight to the body using the finish-matched screws supplied. The design uses the familiar individual saddles found in other Hipshot bass bridges. Each saddle is adjustable in three dimensions; intonation, height and spacing. Intonation range is more than ample at a hair under 12mm/0.5" and is set from the rear of the bridge using a simple Philips head screwdriver. Unlike many other bridges the intonation screw is offset from the centre of the saddle, resulting in adjustment that doesn't require finagling around obstructions such as the string you are attempting to compensate! Two set screws either side of the string allow the saddles to be adjusted from flat up to a radii tighter than those found on vintage Fenders. Located towards the rear of each saddle is a third set screw for locking/unlocking the string witness point barrel. Unlocking this allows relocation of the barrel by pushing the string from either side giving additional control over string geometry should the player prefer equal string spacing centre-to-centre or string-to-string. It is more than likely that the initial intention for the D style bridge was specifically for custom instruments. It is however not unrealistic to expect it could be retrofitted onto existing instruments with a little modification work requiring nothing more than a ruler, hand drill and screwdriver. Given the comprehensive adjustment and setup range available, the system would happily work as a retrofit part upgrading the hardware on many standard basses. The unique appearance of this bridge sets it apart from the vast majority of bridges available to the custom builder/modder with the closest equivalent being the perhaps less elegant Warwick bridge, which of course screams "Warwick" and requires very specific surgery to install. The instrument onto which this bridge was installed was a long-scale Mahogany and Wenge set-neck 5-string bass with the pickups styled after the classic Music Man Stingray. In use the bridge is physically unobtrusive for what is undeniably a substantial item. I rarely play close to the bridge on my basses for pick or finger styles; I either anchor on a pickup, palm a little further forward than the bridge itself or thump/pluck/strum anchored closer to the neck. Forcing myself to palm ON the bridge whilst picking didn't reveal anything sharp, pointy or catchy. The only discomfort came from the weirdness that playing over the bridge gave me! Played acoustically with relatively old strings (to remove traces of "new string joy") the bass feels alive and open. I felt none of the "disconnect" normally found on instruments loaded with cheap/badly coupled hardware, bad neck joints or other weak links in the chain. On that basis the bridge definitely ticks the box as far as being "a solidly anchored resonant bridge" is concerned. Amplified and run open (pickup temporarily wired straight to a vol pot and parallel/series switch), the bass possesses a great deal of characterful growl when I dig in with fingers Burton style or hammer away a la Larry Graham. Mighty tone for such a basic circuit! The contribution that the bridge adds to this mix is difficult to quantify without a basis for comparison. Unplugged it definitely aligns with how the Aria Pro II SB-1000 feels, itself with its own high mass brass bridge. Notes "fill" the instrument if that makes sense? I am highly tempted to follow suit with the Aria on this bass and fit a brass nut.... Top shelf hardware naturally goes hand-in-hand with higher price tags, hence results always need to justify the expenditure. Bargain basement hardware is always a false economy for anybody wanting to imbue their bass with solid characterful tone. The bridge will more than satisfy the needs of the casual builder, repair/setup guy, pro luthier and player alike. The ease dialling in the perfect setup is akin to shooting a shotgun at a barn door and I managed my own within five minutes including a coffee break! This ease allows simple incorporation into instruments with all kinds of geometry whether one prefers a stepped body, high bridge, a larger neck angle for digging in or the flatter feel close to the body. The Hipshot D bridge system certainly satisfies my personal fondness for resonant brass hardware "in the chain"; this was again borne out after the first test string-up of the bass this bridge was fitted on; live and loud throughout the body (and my own body though my hip!) even before it got anywhere near being plugged in. That to me makes the mark of a mighty bass sound before any electronics even hit the instrument. Overall, the Hipshot D style bass bridge is an excellent option for a bass design with a head-turning unique look and flexibility to match. The units are available from numerous resellers worldwide or direct from Hipshot Products' website.
Many thanks to Miika Niemimen for this excellent tutorial. Miika's guitar project which cover was made for can be found here on the forums: Real gold top Les Paul Hi folks! Thought I'd share what I created yesterday. I'm working on a gold top LesPaul (haven't updated the build thread lately, will soon). Well, I wanted to make a custom trussrod cover with my own graphics and using material that would match the gold tuners and overall gold theme of the guitar. Brass looks very much like gold when polished so I went for that, but you could use other metals. I recently learned an etching technique to make metal signs so I used the same method here. The technique is similar as making circuit boards so I'd start the search for chemicals at your local electronics component store. Sounds complicated and, yes, it does take a little testing but not very difficult at all. OK, I could have taken the brass plate to be CNC'd but that's really not my point - I really respect handcraft and want to do things by myself. So here's the way to etch if you want to try it for your unique trussrod cover, or customize any other metal part on your guitar (metal pickup covers, pot knobs, scratch plates, neck mounting plates - you name it). WARNING: Be careful with those chemicals! Use protective gloves, don't breathe the fumes, don't mix them and dispose properly (not in the sink!) Create your custom graphics. Photocopy/print it on overhead transparency film. You could use a negative image to create a darker appearance. ("Aurum" is the name for my guitar, latin for "gold"). Polish brass plate using steel wool Cover brass with photo-resist laquer spray (eg. Positiv20) Allow to dry for 24h (in dark!) or heat at 70°C (160°F) for 15min Lay film on top of the metal and expose for 3min with ultraviolet light. I've heard you can use a standard bulb and expose for 1hr (haven't tried). The UV-light cost $5 at my local electronics store. Develop the exposed plate in sodium hydroxide (NaOH) solution (7g/litre of water). The exposed lacquer will dissolve in a few minutes and the unexposed will protect the metal from dissolving in the next phase. Wash the plate and look for any discontinuities in the lacquer. You can correct these with a regular permanent marker. Treat the plate with ferrichloride (FeCl3) solution for about 1 hour (500g of FeCl3 granules per 1 liter of warm water). Look at the plate every now and then. If some part is not dissolving correctly use a needle to scratch the excess lacquer. If a protected area is eroding use the marker to protect it and you may be able to hide the flaw in the polishing stage. The etching is deep enough when you can feel it with your finger/nail. You can enhance the eroded lines by applying gun blue (ask from you local gun store) with a cotton wool stick. Polish with fine grit paper (I used 2000) and a woollen sock. Reapply gun blue and polish again if you're not satisfied with the darkness. Trim the plate edge with tools of your choice (eg. Dremel, file and sand paper). A layer of lacquer will prevent the brass from oxidizing.