Installing the Chet Arm

Discussion in 'The Great Bigsby forum' started by Synchro, Oct 20, 2021.

  1. Synchro

    Synchro The artist formerly known as: Synchro Staff Member

    Jun 2, 2008
    Tucson
    Admin Post
    All of this talk about the Chet Arm (https://www.gretsch-talk.com/thread...regular-bigsby-arm.213220/page-2#post-1439203) got the wheels in my head to spinning and I decided to put a Chet Arm on my Guild T-400.

    The process took less than a half-hour, and had I been replacing all six strings, it would have taken even less time. As it was, the lower three strings were in fine shape, and I didn’t feel like throwing away $20 + worth of Thomastiks, so I had to spend a little extra time removing the rivet ends from the shaft of the Bigsby, and then reinstalling them on the shaft. Nothing all that difficult, but it probably added over five minutes of fiddling to the task.

    So, to start, you will need to remove the strings. If you are not comfortable with removing and reinstalling the bridge, a bit of Painter’s Tape should do the trick. Once the strings are removed, you can start your work in earnest. Once the strings are off, you can carefully rotate the arm of the Bigsby upward and be prepared to catch the spring, which will have nothing holding it in place. Some Terrycloth can come in handy if you want to be cautious with regard to the top of the guitar. Once there is no string tension, the Bigsby is free to flop around, so be forewarned.

    Once the Bigsby is rotated up, the set screw which holds it to the shaft becomes accessible and a 2.5 mm Allen Wrench will do the trick. Just loosen the old arm, slide it off the shaft, then put the new arm in place. The set screw goes into an indentation in the shaft, which is aligned with the roll pins that the strings affix to. (Of you have a straight through Bigsby without the roll pins, this job is, of anything, easier.)

    Once you have snugged down the set screw, you are at the halfway point and you can reverse the steps above and be back in business, but there is one caveat; testing the height of the arm. This is a matter of personal preference, but I have found that the Chet arm rides a bit lower than the butter knife, and I prefer it to be higher. I already had some extra springs, so I grabbed a 1” spring, in place of the 7/8” spring, which is perfect for my tastes, but YMMV and this is a personal choice.

    Once the spring is in place, start installing strings and, from that point on, it’s a simple restring job. In my case, I removed the bridge, so I had to put the bridge back where it belonged, which was easy, because the natural finish had yellowed slightly and left some dandy tan lines. Once it was tuned, I had to tweak the bridge height, because I had gone with lighter strings on the top three and was on the ragged edge of buzzing. After that, a quick intonation check, and then I was back in biz.

    Tastes vary, and I realize that not everyone sees it this way, but I find the appearance quite pleasing. More importantly, I love the feel of the Chet Arm. It seems perfectly suited to tasteful, even restrained, use of a Bigsby, but it can handle a dive bomb run, too.

    In my case, this is a change I had been thinking of for some time, and now was the time. I would definitely recommend giving some forethought to the spring height. I won’t say that with a 7/8” spring it is unusable, but there is definitely a limitation in downward travel with the shorter spring. If you are cautious, and don’t rush beyond a speed which is comfortable for you. It took me less than 30 minutes, but I’ve done a lot of this sort of thing, so I’ve already made the mistakes. :)
     
  2. Trash Kidd

    Trash Kidd Country Gent

    Age:
    55
    Dec 14, 2015
    London U.K.
    Interested in this thread.
    The only thing that’s been stopping me putting the Chet arm on my Falcon is hearing stories that the guitar case won’t close properly without pressing down on the arm even if you swivel it downwards pointing towards the bottom of the Bigsby.

    Anyone clear this up? Will the case shut ok without pressing the arm down?
     
  3. DaddyDog

    DaddyDog Country Gent

    Sep 18, 2011
    Mississauga, Canada
    I found if I swung the Chet arm across the strings that the case shut fine without pressing the arm.
     
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  4. Trash Kidd

    Trash Kidd Country Gent

    Age:
    55
    Dec 14, 2015
    London U.K.
    Thanks..
     
  5. Synchro

    Synchro The artist formerly known as: Synchro Staff Member

    Jun 2, 2008
    Tucson
    Admin Post
    They are a bit higher, but I’ve never had a problem closing the case on one. Because my guitars are on hangers, it’s only an issue when or if I’m taking a guitar somewhere, but if you store your guitar in it’s case, this is an issue I would want to clarify.

    You could keep something like this in your case and easily remove the handle itself, although the greatest point of interference is likely the pivot itself, which is perhaps 1/4” higher than the pivot for the butter knife.
    https://www.amazon.com/EKLIND-64920...,B003FPONCI,B00129CEKC,B07FDTQ8LQ&srpt=WRENCH
     
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  6. MrWookiee

    MrWookiee Synchromatic

    992
    Jun 17, 2020
    SoCal, USA
    Pix or it didn't happen. :D
     
  7. Dana Rudd

    Dana Rudd Country Gent

    Age:
    72
    Nov 26, 2019
    Greybull, WY
    Good job Synchro, you'll enjoy that mod.

    I put Duane Eddy arms on my G6120's and really like them. I keep spare springs of various length the set the handle height where I like it also.
     
  8. Trash Kidd

    Trash Kidd Country Gent

    Age:
    55
    Dec 14, 2015
    London U.K.
    Thanks Synchro….
     
