DIY Hipshot B Bender

I’m a sucker for twang, chicken picking and mechanical gadgets, so it was a no brainer that sooner or later I’d contemplate a B-bender of some sort. I’d recently acquired a G&L ASAT when I saw Will Ray’s signature model:

And I knew I had to have one. Thing is, being in Singapore I’d have to order one from overseas (not enough redneck wannabes here to justify keeping them in stock) and together with the exchange rate, it just didn’t make sense. Not to this cheapskate engineer anyway. The concept of it is pretty simple; basically a lever and fulcrum with a screw for fine adjustment to get a full step up. Here’s what the original looks like:

So I started digging around in my scrap box to see what I could use. There was some sheet aluminium that could form the base plate and a short length of hollow rectangular aluminium bar stock that I could cut to form the lever and the supports, the advantage being that it already had the right angles I needed. Not having an entire workshop at my disposal, I also had to design it to be put together with a hacksaw, a handheld power drill and thread taps. In my idle moments I put the concept together:

So with that, off I went. Unfortunately I didn’t think to take pictures of the fabrication process as I just couldn’t wait to start making aluminium dust. I had to overhaulmake some adjustments to the design along the way and here’s what it ended up becoming:

The largest change from the concept was that to avoid having the lever extend beyond the edge of the guitar (which would put plenty of  stress on the mechanism when I carry it in a gig bag), I decided to shorten the end of the lever portion and mount an extension nut parallel to the guitar so that I could screw the lever on with a nut.

This is what I mean:

It looks like the flat bar is clamping on the strap but it’s not, I’ll tell you why later. Here’s an exploded view of the components:

I used M10 for the large threaded portions, M5 for the two cap screws and M3 for mounting the U-shaped piece of sheet aluminium to the lever portion. The largest flat bar was a standard piece sold in hardware shops for fixing furniture, but these tend to be stainless steel and are an absolute bitch to file to let an M10 bolt through. You might want to hunt for something that makes your life easier.

Oh yeah, the M10 nut for the bolt going through the lever and supports should be a lock nut (the kind with nylon inserts to grip the bolt thread) because it’s going to see lots of rotating action.

I added the long M10 bolt at the end of the flar bar so that it could reach my hips when I strap on my guitar normally, otherwise I’d have to make some really obscene hip movements to get it to work. The rubber cap is to keep the bolt head from digging into my pelvic bone. Feel free to omit this bolt entirely if your gig is the kind where extreme hip gyration is highly encouraged.

Some assembly required:

You can see the two cap screws in threaded holes. The one on the left is for adjusting the travel of the lever to tune it to a proper full step up, while the other one is to adjust the default position (ie. when you’re not bending the string) so that the extension nut doesn’t rest on the mounting plate and the flat bar doesn’t rest on the strap. I used a spring to hold the former in place so that it allows easy adjustment on the fly without being too easy to turn accidentally. The other one has a nut to lock it in place since it won’t get adjusted much. And here’s the mounting plate with the supports:

All strung up and ready to go:
The key to maintaining tuning stability is to have the teflon tubing at the point where it crosses the hole in the bridge (you can just make it out above where the string exits the hole), because friction will bind the string. I managed to get some courtesy of a friend who bought a proper bender and had some to spare, but I’m told it’s found in brake cables you can buy in bicycle shops.  Me and tights don’t go well together for various anatomical reasons so I’ve never ventured into a bicycle shop to find out. If any of you can shed some light on this I’d appreciate it.
I’ll get some videos up when I can (and when I can actually play the damned thing) but in the meanwhile, hope this helps you if you’re thinking of going DIY as well. I didn’t provide any dimensions or detailed plans because I was pretty much eyeballing it and cutting on the fly. In any case, figuring it out on your own is the fun part, isn’t it?

About cheapskateengineer
Engineer by day, musician and hack by night.

One Response to DIY Hipshot B Bender

  1. Mel Ferdinands says:

    Great job mate- let’s jam soon!! Mel

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