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Old November 14th, 2007, 04:13 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Drilling a body for tremolo install

I'm in the process of building up a strat clone and have found a nice body the only thing is it has not been pre-drilled to accept tremolo installation. So, I was wondering about resources to do it myself. Anyone have any input on the subject? I'll admit that I am a bit intimidated by the prospect of doing it myself as it needs to be done right the first time. Thanks

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Old November 15th, 2007, 03:40 PM   #2 (permalink)
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I am assuming you are talking about a 6-screw "vintage" tremolo.

I highly reccomend you find access to a drill press. You can hand drill it, but unless your drill has a two-dimensional level on the tail end, and you have a very steady hand...there is just too much chance of messing up.

Measure 10 times, cut once...I mean this....no verification measurements....measure fresh each time, and if it's different, ask yourself why and find out why before continuing.

If you do this, then installation should not be too hard.

For a 2-hole modern tremolo, you will need to drill out holes for the studs, then drive the studs in...this can possibly mess up your paint if there is any on it....in this case, be 200% postitive what you are doing, since those mount studs are press-fit.
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Old November 15th, 2007, 06:20 PM   #3 (permalink)
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You mean it's a Hardtail body and you're trying to modify it for a a Tremolo? Doesn't that mean you have to route out a big cavity on the back of the guitar?

I think you should build a Hardtail Strat on a Hardtail body.
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Old November 16th, 2007, 03:13 PM   #4 (permalink)
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I was under the impression he may have bought one of those bodies that has the cavity, but no screwholes in it (so it can be usable with a variety of tremolo screw spacings, etc).

If it has no trem cavity at all, it's best to just set it up as a hardtail...having to route out that space can be a real pain in the rump for someone that hasn't done any router work before.
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Old November 21st, 2007, 03:43 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Drilling a body for tremolo install

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Originally Posted by mustang_steve View Post
I was under the impression he may have bought one of those bodies that has the cavity, but no screwholes in it (so it can be usable with a variety of tremolo screw spacings, etc).

If it has no trem cavity at all, it's best to just set it up as a hardtail...having to route out that space can be a real pain in the rump for someone that hasn't done any router work before.
Yes indeed the body is routed. I am looking at a Gotoh VSVG trem - which is vintage spec I'm pretty sure. The body in question does not have the 6 screw holes drilled for attaching it to the body. I have found a local guitar guy that will do it for $50 CAD. The body in question is a decent deal but if I have to tag on another $50 for install it's not so much of a deal.
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Old November 26th, 2007, 07:29 AM   #6 (permalink)
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You can do it, just use a sharpie to mark the spots to drill (I would drop the bridge in and fidget around with it a little to figure out where it should go, then sharpie it through the screwholes), tap those spots with a punch if you think it won't crack the finish (that will dimple the area so the drill bit doesn't skate around), and then drill, making 100% sure you are dead vertical.

The dead vertical part is the hard part...it's very easy to angle a hole, and all that will do is screw up the action of the trem....so measure 10 times drill once.
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Old May 23rd, 2008, 09:58 AM   #7 (permalink)
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What I've done, sometimes

is to make a drilling jig from good plywood. You can clamp (or hot glue, or doublestick tape) the bridge to a chunk of plywood, and then (preferably w/ a drill press) drill pilot holes using the bridge itself as the template. Your jig will wind up with perfectly spaced, vertical holes, that you can then use to guide your drill bit into the guitar body. You can tape the back of the jig, to avoid scratching the guitar, and work on the guitar on a well padded workbench, rather than trying to balance the body on the table of a drill press. I hope I'm explaining this right.

I guess the gist is this- do your drilling on a piece of scrap, and try installing the bridge on the scrap- when you're very very happy with the pattern of holes, use the scrap to guide your drill on the guitar body- make your mistakes on the scrap. Drill carefully, those skinny little drills can flex even once they're into the wood.
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Old March 6th, 2009, 12:01 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Please excuse me for bringing up a very old thread but...

I'm going to be doing the same thing. I need to drill the 6 holes for the screws for a vintage style tremolo. My question is this I know that the guitar is a 25.5 inch scale and why. So is it very important that the 6 screws are drilled so that when the saddles on the tremolo are at half movement (can move both forward and backward the same for adjustment) it measures 25.5 inches from the nut? Or is there a little "forgiveness" in the measurement since the saddle can travel forward and backward to adjust for intonation?

