View Full Version : Tremolo bridge..

11-16-2009, 12:02 PM
Alright I'm working on a cigar box build, and I'm in love with the idea of sticking a whammy on there. Right now I'm looking at a Bigsby tailpiece and I'm curious as to how this will affect the sound of the instrument as a whole (tone, volume, sustain, etc..). If you have any other suggestions other than the bigsby I ought to be looking into, I'd also love to hear those!

Thank you all for this great resource!

11-16-2009, 12:29 PM
Isn't instrument building an interesting and varied subject? I've made a number of cigar-box ukes, but I can't answer your questions, because I haven't a clue what you mean! I guess you are looking at it as an amplified uke. I only make acoustic versions, so the approach might be quite different.

Anyway, here goes, FWIW: If you are looking for a good acoustic sound, choose a box with a solid wood back, and use it as the front of the uke. You can remove the back altogether, and replace it with proper tone wood if you want to go that far. Thin the soundboard to at least 1/10th", and use a bridge plate and at least one cross brace. Arrange the neck/scale length so that the bridge is not too close to the bottom edge of the box. You want a clearance of at least 1 1/2" - more for preference. If you are serious about the tone, volume, and sustain, I'd advise you to remove the lining wood from the box, and glue the lid shut. The neck joint is very important. Keep it straight and level, and make it a very close fit.

If you are going to play it mostly with amplification, then much of the above won't apply.

There's nothing carved in stone about making CB ukes. It is about enjoying yourself, and learning something. If you do that, then it's a success.

Hope this helps.

John Colter.

11-16-2009, 02:15 PM
Are you talking about a Bigsby for a guitar or a ukulele? Just curious as I don't know whether or not they make a Bigsby for a ukulele...Interesting idea...It'll add a lot of weight to the instrument and take up a lot of space but...Good luck...!!!...:D

11-17-2009, 04:30 AM
How it will affect the sound depends on a whole range of issues, so you'll certainly have your work cut out for you. Just a few points that come to mind:

Did you plan to use nylon or steel strings? Actually I don't think I've seen a bigsby used on nylon strings before - I hope someone else has.
What about the nut design and material? Boat Paddle Ukuleles (http://www.boatpaddleukuleles.com/design.php) have an alternative nut design with raised tines instead of slots. You might get some inspiration there. The reason I mention this is that the string needs to move smoothly or it will go out of tune every time you hit da whammy. You can also go for a wider slot. The material also makes a difference, as does the lubrication. I saw some self-lubricating material recently but I just can't remember what it was called.
The angle over the saddle is also an issue. With an archtop you already have the tail below the level of the bridge. With a cigar box you can't do that. If you raise the bridge high enough to get a sufficient downward angle behind it, you're going to have to adjust your whole design, especially the neck angle, to get the action back to normal.

And so on.... Like I said, if you want a whammy you get to do extra homework, but then you'll have the coolest cbu around.

Have fun and keep us posted.

Erich Schildhauer

P.S. I found a better photo of the boat paddle bridge here (http://www.boatpaddleukuleles.com/links/bari_walnut.pdf).

11-17-2009, 06:09 AM
I build bridges primarily for solid body electric mandolins but I've known some uke builders to use them. Anyhow, I've tackled the whammy bar project several times and eventually gave up. They are pretty temperamental. The most successful one that I had seen was a cut modified Bigsby on a BlueStar Mondoblaster. A better option may be a string bender setup. Here is a picture of the back of a Tele with a string bender. I have some photos of the StewMac mandolin bender and will try and track them down and post them.