Fixing my new 5420 that won’t intonate

Discussion in 'Electromatic Gretsch Forum' started by radd, Jan 8, 2019.

  1. radd

    radd Country Gent

    Dec 27, 2017
    Santa cruz
    Love the 5420 but I have read before that occasionally a fixed bridge on a Gretsch is set slightly off. That was the case with mine, every saddle had to be set back towards the rear of the bridge in order to get the intonation set. However, the G string saddle could not be moved far enough back to properly intonate. I could have taken the bridge apart and flipped that saddle around that might have given it a bit more movement. Instead I decided to throw on my favorite rolling locking bridge for a fixed bridge guitar, the ABM2400.

    While I was at it I decided to reshape the bottom of the bridge base to better conform to the guitar curved surface.

    I tape protected the top, then taped on some sandpaper

    I coated the bridge base bottom with silver marker

    Some sanding shows what I already knew, only the bridge base ends were in contact the guitar surface


    Slow process, but I’m half way there


    Did it

    Reinstalled and she intonates perfectly due to the ABM 2400 bridge having far more adjustment than the stock bridge
    Last edited: Jan 8, 2019
  2. Gregor

    Gregor Gretschie

    Oct 17, 2018
    New Brunswick, Canada
    Nice job. I can tell you got the intonation right by seeing the stepdown of the saddles. Bet she sounds sweet.
    radd likes this.
  3. audept

    audept Senior Gretsch-Talker

    Dec 1, 2010
    Sydney, Australia
    Disgusting and shameful that you had to fix your own new Gretsch guitar, delivered in unplayable form from the Gretsch distributors.
  4. LivingMyDream

    LivingMyDream Friend of Fred

    radd, I'm surprised that you took on the responsibility of making it right. I would have taken it back and gotten another one, then I would have made someone intonate it at the store before I left.

    Well done, though, so congrats on making your 5420 a good player!
  5. radd

    radd Country Gent

    Dec 27, 2017
    Santa cruz

    It was a gift, so no chance to check intonation in the store. As for taking it back to be fixed, there really is no fix with the stock bridge so at best they would send it back to Gretsch or jury rig a fix. I’m no luthier but I trust my attention to detail far more than most techs.

    Also, I knew I could fix it with the bridge I wanted on it anyway and sitting at my work bench working on a guitar is almost as good as playing them.

    Oh ya, now it is really mine

  6. LivingMyDream

    LivingMyDream Friend of Fred

    I like your work bench!
    wabash slim and rockinforJesus like this.
  7. radd

    radd Country Gent

    Dec 27, 2017
    Santa cruz

    Thanks. I had fun building it.
  8. Merc

    Merc Country Gent

    May 6, 2017
    Great job! I like the marker trick as well.

    What grit paper did you use? I didn’t notice any holes in the new bridge bass so I’m guessing you left it unpinned?
    radd likes this.
  9. radd

    radd Country Gent

    Dec 27, 2017
    Santa cruz

    The marker trick was something I picked up here, can’t remember who posted it.

    As for the bridge base, look at the photos of the upside down finished bridge you can see the two threaded bridge post that thread down through the bridge then into the guitar. I unscrewed them almost all the way out to sand the base.

    Sand paper.I started with 220, it was taking for ever so I switched to 150 then finished up with the 220. I did a finial polish of the top and bottom with a ultra fine micro mesh soft pad, something like 2,000 grit
    Last edited: Jan 8, 2019
  10. rockinforJesus

    rockinforJesus Synchromatic

    Nov 7, 2014
    Upstate New York
    Did you reuse the secured bridge studs? My 5420 also only contacts the guitar top at the outer edges of the bridge base. Can you give us a photo of the bridge base to top fit? Any improvement in tone after reshaping the base?
    Just trying to see if it is a worthwhile investment of my time... I would prefer to leave my base secured but would also prefer better base to top contact.
    radd likes this.
  11. Winterwind

