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Author Topic:  Ridiculously cheap import tone bars?
Karl Paulsen


From:
Chicago
Post Posted 22 Aug 2017 8:57 am     Reply with quote

So I've noticed that are via import there are round tone bars that can be had for around $4 and countoured bars for around $7 Anybody tried these?

I've been making use of AliExpress recently, buying cheap OEM'ish parts to fix up cheap guitars that aren't worth putting better-quality parts in. It's proved to be a good way to save these cheapies from the trash heap without investing more than they're worth. While on there I found these cheap tone bars. Ordered a couple round and a contoured bar just to see what they're like. Should be here in a few weeks.

I've got a cheap resale shop electric for each of my kids (4 and 6) and both are talking about steel guitar. Each guitar will shortly have a grover nut extention on it and I'll give each of my kids one of these $3 bars. I'll probably be making sure they wash their hands afterwards (possible lead content?) but other than that I've got high hopes for these.

Anyone have any experiences with these?
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Brad Bechtel


From:
San Francisco, CA
Post Posted 22 Aug 2017 11:32 am     Reply with quote

No direct experience with them, but you usually get what you pay for. I hope they work out for you.
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Brad Davis


From:
Texas, USA
Post Posted 22 Aug 2017 11:57 am     Reply with quote

My limited experience with very cheap Stephens steels is that they are very thinly nickle plated brass and tarnish and blacken or wear away quickly. They may not have been entirely smooth either, but I don't recall any rough edges. But who knows what you will get. They will almost certainly work, its just how often do they need replacing. A quality bar can last for years.
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Karl Paulsen


From:
Chicago
Post Posted 22 Aug 2017 12:32 pm     Reply with quote

Thanks for the info.

I wouldn't be surprised if these are similar to the Stephens. I've got a nice chomed brass bar for my pedal steel that I got off the forum, but these are more mess around bars for my kid's laps.

As for "get what you pay for" it depends what you mean by that. Ali and ebay buying of this kind of stuff is a mixed bag. Not only does it usually take at least 3 weeks to arrive but I've gotten more than one item that was not as described or broken. On the other hand I've always gotten prompt attention to these issues in the form of refunds and never had to send anything back.

None of the stuff I've gotten has been "high end" but it's generally been the same or better as the OEM quality of stuff you see on low or midpriced guitars but sold at near wholesale cost so it actually feels like I'm getting a bit more than I paid for.

As an example, I purchased a loaded strat pickguard for $14 shipped. That would have been more than cheap enough but it came with the wrong color pickguard so I got an $8 refund. Just the thing to bring the beat-up, innard-less J. Reynolds strat copy my buddy gave me back to life. I'll probalby only get $50 for the guitar when it's finished so this kind of part at this price is what it takes to make saving the guitar worthwhile especially if you want to make a couple bucks in the process.
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Stephen Baker


From:
Lancashire, UK
Post Posted 22 Aug 2017 12:56 pm     Reply with quote

I bought a cheap bullet bar that came in a real nice brown plastic case. The chrome was so thin it was basically paint. It started to peel very quickly and in the end I just scraped it back to the brass. In fact I scraped most of it off with my thumb nail. On the other hand I have bought many cheap and cheerful guitar accessories from China via eBay, machine heads, pickguard bracket, clip on tuners etc. and have found them to be surprisingly good quality for the money.
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Allen Hutchison


From:
Kilcoy, Qld, Australia
Post Posted 22 Aug 2017 2:46 pm     Reply with quote

I bought a cheap Stainless Steel bullet nose, & as Brad said, you get what you pay for!
The finish on mine is not as smooth as a quality bar.
I wouldn't trust cheap plated bars at all.
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Karl Paulsen


From:
Chicago
Post Posted 22 Aug 2017 5:40 pm     Reply with quote

Good to know folks,
Guess I should have some abrasive on hand if I end up with a painted bar!

I'll post about them when they arrive though that probably won't be for a few weeks.
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Stefan Robertson


From:
London, UK
Post Posted 22 Aug 2017 9:18 pm     Reply with quote

I ordered one way back when. I don't use it anymore as it's too light and small for my needs now but it cost £3 and it still hasn't tarnished over 2 years. Granted it's had light use but it seems pretty standard.

Considering China produce tons of steel for the world so making a minuscule bar with the spare and left over steel isn't hard for them to do.

The bar seems fine. Actually better quality than a steven's played one.
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Bo Parker


From:
Alabama, USA
Post Posted 23 Aug 2017 4:30 am     Reply with quote

I have bought two of the cheap bullet-nose rail bars from ebay. They're advertised as being "steel solid", but the ones I have are brass. One is chrome plated and the other is lacquer-coated. They're actually pretty nice, and I prefer them to the Shubb Pearse SP2 and the SP3 bullet-nose rail bars.

