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I play a Standard Stratocaster with a six-screw (“vintage”) floating tremolo bridge. I practically never use the tremolo arm, and I’d like to experiment more with alternate tunings, so I’m thinking about “decking” the bridge – making it flush with the guitar body.

After some research, I got the impression that this is something I could do myself, but I couldn’t find a walkthrough or detailed explanation of exactly what I need to do. I started tightening my tremolo claw, hoping this might be a simple, straightforward adjustment. However, after a while I realized that I really didn’t know what I was doing, so I put the claw back where it was.

What’s the right way to do this? Are there any gotchas I should be aware of? I’ve heard that I may need to adjust the intonation, action, or other aspects of setup if I do this. Is this project too ambitious for a guitar maintenance newbie? Is sticking something underneath the bridge a viable alternative to making the bridge flush with the guitar body?

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2 Answers 2

up vote 8 down vote accepted

It is not too ambitious, guitars are simple creatures and it takes quite some effort to do any permanent damage (namely excessive truss rod adjustment).

Basically you slacken the strings then tighten the claw screws till the bridge is held hard up against the body and will stay that way when string tension is reapplied.

You don't need to slacken the strings but it just makes it easier to tighten the claw screws.

Alternatively you can block the trem, slacken the strings, loosen the claw screws slightly, the bridge will lay flat against the body, put something (A 9v battery is common but a similar sized piece of wood is a much better choice) between the trem block and the rear (away from neck) of the cavity, you may need to hold the piece of wood in place while you tune up to pitch, as you tune up the trem block will move and wedge the wood in place. The advantage of this way is if you size your piece of wood correctly the bridge will sit at the same angle it was pre-blocking so no other adjustments are required. (and also better coupling for energy transfer between bridge and body)

When the bridge is adjusted so it's parallel with the body the action will be lowered so you may need to screw in the saddle height grub screws to counteract this. (I say may as your action maybe too high anyway).

The neck relief (what the truss rod adjusts) will be unaffected by the change as string tension will be the same after (assuming you keep the same string gauge and tuning).

The intonation will be unaffected if the action is the same as what it was before, or you adjust the action to it's previous height.

Or the tremolo-no is a product that can perform the same task:

http://www.musiciansfriend.com/accessories/allparts-tremol-no-tremolo-locking-device--small-clamp

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This is very helpful! Thanks especially for explaining how to block the trem. I think I'll try it out decked first and see how I like that before totally blocking it. It looks like my main mistake last night was trying to tighten the claw without slacking the strings first. –  Bradd Szonye May 7 at 1:25
    
I finally did this today, and it turned out great. I blocked the trem while I retuned and adjusted the claw. I also had to adjust the six bridge screws to keep the bridge flush at neutral. For now I'm leaving the tremolo arm off, because it looks like the strings are catching in the nut a little. I should lubricate it next time I change the strings. –  Bradd Szonye May 12 at 6:10
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excellent. Pencil lead (graphite) works great for nut lube. –  Fergus May 12 at 8:01
    
Oh and Post It notes worked great for a temporary trem block. –  Bradd Szonye May 12 at 8:02
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I used a wedge of wood between the underneath part of the trmolo (where you put the strings in) and the guitar body. It just pushes the bridge to the body of the guitar, removes any springiness and solidifies everything. An earlier prototype was to jam a couple of coins edge-on in the same gap (1 pence I think - it was ages ago, might even have been 1/2 pence) The claw & springs become irrelevant as the springs are loosened.

There was a bit of bridge adjustment as Fergus suggests, but only a tweak. No other issues with intonation.

The guitar was much the same to play, maybe slightly better sustain, but stayed in tune forever :-)

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