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Floyd Rose setup and maintenance

by Henrik Hjortnaes

Floyd Rose maintenance, troubleshooting, tips and repair

ofrProper maintenance of your Floyd Rose type floating guitar bridge will help it perform as intended and keep you happy. A mistreated and poorly working tremolo is a major pain in the butt and in a live situation, it can be hell on earth.

This article will help you perform an advanced service check on your Floyd Rose tremolo and help you troubleshoot issues you may have using this tremolo device. Get to know your Floyd before it fails on you!

Updates

fine tuner

I'm building this little article from various posts I've done on forums in the past, to help you do some troubleshooting and maintenance on your floating bridge. I might add comments from other forum users as well, if they want to chime in. A few of the pictures used here, are copied from various discussions on the net.

The article will start out with no real structure - I'm just gonna write up bits and pieces as I go along. I am not going to cover all aspects of a floating bridge, but rather pick out topics I find interesting and useful to pass on. Initially, I am not going to focus on simple setup and adjustment of the Floyd bridge, because there's plenty of info already available on the net. Maybe later I will. Okay, let's get started.

Cleaning

Cleaning with oil

The floating bridge is a sensitive piece of equipment, operating in a tough environment. An environment full of human acid, sweat, gunk and humidity.

To have it functioning properly at all times, some basic maintenance is needed. So, I thought cleaning would be a good first topic here on the Floyd page.

  • Gunk on a Kahler tremolo

Cleaning is long overdue! (Kahler tremolo). Photo by slo100.

Cleaning

Take it apart

Before you start, do yourself a favor and read through the complete article here. Especially if you are new to this.

Here we go. Take the whole Floyd bridge / tremolo off of the guitar and take it apart as much as you can. Don't use excessive force - if anything seems stuck or impossible to unscrew, just leave it as is, and go forward with the oiling / cleaning. Stuck or frozen parts will probably become unstuck after a few days in an oil bath.

When you start to unscrew parts from the tremolo, note where the different parts go, so you can reassemble it correctly. Be sure to check the other info further down, as it may help you disassemble and reassemble your tremolo and help you if a problem occur, like a stuck String Lock Insert. Also be sure to check the Tremolo Info Project page, where you will find lots of pictures and info on the various Schaller designed tremolos.

General rule of thumb: unscrew what can be unscrewed. That's it. Only remove parts that are fastened by screws. For example, don't remove the little rectangular copper-thingies that acts as saddle bottoms. It prevents the String Holder Block from falling through the saddle. Don't remove the little copper shims on purpose either. They determine the saddle height.

Watch where the saddles belong! You want to put the saddles back in their original position. Read Mini Guide about saddles.

  • floyd exploded exploding view

To help you disassemble it and put it back together, click on the exploded view to zoom. The figure shows a Floyd Rose type of tremolo.

  • Floyd Rose cleaning

Don't be afraid to take the floyd apart. Do it slowly and carefully and watch where the parts fit. Many of them are the same and will fit anywhere. One thing to keep an eye out for though are the saddles: read Mini Guide about saddles. Photo by SlasZ.

Cleaning

Shims used for saddle height adjustment

During disassembly and cleaning, be aware that sometimes there are little shims of thin copper or other metal, mounted underneath the saddles. This is typically done at the factory as part of the final bridge setup; shimming the saddles to match the fingerboard radius.

Do not discard these shims - re-glue them onto the saddle they came from originally to keep the factory setup. Many guitarists have asked how to adjust the height of a single saddle on the Floyd Rose. This is the answer.

  • Floyd Rose brass tremolo block

Folded thin copper, used by the factory as a shim to adjust individual saddle height on the tremolo.

  
Cleaning

Soak the parts in oil

Find a small plastic container and put ALL the parts in there and spray / pour oil on it. The parts doesn't have to fully submerged in oil; just spray a good amount on there.

I use very thin teflon oil called Tri-Flow Superior Lubricant, on aerosol can. It's a super lubricant, but is also useful for loosening dirt and rust and preserving metal.