  9. Synchro

    Synchro The artist formerly known as: Synchro Staff Member

    Jun 2, 2008
    Tucson
    Admin Post
    I have a Duane Arm, but I haven’t used it in a while. I definitely liked it, but the Chet Arm appeals to me greatly.

    My Guild is a modern reissue of the DE 400, Duane Eddy model, that Guild made, way back in the ‘60s. Ironically, these had a Butter Knife Arm, including Duane’s original Guild, as far as I can tell.

    The choice of a Bigsby arm is strictly personal preference. The Butter Knife isn’t bad and the Duane Eddy Arm strikes me as an improvement on the Butter Knife. The Chet handle has the advantage of making it easier to hook a finger around the handle, and I find that I use that a bit. Earlier tonight, I saw that someone is selling a replica of the Merle Travis Arm on eBay. It’s cool, but a bit big for my tastes.
     
  10. Synchro

    Synchro The artist formerly known as: Synchro Staff Member

    Jun 2, 2008
    Tucson
    Admin Post
    Here’s a pic’.

    D005B678-311D-4ECF-A370-B58039CE85EC.jpeg
     
  11. Synchro

    Synchro The artist formerly known as: Synchro Staff Member

    Jun 2, 2008
    Tucson
    Admin Post
    Tonight, as part of my deep commitment to public service and self sacrifice, I put my Guild in its very thin case to see how the Chet Arm did. Left in playing position, item lid of the case was perhaps 1/2” from completely closed, just from the weight of the lid. I could close it easily and latch it. However, if I swiveled the arm down to where it was pointing straight towards the strap button the case closed even more easily. I did have to keep a finger under the arm while pivoting it, because it comes close to contacting the top of the guitar, and I’m not fond of the idea of a finish scuff.

    I didn’t try with any of my Gretsch, but chose the Guild because that case is very thin, and a much tighter fit than any Gretsch case I own.
     
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  12. calebaaron666

    calebaaron666 Friend of Fred

    Aug 15, 2018
    Portland, Maine
    You’ll find when installing a “chet” handle that it takes a while to find exactly where you want it set. I rotated mine all around before finding the sweet spot where the end was set at a great spot to use when playing.

    When casing the guitar, it depends where I swing the handle before closing it, but my case shuts all right. I suspect the lid presses the spring down a tiny bit when closed and latched, but not to a point where anything is damaged. My Falcon is only out of her case when being played.

    This is where I MUST keep the handle when I close the case:
    1D6546F4-008F-45E9-B365-E3BE40C556A7.jpeg
    If I have it swung anywhere else when I close the lid, the spring is pressed.
     
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  13. JDFalcon

    JDFalcon Electromatic

    20
    Oct 26, 2019
    United Kingdom
    Yep that’s how mine goes on my Falcon. I used the stock spring but the arm can rotate and slide within the holder before you set the screw. It was always my plan to install the Chet arm and no regrets doing so
     
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  14. JDFalcon

    JDFalcon Electromatic

    20
    Oct 26, 2019
    United Kingdom
    Case closes fine as pictured above
     
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  15. senojnad

    senojnad Synchromatic

    Age:
    79
    673
    Jul 13, 2008
    Lehigh Valley, PA
    My first direct experience with a "Chet arm" came with the acquisition of my (beloved) 6122-1959 early in 2008. It was instant love and I've installed The Arm on every electric guitar I've owned since then (including Gibson & D'Angelico). I've often said that I would add one to my Martin D42 if there was a way.....

    Like Synchro, my guitars are always on wall hangers except for traveling. Never had any issues with the 6122-'59 and its case (or most others) as long as I swing the handle down to "6-o'clock" (pointing to the lower strap button). For the Broadkaster Jr. and 6120-55VS I saved the little rubber tips that were on the flat handles from the factory and slip those on when putting them in their cases. The Broadkaster Jr. handle rides best at about "7-o'clock" (7:30??), the '55 at "6-o'clock".

    Here is a photo of part of The arms Gallery in their new home at our new home (Feb., 2021). The placement of the art work (extreme right side) was by my beloved wife "for obvious reasons"....... DSC00895E.jpg
     
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  16. Synchro

    Synchro The artist formerly known as: Synchro Staff Member

    Jun 2, 2008
    Tucson
    Admin Post
    That is a beautiful sight, Dan. Do you still have your Jet?
     
  17. senojnad

    senojnad Synchromatic

    Age:
    79
    673
    Jul 13, 2008
    Lehigh Valley, PA
    I sold the Duo Jet a couple of years ago as part of my efforts to thin the herd. I still have the Broadkaster Jr. (Caddy Green) which fills that gap very nicely. Of course it too has The Arm -- the same one that I removed from the Jet when I sold it. I had modified The Arm to fit better on the smaller body and kept it for "just in case".......
     
  18. Trash Kidd

    Trash Kidd Country Gent

    Age:
    55
    Dec 14, 2015
    London U.K.
    Thanks Caleb.. I might have to look for one..
     
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  19. Synchro

    Synchro The artist formerly known as: Synchro Staff Member

    Jun 2, 2008
    Tucson
    Admin Post
    I miss my Jet at times.
     
  20. fsdphcorrigan

    fsdphcorrigan Gretschie

    115
    Aug 30, 2019
    Lake Oswego, Oregon
    If you're installing on a "Bigsby Licensed" tremelo, you'll need to get a reamer to take you from 3/8" to 10mm, since the licensed version has a 10mm shaft. I bought an adjustable reamer on Amazon for about $10-12.
     
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