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Affinity Strat Trem setup - stumped!

Discussion in 'Stratocaster Discussion Forum' started by mkdaws32, Jan 23, 2021.

  1. mkdaws32

    mkdaws32 Tele-Afflicted Gold Supporter

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    Hi all,

    I’ve usually found the traditional 6-screw tremolos on these Strats can be set up decent right out of the box. I have one that giving me some trouble.

    I’ve done some modding to this one - Bootstrap pickups, replaced switch and pots with better, full copper shielding. It sounds fantastic but I can’t keep the thing in tune.

    I float all my Strat terms with three springs so they will pull up about half a step. On this one, when tuned up properly (yes, 2.5 winds per string - not overlapping), I depress the bar and release it and the low e returns a half step sharp. The low a little less sharp and so on for the rest of the strings. I do some moderately aggressive bending on one of the strings and only that one string returns to proper pitch. Pulling up on the bar doesn’t seem to bring everything back into tune, like you would expect.

    Here’s what I’ve tried:

    • New strings (9s) - well stretched out
    • Different brand of new strings (10s) - also well stretched out
    • Replace nut with Tusq XL self lubricating nut (original was plastic for sure - I think this is a 2012 Strat)
    • Installed roller trees, but the low E and A don’t use a string tree anyway
    • Tried 3 different sets of saddles -original cast, steel block and black Tusq string saver self lubricating saddles. String savers were on another guitar, but I figured I’d try them
    • Oiled holes through the bridge plate
    • Replaced the three trem springs with high quality WD springs.

    The tremolo doesn’t seem to be catching or dragging on anything that I can see. All that’s left to try is switching the bridge (I have MIM standard bridge that will drop right in - I’ve upgraded Affinities to these before) and the tuners.

    The roller trees, Tusk nut and Tusk saddles had absolutely no positive impact on tuning stability.

    I’m thinking the tuners are likely the next course of action but I don’t really have any decent drop-in tuners on hand at the moment.

    Any other thoughts? Am I missing something obvious?
     
  2. Zepfan

    Zepfan Doctor of Teleocity Gold Supporter

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    Try loosening the spring claw screw on the low side a little at a time til it returns to correct pitch.
     
  3. mkdaws32

    mkdaws32 Tele-Afflicted Gold Supporter

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    @Zepfan I did try loosening / tightening / offsetting the claw screws - very bizarre problem.

    I don’t want to put hundreds of $$$$ of parts in this thing, although it plays like a dream now, (filed fret ends, rolled fingerboard edges, levelled frets, and wider string spacing on the new nut). I’m having fun working on it and learning in the process, but this trem thing is really perplexing me - and setting up these vintage style trems is something I’ve done many, many times. I mean the tuners on these things are not usually that bad.
     
  4. ElJay370

    ElJay370 Tele-Afflicted

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    Try backing out the 4 middle mounting screws a bit so that they’re clear of the bridge plate, and make sure the outer two are adjusted so that they’re juuuust touching it when the bar is depressed. Maybe something’s getting hung up there
     
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  5. VintageSG

    VintageSG Friend of Leo's Ad Free Member

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    Deck the trem, then drop the E to C. Slowly tune up to pitch again, but have your ear very close to the nut. Any pink, tink or ping noises are bad. You may need to widen the slot a fraction, and angle the slot down at the rear a little. Then apply graphite to the slot. Graphite in a puffer bottle is cheap and will last for years, but be careful when squeezing the bottle. They're meant for dry lubing locks, and the stuff goes everywhere. You may prefer to use a fine tip paintbrush. Ebay, or a locksmiths are good sources.
    The clue is it doesn't return even when raising the pitch. When you drop the bar, the string passes through the nut, only a winding or two, then binds as it comes back up, leaving it sharp.
    It's usually the nut.
    When you're done, refloat the trem :)
     
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  6. highwaycat

    highwaycat Tele-Holic

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    Sometimes the 6 pivot holes aren’t drilled too well on squiers causing the pivot screws to bind. The MIM bridge may do the trick but may not.
     
  7. mkdaws32

    mkdaws32 Tele-Afflicted Gold Supporter

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    @VintageSG - gave it a go - no pinging. I agree it’s usually a nut binding issue, but with the Tusq XL lubed nut, I was quite doubtful. But that’s a great trouble shooting method. Thank you for that.

    I do have that dry graphite in a squeeze tube. I’ve used it for years and have more then once ended up with a cloud of graphite landing all over the headstock, lol!
     
  8. mkdaws32

    mkdaws32 Tele-Afflicted Gold Supporter

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    @highwaycat - that could be. I have the MIM bridge so I’ll try that next. If that doesn’t work I’ll scam a couple of tuners temporarily from another Squier, but since it’s happening on more than one string, I dunno - just doesn’t add up to me. Filling the mounting holes and drilling for a two point trem is not out of the question!
     
  9. MahoganyStratDZ

    MahoganyStratDZ Tele-Holic

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    Well like with anything best to check is the easy things first before drilling.

    So your sure it's not strings binding at the nut? First thing is to know where the issue is in the nut or trem. Could just be the trem too loose. How far off the body is the bridge plate? They should be tight, close if not on the body without putting pressure on the finish so the trem claw screws further in pulls the guitar strings back to tune easier. The heavier blocks opposed to the zinc narrow make a difference also due to weight x tension. So if it's loose and light the strings are more likely to catch and bind. Anyway good luck with it hard to tell what's going on without seeing it.
     
  10. Zepfan

    Zepfan Doctor of Teleocity Gold Supporter

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    How are the springs oriented? I know that a lot of people do the tree orientation, but I always put one in the middle and two on the outsides all in a straight line. Works better for me.