Any rules of thumbs from any of you guru's?

Thanks,
Jeremy
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Old March 6th, 2009, 04:02 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JKSteger View Post
Please excuse me for bringing up a very old thread but...

I'm going to be doing the same thing. I need to drill the 6 holes for the screws for a vintage style tremolo. My question is this I know that the guitar is a 25.5 inch scale and why. So is it very important that the 6 screws are drilled so that when the saddles on the tremolo are at half movement (can move both forward and backward the same for adjustment) it measures 25.5 inches from the nut? Or is there a little "forgiveness" in the measurement since the saddle can travel forward and backward to adjust for intonation?

Any rules of thumbs from any of you guru's?

Thanks,
Jeremy
Free information, Electric Guitar and Bass Assembly Guide at Stewart-MacDonald

Looks like 25 1/4 inches from the nut.

I install the neck, measure down from the outside edges of the nut and mark both. find the center of the nut and the center of the 21st fret, run a string down the center line and extend it to the 25 1/4 line you made earlier. That gets you fore and aft line and the center of the strings.
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Old March 6th, 2009, 08:23 PM   #10 (permalink)
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OK, I'll be totally honest with you... precision and measuring 10 times is great, and encouraged, but the first strat I ever built, I did it TOTALLY by eyeball... bolted on the neck, set the pickguard in place, lined up the bridge in the slot of the pickguard and hole in the body, ran a string through both high and low E's and make sure the strings were centered on the fretboard and not slipping off the edges, taped down the bridge and started drilling... with a cordless drill, on my kitchen table. Not the most ideal scenario I admit, but it worked.

Are all 6 screws surgically "dead nuts" accurately straight? I dunno...but what I DO know is that it all went together silky smooth, tremelo operates fine, and it plays as well as any strat I have or have had. I'd be willing to bet it is as "within spec" as any mass produced assembly line Strat that came out of the USA or Mexico factories.

Basically what I'm saying is heed the advice above, but don't let it scare you away from doing it. Half my life I've never tried stuff I've since discovered isn't anything I was even incapable of doing, I was just always "scared off" by people who told me how hard it was, or at least gave me the implication that it was something I might not be able to handle on my own. Again, I'm not saying anyone has done that here, nor am I saying all the advice above isn't good, it definitely IS, but just don't be afraid to actually try it yourself, even if you don't have every specialized tool or measuring device known to man.

I don't own a drill press, or even any fancy tools, but i've built 4 strats using the meager stuff i do have, a little bit of patience and a little bit of common sense...and they all play great, some better than factory built guitars I also own. Plus I have the satisfaction and pride of being able to say I did it myself. I HAVE ran into a few problems here and there, and now DO take much more time and care in measuring and double checking everything, but so far I have never made any mistakes that couldn't be fixed, and get a little better with every one I do. Give it a try, you can do it!
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Old March 7th, 2009, 01:47 AM   #11 (permalink)
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Well said joey.
I'm with you totally. The Squier I upgraded was exactly that.All hands on,flying by the seat of my pants with not a care(clue) in the world and having a blast while doing it. I had to use a chisel at times to enlarge the trem cavity and also re-drill new holes with only a basic hand drill,because the Wilkinson vibrato I bought(w/out knowing at the time)had a different screw hole spacing on the plate. But hey,ya live & learn. It's not like you're chopping into a vintage piece of wood or anything,so jump in & get your feet wet.It's how we all learn,even Mr. Erlewine I'm sure.
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Old March 7th, 2009, 05:33 PM   #12 (permalink)
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Thanks guys, you have given me a shot of courage. I'm going to measure everything twice then just jump in and do it! I'm going to post pics here at Strat-Talk when I'm done with this. I'm going from a black Bullett body to a full size lic. fender body, Red with maple neck and white pickguard but I'm keeping my stainless steel saddles! I love them.

