Forcing steeper break angle over saddle on stella-type guitar

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Forcing steeper break angle over saddle on stella-type guitar

Postby Michael Recchione » Sun Feb 10, 2019 2:00 pm

I recently got what I believe is a Harmony Stella (or a clone of one), and the top under the bridge is sunken so that the bridge and saddle are much lower than they should be. I’ve shimmed the saddle (and will replace it with a new bone saddle that’s the appropriate height), but even with the shim, the pressure against the saddle isn’t enough to prevent the 1st and 2nd string from moving from side to side when I play aggressively. Is there a way to force the tailpiece down, or otherwise increase the break angle over the saddle, without altering the sound too much? The shimmed saddle results in very high action at the 12th fret, and the height was mostly intended to give some downward pressure on the saddle, and the guitar could have much lower action if there were a way to force the tailpiece down towards the top.
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Re: Forcing steeper break angle over saddle on stella-type guitar

Postby Mark Wybierala » Sun Feb 10, 2019 2:28 pm

I guessing that there's a stamped steel trapeze tailpiece. There are all kinds of things that people do to their guitars... Assuming that this guitar has little or no value, you could simply drill and install a pair of #4 machine screws on the tailpiece and use locking nuts with the nylon inserts inside the body.
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Re: Forcing steeper break angle over saddle on stella-type guitar

Postby Michael Recchione » Sun Feb 10, 2019 2:36 pm

Mark Wybierala wrote:I guessing that there's a stamped steel trapeze tailpiece. There are all kinds of things that people do to their guitars... Assuming that this guitar has little or no value, you could simply drill and install a pair of #4 machine screws on the tailpiece and use locking nuts with the nylon inserts inside the body.
Thanks for the reply. I was considering doing pretty much exactly that, maybe even making a new tailpiece to get a slightly wider string spacing at the saddle for fingerpicking.

No, it’s not a valuable guitar - it was a pretty cheap Facebook Marketplace buy, but it’s got that Stella old-bluesy sound. I was wondering if coupling the tailpiece to the top like that would really change the sound a lot...
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Re: Forcing steeper break angle over saddle on stella-type guitar

Postby Freeman Keller » Tue Feb 12, 2019 4:03 pm

How is the neck angle? I would guess it needs a reset which would allow you to set the angle anywhere you wanted. Here for reference is the break over angle on my Stella-clone 12 string

IMG_4549-3.jpg


Michael Recchione wrote:
Mark Wybierala wrote: I was considering doing pretty much exactly that, maybe even making a new tailpiece to get a slightly wider string spacing at the saddle for fingerpicking.



On a guitar with a tailpiece the saddle is usually notched to set the string spacing.
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Re: Forcing steeper break angle over saddle on stella-type guitar

Postby Michael Recchione » Tue Feb 12, 2019 6:06 pm

The neck angle is pretty good, actually, when measured against the top in the upper bout. The problem starts at the soundhole. From there, moving towards the tail, the top is concave, particularly under the bridge. I could do a neck reset and solve the problem that way, though the top would still be concave in the lower bout.

StewMac sells a device called (I believe) the bridge doctor, which is used with pin bridges that have warped the top. But it won’t work with a guitar that has a tailpiece. The bridge doctor requires drilling through the bridge, under the saddle to attach it. I guess that’s not philosophically different from doing what Mark Wybierala suggested - that would have the effect of pulling up the top. My only condern would be buzzing or really changing the sound of the guitar - I really like the way it sounds.

This saddle is not notched. Notches might solve the problem. I’ve ordered some bone saddle blanks, which should arrive by this weekend. I’ll get rid of the shim I’m using, and replace the saddle with a much higher one - and will notch the new one.

I’ve also got a Stella-clone 12-string (It’s a “Sekova”), and will do a neck reset on that one. Love them or hate them, these guitars certainly have their own unique sound.
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Re: Forcing steeper break angle over saddle on stella-type guitar

Postby Freeman Keller » Tue Feb 12, 2019 11:06 pm

The function of the bridge doctor is to (try) to counter the rotation of the bridge by creating a lever below the bridge and a rod that pushes on the end block. I tried one once on a pinned bridge, it was ineffective and I ended up resetting the neck. I don't think it will do anything on a guitar with a tailpiece since you don't have (much) rotational force - its all perpendicular to the top.

If the top is sunk you may have braces that have failed. As you probably know, concave tops are a symptom of a dehydrated guitar but I doubt that is the problem with an old one like this. If you can't get enough of a break angle with a tail piece you could convert it to a pinned bridge (and set the neck to the bridge, not the upper bout).

When I built my Stella clone I actually put a bridge plate in with the idea that if I didn't like the sound with the tail piece I could convert it to pins. I totally like the sound - 26-1/2 inc scale, strung with cables, tuned in the cellar.
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Re: Forcing steeper break angle over saddle on stella-type guitar

Postby Michael Recchione » Wed Feb 13, 2019 11:01 am

Freeman Keller wrote:The function of the bridge doctor is to (try) to counter the rotation of the bridge by creating a lever below the bridge and a rod that pushes on the end block. I tried one once on a pinned bridge, it was ineffective and I ended up resetting the neck. I don't think it will do anything on a guitar with a tailpiece since you don't have (much) rotational force - its all perpendicular to the top.
Yes, that was my understanding as well.