A good example is this:

https://www.aliexpress.com/item/Guitar-Accessories-Solid-Stainless-Steel-Tone-Bar-Guitar-Slide-for-Hawian-Guitar-gold/32778356130.html

It's advertised as being stainless steel, but from the picture you can see it's brass. The lacquer wears off the playing surface pretty quickly.
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David M Brown


From:
California, USA
Post Posted 23 Aug 2017 7:04 am     Reply with quote

http://www.ebay.com/itm/Chrome-Tone-Bar-Pedal-Lap-Steel-Guitar-slide-/181390289789?hash=item2a3bb42b7d:g:aqgAAOSw44BYaGLA

I bought a couple cheap steel bars from a similar source.

I did not like them - not because of the material or plating, the shape was wrong - too narrow in diameter AND a bit too long.

Thus I could not use them, I've given away to folks that had lap steels and no tonebar, since any bar is better than no bar.

So like you guys, i was not happy with the result, no matter how cheap they were.
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Karl Paulsen


From:
Chicago
Post Posted 23 Aug 2017 2:25 pm     Reply with quote

Interesting to see the mixed reaction. Sounds like if I'm lucky they may be sturdy, but otherwise to be ready for whatever they're coated with to come off and to have brass bars in the end.

Interestingly the reports of small size doesn't worry me much as they're mostly for my kids.
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David Gertschen


From:
Phoenix, Arizona
Post Posted 23 Aug 2017 7:09 pm     Reply with quote

If they can machine and chrome plate a bar, and make a profit on it for $7.00 I'd say good luck! But I wouldn't get my hopes up about receiving a high quality item...
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Stefan Robertson


From:
London, UK
Post Posted 24 Aug 2017 4:49 am     Reply with quote

My kids use my large bar.

Teaches them not to pick up the bar so much and Sliiiiiide instead. Laughing
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Eric Philippsen


From:
Central Indiana, USA
Post Posted 29 Aug 2017 2:08 am     Reply with quote

Just my 2 cents worth.......

In short, my experience is pretty much you get what you pay for. Bars, volume pedals, steels, tools, cars, etc. There are certainly exceptions to that. For example, I think that some cheaper hand tools are now just as good as the tried-and-tested name-brand ones. But I still usually go for the higher end ones.

Why? Well, as an example, I just look at my collection of bars that I've accumulated. There's the cheap ones I got way back when. They're sitting unused because of their bad tone or construction. Then there's the BJS bars that I grab every time now. On that, I was giving a lesson and my student was using a cheap bar. Noticing mine, he asked about it and I handed it to him to try. The difference in tone was so pronounced he immediately got one.

Some balk at the added expense. I certainly get that. That's why I try to buy used gear at lower prices and also why an easy 90% of my gear was has been gotten used. Moreover, I've found one can often sell an item purchased used for the same amount paid. Or close.
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Karl Paulsen


From:
Chicago
Post Posted 1 Sep 2017 9:36 am     Reply with quote

The first slide arrived yesterday.

Appears to be somewhat similar to a Schub SP-Z style (will try and put up some pics later) but with a different profile on the upper ends.

The chrome is even and shiny with the only 2 minor divots on the grip side and edge. Played it on my PSG a bit and it works well.

However, the top ends in 4 distinct points rather than being smoothed out so if played with one finger over the top it will dig into your hand a bit. Not sure if this is standard for a certain type of bar and if filing down the edges is worth it or if that would just start the chrome chipping off.

So, for $6 I got a slide that seems rather well-made but not necessarily well designed.

I'll post back on the pair of $3 Tone Bars when they arrive.
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David Mason


From:
Cambridge, MD, USA
Post Posted 6 Sep 2017 10:52 am     Reply with quote

I bought one like those MUKU bars specifically to see if I really wanted to reshape the nose and put a substantially-round "butt"-end on a few good stainless bars, like a E.G. Smith and an SP-1 and SP-2. And it was easy to re-shape it, I think "zinc-ish potmetal" is a better description than "brass", and I liked it, so then I did the good ones. I had gotten tired of dull metal files, yes I DO know they're directional, but I bought a case of coarse bastards a while back - E.G. Smith wore out a whole bastard just it's own self! Lovely bars - NOW - it is no longer so tragic if I get a little backwards running forward & backward slants, them little X-patterns you find all over the place. I mean the bar gets backwards, I'm still right here. IYKWIM.

And yes I KNOW it would've been a lot faster to use a GRINDER, but if you dick with stuff as a hobby, finding ways to make your hobby get over with QUICKER is sorta weird, really.
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Karl Paulsen


From:
Chicago
Post Posted 6 Sep 2017 6:11 pm     Reply with quote

Thanks David!
I showed the bar to my teacher and he confirmed that the corners are way too sharp. I've got a variety of files and a grinder though so I'll probably have a go at rounding them off.


The two Tone bars came in today. Sort of....

One package contained a Tone Bar. Chrome seems ok. Not quite as clean as the slide but not rough. Very skinny compared to a proper PSG bar. The kids like it though. Now both of my kids (4 and 6) have a cheap electric with a Grover nut extender and a tone bar of some sort.

