Installing a Floyd Rose
by George Mangos
I have spent a lot of time installing many dozens of Floyd Rose bridges from OLPs, to Fender to even Squire guitars. Lot's of people ask how to install a Floyd Rose...
Alrighty, many people are curious what is involved in the installation of a Floyd Rose. I am going to be brief and to the point. Your installation may not be exact to this, but it should be pretty damn close.
The most important thing to remember is that sometimes wood can be replaced, other times it can not.
You can plug a hole and re-drill it for the pivot screws, but you can't just add wood if you rout the fingerboard sloppy for the nut.
Before getting started, remove the strings as well as the pickups or pick guard to keep them out of the way. If you have a drill press, you can keep the pups in place. I don't. I use a portable drill press since I only need it for two holes.
Remove the old nut by gently tapping the small edge of a tiny eye glass repair screw driver under the nut to pry it loose. Careful not to dig into the wood.
Once the nut is removed, clamp two pieces of wood on the fret board to form a table top. I use a flat approximate 6x3 piece on top about 3/4 inch thick, and I use a piece of crown molding on the bottom what has a curve to better fit the back of the neck. Line up the edge of the top board with the edge of the neck slot. This is your nut jig. BE CAREFUL NOT TO LET YOUR ROUTER TIP OFF THE LEDGE, OR YOU COULD LOSE A SERIOUS CHUNK OF THE FRET BOARD!!!
Use a small router with a bit that has a ball bearing on it to keep it flush against the board, and hence a straight line for the nut. You can buy them at Stew Mac or maybe your local hardware store.
Pass the router several times taking off about 1/8 at a time. Frequently line up your nut and check the height. If you go to low, which does happen sometimes, you can shim the nut with a piece of sandpaper underneath it.
Line up the nut, and drill the holes to mount it. If you have a drill press, install the nut with the countersink hole in the back of the neck, and bolt the nut from the back. I don't have a drill press, so I buy nuts that have a countersink in them and screw them from the top. Either way is fine, and I have not had any problems with the screw-downs from the top. If you screw up a hole, fill it with wood glue and a toothpick and pay attention next time.
You see guitars that have a little chrome bar behind the nut. This is a string retainer and is used to keep the strings below the nut. This way the strings are flat against the nut and won't go sharp when you tighten the locking nut. If you have a slanted headstock, you shouldn't need the retaining bar.
The bridge should drop into just about any trem hole already there with little need for modification. If you are attempting to install a Floyd on an LP or something else that doesn't have the hole, you have a lot of work ahead of you, and you have my sympathy.
If you are interested in your Floyd "floating", follow the instructions below, but before you setup the Floyd, trace it completely on your guitar and route a rectangle for the main bridge piece, and another for the block screws section. Stew Mac sells templates for this.
Line the bridge edge up with the existing screw holes from the previous bridge if available. This is your pivot edge. Otherwise you need to measure the exact distance from the nut to the 12th fret, then double it to where the saddle and string will meet.
Take a string and pull it taught against the outside slot on the nut, and the outside saddle. Do both sides to align the bridge evenly. You don't want to have your 6th hanging off at the 15th fret, do ya?
Once the bridge is aligned, you need to figure where the holes for the pivot screws are going to go. (Here is an interesting tidbit: Notice how the strings are not directly above the pole pieces on the humbucker. This is standard size Seymour Duncan pickup, but they also make the same model pickups slightly more spaced on the pole pieces, called Trembuckers, to line up the strings and look pretty on guitars with Floyd Rose bridges (and I suspect other bridges as well) :) I have used both spaced pickups for many years with no noticeable difference in tone, but that is just me!)
Now here you really need to focus and pay attention. Trace the outline of your bridge on the guitar with a pencil, then carefully measure the bushings and drawing to find where you will put your pilot holes for the pivot screws.
You've heard measure twice, cut once? Don't do it half assed the first time. If you do screw up the holes. Fill them with wooden dowel available at the hardware store and redrill. Once you find the right spots, drill!
Start off with a small bit, and gradually move up. I used 6 bits from start to finish before my hole was big enough for the bushing. If you have access to a drill press, use it! As mentioned, I don't have a need, so I bought me a small portable one from Home Depot for around $15. You connect your drill and it provides a nice stand. As you can see it works just fine.
Once your holes are drilled, work up a glob of spit and spit in each new hole. This is to provide a lube to help the bushings go in easier. Gently tap the bushings into place using a piece of wood on top of the bushing so you don't damage it with your gorilla hands and the hammer. If you are felling too much resistance, stop, and make sure the hole is big enough. If not careful, you could put a nasty split in the wood. Then you really are screwed.
Screw in the pivot screws, lay down the Floyd, and check your alignment with a string the same as you did before. If you screwed up anywhere, fill the hole and re-drill. Hopefully, you can move on.
For VERY small alignment, you can shim the sides of the neck in the neck pocket. You can use a small sliver of cardboard between the neck and neck pocket, then bolt it on. Obviously, neckthrough installations leave you SOL (sliver out of luck).
Put the electronics back on if you removed them, check to make sure you hooked everything up right before putting on strings because you may have crossed wires...
String up the guitar, put the springs on the back and check the action. I use three springs, but you can use two or 5. Whatever wets your whistle. I noticed the clearance for the springs was just a hair off, so I routed just a little bit of the spring cavity to compensate.
You probably need to shim the neck just a little to even things out again. Keep the strings loose. Unbolt the neck, and drop a sliver of guitar pick in there near the front.
I actually cut this one in half, and the preliminary setup was fine. I may need to adjust once more as the new setup breaks in, but then we should be good to leave it the hell alone and not risk screwing anything up.
I lost the original pictures with this article, so I took apart one of the installs I did and took pictures. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions and I will do my best to help you out.
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Disclaimer: I am not responsible if you screw up your guitar. The info is offered "as is". No warranty is expressed, implied, or available in any other manner.
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