Cleaning

Brush the parts

Let the parts soak for a day or two and be sure to stirr them around a couple of times, to make sure the oil gets everywhere. After the first day in oil, you could take a used toothbrush and brush all the parts thoroughly while soaking in the oil. Eventually, the oil will find its way into every corner and small invisible pit in the metal and that's what we want.

Cleaning

Clean the parts

After another day in the oil bath, take the parts up and clean them good with some dry cloths or even compressed air. Don't worry; using compressed air won't remove all the oil - there's plenty left to lube and preserve the metal.

Make sure the bottom of the saddles and the corresponding surface on the baseplate is carefully wiped off, or even cleaned with acetone; you don't want the saddles to slip due to oil. Renew parts that are still rusty. Try Stewmac, Warmoth or Allparts. You don't have to be picky about choosing the oil. Almost any oil will do, but the thin teflon based oils are superb. Don't expect it to remove deep rust though.

The tremolo needs this oil-job every once in a while - depends on how much you play, how and where you store the guitar and the level and type of acid in your sweat.

  • Floyd Rose brass tremolo block

I'm using this product by TriFlow, which contains Teflon, but any thin oil will do. WD40 is more widely known and works too.

  • Floyd Rose cleaning

Be sure to stirr the parts around once in a while, to help the oil find its way. Use a toothbrush to brush and scrub the parts. Again, watch the small copper shims under the saddles (if there are any). If they fall off, just save them for later and glue them back on using a drop of any non-hardening adhesive. Photo by SlasZ.

  
Cleaning

String Holder Block

string holder blockThe little block is often stuck in the saddle, because it is cracked by the force of the String Holder Locking Bolt. If stuck, it can make string changes very annoying. It can be hard to see any cracks when installed, because it often crack at the bottom.

When it cracks, it expands and often get stuck inside the saddle. After oiling like described above, tap it out or use a small screwdriver and wiggle it out. Remove the String Holder Locking Bolt first. Replace any damaged blocks. It can also be stuck simply due to gunk and rust build-up and the pre-oiling will help here too.

  • Floyd Rose brass tremolo block

Complete saddle with block and String Holder Locking Bolt mounted.

  
Saddle arc

Saddle arc - correct assembly

saddleOn many Schaller designed tremolos, the saddles form an arc or slight curve when mounted correctly on the baseplate.

This is to have them follow the shape of the fingerboard and they need to be put back in the correct position after disassembly. If you fail to do so, you'll screw up the arc and the resulting string height will be messed up. Explained in detail in the following...

  • Floyd Rose brass tremolo block

Here's a picture showing the three sizes of saddles on a Schaller designed tremolo. Notice the slight difference in height going from E-B-G.

  • Floyd Rose brass tremolo block

On other trem designs, the arc can be built into the baseplate design (like on the JT-6), so here, the saddles are the same height and will fit anywhere.

Saddle arc

Matching pairs

The saddles match up in pairs: E+E, A+B and D+G. These pairs have the same height, meaning that the E+E saddles are low, A+B saddles are medium and D+G are highest.

Sometimes the saddles are marked with dots or numbers hammered into the metal at the bottom, making it easy to tell them apart. Others don't, but lay them on a flat surface and check their height, so you can match them correctly.

  
Stripped thread

Repairing stripped threads with Heli-Coils

Comments on metals from Axel Rohde:

quote  Regarding the Floyd Rose variants: The base plate of the Schaller FRII wasn't containing threaded inserts in the early years. It is not made of iron or a poor grade steel... it's made of zinc.

Due to the low melting temperature, zinc can be casted at temperatures below 500 degrees celsius. In other words: casting zinc is possible in molds made of steel and this is much cheaper than casting steel in baked sand molds (at ~1100 degrees of celsius), which can't be reused!

In fact, Schaller uses the inferior zinc on the delicate base plate and the costlier brass for the simple spring bar! quote

Comments kindly supplied by Axel Rohde.

  • helicoil in JT-590

Here's an early JT-590 (FRII) tremolo from a Charvel guitar, where the small (M3) saddle screw threads has been repaired by using a Heli-Coil Kit. Photo by Burgess.

helicoilThis piece of information is to let you know, that a tremolo base plate with stripped threads CAN indeed be fixed.

