Repairing a Floyd Rose route

Woodworking can be a tedious process that requires patience, preparation and precision to execute well. Oftentimes we see examples of someone taking a more, uh… expeditious route. Like this guitar: someone attempted to modify this Floyd Rose cavity to fit a different style bridge that it wasn’t designed for, with less than stellar results. Maybe they hired a beaver to do it! Fixing bad work can be more difficult than doing it right in the first place, so this was a fairly long and complicated adventure. Here’s how I repaired a Floyd Rose route and set it up correctly:

This is how the guitar came in. Yikes!

When the guitar was dropped off the Floyd was actually functioning pretty well, it just looked a little rough. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to work with any of the existing cavity to clean things up – I was gonna have to start from scratch. First, I disassembled everything and took some measurements to see how much wood needed to be replaced. The idea was to remove as little of the original wood and paint as possible. Once I new how big of a fill I needed I made a router template using our handy template routing fixture (which we designed and built) and cut a big ol’ hole right into the top of the guitar!

This is our router template making jig, which we designed and built. It’s the next best thing before investing in a CNC machine.
Custom routing template.

Once I had the hole cut I used the router template again to trace a new piece of maple so it would be the exact same shape as the cavity. I also took careful measurements of the bridge stud locations before I covered them up. While I was at it I drilled the new stud holes into the block before glueing it in.

With the new block glued in I had a clean slate to work with. I could proceed with what is definitely one of the more complicated things any luthier will ever have to do with do with a router… routing a Floyd Rose Tremolo cavity! What makes this job so tricky is that you have to cut three uniquely shaped holes at three different depths, and they all have to line up perfectly or the system won’t work. Luckily, our pals over at StewMac make a template set for this so we don’t have to make it all ourselves.

I used a straight-edge along each side of the neck to establish a center-line at the bridge. This line would be used to index all three templates.

Stew-Mac’s Floyd router template #1.

Once the first hole was cut, I temporarily installed the bridge studs and the bridge just to double-check the alignment of everything and make a rough tracing of the bridge plate. This would allow me to make sure everything fits before making the next cut.

Tracings from the Floyd bridge for reference.
Stew-Mac’s Floyd routing template #2.

With the bridge plate recess cut I could move onto the third template, to cut the rear cavity for the string lock system.

Stew-Mac Floyd router template #3.

The last step here is tricky – it has to be done by hand. The StewMac Floyd Rose kit doesn’t have a template for this step, so I opted to use a Dremel router to finish the job. This part requires a pretty steady hand – don’t try this at home, kids!

The completed Floyd route.

After all of the woodworking was completed it was time to start prepping for paint. The most difficult thing about doing finish work on vintage guitars is that the paint tends to unevenly fade over time, and all of that color blotching has to be artfully matched for the new paint to stay in keeping with the rest of the instrument.

First, the guitar had to be taped off, then I sprayed the repaired area with a sealer coat and a yellow base coat.

Once the base color coat was down I blended it all together with a few different shades of yellow to simulate age blotching.

With the yellow blended in I sprayed a clear top coat over the color and wet sanded and buffed it back out to a mirror shine.

I think that worked out pretty well! Satisfied with the finish, I reassembled the hardware and electronics, gave it a full Plek fret level and setup and this thing is back in action!

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