Fly Saddles through the years

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vjmanzo
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Fly Saddles through the years

Post by vjmanzo »

@Ken Parker designed two different saddles that appeared on the Fly/NiteFly; colloquially, these have been referred to as the "screw" and "dog bone" saddles.
fly_saddles.jpg
USM simplified the saddle design to one with only one part. Additionally, RMC developed a saddle to work with the RMC Polydrive II system, which came installed on the Belewberry DF842. Graph Tech also developed an aftermarket Fly saddle for use with the Ghost Preamp system.

Approximate Dates of Saddle Usage on Flys:
Screw saddles = 1993 - 1997
Dog bone saddles = 1997 - 2007
USM saddles = 2008 - 2015

As noted by @flyguy, the dogbone saddles came in two variants: an early version with two ball bearings and, shortly afterward, a single part with a similar shape.
saddles.jpg
Left to right: screw saddle, early dogbone saddle, saddle with missing bearings, later dogbone saddle, and USM saddle.

See also Making the Fly Saddles
flyguy
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Re: Fly Saddles through the years

Post by flyguy »

VJ, I'll chime in here, there was one other version of saddles pre dogbone where the "dogbone" section consisted of two ball bearings. I believe they stopped using those rather quickly because the ball bearings sometimes would fall out during use.
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vjmanzo
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Re: Fly Saddles through the years

Post by vjmanzo »

Thanks, @flyguy; very helpful and thank you for the correction. I think I mistakenly thought that those ball-bearing ones were the same as the dog-bone ones! I'll go take a look at my swarm and see if any of mine have those particular saddles. Thanks!
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Re: Fly Saddles through the years

Post by writewheel »

I was able to purchase replacement ball bearings thanks to VJ's input. I'm wondering if I should just drop them in or do they need to be glued. Also, I was able to buy a NOS 4th gen bridge, is there any "sonic" advantage to swapping it with the ball bearing version in my Nitefly?
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Re: Fly Saddles through the years

Post by vjmanzo »

Hey @writewheel; glad this worked out.

I believe they are just a “press-fit”, but I suppose they could be glued in or affixed in some way if needed; they certainly don’t move freely on mine and I just assumed they were a press-fit. Perhaps others have had experience adhering them once they’ve fallen out…I haven’t had to do that on any of mine, thankfully.

I prefer the original saddles (“screw” saddles or “dogbone”) and am kinda meh about the “unibody” saddle design; that’s just my opinion. The originals are made of stainless steel and I prefer that sound, so if I had the choice I’d go with those. Having said that, to my “aging rocker” ears: it is such a subtle difference. I have Flys with all of these saddles and I never think ”I shoulda used the ‘dogbone-saddle Fly’ for this track” 😉

If you can repair your saddles, I would, personally, go that route as opposed to swapping the whole bridge. For some reason I don’t know, Parker Guitars changed the bearing in the later bridge from the one Ken spec’d out, so that difference may impact the “feel” of the vibrato.
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Big Swifty
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Re: Fly Saddles through the years

Post by Big Swifty »

Re: gluing those ball bearing saddles...

I have no personal experience, however I do recall a thread somewhere (possibly from the old forum) with regard to these.

Basically, the poster had tried to glue the ball bearings back in with a little super glue, but used too much and glue had got under the ball bearing itself. This created a kind of pad between the bearing and the piezo, and lead to the saddle being a lot quieter than the others. In trying to get it back out and clean the slot, he managed to damage the piezo element underneath, and the saddle itself was ruined.

I think the way to go with these is press them back in, then using something very small like a pin or toothpick, apply the tiniest amount of super glue from the outside/edge of the bearing to just "tack" it in there.

Basically be vewy vewy careful!

These bearing saddles seem to be an ongoing problem, don't know if anyone has found a good permanent solution.

Cheers

B.S.
The system can't get you in your dreams.
writewheel
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Re: Fly Saddles through the years

Post by writewheel »

Thanks VJ and all :) I'm back in business with my Nitefly. First tune that came to mind was "Rock and Roll Hoochie Coo" for it's happy energy. I have to say this is my desert island guitar if I had to have just one.
02 Nitefly
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vjmanzo
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Re: Fly Saddles through the years

Post by vjmanzo »

Yeah, @writewheel! Glad to hear you’re back! I’m singing that backing vocal part to "Rock and Roll Hoochie Coo" in my head as I type this 😉🤣😝

That’s a great NiteFly M! Play it in good health!!!!

