G&L tech resources: Bridges

 
 

In the mid-1980s, when tuning stability became paramount for the reigning guitar style of the day, even Leo Fender dabbled in this area and came up with a nifty solution. Said solution actually consisted of 2 parts, the vibrato unit debated here and a Leo Fender string clamp mechanism behind the nut. With the number of contact point limited to 2, the Dual-Fulcrum Vibrato already exhibits a greatly reduced amount of friction compared to the more traditional vibratos found on Fender instruments. So all that is needed is the ability to control the string length. Hence the clamping behind the nut. But with that, you lose the functionality of the tuning machine. Other fine-tuning mechanisms integrated with the bridge were available already, most notably on the headless Steinberger instruments and the Kahler units found on the G&L Superstrats. Leo disliked the reliance on an externally manufactured bridge and started developing his own version. He proposed a couple of innovative improvements, creating a very compact unit, by filing 2 applications: US Pat. 4,724,737 filed February 18, 1986, quickly followed by US Pat. 4,674,389, submitted on on June 11, 1986 but awarded 8 month earlier. Both applications contain the same 13 drawings and make slightly different and complementary claims for 2 distinguishable configurations. Leo also greatly improved the saddle on these units as evidenced by US Pat. 4,867,031, filed May 13, 1988. It also shows what a great engineer Leo was, utilizing the great principle of mirror symmetry in the design.


In the end, what became the Leo Fender Vibrato (or LFV for short) is presented in Figs. 10-13 in both applications and summarized on the front page of US Pat. 4,674,389. The bridge plate shown in Fig. 10 is identical to the plate shown below. The LFV was first offered as an option in the September 1, 1987 price list and available as part “BV 180 Vibrato by Leo Fender w/Fine Tuners” in the same and later price lists until its transition to being owned by BBE Sound, Inc., which started late-1991. During this time it went through 3 generations which differ in the shape of the front of the bridge plate and the number of arm sockets. This Invader has the 1st generation, “Pat. Pend.” LVF with a straight front and 2 sockets. The 2nd generation LFV, shown on this 3rd style Interceptor HSS, now has a convex front but still 2 sockets and “Pat. 4,674,389” printed underneath the saddles. In the picture below, a rare 2nd generation black powder-coated bridge plate with black chromed saddles is shown. This one has a barely legible “by Leo Fender” stamped towards the front of this plate. This black design was never used on a production model. Both patents also include another interesting part in the alternate bridge design: the Leo Fender bridge lock, also show below. For the 3rd generation LFV, shown on the ‘Leo’s last project’ Superhawk, the left-handed arm socket has been removed. George Fullerton’s gold hardware ASAT Classic w/LFV demonstrates it could even be found on that model. As shown here, this required a modification to the ASAT Classic body mounted bridge plate to allow room for the pivot bolts of the LFV.


It should be noted that Leo also wanted to apply the fine-tuning mechanism to hardtail bridges. This was tested on a Hot Pink Invader with matching headstock and S/N G020176. This prototype was completed January 12, 1987 and subsequently tested by several players. Although it worked well, most were not convinced such a mechanism was needed in the absence of a vibrato and hence it was never put into production, leaving that Invader as the only instrument with such a bridge.

 

G&L Leo Fender Vibrato