To learn how to make a full-pocket shim, search for “Guitar Shop 101: How to Shim a Bolt-On Neck” at

Fig. 3. (left) Mounting the Vibramate. Fig. 4. (right) Mounting the Bigsby to the Vibramate. No drilling required, so it’s a
100% reversible mod.

Now I could confidently mount the Vibramate (Fig. 3) and B5 Bigsby (Fig. 4). The Vibramate’s two stud screws come in both U.S. and metric threads, and I used the latter to attach the plate to the existing stud holes. Then using the four supplied machine screws, I secured the Bigsby to the Vibramate.

Fig. 5. Installing the Tune-o-matic-style bridge with the saddle intonation screws facing forward.

Once the Bigsby was attached, I removed the old bridge and posts and replaced them with a new system ($40 from Allparts). Knowing the Bigsby rollerbar would make it hard to access the intonation adjustment screws from the rear of the saddle, I faced it forward (Fig. 5).

Fig. 6. (left) Removing the cheap tuners that had obviously replaced the original set. Fig. 7. (right) Pushing out the old bushings with the handle of an X-Acto knife.

Installing the tuners. This turned out to be trickier than I’d anticipated, and we almost had to halt the project here. After carefully unscrewing the old tuners (Fig. 6), I removed their press-fit bushings from the face of the headstock using the handle of a small X-Acto knife. Pressing the rounded end through the post hole and gently applying pressure to the bushings (Fig. 7), I was able to coax them out without damaging the finish around them.

Fig. 8. (right) Carefully enlarging the tuner holes with a Stewart-MacDonald Peghole Reamer to accept the new 16:1 Gotoh tuners. Fig. 9. (left) The specialized headstock reamer leaves clean, round holes that are tough to achieve with hardware-store reamers.

We chose to install a high-quality set of Gotoh tuning keys ($55 street from Allparts). These Gotohs have a 16:1 turning ratio and are very well machined, but for the keys to fit properly I had to ream out the holes on the back of the headstock (Fig. 8). Again, it’s not something I’d do to a valuable vintage guitar, but in this instance I had the owner’s blessing. I used a specialized peghole reamer from that cuts cleaner, rounder holes (Fig. 9) than reamers you’d find at the hardware store. In this photo you can clearly see that different sets of tuners had previously been installed on this Epi.