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MIM Blacktop trem block upgrade - thoughts

Discussion in 'Stratocaster Discussion Forum' started by Matthias, Mar 6, 2013.

  1. Matthias

    Matthias Friend of Leo's Gold Supporter

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    I made my first upgrade to my Blacktop HH Strat - the trem block. I thought I'd jot down my thoughts in case it helps someone:

    Fitting
    - I fitted a Fender USA narrow steel trem block, I think designed for the Highway One. It's a good part and a direct fit. Not a milled steel block but brings it in line with a USA spec. 52.5mm blocks aren't that easy to come by in the UK but this is an OK option... cost about £25 including postage
    - it replaced a zinc high mass block
    - The block is a little bit wider and a little bit deeper than the stock part, but it fits fine in the cavity
    - It also needed a USA threaded trem arm. I went for a Fender part so that added a few quid to the cost
    - The whole operation took about 45min including a restring
    - You don't need to remove the saddles to get to the trem block screws - just loosen them as far as they'll go before they fall off

    In use
    - The trem arm angle is different so it doesn't get stuck on the amp knobs like the stock arm does
    - There's a noticeable sound difference on this guitar
    - The sound warms up a lot so the pickups needed dropping a bit
    - Adds some of the articulation that my Am Std had but the Blacktop didn't before. The touch sensitivity of my Vox is more noticeable.
    - The pickups sound a bit tighter when distorted. I really didn't expect that, but a bagginess that was annoying me before is now a lot less noticeable
    - The pickups are very sensitive to upgrades and adjustments. These could be fun to rip out and try in different guitars

    Overall
    - To keep things in perspective, you do need to set up the guitar again after doing this upgrade, so perhaps some sound changes are influenced by this
    - The bent steel saddles and steel trem plate seem fine. I wouldn't upgrade these
    - The change is a more noticeable than I expected
    - overall, a worthwhile upgrade
     
  2. boris bubbanov

    boris bubbanov Tele Axpert Ad Free Member

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    Glad it worked for you.

    But those blocks (Ping PW 36) are only partly steel, and barely attract a magnet.

    I'd have let it be, or gone whole hog and went with the Callaham.

    A big zinc block with buckers, not necessarily a bad thing IMO.
     
  3. Matthias

    Matthias Friend of Leo's Gold Supporter

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    I wouldn't have gone for a Callaham in a guitar of this price. It's true - the zinc block didn't sound bad but with it the guitar didn't have a sound I really looking for. Of course, if I really want to get close to a vintage sound, I'll need some new HBs :)

    However, I'm don't think it's a PW 36 after looking that part up. It isn't stamped with the part number, is painted grey not silver, has no chamfer to the lower edge, the spring holes aren't countersunk and it attracts even a weak magnet well.

    The Fender part number is 0073943000, described as 'Block tremolo mach'd steel narrow' and marked 'Made in USA' on the packaging. Depending where you go online, it's either described as a Highway One block or a MIM upgrade block.

    Here's the part on WD Music: http://www.wdmusic.com/fender_steel_tremolo_block_mim_007_3943_000.html
     
  4. mechtech

    mechtech TDPRI Member

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    Get the biggest and heaviest trem block that will fit.
    Leo made this mistake on the early ones. More mass fixed it.
     
  5. blackbelt308

    blackbelt308 Tele-Holic

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    For a MIM Strat, a great & economical upgrade is to pair a GFS block (brass or steel; $25 or $22 resp.) and a Callaham trem arm ($15). The GFS blocks all take a 10/32" threaded arm.

    Ciao,
    Rick
     
  6. mechtech

    mechtech TDPRI Member

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    The biggest trem block is almost always best. Light is tinnier with less sustain
     
  7. nadzab

    nadzab Friend of Leo's

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    I think the GFS block is a good budget upgrade if you're not using the trem, but I've found that the arm fits very loosely in the threads on the GFS units...and using springs, tape, etc to correct the slop are imperfect solutions. So if you're a regular trem user, a Callaham block (with the delrin insert) is well worth the investment.
     
  8. dblues

    dblues Tele-Holic

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    I have to agree with this. The GFS block was an improvement over the thin one in my MIM but I eventually broke the arm off. Still glad I have it though, I replaced the arm and keep the bridge floating for occasional use. I just don't use it that much.
     
  9. Delta63

    Delta63 Tele-Holic

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    I did this as well. I broke the diecast arm in the first 10 minutes I used it. Otherwise the hardened steel block and bridge was an awesome deal.
     
  10. Delta63

    Delta63 Tele-Holic

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    Mine was loose as well, I retapped it.
     
  11. flyingbanana

    flyingbanana Poster Extraordinaire

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    I still prefer the Callaham bridge aseembly to the stock Fender stuff. Usually, but not always, the guitar I'm putting his stuff into will come alive. As far as fit and finish, always better than the factory offerings. That makes every project look better.
     
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