Did you end up just pressing the ball bearings into place?
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Re: Fly Saddles through the years

Post by writewheel »

After reading your and "Big Swifty" comments, I went the no glue route. I dropped them in without pressing at all and hoped that the string downpressure would take care of the rest. Sonic output across all strings is the same (3 saddles with new bearings). If I were a gigging musician, I would be worried about no glue and popping a string. My first 100% piezo tune was "Can't find my way home" finger picked. Such a treat. :D
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Re: Fly Saddles through the years

Post by vjmanzo »

Gotcha! Glad to hear you’re back in the…saddle 🤮😉🥴
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Re: Fly Saddles through the years

Post by sawatchboy »

I have this same issue with a 96-97 Nitefly with 4 saddles missing the balls but have been unable to source replacement ball bearings. I have established that the other 2 saddles work so I'm assuming the other 4 do too. One guy on the Parker Facebook page said 3/32 size bearings which I ordered from Amazon but, sadly, they were just a tad too large and I could not get them to seat properly. I could have possibly mashed them in place somehow but it seems ill-advised. Can you help me source some appropriate replacements?

Thanks!
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Re: Fly Saddles through the years

Post by vjmanzo »

Hi @sawatchboy; these are the correct balls:

Team Associated 6581 14 Carbide Diff Balls 3/32"
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Re: Fly Saddles through the years

Post by sawatchboy »

Thanks! That finally did the trick. I think the first set I received was probably mislabeled. I'm guessing they were actually 2.5mm sizing not the 2.381mm/ 3/32 size as labeled. Replaced the saddle balls and the saddle piezo pickup is back up and working. Really appreciate the help!
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Re: Fly Saddles through the years

Post by vjmanzo »

Great news, @sawatchboy! Glad this worked out for you!
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Noodler
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Re: Fly Saddles through the years

Post by Noodler »

The newest saddles used were the Graph Tech saddles (beyond the first USM and the RMC). They weren't just after-market. I believe they were used for the final 3-5 years of production (someone else may know exactly what years).

Image

Although the Graph Tech saddles worked physically better than the USM saddles, they didn't pair well with anything but the newer Graph Tech preamp. I think they may have had some kind of mismatch with the Fishman preamp (learned that the hard way).

The USM saddles require some "clean-up" over time as the strings will create a rough deeper groove over the saddle which can cause binding (tuning issues) and intonation problems (especially the saddles with the chrome plating).

Personally I have always preferred the "screw" saddles (too many lost ball bearings on the dog bone saddles).
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Re: Fly Saddles through the years

Post by Droptune »

I recently had the wire break off right where it meets the saddle (dog-bone) and I was wondering if it’s possible to solder the connection back on? I’m skeptical on using any saddles other than the OEM dog-bones so any advice would be great!
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Re: Fly Saddles through the years

Post by vjmanzo »

Hi @Droptune; yes, it is. The piezo elements are delicate and they really need to be as close as possible to the point of contact with the string via the saddle. It sounds like your piezo element may not have moved, so definitely give it a shot soldering the broken connection if you can!
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jester700
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Re: Fly Saddles through the years

Post by jester700 »

Noodler wrote: Tue Aug 31, 2021 8:57 pm Although the Graph Tech saddles worked physically better than the USM saddles, they didn't pair well with anything but the newer Graph Tech preamp. I think they may have had some kind of mismatch with the Fishman preamp (learned that the hard way).

The USM saddles require some "clean-up" over time as the strings will create a rough deeper groove over the saddle which can cause binding (tuning issues) and intonation problems (especially the saddles with the chrome plating).
I've had tuning issues with my USM saddles (thought it was the nut for quite a while) so I got some Graph Techs. I don't use the piezo often, so tuning stability is the priority, but it would be nice to have piezo ability just in case. I'd rather not replace the pre, so did you find any tricks that improved the Graph Tech / Fishman pairing at all? Is it an EQ thing I could partially compensate for?

Thanks!
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Re: Fly Saddles through the years

Post by vjmanzo »

The strings do a lot rubbing against the saddles; the saddles Ken used were stainless steel and they really won’t wear out. I don’t know for certain what the material is of the other saddles, but I’m confident that it is softer than the stainless saddles.

Over time, string wear on those saddles will, for sure, introduce intonation issues if that’s what you mean @jester700 by “tuning stability” issues. Most “stability” issues on the Fly can be resolved by addressing the spring, the string gauge, and the truss rod.
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jester700
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Re: Fly Saddles through the years

Post by jester700 »

vjmanzo wrote: Tue Sep 28, 2021 11:31 am The strings do a lot rubbing against the saddles; the saddles Ken used were stainless steel and they really won’t wear out. I don’t know for certain what the material is of the other saddles, but I’m confident that it is softer than the stainless saddles.

Over time, string wear on those saddles will, for sure, introduce intonation issues if that’s what you mean @jester700 by “tuning stability” issues. Most “stability” issues on the Fly can be resolved by addressing the spring, the string gauge, and the truss rod.
My issue isn't intonation; with trem arm use you can hear some "pinging" that for a while I thought was the string hanging up in the nut. But it's actually at the saddle. The strings are catching there and not returning to pitch well (worst on D & G strings). I'm sure these are softer than the older stainless saddles. In any case, we'll see how well the Graph Techs work. Thanks for the info!
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