    Is that trem mounted straight? Also wondering about the spring on low side may be different strength than the others?

    It's things like this that make people shy away from tremolos or pull all their hair out.:D
     
  11. mkdaws32

    mkdaws32 Tele-Afflicted Gold Supporter

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    Yep - tried all of that - replaced springs, tried three straight springs and also in tree formation. Paulownia body - maybe the mounting screws are even moving. I know I’ve tried two nuts and said it’s not a nut issue, but I’m second guessing this. I haven’t looked at it in a couple of days, but I’ll give it another good going over in the next day or so. Strings have to be binding somewhere for them to come back into pitch one at a time with bending/stretching.
     
  12. Zepfan

    Zepfan Doctor of Teleocity Gold Supporter

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    Where did you get the body?

    Usually everyone's tremolo makes the string go flat after a bit of use. This is the first I've heard of one going sharp.:lol:
     
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  13. Boreas

    Boreas Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

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    Just to play devil's advocate, let's look somewhere else. Perhaps the neck is unstable. If you do a dive, the neck relaxes pulling the strings with it. Let the whammy return to zero and the neck doesn't spring back all the way, causing some strings to go sharp. You may not be able to see it. Perhaps remove the neck, inspect the pocket and heel carefully, then re-install it with proper tension on the screws. If you have a micro-tilt, make sure everything is snug and properly adjusted. Just a thought.

    Insanity is repeating the same thing over and over, expecting different results. Look elsewhere. Loose truss rod, neck rocking in the neck pocket, loose neck screws, etc. can theoretically all cause tuning instability. Even a nut that isn't glued down and is rocking.
     
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  14. AJBaker

    AJBaker Friend of Leo's

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    What about the 6 screws holding the bridge to the body? Are they screwed down too tight, or something else funny?
     
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  15. Zepfan

    Zepfan Doctor of Teleocity Gold Supporter

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    Boreas makes a good point about checking the neck too. Are you getting any backbow or twisting in the neck?


    Things may be happening that aren't usually thought of. I had a cheap Behringer Strat that kept going flat quickly and each time I'd tune it back and then while I was playing it the trem bridge plate came off. The screws holding it to the cheap block were slowly pulling out til....
     
  16. 1 21 gigawatts

    1 21 gigawatts Tele-Holic

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    How are you setting the trem? I block the trem (with a stack of washers) to the desired height with the spring claw screws backed out, tune the strings, then remove the block and re-tune with the spring claw screws. This assures perfect balance of the claw/springs.
     
  17. mkdaws32

    mkdaws32 Tele-Afflicted Gold Supporter

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    Yep tried that ;)

    Neck is arrow straight.

    That's an interesting technique - I'm going to try that in general, but I don't think it will solve the issue here.

    I know - that's why I was so perplexed and not really looking for the usual issues. It's just an Affinity Strat that I did a complete refin on. Found it cheap in a pawn shop. It was pretty beat up, but I really liked the way this one feels, so I grabbed it up as a project.

    -------

    Well I walked away from it for a week (or more?) and just went back at it last night. Now I'm sure it's the nut, despite replacing the original cheap plastic nut. Pulled out the new nut and inspected and went over everything again. The nut was definitely rocking in the slot - Seems I apparently did a particularly poor job cutting this one (I haven't done a lot of nut work, but some - "haste makes waste" applies in this case ;) ). My guess is that when the bar is released, the nut rocks forward, raising the slots in the back where it's catching the strings and they are not sliding through well, result in the strings going quite sharp - particularly pronounced on the wound strings. Do a good full step bend and the stings come back in tune. The original exhibited similar behavior, but maybe not quite as pronounced - it probably had dodgy slots to begin with too.
     
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  18. chris m.

    chris m. Poster Extraordinaire

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    Yes, it is almost always the nut. I like using the Frudua method for tuning-- really solves most problems, except for a super catchy nut. Also like to simulate a 2-pivot bridge with a vintage bridge by having the two outer mounting screws a little deeper into the body than the inner four screws.
     
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  19. mkdaws32

    mkdaws32 Tele-Afflicted Gold Supporter

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    I always do exactly this! Guess I'm not the only one. Exactly half my Strats have a two pivot bridge, and half have the six point with the 4 middle screws dialed out a bit further. It's not exactly the same as a 2 point, but more fluid than a traditional 6 screw setup.
     
  20. mkdaws32

    mkdaws32 Tele-Afflicted Gold Supporter

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    I seem to have nailed it, finally. I’d like to say there was a big “ah ha!” moment, but there really wasn’t.

    I did try an entirely different bridge, just to rule it out. It made absolutely no difference.

    I fit another new pre-slotted Tusq XL nut and fit it very carefully, making sure to sand evenly and that it fit snuggly. Also widened the slots a bit at the back and angled down a bit more to ensure no binding. That helped a fair bit.

    Then I did a complete setup on the trem (original bridge) from scratch, floating it even more than before (so the G string would pull up a full step and a half). Reset the action at the saddles and intonated.

    Now it’s pretty darn stable. I can abuse the bar pretty good and it comes right back in tune, except for the low E, which goes only very slightly sharp now with heavy whammy use. I can see the strings slack right off on the posts, so I’m going to order some Wilkinson locking tuners just to see if I can get from 99.5% to 99.7% :). I could certainly do without them, but I want to see the effect.

    So I guess all’s well that ends well.

    FWIW, I checked out two of my other three Strats and they all exhibited the same issue, but to a much lesser extent. Now this Affinity has more tuning stability than those other two, for sure. Looks like a full setup is in order on those ones, as well.
     
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