Guitar How-To: The “Mapleflame” Modification to a Les Paul Guitar. New Bridge Posts!

Today was one of those rare days where everything cooperated – the weather, my schedule, everything. So I figured it was time to do some DIY and hopefully that would cooperate too!

But first, some history on the Mapleflame mod. here is a link to the grandpappy of the mod:

And it gained internet-wide fame on the Les Paul Forums:

And pretty much between those two threads, you can piece together exactly how to do this mod.

Well, time to really make an image-intensive runthrough of this thing, dontcha think? Here we go!

First are the “Before” pics, both from the side and the top. Here from the side, you can see those bridge posts from the factory. They are brass screws plated with nickel.


Not that sexy of an angle, I admit. So here’s a top-down view. Note that the bridge posts are kinda lower than flush with the bridge holes, since I like my action high and thus the bridge is riding pretty high on the thumbwheels.


Time to show the tools of the trade. I already had all the wrenches and Dremel and such, but for about ten bucks I invested in some new reinforced cutting wheels for the Dremel, and of course the new hardware, the nuts and the screws.


What exactly are the measurements of the nuts and screws? OK, I’m not going to take the easy laugh there. Here’s a close-up pic of the stuff you’ll find packaged from Lowe’s, and for those who are bag-challenged readers, those are stainless steel oval head Phillips machine screws, size 6-32 X 1-1/2, and stainless steel nylon insert lock nuts, size 6-32.


The next step is to cut the head off the screw, at the base. SLICE!


Do that twice of course. Now size ’em up. They probably won’t be level with each other, so put them together and grind them down level and flat. If you do a super awesome job, you can use these ends to have sticking out of your guitar. If like me you created some abstract modern art on the head of a screw, hide your shame by screwing those ends into the body of the guitar and have the factory end of the screw sticking up:


Ok, deep breath. We’re really going to do this. Put some slack into your strings, pop off the bridge (the factory ABR-1 isn’t locking on a ’58 Reissue Les Paul Standard. Did I mention this was a relatively rare all black Gibson R8? I’m starting to psyche myself out here) and this is what you see. Remove those thumbwheels too – some folks like to measure the distance of the wheels to the body before removal so they don’t have problems intonating, but I’m not a “measure twice screw once” kinda guy.


Now here’s the cool part. Screw one nut onto one of the stock posts. Now screw another nut onto that post. Now “lock” the screws together by turning them in different directions with two wrenches or pliers, screwing them towards each other. Now take that locked Super Nut into your big socket wrench, or just manage to grab both nuts at the same time with your wrench or pliers…then SCREW THAT MOFO POST OUT.


Oh man I really did it. Anyhow, stick a locking screw on your new stainless steel post and get ready to screw it in. If it doesn’t drive all the way down because the one nut starts slipping, do the dual nut locking trick again and drive it down the rest of the way. Take a look at the new screw next to the old screw – those nuts are flush with the top of the screws. Yep, the new screw is more than a full nut deeper than the old screw! Plus, look at the bend in that old screw. I didn’t do that, that was factory. Yuck.


So to the left is the new screw, and the right is the old one. See how they are level with each other? That means that the longer new screw is indeed driven deeper into the body – from the factory, it was drilled deeper than the stock screws required. Hey, makes it easier for us DIY guys, didn’t have to bust out the drill!


Having determined that the first foray was pretty much on par with Internet Wisdom, I get going on the second bridge post:


Both done. Thumbwheels spun back on. Bridge popped back on top. Strings tightened up again. Not intonated perfectly yet, but I’ll get to that. For now, it’s near the action I like, and good enough for the “After” pics. Side:


And top. Note that the screws come a little closer, in fact I’d say about exactly, flush with the bridge now. Just a little more confidence that there will be less possible rattling going on.


So how does it sound? Brighter. Not as murky or muddy, but didn’t lose anything in the thickness or depth of the bass. I’m pretty set on the sustain side because I like the action high and I’ve never had sustain problems, but hey at least it didn’t lose sustain, right? All in all, it’s like putting on new strings that are one gauge thicker – but what if you already have new strings on there? Well it’s like kicking it up to “11” isn’t it? Or if you .10s, like kicking up up .11s. All in all, nice mod!


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