Unlike most industries, the biggest selling electric guitars on the market have remained virtually unchanged since the 1950s, for the most part. We, the guitar players and collectors of the world are pretty well steeped in tradition and perhaps even a bit of nostalgia when it comes to this stuff. We covet our atom age radio technology, our cheap stamped metal parts and our inefficient and brittle lacquer finishes, and it’s hard for innovators to break through our wall of vintage guitar loyalty. But let’s face it, the tried and true instruments we love aren’t perfect, and there are antiquated components of these designs upon which improvements can and maybe should be made.
Back in 2009 Schaller partnered up with Graph Tech and came up with a bridge design that we think is pretty slick. The Schaller Hannes bridge system is rear mounted which places the individual saddle assemblies directly on the surface of the guitar instead of on a plate, allowing each string to independently resonate through the body. The result is a more even transfer of tone from string to string. And instead of all those pokey rust-prone set screws sticking up all over the place like you’ll find on a traditional bridge, the saddle height adjustment screws are hidden under the Graph Tech saddles, which makes for what Schaller claims to be the most comfortable bridge on the market.
The tricky part to this design is that you can’t just swap out your old stock bridge in 15 minutes. The installation procedure requires precision layout work, a custom router template, a drill press, time and patience. It really should be done by a professional tech. And that’s why our client Layne brought his Schecter Tempest 7 into the shop have the job done by us. Here’s how it goes:
First, we need to get all of the hardware and electronics out so we can have a nice clean surface to layout the new bridge.
Once that is done we can flip over the guitar and pop out the rear string ferrules. We won’t be needing them anymore.
Now we can start the layout work. We use blue painter’s tape for all of our layout work because it is low-tack and can be easily peeled back off of any surface.
We use a straight edge along each side of the neck to find the center line of the guitar, and a precision ruler to measure the scale length. Once the bridge location is established we can make a tracing of it.
We’ve traced the bridge and marked where we need to drill our holes. We need a hole for each string to go through the body, and two for the mounting screws at the body of the bridge.
Luckily, even though the new bridge has a built-in stagger, we didn’t have to dowel any of the original string holes. We were able to widen the existing 1/8″ holes with the 6mm bit the installation calls for without affecting the string ferrule holes on the back. Also, notice the recess we’ve drilled for the mounting screw heads and ferrules.
Next we need to cut a channel for the rear string mounting plate. I didn’t get a photo of the custom routing template we made, but the shape is the exact inverse of the mounting plate itself. Check out how perfectly it fits over the original string ferrule holes! You can really see the stagger of the new system now.
All of the rear bridge hardware is now installed and perfectly flush with the surface of the body.
The Hannes bridge is installed. Time to wire this thing up!
The wiring on this guitar is just a couple of 500k audio-taper pots for master volume and tone, a .22pf Orange Drop tone capacitor, and a 3-way pickup selector switch. As simple as it is, we still like our wiring to look clean and organized – like NASA did it.
To finish it off, Layne brought in some very cool, very steam punk Schaller Da Vinci tuning machines in a matching vintage copper finish.
And there you have it – bridge installed, pickups wired in, and set up with a super-low drop A-flat tuning. Rock on!
EDIT: We have recently learned that this guitar is owned by the founding guitarist of The Tony Danza Tapdance Extravaganza, Layne Meylain! Dude is a beast.