I'm looking to tap into the collective pool of Tricone info. I recently bought an old one that was described as "unmolested" by the seller and that is accurate. after playing it for a while I decided the sound was a bit thuddy and lacked the sparkle I've heard in some Tricones. I could see plenty of evidence of dirt through the screens so I did what I usually do and took it apart, for sure to clean it but also to see the works. In the process I decided to replace the cones with some Beards but the gaskets under them as well as the main cover are falling apart and pretty much unusable. I asked at National if they could sell me some and their short reply was "they no longer use them" The folks at Beard didn't have too much to say about them either except that I could make some if I wanted , which I can but the question I have is how necessary are they and are they worth the trouble? They appeared to be glued in place with glue easily cleaned off, maybe hide glue. My cones are in the mail so if anyone out there has any guidence they'd like to share I'm interested to hear it. Thanks, Harry
At some point in time, perhaps with the "new" National, they quit using gasket material. Try it without. Just drop the cones in.
The issue I always had with the old square neck tricones was that the action was always way low and I kept banging the bar against the neck. A setup took care of that and the higher action made the guitar more responsive.
You don't specify round vs square neck or what kind of shape the nut or T-Bridge insert is in. Two things to check out for the best playing guitar you can have.
Agree with Howard about removing the gaskets under the cones. They can have a damping effect, resulting in the "thuddy" sound you are hearing. Since you are comfortable replacing the cones, you might also consider replacing the T-bridge. Many years back Don Young thought that tricones had the potential for better bass. He "scalloped" the top sides of the T-bridge legs in a manner similar to scalloping the braces on a flat top guitar. It worked, producing improved bass and midrange. For a time they machined in the scallops, but eventually modified the casting to include them.
Thanks Howard and Sam, It is a squareneck and like you mentioned the string height is awful low and the bar occasionally hits. There is also very little break angle over the bridge and that may need redoing. The nut looks fine , it appears to be recent.
P.S. The scalloped T bridge is interesting and I may explore that but another question I have is ; How important is it that when the cones are in place and the T is put on it sits with equal pressure on all 3 cones? ...or will the string load take care of any discrepancy?
You can raise the height of the strings at the bridge with a taller insert, but it would be best to wait until you get your replacement cones, since they might be a different height from the originals. A tripod will always put pressure at the ends of all three legs. There cannot be a high leg making no contact such as there occasionally is on a spider bridge. In the case of the T-bridge however, the load is not at the center, but along one leg. So the pressure on the bass side is divided between two cones while that on the treble side is on one. Further, tension is not exactly the same, string to string. So the tension on the bass end may not be the same as on the treble end. Not to worry; the cones on a tricone have been handling the uneven pressure just fine since it was invented.
Just fwiw, The tricone is mellower than a single biscuit bridge guitar. I can be brightened up a bit. The original inserts were usually maple. If you plan on setting up the guitar I'd consider a switch to and ebony/maple insert.
I know that Beard sells them, perhaps other sources as well. If you do opt to change the entire t-bridge I'd avoid the imports and stick with the genuine National part. I seem to recall that those ship with a pre-installed maple insert. Best to verify though.
Edited by - hlpdobro on 05/20/2019 10:54:14
Some experience. I have set up tricones with the original kerfed paper gasket under the cones, without material under the cones and have used thin felt under the cones. I can’t say that I have proven one method to be superior than the other. Even though you would expect the felt to have a dampening effect, that tricone is one of the best sounding that I have had. If you go without the paper or some other thin lining, make sure the cone shelf is clean and true. Place each cone on the surface and rest your finger lightly on the apex of the cone. Lightly tap the perimeter of the cone and listen for rattles. Rotate the cone and determine the best position for each one where it matches the supporting surface. To keep track, you can put a dot with a sharpie. Once all cones are in place, set the bridge on top and the coverplate, not to disturb the cones. Install a couple strings to light tension to keep everything in place, then the other strings. Tune all strings to pitch a little at a time alternately. You shouldn’t need any lining under the coverplate. You can replace the bridge material. I have found the ebony capped saddles a little bright for may taste and like the plain maple. Consistent with this, some of the best sounding tricones I have played were completely original, including saddle and cones. If you want to replace the bridge saddle for greater height, you will be limited considerably by the palmrest. You won’t get modern resonator guitar height. Just measure what you have currently and you will see how much leeway you have. Good luck...enjoy!
Ps....to gain height and avoid contacting the fretboard with the bar, you might get more bang for your buck by replacing the nut.
Lot's of good advice here. Can i also add LUCKY! I'm gonna get me one soon too if the good LORD's willin and the creeks don't rise.
I must confess, what I know about square and round neck tricones you can put on the head of a pin.
I've been lurking on this thread hoping to learn something new and so far I haven't been disappointed. Fascinating topic for the uninitiated on the subject.
I feel like I just got my undergraduate degree in National Tricone-ology. Another post or two and I should have half of the required load I need for my Masters.
Thanks to the thread starter and all those who responded.
I'll second the thanks for all the help. Just like most things there appears that there isn't one "true" answer , but many approaches that can be tried . My cones haven't arrived yet but when I put them in I'll report back. Harry
I thought I'd post an update to my upgrade project. In the end I went with a full gasket set which I made out of Manila File folder stock which I lightly glued in place to prevent things from shifting around during assembly. I used cones spun by Paul Beard, there are no spiral swirls pressed in but who am I to argue with P. [ they were also almost half the price ] . I did address the Aluminum T bridge. I started to just clean up some of the excess casting but went just a bit farther and removed some of the extra thicknesses that seemed unnecessary. My thinking being if it's not needed [strength wise] why leave it. I followed Docs advice and left the bridge alone to allow me to hear the difference. There was no doubt an improvement, the beard cones probably responsible, however I was having trouble getting the instrument to ring, even the harmonics at 7 & 12 died quickly. I knew that the Maple insert was well worn with slots 2x the string diameter or more. To address Howards' comment, I wasn't so much interested in volume, but I wanted the more of the bell like ringing and decided to go with an Ebony cap. Since the Maple was well glued in place I just planed off the top 2 or 3 mm and glued a strip of ebony in place cut new slots and put it all back together. Another nice improvement in Harmonics and a more singing tone. Since I'm new to the World of Tricone I can't say how it compares to others but for now I'll just play it and see what I can do with it.
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