The Workbench

What I do to keep my guitars with Bigsbys in tune

1

I’ve been doing this as long as I can remember, but what I can’t remember is exactly who gave me the idea. I seem to think it was Rich Modica, who used to be Brian Setzers guitar tech.

I use sewing machine oil and powdered graphite and mix it together into a sludge. Then I suck that sludge up into a syringe with an 18 gauge blunt needle. You can get those on Amazon under inkjet refill supplies.

2

I hit the bearings where the string bar goes through. If you have any resistance here, the Bigsby won’t return to the same place every time.

3

String slots get a tiny bit of goop before each 4 hour gig. (Shameless Tru-Arc plug)

4

The not sluts and zero fret are the other two friction points.

If your strings are stretched properly, and are routed straight over the string bar to the bridge and not a crazy angles, you should be able to stay in tune very well

6

Don't worry about them so much. Just get a good pedal tuner so that you can check your tuning now and then. Over time your guitars will calm down and not be such a big deal.

K

7

I appreciate the logo shot, Josh! Thanks.

But more than that, it's a good succinct tutorial from a working player with the experience to back it up. If it works for Josh...it works.

I've mixed my powdered graphite with Chap-Stik™ (though presumably any generic lip balm would do), and used it in the nut slots.

The sewing machine oil is surely a better lubricant and carrier for the graphite. We have a sewing-machine repair shop right on the main drag, and Imagonna gitsum.

Thanks for good tech info on an evergreen topic.


Oh ... your last sentence could read If your strings are stretched properly, are routed straight over the string bar to the bridge and not a crazy angles - and properly threaded through the tuners, with a bend locking them to themselves and minimum wraps - you should be able to stay in tune very well.

(Or something to that effect.)

8

Don't worry about them so much. Just get a good pedal tuner so that you can check your tuning now and then. Over time your guitars will calm down and not be such a big deal.

K

– Konrad

Well, I'm one of those weirdoes that likes to be in tune. And this way has gotten me through thousands of gigs, so I'll keep it.

9

I appreciate the logo shot, Josh! Thanks.

But more than that, it's a good succinct tutorial from a working player with the experience to back it up. If it works for Josh...it works.

I've mixed my powdered graphite with Chap-Stik™ (though presumably any generic lip balm would do), and used it in the nut slots.

The sewing machine oil is surely a better lubricant and carrier for the graphite. We have a sewing-machine repair shop right on the main drag, and Imagonna gitsum.

Thanks for good tech info on an evergreen topic.


Oh ... your last sentence could read If your strings are stretched properly, are routed straight over the string bar to the bridge and not a crazy angles - and properly threaded through the tuners, with a bend locking them to themselves and minimum wraps - you should be able to stay in tune very well.

(Or something to that effect.)

– Proteus

Good points, Tim! I used to carry Chapstick in my Stratocaster case! It works great as well. As a side benefit, my palm would be slick and slide over those saddle screws more easily.

10

Bigsby tuning problems are caused by too much friction at the nut. There's an art to filing the grooves in the nut. I like that Zoom spout though! And Consew is my favorite upholstery machine.

11

This is great content, thanks Josh. I'm still working on a syringe of "nut lubricant" that I've been using for years. (I think it's this stuff: https://www.sweetwater.com/...), but I'll be sure to try your recipe when it runs out.

I don't so the string lock thing at the tuners. I've tried it both ways and found no benefit. Definitely keep the wraps to a minimum though.

12

Bigsby tuning problems are caused by too much friction at the nut. There's an art to filing the grooves in the nut.

Hearty agreement here. MOST tuning problems on any guitar are nut-related. And indeed there's an art - an art that's not easily mastered, and which certainly does not come included when you buy nut files from Amazon (or even StewMac). Bigsby or not, a properly cut and massaged nut is the difference between a great instrument and a guitar sculpture.

To me, the nut is by some measure the most important (and mysterious) part of a setup. I've done most of my own setup work for decades, but when it really matters, I'm happy to pay a trusted and proven professional to finesse the nut.

A properly tweaked nut should be the baseline, an assumed condition of a guitar - especially with a Bigsby - which can be relied upon for stage, studio, or maximum home enjoyment.

But this lubrication protocol still addresses every point of possible string constriction which might degrade return-to-pitch behavior. AND, in a pinch (quite literally), lubrication makes even a badly cut nut bind less (though it will require frequent lubrication), and can get you through till you get the nut properly properized.

13

Well Bigsbys are meant to put it out of tune-- and just getting back to tune is the issue.

It's an evolving science... some say the newer ones are better at returning to correct pitch

14

Well Bigsbys are meant to put it out of tune-- and just getting back to tune is the issue.

It's an evolving science... some say the newer ones are better at returning to correct pitch

– DCBirdMan

They might be, simply because a lot of older ones are gummed up. I use a soft spring and put a penny under it to kick the handle up a bit. I don't notice much difference between the new ones and old ones. Either way, the string bar should rotate very easily in the bearings. I've bought old Gretsch guitars that were so gummed up the handle was still stiff without spring tension.

15
  • The not sluts and zero fret

Nobody caught this??

16

cool jbgg...i do long-time similar tech, but with different ingredients

use dupont teflon oil...cyclists use it...cause it doesn't attract dirt...stays clean and deep lubricating

for graphite..nothing better than a super soft art pencil...9B!....cheap and lasts forever...great quality...from austria...plus i can draw with besides!! hah

cheers

17
  • The not sluts and zero fret

Nobody caught this??

– fuzzpop

Autocorrect at its finest!!

That's a cool product, Neatone! I may not need to DIY this any more. But 25 years ago, this is what we did.

18

Autocorrect at its finest!!

That's a cool product, Neatone! I may not need to DIY this any more. But 25 years ago, this is what we did.

– JBGretschGuy

25 years? so you're a newb!! haha

actually dupont teflon oil goes way back...pre WWII....actually hard to find these days..but lasts

just kiddin with u josh, i love your work!

cheers

19

Cheers! I learn new things all the time around here. I'll be on the lookout for the Teflon Oil.


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