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Thanx again for your input and expertise. I am afraid I only revealed my ignorance of the subject of welding. I had heard that welding some materials could be problematic or toxic (galvanized metal for example) but did not even know the tailpiece was Zinc. Thank you also for that information as well as the two links you provided. I will echo what others have said about you, it is a wonderful thing to get such feedback from a company official at all, let alone someone so high up the corporate ladder as yourself. I'm reminded of the closing scenes of the old movie "Yankee Doodle Dandy" where Cagney as Cohan says "Where else could a song and dance man like me come in and talk things over with the head man" (please pardon me if I didn't get that quote exactly right).
I realize that this is not a stock installation and that this tailpiece was never intended to be used on this model of guitar but it just looks so cool. Too bad it presents the trace issue. You can see in the pix that the bridge and tailpiece will be very close together, less than an inch and a half on the high side and two and a quarter on the bass side. With them that close I worry that the strings will jump out of their slots due to the added lateral forces. I don't really want to cut the slots deeper if I can avoid it since I have the guitar set up nearly perfectly at the moment. Therefore I theorised that modifying the tailpiece would be the easier route. Again I will say that this has been a labor of love re-building this guitar to better than original spec (2003 w/ 12saddle bridge and toaster tops) for this year and model (opinions will vary on that last point). I have wanted this exact model and exact finish for over 40 years and having the ability to add this small "custom" touch without bastardizing the guitar with non RIC parts satisfies some twisted part of my psyche.
Looking for a solution for the spread reminded me of a previous thread I read on stringing difficulty involving the 12 string "R" tailpiece. You'll notice I have had to punt and install a trapeze style on my guitar to allow me to play it while I line up a "proper" "R" tailpiece. So I don't even know if I would have a problem with the claw design compared with the solid block which has been drilled to capture the ball ends, but it seemed like a good idea on the face of it to solve this issue at the same time I solve the trace issue.
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