The Workbench

Installing a Bigsby … (now with lasers!)


I’m finally getting around to putting a Bigsby on my ‘90s Peerless made Epiphone Sorrento. Never done it before but I am sufficiently mechanical that it doesn’t intimidate me. Read a bunch of forum posts and watched a bunch of how to vids and everyone emphasizes that getting it centered is key to good tuning stability. I have to use a B7, so I’m drilling the top sheet of the guitar and have no take backsies on this job. The Sorrento had a stock trapeze tailpiece, and at some point it got tricked out with a Frequensator, so it already has a bunch of extra holes drilled in the bottom. I was hoping that I could get away with re-using some of the existing holes, but by my reckoning, both sets of holes are off by nearly a quarter inch to the bass side!

So my questions to those of you who have done a few of these — is it common for a tailpiece to be that far off from the factory? Does it just not matter as much for a trapeze style tailpiece? And since I gotta fill some of the old holes in order to properly drill new ones, is there a better trick than the old “toothpicks and wood glue” that you would use on a stripped out strap knob drilling?


tailpieces are often off center on factory jobs, yes. Bigsby and other.

You can fill holes with small diameter dowel rods and glue to do a cleaner job than with toothpicks.

Before you drill the holes in the top of your epi, see if the hinge on the Bigby is center in relation with the main plate that lays on top of your guitar : in my own experience, with recent Bigsbies, that's almost never the case. And that can make putting a Bigsby on a guitar a finicky, frustrating job.


Couple of hints.....ignore all the other holes when it comes to finding your center-line....they're almost always off. When plugging holes...use hardwood, not toothpicks. Get some small maple dowels. The Sorrento probably has maple sides and top.....drill pilot holes, and soap your don't want to snap off a screw. Use your nut, neck, and bridge to determine your center line, and try and get your strings over your pole pieces, in a straight line with your nut and bridge....this assumes that your pickups are mounted with true center....don't assume that they are.


Your strings have to be centered on the neck. Center of the guitar means nothing, and pickups often don't quite line up with the strings. The important thing is how the strings line up with the neck. You might prefer to have the strings slightly more to one side of the neck. I do. Make the bigsby line up the strings on the fingerboard here you want them, and then make sure the bridge is centered under the strings. Sometimes the Bigby doesn't hang straight off the hinge plate and you have to shim the hinge plate slightly. Make sure your ground wire is in good contact with the hinge plate.


So at the advice of y’all I’ve been driving all over town looking for dowel rods small enough to fill the drill holes. Can’t find anything smaller than 1/8”. As of today, I have given up and began rooting through the kitchen junk drawer for toothpicks when I stumble upon the exact 5/64th diameter insert…. Mahalo, y’all. If you ever need to plug a bad tailpiece drilling, I suggest you head to your nearest tiki bar and order up the rum drink of your choice!


Skewers for kabobs will do as well. They are bamboo though, so very hard.


I guess this gives new meaning to the term “Zombie thread.”

Tiki Mug

1 1/2 oz Puerto Rican golden rum

1 1/2 oz Jamaican rum

1 oz demerara 151 rum

1/2 oz Donn's Mix (2:1 mix of grapefruit juice & cinnamon syrup)

1/2 oz Velvet Falernum

3/4 oz lime juice

1/4 oz grenadine

2 dashes absinthe

1 dash angostura bitters


Skewers for kabobs will do as well. They are bamboo though, so very hard.

– Suprdave

All the kabobs skewers I found are also 1/8”. I will probably use one for the strap knob drilling.


Bigsby is successfully installed! I had a eureka moment after waking up at 2 a.m. and realizing I should use the laser level to sight the center line of the nut and bridge. Worked like a charm.

This guitar is finally what I hoped it would be when I got it a couple years ago. At first pass all it seemed to do well was the Johnny Thunders mid-rangey snarl. It was supposed to scratch my itch for a Casino, so I was hoping for some Beatles chime, as well as some Kenny Burrell / Herb Ellis just a little bit of hair on it jazzy blues. All P90 players so that should be possible, right? Anything even close to clean sounded thin and plonky.

I haven’t done this much tinkering with a guitar since my first guitar back in high school, when I discovered what humbuckers did and immediately decided I should wire up a coil splitter switch. It was a single humbucker Kramer Focus that I paid $80 for- what did I have to lose?!? Started with low hanging fruit - tried some different strings, put some spacers under the pups, put some thread locker on the threads of the tune o matic. Got a little more individual string definition, but not much more tone. Wax potted the pickups, replaced the pots, switch, and tone caps. Less noise, no more tone. Don’t know if it’s the extra mass of all that metal on the Bigsby or if the Tru-Arc is as magic as y’all have been promising, but it finally does it all.


I used a laser level when I installed the B12 on my Riviera. That is looking really good, I was thinking last night about putting a Bigsby on my Sorento. You've pushed me over the edge.


B11 installed, the feel is marginally different but for the better and it is acoustically much louder. The fear of the strings popping from the bridge so far hasn't happened.


B11 installed, the feel is marginally different but for the better and it is acoustically much louder. The fear of the strings popping from the bridge so far hasn't happened.

– Mr Tubs

That looks good. Has the amplified sound changed, Tubs? And is the B11 noticeably lighter than the "full" plate version?


I haven't had time to play amped (Easter Holidays + kids = not a lot of amp time)

The B3 weighs 296 grams/10.4 oz and the B11 weighs 286 grams/10.1 oz so there isn't a lot of difference in weight.


Thanks, that weight difference actually makes none. I wonder what the original intention of the B11/12 was. Just the visual appearance?

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