The other package contained a random wood-handled file of some sort! I've put in a dispute and if it's like the past Ali screw-ups theyll probably say keep the file, here's your refund. We'll see.
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John Culp


From:
Tennessee, USA
Post Posted 19 Oct 2017 1:06 pm     Reply with quote

I'm at the beach with my wife. I brought a lap steel and little Honeytone amp, but forgot my bag of steels, picks, and tuner. So I ordered a few basics from Amazon Prime while playing with bare fingers and a table knife. I got one of those skinny little bullet bars priced around $4. It's advertised as solid stainless steel, but I just dropped it on a tile floor and it dented easily. I see a faint copper color inside the hole in the butt. The Stevens-like bar for around $7 Looks very nice. It has one end with a rounded lip. It is injection molded, not machined. The chrome finish is very highly polished. After 3 days of light playing, copper is showing through the chrome. It is probably die cast of zinc alloy, plated with copper, nickel, and chrome, but VERY lightly. Still, it's a lot nicer to play with than a table knife! Amazon sent me a whole tube of .018" finger picks instead of the pack of 4 with a thumb pick. Oh, well.
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Andy Henriksen


From:
Michigan, USA
Post Posted 20 Oct 2017 5:00 am     Reply with quote

David Mason wrote:
...but if you dick with stuff as a hobby, finding ways to make your hobby get over with QUICKER is sorta weird, really.

What a great philosophy! Now I don't feel so bad about my 10 month long (and counting!) steel guitar build...
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Stefan Robertson


From:
London, UK
Post Posted 20 Oct 2017 8:20 am     Reply with quote

John Culp wrote:
I'm at the beach with my wife. I brought a lap steel and little Honeytone amp, but forgot my bag of steels, picks, and tuner. So I ordered a few basics from Amazon Prime while playing with bare fingers and a table knife. I got one of those skinny little bullet bars priced around $4. It's advertised as solid stainless steel, but I just dropped it on a tile floor and it dented easily. I see a faint copper color inside the hole in the butt. The Stevens-like bar for around $7 Looks very nice. It has one end with a rounded lip. It is injection molded, not machined. The chrome finish is very highly polished. After 3 days of light playing, copper is showing through the chrome. It is probably die cast of zinc alloy, plated with copper, nickel, and chrome, but VERY lightly. Still, it's a lot nicer to play with than a table knife! Amazon sent me a whole tube of .018" finger picks instead of the pack of 4 with a thumb pick. Oh, well.


Amazon sent me a whole tube of fingerpicks too. LOL. That happened to me. Ah well at least me and my kids have enough for a lifetime.
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E13#9/F Bebop Tuning

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W. Johnson


From:
Oregon, USA
Post Posted 20 Oct 2017 9:38 am     Reply with quote

I have a few stainless tone bars here that I use, one is 15/16"x4", the other 3/7"x4", solid 316 stainless for the 3/4" one, and 440c for the 15/16" bar. The materials on either cost more, especially the 440C, than these inexpensive bars. I put the bar into my lathe and sand and then polish them to a mirror finish, which never scratch and never wears out.

The 440c stainless, if hardened, can be the hardest of all stainless. I do not heat treat it, but it is still very hard.

Does the material used for the bar have an effect on tone?

Wayne
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John Culp


From:
Tennessee, USA
Post Posted 21 Oct 2017 11:30 am     Reply with quote

I got 4 National "shell" thumb picks to go with my tube of finger picks. I'm good to go now. 😃
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John Culp


From:
Tennessee, USA
Post Posted 21 Oct 2017 11:34 am     Reply with quote

I expect that my big old Dunlop bullet bar is made out of one of the 18/8 300 series austenitic stainless alloys. It's nonmagnetic. 440 stainless is martensitic and magnetic. Hard as it can be, it ought to wear a LONG time.
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Ron Landis


From:
Arkansas, USA
Post Posted 22 Oct 2017 6:41 am     Reply with quote

I got one of those cheap bars from China. It is very shiny stainless steel. It looks great but the steel is so soft that the wound strings actually cut the bar and create a horrible scratchy sound you would expect from that. You get what you pay for. Next time I send a batch of parts to the plater, I'll smooth out the sharp points and throw it in for a hard nickel-chrome plating. That should fix it.
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W. Johnson


From:
Oregon, USA
Post Posted 22 Oct 2017 7:38 am     Reply with quote

Ron Landis wrote:
I got one of those cheap bars from China. It is very shiny stainless steel. It looks great but the steel is so soft that the wound strings actually cut the bar and create a horrible scratchy sound you would expect from that. You get what you pay for. Next time I send a batch of parts to the plater, I'll smooth out the sharp points and throw it in for a hard nickel-chrome plating. That should fix it.


I have some solid stainless bars, I made from 316 stainless, which I consider not very hard. They show zero signs of wear, still looks as smooth and shiny as the day I made them, even after many many hours of playing. So, I cannot imagine what sort of alloy of stainless they used, in order for the strings to groove like that? Even if you press down super hard, still should not wear out like that.

I'm not sure why chrome plating would wear off either, seems to me it should not. The alloy they are using must be extremely soft. I pay considerably more for the metal, then these cheapo bars sell for.

I also make tone bars from aluminum, and anodized and polish them, and these also show no signs of wear on them.

Wayne
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