Thanks,
Jeremy
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Old March 7th, 2009, 05:39 PM   #13 (permalink)
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well, good luck, i hope it works out for ya!
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Old March 22nd, 2009, 09:40 PM   #14 (permalink)
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Stewart Macdonald has router templates for the two hole and vintage screw spacing. If it has the trem route, yu can line up the router template hole over it and mark the hole locations. Check to see that the holes are 25.25 from nut as the instructions say.
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Old March 23rd, 2009, 06:32 AM   #15 (permalink)
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That's good to know about the template. I like templates, (if they're accurate).

Not having the 'right' tools has prevented me from building anything more than sweet partsocasters, but someday I'm going to try one from bare routed body, maybe ash.

Joeybsyc: good to know about the hand drilling, I can handle that. I had to drill the tuner holes and neck mounting holes on a fresh usacg neck once... that was nerve wracking, but it came out just fine.
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Old March 23rd, 2009, 06:55 AM   #16 (permalink)
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I would think it would be easier to measure from the center of the 12th fret versus trying to measure way back from the nut, but that's me.
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Old March 23rd, 2009, 07:02 AM   #17 (permalink)
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I attach strings to the first and six string tuners. After measuring where the bridge gets placed with respect to distance from the nut, I pull the strings through the bridge and move it from side-to-side until the strings are the correct distance from the edges of the fretboard. Mark the holes and drill. It's easy, and if you mess up it's an easy fix.
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Old March 23rd, 2009, 07:34 AM   #18 (permalink)
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Using the outside strings is the best way to line up a neck for installation. Locating the bridge is a function of the body and the body only. Using the neck introduces unneeded variables into the process.

1. Remove inertia block from tremolo.
2. Find the centerline on the body and mark.
3. Mark front edge of bridge on centerline.
4. Find and mark centerline on bridge.
5. Line up bridge plate and mark hole locations.
6. Center punch locations.
7. Bore proper sized holes with drill press.
8. Vacuum debris.
9. Replace inertia block on tremolo.

Install electronics and it's time to install the tremolo and line up the neck.
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Old March 23rd, 2009, 07:55 AM   #19 (permalink)
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Quote:
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Using the outside strings is the best way to line up a neck for installation. Locating the bridge is a function of the body and the body only. Using the neck introduces unneeded variables into the process.

1. Remove inertia block from tremolo.
2. Find the centerline on the body and mark.
3. Mark front edge of bridge on centerline.
4. Find and mark centerline on bridge.
5. Line up bridge plate and mark hole locations.
6. Center punch locations.
7. Bore proper sized holes with drill press.
8. Vacuum debris.
9. Replace inertia block on tremolo.

Install electronics and it's time to install the tremolo and line up the neck.

Well, we need to take into account the scale length of the neck which may vary, so I wouldn't say body alone - but yeah, you are working on the body.

Also, after finding the center line, I'll take a triangle and mark a perpendicular line where the front of the bridge goes. For the marking I like to use Frisket paper or some other stencil material, but masking tape works just as well.

Also, we will drill holes and not bore them. That sure would be tiny lead screw on such a tiny boring bit!

Everybody has their own little tricks.
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Old March 23rd, 2009, 08:42 AM   #20 (permalink)
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Quote:
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Well, we need to take into account the scale length of the neck which may vary, so I wouldn't say body alone - but yeah, you are working on the body.

Also, after finding the center line, I'll take a triangle and mark a perpendicular line where the front of the bridge goes. For the marking I like to use Frisket paper or some other stencil material, but masking tape works just as well.

Also, we will drill holes and not bore them. That sure would be tiny lead screw on such a tiny boring bit!

Everybody has their own little tricks.
Marking the front edge of the bridge assumes known scale length. If the scale length is unknown it is a simple matter to measure the neck. Other than establishing length along the body centerline the neck is an unnecessary bother for this operation. The neck is simply a reference.

Using tape to mask the work is fine. However it tends to clog the bits when making holes. This can frustrate the process. Sharp bits will minimize any chipping of the finish. Start slowly with minimal pressure until the bit makes it's way through the finish. Once through, more pressure can be applied to power through the lumber. Remember to withdraw the bit to clear the chips a couple of times until final depth is reached.

A drill is a machine. It is used to bore holes. It can utilize a number of different bits, among them twist drills. When the word "drill" is used as a verb it is defined as, "to pierce or bore a hole in (something)" or "to make a hole by boring." For more of the etymology on the words bore and drill visit Dictionary.com through the links.
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