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JB Self Lock


Article from International Musician & Recording World, October 1986

Another of those handy little things you wish you'd thought of investigated by Dave Burrluck.

Keeping your heads screwed on...

Using a tremolo these days has become a lot more than just waggling a little metal bar attached to the bridge. Not only has tremolo technique been stretched but also the technology needed to maintain any kind of tuning stability. There seems to be zillions of add-ons available to improve tremolo performance and the big question is whether to spend in excess of £200 on a super locking system or to go for a simpler and cheaper approach. These JB Self Locks are a product of the latter school of thought. Designed and made by Jan Braathen from Oslo, Norway the Self Locks provide an ingenious alternative to a locking nut. An idea as simple as this could well put Norway on the guitar innovators map!

The Self Lock is really a modification to any existing machine head — guitar or bass — and is one of those ideas that leaves you thinking "why didn't I think of that?" The idea itself isn't new but the method is. What Jan has done is to simply slice the top off a standard head, drill and thread a hole in the shaft and fit an alien-keyed bolt and stainless steel spacer. The string simply lays between the bolt head and spacer in a 'U' shape, the bolt is tightened and Hey presto — the string is locked.

Well, I thought, there's nothing for it but to try a set. Out came the trusty Squier and off came the Kluson copies. I replaced them with a set of Schaller M6Ns which required the peghead holes to be opened out with a reamer. I could have got Kluson types with the modification but I'm not a stickler for original detail. With the Schaller/JB heads in place stringing up proved very easy, although like anything else the more you do it the quicker you become.

You cut the string about 15mm above the head and then pull it round the machine as tight as you can, then lock it down. When the string stretched I cut any excess off and re-locked it. The small stainless steel washers are of different heights so that the posts can be 'staggered' improving, on a Strat, the behind-the-nut angle and consequent effect on the string's tone and sustain. You could also do away with the string retainers — another advantage for the whammy fan.

Let's have a look at the advantages of the system. Firstly you don't have to disfigure your vintage guitar, so long as JB have the same modified machine head as your guitar. Now, even if you have a Kahler etc but don't like locking nuts you could use the JB machines. No locking nut means no fine tuners — the JB lock doesn't change standard tuning methods at all. Obviously once you're used to them changing strings is simple and quick, especially handy on stage.

Impressed? Well I was and certainly I'll back up these claims with one big 'but'. The JB is capable of all these claims, only if the rest of the tremolo system on you guitar functions properly. With the lock at the machine head then both the nut and string retainers are potential problem points that are alleviated by a locking nut. Obviously the JB system won't improve any problems that already exist at the bridge end of your trem.

However, I was able to put this system to quite a useful test. I'd already fitted a Dive Bomber system to my guitar so I was pretty happy that I had the best out of the trem. The JBs then would provide me with extra security and ease of string fitting. The combination of these two systems would cost under £80. On my other guitar I'd fitted the £90 Kahler fulcrum system with locking nut. Certainly the Dive Bomber and JBs were easier to fit than the troublesome Kahler locking nut, but the important point is that the JB locks meant that my guitar wasn't disfigured and that the problems associated with the locking nut didn't apply.

A direct comparison between the two systems was quite revealing. They both had a similar action and feel and a similar tuning stability — nearly perfect. Of the two I preferred the combination system purely due to the ease of tuning and restringing, plus the original feel of the instrument is retained.

The JB seems a far less drastic but no less effective option to a locking nut and the machines require no fine tuners so they can be fitted to any trem unit. Because the bolt grips the string in a semi-circular fashion it won't cause a potential single break point and the harder the string is bent or pulled the tighter the lock will become.

At present the JB operation is being tied up so the heads are only available through Real to Real Musical Services, (Contact Details) at a price of £37.50 on a mail order basis. You must state the type of pegs you wish to replace as well as six-in-a-line or three-a-side etc. Hopefully we'll be seeing them in the shops quite soon too and I have strongly recommended that they come with comprehensive hints on trem set-up as the key to their success lies in the working of the existing trem system.

For further info contact Tim Duce at Real to Real on (Contact Details).

JB Self Lock - RRP: £37.50

Previous Article in this issue

Fender Jaguar

Next article in this issue

Stepp DG1 Guitar Synth

Publisher: International Musician & Recording World - Cover Publications Ltd, Northern & Shell Ltd.

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International Musician - Oct 1986

Donated & scanned by: Mike Gorman

Review by Dave Burrluck

Previous article in this issue:

> Fender Jaguar

Next article in this issue:

> Stepp DG1 Guitar Synth

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