    Winterwind Gretschie

    Dec 17, 2018
    London, Ontario
    I thought the G5420Ts were pinned. Swear I read a thread or two here about that.
  12. gtttrrr

    gtttrrr Synchromatic

    Dec 7, 2011
    United States
    Beautiful blue!
    radd likes this.
  13. radd

    radd Country Gent

    Dec 27, 2017
    Santa cruz

    Well, here is the story as I see it. There is a fundamental flaw in the(my) 5420 style bridge attachment....maybe. Ya see, the studs thread both into the bridge and into the guitar. If you have ever driven a screw into two pieces of wood to secure them, if the screw is fully threaded it actually separates the two pieces. You must inlarge the upper hole to allow the screw to pull them together

    You can’t enlarge the upper hole in the bridge base because then there would be nothing holding the bridge base down. The bridge would stay put, but the base would slide up and down only stopped by the guitar body or the thumb wheel adjusters.

    Cutting to the chase, the screws pulled up the center of the bridge base just like it was before. Tomorrow I will take it back off and see if I can apply enough pressure gently on the wood base to keep it flat as I thread in the posts to a measured distance. If that works I will then use the thumb wheels to set the bridge height making sure to keep a hex key in the top of the respective post so in does not move any and possibly pull up the bridge.

    Crazy.....but, fun, I like a good puzzle.

    If this does not work, I can leave for it intonates perfectly and sounds great, or I can have more work bench fun and pin the bridge rather than have it secured.
  14. radd

    radd Country Gent

    Dec 27, 2017
    Santa cruz
    Secured, not pinned.
    Stefan likes this.
  15. Merc

    Merc Country Gent

    May 6, 2017
    Thanks for the info, I might replace my bridge later this year at the same time I switch to a TruArc.

    That’s right, I forgot the secured 5420 uses the threaded post to secure. My 125th 6118 uses a separate screw.
  16. Jelly Roll Horton

    Jelly Roll Horton Synchromatic

    Nov 10, 2017
    Portland, OR
    I have a lot of respect for guys like you, Radd, who have the confidence and skills to work on their guitars like that. Good job by you.
  17. Aaron1061

    Aaron1061 Gretschie

    May 23, 2016
    id rather fix most things myself too. ive taken many a guitar to a tech only for them to half a** it or fix the problem and cause another.
    Winterwind likes this.
  18. radd

    radd Country Gent

    Dec 27, 2017
    Santa cruz
    Thank you

    I think sometimes we get intimidated by things that are just made by people. I’ve been working on things as a hobby for decades and I figure if I can screw something up, and I do at times, it can also be fixed.

    To that end I loosened the bridge post, pulled them all the way out of the guitar body then held the base down with moderate thumb pressure as I threaded them back to a pre measured height and the the bridge mounted to the body much flatter. Not perfect even with a perfectly shaped base surface but much better and good enough......for now.

    Did I mention I’m a bit OCD about how things like mating surfaces go together. It probably comes from growing up in my dad’s prototype machine shop putting the finish on, and inspecting high end titanium and magnesium parts the guys made for the Mercury and Apollo space programs.
    new6659 likes this.
  19. speedicut

    speedicut Friend of Fred

    Jun 5, 2012
    I did the same to my 5120 although it was unpinned.
    Great job radd, it feels good to be able to 'fix' little things like this and have a better guitar!
    radd likes this.
  20. Winterwind

    Winterwind Gretschie

    Dec 17, 2018
    London, Ontario
    Agreed. There's one tech in my city that I've never, ever had a problem with, well, actually he's a luthier. Two others have worked on my gear over the years and both times it went straight to the other tech after.

    The one guy, my wife and I just laughed at the way he tried to impress me... My guitar was in the case on the floor, laying flat. He opened it, never took it out, just looked straight down and proclaimed "I can see at least three things wrong with it right now". From a bird's eye view, a flat, two-dimensional view, he knew...

    Uh nope. He called me a couple days later. I picked it up, the bridge rattle was worse than when I took it to him so, to use a phrase I loathe, long story short, two cracks at it, still not fixed and off to my original tech I went.

    It was after that I decided to learn how to do my own setups although a refret, changing electronics, anything beyond the basics is for someone more skilled and experienced than me.
    radd likes this.
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