Hey everybody! It’s your Old Pal Aen!
Taking a quick break from live electronics to get back with one of my old flames, guitar projects. Last week I had some time in Minneapolis, so I packed up a bunch of gear in the hopes of trading up to a 70’s (or 70’s style) stratocaster at Twin Town Guitars. I spent at least two hours in the store playing EVERY guitar and bass I was interested in. When the dollars and cents were figured out I was a little short for any of the vintage instruments I was after, but something else really stuck out: a Fender Starcaster.
I was really hoping to get a guitar with a vibrato, though. Luckily Twin Town had one Bigsby kit - a B5 Vibramate kit. The kit lets you plop a Bigsby on just about any guitar with a Tune-o-Matic style bridge, without drilling into the instrument.
I was a little nervous, because aside from a few pictures of the finished product, I couldn't find much info about installing the kit. But that’s probably because it’s REALLY REALLY EASY and you probably don’t even need the directions. You just remove the stop tail of the bridge, and replace it with the vibramate bottom plate. Bigsby even includes american and metric screws so it’ll fit in either kind of post hole.
After you’ve got that bugger on, you just screw the arm and roller bridge assembly onto the plate. It takes ten minutes. By far, the hardest part of the whole operation was stringing the thing up, which turned into a two person job. Even with that bit of frustration we had the Bigsby on, new strings and a first tune done between ordering Thai food and going to pick it up.
It’s worth noting that if you’re a real perfectionist, this process might leave you a bit peeved. The body of the Starcaster is pretty curvy, which leaves you a bit of a gap between bigsby and guitar butt.
I only finished this last night, but everything seems solid! I’ve also read that the additional mass of the bigsby (and it is massive, my friends) can give the guitar some more volume and sustain, which is always a nice bonus.
You may also be wondering “how the hell does he get the arm in that totally useable position over the strings?" As far as I’m concerned, this is a must-do-mod. You can probably grind that big lump off the bigsby with a variety of tools, but I went to a nearby jeweler who had the job done in about 3 minutes.
She used a “super pro” version of the Dremel tool most of us have knocking around. Those nicks on the arm are from my attempt with my entry level Dremel. Whoops, I hope the guitar police don’t come for me. I’m not sure why the Bigsby insists on keeping the arm out of the most useful position, but at least we found a way around!
I can totally recommend the Starcaster, as it has a boatload of my favorite features: glossy maple neck, big headstock, big deep tone on the neck pickup, bright but full tone on the bridge pickup. Bonus points for being semi-hollow bodied. I played it on a few songs with The Ronald Raygun on Monday night and was delighted with it’s harmonic feedback prowess, thanks to the resonant vibrating body. And if you keep the fuzz on, you can holler right in the F-holes and hear it come out your amp!