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Maybe a good Q for Rusty, but tossed-out to whomever can help.

A customer brought a '92 USA Strat (ZO0313**) in for a general cleaning & "fussing". It's got a Fender trem setup and I'm having a heck of a time trying to set the intonation because there seems to be very limited access to the allen screws that lock the saddles down.  

The screws take  a 3/32" wrench and I'm only able to access the ones that already sit back from the trem block.  Sure, taking the assembly out gives me the access, but I can't set the intonation without the whole assembly in place.. a conundrum.  

Pics are worth the proverbial 1,000 words so here's a couple.... anybody with the trick to this one?!

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That bridge!  Yes, they are the worst, ever!  Do whatever you can to convince the owner to replace this POS.  They make a Ric bridge seem well thought out & easy to maintain, in comparison.

If I ever see another Strat with one of those, I'll either refuse to work on it, or charge double for the setup.

When I called Fender, excuse me, FMIC for info on how to set intonation on this, they seemed reluctant to talk about it.

There just ain't no easy way, here; good luck...

Idea:  Since it's not a floating set-up; replace block with a thin jig that holds the bridge steady and allows access. Do your work. Change strings and replace the block. Maybe base the jig on one of those super cheap 'bent blocks' - does that make sense?

On second thought. After studying the top of that bridge. I've may have been flummoxed ... again.

Jeffrey is right.  I've never seen one of these, but if I do....Fender's done some real bonehead things in the past.  Good thread.  Thanks everyone.

Update: so, the owner of the guitar stopped-by yesterday and we chatted. He read everyone's responses and particularly had a chuckle at Rusty's comments of how this bridge had "reduced him to tears", as well as Jeffrey's definite opinions, should he ever encounter another one:)  We talked about Rusty's approach and, while certainly do-able, the owner wants something he might be able to do himself down the road.

Anyway, I couldn't talk him into changing the assembly out, as he loves the existing bridge, loves how it responds, loves how he changes strings, etc.  However, he understands the problems and so here's what we're going to do.... 

After a gig this weekend, he'll return the guitar and I'll tear the bridge assembly down. The trem block will go into the mill and I'll mill-out six angled 'half-circle' slots to gain better access to the adjustment screw heads. Whatever loss of mass occurs should be compensated-for with the trem springs. Think this'll work? 

Perhaps this is a minor consideration for your client, but Callaham says that sustain and harmonic content are affected by the mass of the tremolo block. He's referring to the material - zinc pot metal rather than the cold-rolled steel of very early Strats.  I would think that shaving the block would also effect these qualities. He lists a replacement block for an American Deluxe bridge. You might check to see if he's modified it for adjustment ease and ask him to read this thread. He has promptly answered my emails.

http://www.callahamguitars.com/blocks.htm

Thanks Robbie... that's a great idea. If Callaham has a drop-in replacement....AND he's managed to solve the access problem in the process, that would be a good avenue to explore.  As always...to be continued:)

Hi Robbie.

This is an American Deluxe LOCKING trem.  Callaham doesn't make an upgrade for these. I have a pretty good idea as to why he doesn't (; 

Besides, the only mod that makes financial sense is replacing it with the current standard model. Putting an upgraded block (if it existed) on this model trem would be what my grandpa called "putting lipstick on a pig".

As far as removing a tiny bit of material from the inertia block; minor concern could be an appropriate response if the strings passed through and anchored inside the block as they do in standard Strat trem's.  Since this is a locking trem, the strings are anchored by the string clamp in the saddle. The block material and its weight/density has little, if any, tonal effect in this model.

Check out Michael DeTemple's site.  http://www.detempleguitars.com/temp/CATALOG_ITEMS/Titanium.php

He hawks for Titanium blocks.  Different strokes (:

Have a great weekend (:

Having seen the diagram now and Rusty's reply, I think the key is to NOT think of these cap  screws as adjustment or locking screws.

They are holding the saddles to the plate, but should only be tight enough to have the saddles snug, but easily moved.

Then the other screws which bear on the head of these cap screws can do their job of holding position against string tension. perhaps an appropriately shortened allen key will reach these from the back. 

Alright comrades, 

Everybody take a deep breath, it's just a bridge that is difficult/inconvenient to set up - but it can be done OK once you have a procedure that works.   Floyds and some Rickenbacker bridges (and others) are sometimes ornery and difficult but we eventually get along with these just fine even tho they take time, patience, knowledge and skill to work with.

This bridge will work fine once it's set up and intonated but it will, in any shape or modified form, be tedious to intonate.   I personally don't find dropping the bridge out an instrument any more of an imposition than tying my shoes, it's unexciting, boring and takes time as I previous said but we do it all the time with Floyds and Strats in the day to day stuff.

Just like the Fender neck heel truss rod adjustment - takes a while to nail it in just couple of goes and requires a bit of fussing around but eventually we get the hang of it.

The customer bought this dog and if he doesn't like the way it barks he has options for sure - but the easiest one, and the one that doesn't cost a lot or <possibly> change his tone is to teach him how to work with what he's got and sell him a couple of allen keys.  

We as repair guys should not have to suffer, genuflect or apologize to customers because of bad engineering by some uninspired cone-head designer in a guitar factory 20-50 years ago.

Moving on:   from my own observations, inertia block weight and composition are somewhat critical to Strat performance and do make a difference - they occupy a definite place in the Strat tone set although removing a fraction of their weight is not likely to do a lot. But, changing out a block for a different weight or material will make a difference.

Similarly, decoupling the saddles from the bridge plate and the inertia block by de-torquing the screws and allowing the saddle to slide for ease of adjustment is also doable:

But this will definitely affect the tone and loose or lightly torqued screws in anything that vibrates is never a good idea particularly when the string tension and trem action will "work" the saddle/bridge plate junction, particularly on this bridge and eventually cause tuning problems due to unstable saddles and loose screws.

Applaud the way and the enthusiasm  the forum has attacked this obsolete and awkward engineering but it is as Paul V says:   it was born a Pig  <in the vernacular - animals are my friends> and will always be a pig.   Replace it with a USA Standard or learn to love it as it is would be my call.

Regards,

Rusty.

    

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