Stripping a thread on the original Floyd Rose tremolos is fairly uncommon, due to its use of hardened high grade steel for almost all parts, including the base plate. It's a rock solid unit.
Unfortunately, this is not the case with many of the Licensed Under Floyd Rose Patents tremolos using cast zinc for the base plate - including the Schaller types made in Germany. These are fairly easy to strip; I hear about all the time and have had the problem myself. Overtightening the little saddle screws is typically the problem, but don't blame it all on yourself - having threads in cast zinc is just asking for trouble!

The newer Schaller FRII baseplates (from 1994 onward, I think), are still made of cast zinc, but comes with threaded inserts made of hardened steel; a much needed improvement.

Stripped thread

Renewal or repair

Basically, you have two options when the problem occur - renewal of the base plate or repair. I haven't done this repair myself, but I've talked with a machinist about it and also had a short conversation with Harmony Central user "Burgess", who had someone fix his stripped JT-590 with Heli-Coils.

It is a fairly straight forward repair if you know how to handle tools. Some of the info in the following is taken from the Ersco site, where you can read more about the products. I've seen several Heli-Coil repair kits available on eBay as well. What you need in size, is a metric M3 repair kit and they look something like this:

helicoil kit

Two different kits shown. Photos are for illustration purposes only.

Stripped thread

Performing a Heli-Coil repair

The following is a generic example on how to prepare and insert a Heli-Coil. The method can be applied directly on a bridge baseplate.

Stripped thread

Drill

drill

Drill out the damaged threads using the drill size specified on the kit or set. Drill to sufficient depth to accomodate the insert length and bolt or screw being used. On a base plate, you just drill all the way through the plate.

Stripped thread

Tap

tap

Use the Heli-Coil tap supplied in the kit or set. Check the size on the shank to make sure you have the right one. Tap the hole to sufficient depth to accomodate the insert length and bolt or screw being used. On a base plate, you tap all the way through.

Stripped thread

Install

insert

Use the installation tool supplied in the kit or set. Just wind the insert into the hole until the top coil is 1/4 - 1/2 turn into the tapped thread. Now you're back to the original size thread and the original size fastener can be used.

Below is the final result shown on a test object, the special "driving tang" removed, ready to accept the original bolt. From the Ersco site:

test block

During installation, the inserting tool reduces the diameter of the leading coil so it can enter the tapped hole. After the installation, each high tensile stainless steel coil expands outwards against the tapped hole to permanently anchor the insert. Photo and text from the Ersco site.

  

Tremolo Block assembly

trem block

When reassembling a Floyd Rose type of tremolo, pay special attention to the direction of the tremolo block.

The block faces a certain direction. It can easily be turned over and mounted the wrong way. I've seen this done several times. I have done it myself at least once.

If you face it the wrong way, chances are that the tremolo springs will slowly work its way out of the block during use, and all sorts of problems will arise.

If the block is facing the wrong way, you can experience tuning instabilities, springs scraping against the tremolo cavity cover, springs popping out of the block completely and springs making squeaking noises when diving the tremolo.

original Floyd Rose

At the bottom of the tremolo block, there's a little entry hole for every spring end to go into. This hole is drilled at an angle; the same angle the spring end has.

Take a look at FIG. 1 and 2 to the right here, to see both the wrong and correct way of mounting the tremolo block. Notice how the wrong way will make the springs angle upwards.

  • Floyd block

FIG. 1: Wrong installation! Notice the angle of the entry hole in the block. The spring will go in all right, but will be angled upwards and this will cause problems.

  • Floyd block

FIG. 2: Mounting the block like this will result in the spring to sit much more level with the body of the guitar and it will now stay in place.

  
Big block

Upgrade of the Tremolo Block (by Drew L.)

The following is a short How-To guide and review on replacing the standard Floyd tremolo block with a large size brass tremolo block. This article has been kindly supplied by guitarist Drew Lankford.

He acquired the large block from Adam Reiver at floydupgrades.com.