If the top is sunk you may have braces that have failed. As you probably know, concave tops are a symptom of a dehydrated guitar but I doubt that is the problem with an old one like this. If you can't get enough of a break angle with a tail piece you could convert it to a pinned bridge (and set the neck to the bridge, not the upper bout).
Good point on the failed braces. I didn’t notice any loose braces, and there’s no rattle. But what didn’t occur to me is that a brace may have totally failed and was removed (hence no rattle). This is a very lightly ladder-braced guitar to begin with. There’s certainly no bridge plate (since there’s a tailpiece), and there seems to be only one brace in the lower bout, near the soundhole. I’m now wondering if there was originally another one, near the bridge...

In any case, using a couple of bolts to pull the tailpiece down is kind of a kludgy (but possibly effective) way to mimic what a pin bridge would do, and would also allow me to use a lower saddle (improving the action). It might also have the effect of pulling the top up a little. But, as I said, I don’t want to change the sound of the guitar if I can help it.

When I built my Stella clone I actually put a bridge plate in with the idea that if I didn't like the sound with the tail piece I could convert it to pins. I totally like the sound - 26-1/2 inc scale, strung with cables, tuned in the cellar.
My Sekova Stella 12-string clone is strange - it’s a 12-fret, ladder-braced, OM-sized guitar with a 25.5” scale length. This one absolutely needs a neck reset and also has a broken truss-rod. It’s currently unplayable except with a slide. But it sounds really good with a slide... :)
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Re: Forcing steeper break angle over saddle on stella-type guitar

Postby Freeman Keller » Wed Feb 13, 2019 12:22 pm

Michael Recchione wrote:
In any case, using a couple of bolts to pull the tailpiece down is kind of a kludgy (but possibly effective) way to mimic what a pin bridge would do, and would also allow me to use a lower saddle (improving the action). It might also have the effect of pulling the top up a little. But, as I said, I don’t want to change the sound of the guitar if I can help it


This one absolutely needs a neck reset and also has a broken truss-rod. It’s currently unplayable except with a slide. But it sounds really good with a slide... :)


The type of tail pieces often used on resonators can be strung thru the top or bottom which changes the break angle fairly dramatically. You might look into something like that.

I play a lot of slide on the Stella-clone. Its just a complete monster.
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Re: Forcing steeper break angle over saddle on stella-type guitar

Postby Bill Raymond » Wed Feb 13, 2019 9:09 pm

I would notch the saddle before I would put in bolts that pull the tailpiece down to the top. However, as mentioned, I would suspect some problem with the bracing first of all.
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Re: Forcing steeper break angle over saddle on stella-type guitar

Postby Michael Recchione » Wed Feb 20, 2019 4:51 pm

Bill Raymond wrote:I would notch the saddle before I would put in bolts that pull the tailpiece down to the top. However, as mentioned, I would suspect some problem with the bracing first of all.
That’s what I intend to do. I shimmed up the original saddle, but I ordered (and received) a new bone saddle blank that is high enough to eliminate the shim and also to keep the current string height and support notches. So I’m going to try that before doing anything drastic.

I may still make a new tailpiece with slightly wider string spacing. This guitar has a 1 3/4” nut, but the string spacing at the saddle is very narrow. There’s some slop to play with in terms of neck width - maybe 1/4” altogether - and increasing the spacing would make this better for fingerpicking.
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Re: Forcing steeper break angle over saddle on stella-type guitar

Postby Thomas Wentzel » Sat Mar 02, 2019 9:16 pm

Six string guitars with tailpieces aren't typically 'notched', but on this guitar it is the most efficient way to get what you want. Otherwise, it would require a neck reset to get enough down pressure on the bridge to prevent the string slippage. Also, check your tuning, be sure it's up to A440 tension, and you can go to heavier strings, too, to prevent the slipping. Another thought, since you say it does not need a neck reset, maybe someone in the past lowered the action by removing wood from the bridge, thereby lessening the down tension on the bridge, so check your bridge height.

Ladder braced guitar by their nature almost always tend to dip in front of the bridge, or 'waffle' across the sound hole area. On extreme cases you'd have to remove the back and make and install a new brace or two, and the bridge plate/brace, too, since the old ones will have 'memory'. But I usually set the neck angle to the dip and it works out (unless the dip is extreme and the strings fret out at the neck/body joint).

But the notches will do the job, quick and easy.
Tom
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Re: Forcing steeper break angle over saddle on stella-type guitar

Postby Clay Schaeffer » Mon Mar 04, 2019 1:43 pm

Some banjo tailpieces have a way to adjust the down bearing. You might study a few of them and see if you can make something similar .
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