Vintage Gretsch Guitars

a study in Chet arms - experts weigh in


All three are different. Left to right --

totally flat, shorter than most, w/ extreme bend. this is the one I use

70s one-- fatter tubing, normal bend ( I think ) least flat -- keeping this in case a guitar w/ a vintage Bigsby comes in.

recent one -- closet to normal/current ones.. .normal flat. I think this one is spoken for.


Not sure what there is to weigh in on here DC... components (just like guitars) evolved over the years. Owners can also modify them aftermarket (as you have recently shared with your chopped Merle arm). Chet arms are such a niche topic I'm not sure anyone has really paid much attention to their changes over the years, but perhaps I'm wrong. Norm?


I think Ed may be right about the user mods. When I enlarge the image, I'm seeing what look like clamping tool or vise marks on the arm farthest to the left.


Well, it's much ado about a copy of a handle made at home by a certain guitar player and bent to his own taste and made specifically to operate in a fixed mount, not a swivel.

I say again... buy some rod, bend your own. I did initially and when I finally bought one I just popped it in and had no problem adjusting to it.

As for the different rods shown, I guess it depends on who made the rods for Bigsby at a given time... Here's Paul Yandell on the subject

Speaking of those handles, if you get one for yourself you might need to bend it to suit your own hand and style because for some reason they aren’t bending the handles far enough. What happened was when Gretsch bought Bigsby some of the operations were moved to Korea and they started bending them wrong right from the start. I wasn’t connected with Gretsch at that time and I guess no one else noticed the error.

The handle is bent the same as the old ones except the knob end. It’s not parallel to the first string. I’ve worked to get that changed since the Nashville Classic came into being. They finally got it right in early 2005.

One thing about the new handles I like better than the old ones is that the knob unscrews so I could bend the end up a little which is the way I preferred. What I use is an old ratchet wrench I have that has a hole in the end of the handle. The hole just fits that quarter-inch rod to allow some leverage so I could bend the metal. If you have to bend the handle at the knobbed tip remember that the knob unscrews. Take the tip off so’s not to break it at the threads. Bend the end around straight and bend it up a little… then bend the handle back where the first bend is. You can make it higher or lower according to your needs.

Another thing you can use is a piece of oak plank cut about 2” wide and 7 or 8” long. It needs to be about one inch thick. Drill a hole in one end a little bigger than the handle and you can bend it with that. Bend in small increments. A little goes a long way. Of course you have to take the handle off the guitar to do all this. __Paul Yandell CGP


I like the idea of bending using a piece of wood with a hole drilled in it, much more caring!

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