Jenga blocking a tremelo

I picked up my first Stratocaster-style guitar a week or so ago at a garage sale. It's a Johnson, by AXL and it looks, sounds, and feels AMAZING. The downsides? The tuners are horrible, and it's going to need some fretwork. And it probably needs a new nut, but that's another project entirely.

Anyway, I got it for 60 bucks. According to the internet, I should have got it for 40, and I'm sure that if I had shopped around I could have gotten a Fender or Fender clone for 40 dollars somewhere. But there was no way I was going to talk this seller down, so this guitar was worth 60 bucks, or at least, it was worth 60 bucks to me, which is all that matters.

When I got it, it was missing an e string and the whole guitar was tuned up 3 or 4 whole steps from where it should have been. Yikes!

In the process of re-stringing and tuning it, I discovered that the tremelo was really throwing everything off. I'm a Les Paul man myself, and I was used to that sweet fixed Tune-o-matic bridge. With the trem, I would get one string in tune and then move on to the next string, which caused the first string to go out of tune, and on, and on, and on. It felt like I was chasing my tail and it took forever to get it in tune.

The combination of the trem and the crummy tuners was driving me crazy. So I opened up the back of my guitar, took a look, and started researching.

The tremelo unit on my guitar, before any modifications

My first inclination was to just add more strings to the trem. This would probably have worked with my guitar, but I didn't have any springs on hand, and I was impatient and bored. So I kept looking and I found this video:

If you can't or don't want to watch this video, let me summarize. You tape up and drop in a stack of 5 half dollars to the right of the metal trem block above, and tape and drop in two dimes on the left hand side. Now it can't move back and forth and you have a "fixed" bridge, and the whole thing is easily reversible.

Now note that this guitar in the video is an American Strat with a floating tremelo. My tremelo was NOT a floating trem. With my guitar perfectly tuned, the trem sits and rests on the guitar body, and I cannot stretch the strings, I can only slacken them. So I don't need the "two dimes" part of his fix, because my trem cannot tilt in that direction because it sits flush on the body.

Well, that simplifies matters, doesn't it?

As for the other part of the fix, I didn't have any half-dollars on hand either. And, I reasoned, given that my guitar is made by a completely different manufacturer, I doubt that the clearance levels are the same. So I started going through all of the little blocks and odds and ends in my spare wood collection, trying to find a little hardwood block that would fit.

Now, on the right side of the trem, if you look carefully, you can see the gap that goes all the way through the body, and then a little wooden lip on the far side of the trem. I started fantasizing about fancy L cut blocks that could fit into that gap perfectly (this is beyond my current level of woodworking skills, but I was fantasizing.) Then I looked a little closer.

Do you see it? The route for the trem is slightly diagonally offset from the trem itself! If I want something that fits along that whole length of the gap, I'm going to need to sand it diagonally if I want a perfect fit. Ooof.

So while I was futzing about with different blocks of wood, considering how to cut them, my wife asked, "why not try a Jenga block?"

Fitting the Jenga block into the trem

Bingo!

I fit it in, drew a line across it, clamped it down to a nearby bench, and started cutting.

Cutting the Jenga block to size

I sanded the edges a little bit, just to get the rough bits off from the saw, and firmly pressed it into place.

The cut off Jenga block fitted into place

Now that bridge isn't going anywhere. It stays in tune SO much better. It even sounds better now and has a touch more sustain, which is beautiful. And if I ever want the trem to work again, I can easily get a screwdriver underneath the block to pop it out again.

© 2013 John Wilson. Drupal theme by Kiwi Themes.