Ashtray bridge covers were included on early Fender guitars and basses, intended to shield the bridge from accidental knocks, and the rear pickup from electrical interference. However, as the covers also interfered with the palm-muting techniques popular with young rock 'n' roll players, they were frequently removed. Due to their concave shape and walled sides, the discarded covers often became improvised ashtrays in band rehearsal rooms. If your Telecaster has a bridge with raised walls, you can retrofit an ashtray cover to regain the classic look of a vintage Fender.
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Things you need
- Soft cloth
- Mild cleaning solution
Check your instrument's compatibility for an ashtray cover. They will generally fit to vintage instruments, or those based on vintage designs. Stratocasters must have the "American Vintage" synchronised tremolo bridge; Floyd Rose systems will not accept a cover. Telecasters must have the retro bridge plate, with the raised "walls" running parallel with the strings. Also, if your Telecaster has a B-Bender system, you need to modify the ashtray by cutting a notch in the rear edge. Precision basses have a cover that arcs over the strings, secured with a pair of screws through the scratch-plate. If your Precision Bass is a modern version, you may want to purchase a "vintage" style scratch-plate from Fender, to prevent having to drill holes in your existing one.
Clean the bridge and the surface of the body using the soft cloth and a small amount of the cleaning solution. Attaching a bridge cover creates numerous small crevices that collect dust and grime. The edges of the cover trap the dirt against the surfaces of the bridge and paintwork, where it can accumulate, causing corrosion and scratching.
Position a Precision Bass cover over the pickup, lining up the holes in the metal plate with the holes in the scratch-plate. Feed the screw through with your fingers and make the first couple of turns by hand, ensuring the screw enters the hole straight. If the screw enters the hole at an angle, it will easily chew up the soft plastic scratch-plate when you tighten it. Tighten the screws carefully with the screwdriver.
Fit a Stratocaster or Telecaster bridge cover by laying a soft cloth out over the body of the guitar, covering the area between the bottom strap button and the bridge. Place the cover flat on the cloth and line up the edges with those of the bridge. Apply pressure to the back of the bridge cover with both thumbs and slide it onto the bridge. With the cover installed, check that the edges are not interfering with the vibration of the strings.
Tips and warnings
- The Stratocaster and Telecaster bridge covers are held on by the tight fit of their side walls against the bridge. If your cover is loose and rattling, remove it and gently squeeze the edges. This will make the cover grip the bridge more tightly.
- Don't press the bridge cover down against the body of the guitar when sliding it on to the bridge. Its corners could gouge deep scratches in the guitar's finish.
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