MOUNTING A BIGSBY B7G VIBRATO ON A GIBSON LUCILLE

Click on any image to see the full-size photo

Sorry about the poor quality, but the digital camera I borrowed wasn't the best and I'm no photographer

I managed to do this job myself, even though I was not too thrilled about hacking on an expensive guitar.  I would have had this professionally done if I had the money, but fortunately, I didn't screw it up and was pleased with the result.  When I was contemplating this job, I scoured the web for any information about installing a Bigsby on a Lucille or any 355-style guitar for that matter, and found nothing.  So, here is something about what I did, for what it's worth.

Attaching the Vibrato

I aligned the Bigsby by attaching two pieces of twine with tape at the high and low E string positions of the vibrato unit and the two E-string tuners.  I then tightened the twine with the tuners until taut and aligned the Bigsby by centering the two "strings" horizontally on the pressure bar of the vibrato, while centering the rear mounting hinge over the strap button hole.  I put masking tape down on the surface of the body where the screws were to go and marked screw locations on the tape.  Then, when I finally got up the nerve, I carefully drilled the six holes in the body to mount the Bigsby.  

With the Bigsby mounted, the biggest challenges were then figuring out how to ground the strings, and what to do with the now empty tailpiece mounting post holes.  


Plugging the Tailpiece Mounting Holes

For the holes, after much thought and indecision, I decided to leave the threaded bushings in the body because 1)  I wanted the option of restoring the guitar to its original configuration with he TP-6, and 2) I didn't want to spend the money necessary to have the holes filled and the top professionally refinished.  I finally came up with the idea for the "plugs" as shown in the photo below.  I fabricated these from regular hex-head bolts so that they can just screw into the bushings and plug the holes.  Since I don't have access to a lathe, I had to make them the hard way.  I roughly formed the round button heads by grinding down the larger hexagonal heads with a bench grinder, then shaping them with files, followed by emery paper and finally polishing with steel wool.  I coated the tops with black automotive touch-up paint, which provided a nice smooth glossy hard black coating. 


Grounding the Strings

On this guitar the ground wire was attached to one of the mounting bushings for the (now absent) TP-6 tailpiece.  While contemplating various schemes for discretely getting a ground wire to the Bigsby, I decided to repair the loose bridge mounting post bushings.  That is when I discovered that fortunately one of the bridge mounting post bushing holes had been routed for a ground wire, as well.  So, I grounded the bridge.  Problem solved!

Concerns

Unfortunately, installation of the Bigsby did have some minor impact on the sound.  There is some acoustic ringing of some of the strings between the front pressure bar and the ends of the strings.  However, I've not heard this at all in the amplified sound.  

I prefer the action a bit a bit higher than specs; i.e.,  ~6/64" on the bass E-string (vs 5/64" spec) and 4/64" on the treble E-string (vs 3/64" spec).  As a consequence, the height of the bridge and the geometry of the Bigsby cause the treble E-string to just touch the back edge of the bridge.  I don't like that, but it doesn't seem to be causing any problems so far and I'd rather not lower the action.

The stock D and G strings are just long enough to reach the tuners.

Postscript:  After a year of so with this setup, I decided that the Bigsby was slightly coloring the unique tone of the Lucille.  I also got into a style that didn't rely on the kind of vibrato the Bigsby is used for.  So, I removed the Bigsby and had the mounting holes professionally repaired.  I've left this page up for reference anyway.


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Created 11 August 1997

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