Bridge with a steel block for a ST-80?

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Mark Abbott
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Bridge with a steel block for a ST-80?

Post by Mark Abbott » Tue Nov 17, 2015 12:38 am

Hi

It offical I now own a Tokai ST – 80. I have mixed thoughts about it, I love the neck, the body shape is great. The pickups surprise me they sound alright, it is a very useable sound.

The set up on the guitar is pretty terrible, the intonation obviously needs setting up. The guitar will require a shim in the neck pocket so the bridge is effective. So far the guitar has a high-ish action and the saddles are nearly all the way down.

The four screws holding the neck onto the body are enormous, no one could ever say the neck isn't securely held in. Same for the strap buttons, huge, you'd never drop your guitar as is possible with a Fender or a Gibson.

The switch for the pickups is pretty soft and not as defined as an America switch. One if the pots is a bit noisy, though I had thoughts of replacing the pots, cap and switch, as far as the original parts go I'd stow them.

The bridge is it is awful, it might be one piece cast. The metal in the block is quite soft as it was a bit of a struggle to get the ball ends of the strings out of the block. Looking at the block I could see marks in it left by the strings over the years.

There are a few options possible, the is the Callaham bridge which is a great bridge but expensive and then there are the plain Gotoh bridges which are cheap.

The first question is which bridges fit a Tokai and secondly which bridge sound the best?

Thank for your assistance.
Yours Sincerely

Mark Abbott

brad347
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Post by brad347 » Sun Nov 22, 2015 6:20 pm

I have an ST-80 as well. It's a great guitar. The original block on mine was brass, which is "not bad." I'd rather that than the zinc/pot metal stuff that most regular-line Fenders have now.

I ended up putting a Callaham bridge assembly on mine. I do feel like it made a dramatic improvement in the sound of the guitar. I think you'd be pleased.

The ST-80 served me very, very well. I recently lucked into a real '58 Stratocaster, and it is quite a bit better than the ST-80, of course. However, the ST-80 made it on many records, and I still have it (I keep it tuned to Eb now).

Mark Abbott
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Post by Mark Abbott » Sun Nov 22, 2015 10:07 pm

What impressed you about the 58 Strat over the ST-80. Sure the price point is different, but it is good to be able to quantify the differences.

If it is the pickups well that is easily changed, if it is the wood well your snookered.

I think the great ones I've played have had a great neck on them. I did play a 54 Strat that I really liked but I thought the pickups sounded too bright, another set of pickups and it would have been on the money.

I played a 56 Strat that had been repainted and was a great guitar, perfect for me, the problem was cash of course.

I think I look for chime and an acoustic quality in the Fender guitar, but it is all so subjective.

As far as the ST-80 goes, the bridge has to go, the plastic nut should go, the tiny frets should also go. I don't mind the "E" stamped pickups though.
Yours Sincerely

Mark Abbott

Emiel
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Post by Emiel » Mon Nov 23, 2015 5:07 am

Check out the Wilkinson steel bridge. I have one on my ST-80. It's every bit as good as a Callaham imho.

http://www.guitarfetish.com/Wilkinson-V ... p_897.html

For pots, get a trio of CTS TVT 250k pots. They have a smooth taper just like the old pots.

brad347
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Post by brad347 » Mon Nov 23, 2015 4:33 pm

Mark Abbott wrote:What impressed you about the 58 Strat over the ST-80.
It just sounds better and is more inspiring to play. I'm not sure how to really describe it better than that.

I haven't gone through a scientific assessment of substituting each and every part. I suspect that wouldn't prove fruitful anyway, because a guitar is a whole. Though made up of component parts, it's about the relationship between those parts as often as it's about the parts themselves.

In pure "dancing about architecture" terms, I'd say the '58 is--

Like a technicolor version of any post-Leo strat I've ever known. Notes bloom and become larger than life, particularly lower notes. It's not that it has "more low end." It's that there's a focus in the low end... like everything in the guitar is working together to push a wave of sound out of the amp at you. Picking enthusiastically makes notes snap out at you with pop and precision. Playing delicately makes use of a sound that's full of sweetness and nuance.

I've built and played strats with all of the 'best' stuff. Amazing pieces of light swamp ash, quartersawn maple necks, top-of-the-line vintage style hardware and vintage-in-every-way handwound pickups from the ritziest boutique makers. The genuine article has something else; something I was never able to capture. I always felt i had gotten "close." One, with an ST-80 neck, a light swamp ash body, Don Mare pickups, and a Callaham bridge, always felt DAMNED close to the 'real deal' to me...

...until I got the '58. Then it felt like a toy. I wanted it to be "almost as good," so I would have two awesome strats. I really did want that. But it fell short by every metric. It really was no contest. It records great, sounds great, and really truly is a GREAT 50's style strat. Until the real thing comes out, then it's a toy.

Who knows why.

Mark Abbott
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Post by Mark Abbott » Tue Nov 24, 2015 1:53 am

Perhaps it is a great Strat after all, the other aspect that comes to mind is the 58 is Alder and the ST-80 is Ash. I was particularly after an Ash body as my 82 Strat has an Alder body.

There is always the vintage expectation that a vintage Strat is better than other Strats, but you've built partscasters so you have some experience behind you.

I have played a 57 Strat that I thought sounded like a relic ST-80 and I'm being kind to the 57 Strat.

I've played a L type Strat built by Frank Grubisa in Sydney, and that was as good as any L Strat I've heard. It was ver SRV sounding, Frank just nailed it with that guitar.
Yours Sincerely

Mark Abbott

brad347
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Post by brad347 » Tue Nov 24, 2015 7:07 am

Of course, there are good ones and bad ones from any era!

I do feel that my background has given me some perspective on what separates a solid instrument from a good one from a great one, though. I am a full-time professional player, but I also own 22 guitars and have been buying vintage guitars with my own money since mowing lawns in middle school.

I'd played a few examples of both ash and alder Leo-era strats before I was old enough to drive. I was a weird kid... just obsessed with guitars. But I really do contend that there's something more than that at work here. I love a good ash '50s strat. If anything, my absolute favorite strats are ash, though I've not owned an actual '50s ash strat. At any rate, I can fairly confidently say that's not the difference I'm describing here.

Also, I'm pretty careful about hype; I understand what confirmation bias is. If anything, I've moved away from sexy expensive gear as I've grown up; some of the luster of 'vintage for vintage sake' has worn off. Not in this case.

Everyone's experience will be unique, though!

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