Big block

Drew speaks

-Ok, this one is most definitely going into the "holy crap" category. HUGE difference!! It gave the guitar so much more of its low end boldness, sustain, just a bigger overall sound... wow. The cleans alone were where the difference was most obvious. Big bold deep powerful cleans that I had no idea were lurking in that Carvin C66!! Best $40 EVAR!!

Big block

Install

  • Loosen or remove strings. I ended up just unlocking the strings from the saddles.
  • Remove tremolo claw springs.
  • Floyd should easily come out.
  • Unscrew the inner 4 saddle locking screws and set aside.
  • Unscrew the 4 intonation screws holding the saddles and set aside. (you may want to note where they are for intonation purposes.)
  • Saddles should lift free. Keep them in the right order as a lot of the time, they get progressively taller towards the center two strings.
Floyd Rose brass tremolo block

You should see these 3 black hex screws now. Use the same hex wrench used to unlock the saddles/nut to remove these. Set the old block aside and line up the 3 screw holes of the new block.

  • Floyd Rose brass tremolo block

Thickness. Top one is the new large block. It weighs SO much more than the stock block it's ridiculous. Photos by Drew Lankford.

  • Floyd Rose brass tremolo block

Side by side.

  • Floyd Rose brass tremolo block

Huge block!

Big block

Fine Tuner adjustment spring

Here's where it can get tricky. I didn't realize there was a small metal plate and a thinner metal strip between the block and the base of the floyd. The thin metal sheet goes between the metal plate and the base. This applies the pressure to the locking pins so that the fine tuners work. The other thin metal plate..well.. I'm not sure what it does besides maybe reinforce the thin springy metal piece but that goes between the thin metal piece and the new brass block.

Floyd Rose brass tremolo block

This is a pic of the block attached to the body for mock up to make sure it fit before removing and installing it with the springy piece and that 3rd metal piece.

  • Floyd Rose exploded view

    The two "tricky" parts mentioned by Drew can be seen in this exploded view of a Floyd Rose tremolo. Part no. 2 is the "Fine Tuner Adjustment Spring. Part no. 3 is the "Spring Holder Plate". Click to enlarge.

Big block

Block direction

NOTE: The block faces a certain direction. If you look at the picture to the right, you see that the 6 little pin holes are on one side of the block. They HAVE to be closest to the front of the guitar because if they're not, the little claw springs can't reach across the block into the small pin holes.... ask me how I know this...

  • Floyd Rose brass tremolo block

Here it is installed without the Tremol-No™. I've switched to a simple L bracket screwed to the body to block the trem. Also, I had to cut a square opening in the tremolo cover on the back to accomodate the taller brass block. No big deal.. probably my mistake for ordering the biggest block.

Big block

Is the swap worth it for the money?

In my opinion, it's worth every penny. I probably can't say the same for the titanium blocks. Anyways, it really does everything the guy claims it will do. It adds more sustain, a bigger bolder sound to the overall note structure, etc. It's most noticeable on the cleans.

Due to the block's size, it's taller than the stock floyd block so I had to cut a square opening in the tremolo cavity cover to allow the plate to go back onto the guitar and allow the block to move back and forth. Also, due to its added thickness, you do sacrifice a little forwards and backwards travel with the block before it touches the inner route of the trem cavity. It wasn't enough to make a big deal for myself.

Anyways, if I get another floyd equipped guitar, it'll be the first thing that goes onto the guitar. I think it really did make that much of a difference.

Big block by Drew Lankford.
  
Locking clamp assembly

Locking Clamp assembly (by Budman68)

Thanks to JCF member Budman68 for writing up a short piece on how to mount the locking clamps on the locking nut correctly. It is very easy to mount them the wrong way, but they are in fact designed to face a certain way.

It's just one of those seemingly unimportant things, that tend to be overlooked by many, but it can have a significant impact on the performance of the tremolo system.

audiozone.dk

  • locking clamp
  
Locking clamp assembly

Budman68 speaks

— "Ok, I just want to comment a bit on these pieces of hardware for a moment. If you look on the underside of the locking clamp plate, you’ll notice it has a "cupped" area that is recessed and tapers to the surface as it gets closer to the edges. This forms 2 clamping surfaces to bite into the string, allowing it to remain in tune."

