Today I fixed up a Schecter guitar equipped with a Floyd Rose double locking tremolo system. These can be a bit difficult for many guitarists to deal with, so I thought I’d share a few quick tips that could help prevent a major headache. Here we go!
Since a Floyd Rose (or similarly equipped floating trem system) is dependent on a precarious balance between the tension of the strings and the tension of the trem springs, changing strings can be a bit of a chore. If you were to take all the strings off at once, the bridge will collapse into the guitar’s body, and it can be difficult to get it back together when the time comes to restring it. You could change one string at a time, or you could prop up the bridge with popsicle sticks, like so:
Just stick them up under the bridge, and then you can take all the strings off without the trem spring tension yanking the bridge off it’s posts. Simple!
Tape it down!
Once all the strings are off, it’s very easy for the string blocks to fall out and get lost. Finding replacement parts for double locking tremolos is extremely difficult, to say the least, so you want to make sure that nothing gets lost during a routine restring. As I’m often working on several facets of the guitar, I tend to turn the guitar over a lot, so I place a piece of tape across the top of the bridge to prevent the string blocks from falling out.
Make sure you’re not using anything overly sticky – painter’s or masking tape will work fine. No duct tape!
One of the most difficult aspects of a Floyd Rose trem is balancing the string tension with the tension of the trem springs. Ideally, the plate of the trem should lie parallel to the strings, which will help it return to a zero point easily and help keep it in tune. The trouble setting the trem plate flat is this: for every slight adjustment made of the tuning or the spring tension, an opposite adjustment needs to be made to compensate for one or the other. This balancing act between string tension and spring tension can seemingly take FOREVER. But there is a better, simpler way. Behold!
I’ve made a wedge specifically for use for Floyd Rose equipped guitars. I simply squeeze it in between the body and the tremolo block, and push it in until the trem plate is where I want it. Then I can tune the instrument to pitch and the bridge stays stable. Then I slowly loosen the tension of the springs until the wedge falls out – and poof! The bridge is perfectly adjusted. No more wasting an entire afternoon making tiny adjustments back and forth between tuning and spring tension – I can knock this out in less than a minute. Sweet!
Cut your nut!
Most Floyd nuts are too high from the factory, which will make playing difficult and proper intonation impossible. Most guitars have a nut that can be easily filed down to lower the string action at the first fret, but you can’t file Floyd nuts – they’re usually made of steel, and you’ll ruin your files before you get anywhere close. Even if you did, chances are that the locking nut blocks wouldn’t effectively hold the strings anymore, so you’ve got to adjust the nut from the bottom.
There’s two ways to go about this: remove material from the nut, or from the neck. I usually opt to work on the nut – it’s safer, and doesn’t require building a jig for a router.
I first take careful measurements, by adjusting the truss rod to set the neck dead straight, then fretting the 3rd fret with a capo, and using feeler gauges to measure the space between the bottom of the string and the 1st fret.
I usually like to see this at around .3mm on the bass side, and .15mm on the treble side. To determine how much I need to take off the bottom of the nut, I take the current measurement, add my desired action measurements, and score a line on the nut with a set of calipers with the appropriate measurement.
This is usually going to be a TINY line, and barely any material will be taken off the bottom. This might seem inconsequential, but the action at the nut determines how well the guitar plays more than any other aspect of the instrument. Small changes in action measurements can reap huge dividends in playability.
I usually sand the bottom of the nut with a belt sander. Since the nut is made out of steel, even taking off .05mm can take some time – I regularly re-install the nut and check the action, so I don’t cut it too low. I also keep a bowl of cold water nearby, because the metal nut gets hot fast and can burn fingers if I’m not careful. Needless to say, this trick probably should be left to the professionals…
And there you have it! Got any tips you’d like to share? Leave them in the comments below.