Quantcast Ryan's Guitars: July 2010

Saturday, July 31, 2010

2001 Gibson R7 Les Paul Black Beauty Historic Gets Stainless Steel Stud Mod

After reading about an intriguing stud mod trick on a message board I just had to give it a try. All I needed were a few dollars in parts from a hardware store and some simple tools. Basically, this was a mod to remove the short, soft zinc-based bridge studs that came factory installed on my Black Beauty and replace them with longer, much harder stainless steel studs to prevent the bridge from pitching forward under string tension and to help improve tone.

I stopped by a local hardware store and bought the following parts: several packs of Hillman 6-32 x 1 1/2" stainless steel machine screws and a package of zinc-based 6-32 nuts (don't waste money on expensive nuts, they are only used to remove/install the studs). Once I had
my parts the first thing I did was remove the old strings, stopbar, ABR-1 bridge unit and the thumbwheels from the old studs. I removed the first old stud by installing and locking together two nuts at the top of the stud. I placed one nut on, then the other and locked them together finger tight... using a wrench on the bottom nut and a nut driver on the top nut I locked them tightly in place by turning both nuts gently in the opposite direction at the same time. Then I was easily able to use the nut driver to extract the old stud. I repeated this process on the other stud and then began to prep the new ones for installation.

In order to use the new stainless steel machine screws as Les Paul bridge studs I had to cut off the screw heads. When you cut the screw heads off it is best to use a Dremel cutting wheel so the job is clean and the threads do not get damaged during the cutting the process. It is also important to cut the head off as closely to the top of the screw shaft as possible. We want to be able to use the full length of the screw.

Once I removed the heads I repeated the same process as before with the old studs... locking two nuts together so I could use the nut driver to install the new studs. During installation I could feel the new, longer studs as they began to cut into fresh wood. This is desirable. For some reason Gibson installs shorter bridge studs than the holes they drill into the body. The result is less coupling and therefore less vibration transfer from the bridge to the body. The longer screws that tap into virgin wood insure better coupling and a firmer pair of studs, thus improving tone and bridge stability. Stainless steel is also a much better, more musical sounding metal alloy than zinc, and it's much stronger.

Once everything was re-assembled I plugged in and was pleasantly surprised to hear just how much better the guitar sounded! I didn't expect such an huge improvement, but it certainly was. The tone sounded much more focused, less fuzzy/muddy and somehow clearer. I'm a big believer in this mod and will be converting my other Les Pauls over soon.