  • Floyd Rose locking clamps

Underside of locking clamps.

  
Locking clamp assembly

String direction

I've noticed some people complaining about slippage of strings with these and in a lot of cases, I see they have the blocks turned the wrong way. The peak of the top of the block should be running parallel to the strings, not perpendicular.

  • Floyd Rose locking clamps
Locking clamp assembly by David P. Wescott.
  
String slippage

String slippage at the Locking Nut

If your guitar goes out of tune whenever you use the tremolo or after bending strings, it could very well be the nut causing the problem. But how do you find out where the problem really is? Read on. In the follwing I'll cover how to check the nut for string slippage.

This description is intended for a double locking tremolo system, but the advice given, could also be somewhat applied on a normal nut without a locking device.

String slippage

Tighten, stretch and tune

First make sure that the Saddle Lock Down Screws and the String Holder Locking Bolts are tightened on the tremolo. Then, with the locking nut open (loosen all the Locking Clamp Bolts), make sure every string is stretched good, especially if they are new! Then tune the guitar using the tuning machines (still with the locking nuts open, of course). Now, lock the nut by tightening the bolts and do a final tune up if necessary by using the Fine tuners.

NOTE: If stretching the strings seems like a never ending task (the strings keep going flat after stretching and tuning), you have to 1) improve the way you wrap the strings around the tuning machines or 2) you need to adjust the tremolo spring tension in the tremolo cavity, to have the tremolo bridge piece floating level with the surface of the guitar body.

String slippage

Press or use the tuning machines

Now, with the guitar in perfect tune, pluck the open string in question and listen carefully to the note, while pressing the string down towards the head stock BEHIND the nut. Start with the thin E-string, because the thin, unwound strings are more likely to slip at the nut. For every string pressed down, listen for it going sharp or possibly hook it up to your tuner and look at the meter. If it stays perfectly in tune, the nut on this string is not the problem.

Look at the picture of the head stock below and notice the blue circle; this is where you press the string down towards- and perpendicular to the head stock. Just press it down slightly - quarter of an inch or so.

You could also do the test by tightening the string just a bit by using the tuning machines. It's basically the same thing; you force possible slippage at the nut. But be careful with this method, as you have a lot of destructive power available, using the tuning machines.

slippage

Press the string down perpendicular to the head stock (blue circle)

String slippage

Don't touch the tremolo

Very important: Do NOT use the tremolo during this test! You're not testing the bridge, you're testing the locking nut. In fact, I would recommend NOT doing any bends either, when checking for tuning; bending would be the same as using the tremolo and that would render this test useless.

String slippage

Yes, I have slippage!

If you experience slippage, the particular locking clamp could be worn with deep grooves, making the string slip, or it could perhaps be mounted wrong, see above. On the old JT-6 type of locking nut (on a Jackson pointy head), the high E-string typically want to work its way to the very edge of the clamp, making it difficult for the clamp to grab and lock the string. This is due to the design of the nut and the sharp angle at which it is located. Rotate the locking clamp 180 degrees to try fix this problem.

Checking the nut

  • slippage
  
Don't be afraid to take the floyd apart. Do it slowly and carefully and watch where the parts fit. Many of them are the same and will fit anywhere. One thing to keep an eye out for though are the saddles: read Mini Guide about saddles. Photo by SlasZ.
Be sure to stirr the parts around once in a while, to help the oil find its way. Use a toothbrush to brush and scrub the parts. Again, watch the small copper shims under the saddles (if there are any). If they fall off, just save them for later and glue them back on using a drop of any non-hardening adhesive. Photo by SlasZ.
Folded thin copper, used by the factory as a shim to adjust individual saddle height on the tremolo.
Exploded view of Floyd Rose and Schaller tremolos
Small saddle lock down screws (Allen 2mm key)
String holder locking bolts (Allen 3mm key)
Locking clamp bolts (Allen 3mm key)
Fine tuners
Thickness. Top one is the new large block. It weighs SO much more than the stock block it's ridiculous. Photo by Drew Lankford.
Side by side. Photo by Drew Lankford.
H-U-G-E block! Photo by Drew Lankford.
  

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