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FDP Forum / Fender Guitars: Stratocasters / Unblocking trem on a Clapton Strat

Paul L

New Jersey, USA

It looks just like a Telefunken U-47!
Jun 2nd, 2019 08:59 AM   Edit   Profile  

What are the major steps to unblock a vintage-style tremolo, such as on the Clapton Strat? Also, what number of springs do most players find optimal?

Peegoo
Contributing Member
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Planet Peegoo

Rhythm & Lewd Guitarist
Jun 2nd, 2019 09:16 AM   Edit   Profile  

You remove the block, install springs, and then set up the vibrato to suit your preferences.

Springs: three springs are what most players seem to like. It will work with two, and it will work with four or five. Adding or subtracting springs affects the feel (stiffness) of the vibrato bar.

Other things to consider...

Float or decked?

Some players like the bridge to "float," meaning the back of the bridge is raised a bit from the body by balancing the spring pull with the string pull. 3/32" to about 1/8" is the general starting point for the distance between the back of the bridge and the face of the body.

Advantage: floating operation allows the vibrato to work both ways; pull on the bar and raise the pitch of the strings, and lean on the bar to lower the pitch.

Disadvantage: if you break a string on a floating bridge, all the other strings will go sharp and the guitar will not play in tune. In a live situation, this is usually a show-stopper for a guitar player.

"Decked" means the spring tension is greater than string tension, and the springs pull the back of the bridge flush with the body ("on the deck"). The vibrato only works in one direction: down, to lower the pitch of the strings.

Advantage: if you break a string, all the other strings stay in tune.

Disadvantage: you cannot tug the bar to raise the pitch of the strings.


Paul L

New Jersey, USA

It looks just like a Telefunken U-47!
Jun 2nd, 2019 11:05 AM   Edit   Profile  

Thanks, Peegoo. I'm assuming the six screws at the front edge of the bridge need to be backed off a bit. How much is appropriate? I'm probably going to float the trem, with just two springs (I've got arthritic hands now and prefer a looser feel).

I also bought a set of Hipshot vintage locking tuners from StewMac. I got the staggered version so I can ditch the string tree.

Peegoo
Contributing Member
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Planet Peegoo

Rhythm & Lewd Guitarist
Jun 2nd, 2019 11:53 AM   Edit   Profile  

Good plan. The big consideration with fewer springs (softer feel) is if you're a real string bender, pushing a string a whole step does partially detune the other strings if you are playing more than that single note.

For floating operation, this is how I set the six screws to keep the bridge in place and prevent unnecessary clicking noises.

1. Have the guitar flat on the bench, face up, and have a bright light overhead.

2. With no strings and no springs on the bridge, loosen all the screws about two turns so that all six screw heads are not in contact with the bridge plate.

3. Very (very) slowly, rotate one of the screws clockwise into the guitar, and watch the rear of the bridge plate closely. As soon as the screw's head contacts the bridge plate, you'll see the rear of the bridge plate start to move (lift). Stop there.

4. Rotate the screw 1/8 turn counter-clockwise.

5. Do the remaining five screws the same way.

This provides the necessary relief between the bridge plate and the screw heads for the plate to pivot smoothly.

When you get the guitar strung up and set up, the last thing to do is apply a very teensy dot of lube (light oil) to the following places. This keeps the guitar in tune and playing easily.

-Each nut slot. No need to lift the string from the slot. Place the dot of lube atop the string in the center of its nut slot and lean lightly on the bar a few times. That movement of the string through the nut slot will distribute the lube under the string.

-String tree(s). Apply the lube at the point the string and the tree contact each other on the nut side of the tree.

-Top of each saddle where the string lays on it.

-The back of each of the six screw heads where the bridge pivots. Place the dot in the seam between the screw head and the plate.

Play the guitar a little and check tuning. The last thing to do is wipe off the nut and saddle tops with a paper towel to remove any excess lube.




Peegoo
Contributing Member
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Planet Peegoo

Rhythm & Lewd Guitarist
Jun 2nd, 2019 04:55 PM   Edit   Profile  

The above description is how I do it.

There are several ways to set of a vibrato that work well. One of the best vids that shows how to set up a Strat vibrato bridge for coordinated intervals of the G, B, and high E strings is Galeazzo Frudua's video on the subject.

He uses a pack of Post-It notes as a shim to set up the bridge to float. I use a deck of playing cards, but it works the same way.

Here

Paul L

New Jersey, USA

It looks just like a Telefunken U-47!
Jun 3rd, 2019 04:46 AM   Edit   Profile  

Thanks again! This was very helpful.

BrentD
Contributing Member
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Michigan

Jun 3rd, 2019 07:17 AM   Edit   Profile  

Peegoo's got great advice as always. I floated my last one by trial and error but got it to about 1/16" and able to pull up a semitone.

One advantage for me with a floating bridge is that if you use the bar a lot and the strings get bound up anywhere, a quick tug will usually pull them back into equilibrium.

Timmer
Contributing Member
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Shreveport, LA

There I was one night...
Jun 3rd, 2019 12:25 PM   Edit   Profile  

Don't do it! EC 2001 Blackie owner.

But if you have to, Peegs sounds like he knows what he is talking about.

Paul L

New Jersey, USA

It looks just like a Telefunken U-47!
Jun 5th, 2019 08:09 AM   Edit   Profile  

I'm not convinced I'm going to do it yet. Mainly just looking to make the guitar easier to play...as I mentioned, I have arthritis in my hands. I did install the new tuners and strung the guitar with .008 - .038 strings, which has helped. But I may still unblock the trem if it proves to still be difficult to play. I do fine with a shorter scale instrument with .009s.

FDP Forum / Fender Guitars: Stratocasters / Unblocking trem on a Clapton Strat




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