Introduction: Gotoh Fender Floating Tremolo Install
The following is the DIY laid out step-by-step. The actual work was done by a good friend of mine named Rod. Any questions or comments on the job will be forwarded to him. Thanks for checking this out. Rod is a gifted engineer and if you're looking to do this install, this one is the way to go!
It seems like people sort of shrug away from installing a full floating tremolo on a guitar not currently set up for one
because it’s too scary or you need too many tools. Maybe that’s true in some cases but if you can visualize what you’re
about to do and can borrow a tool here & there, you can get this job done on your own.
I’d never done this before and wanted to record each step I took through the process to pass on to others who might
want to give it a go. I’m no luthier, just someone who wanted a fender with a GE Gotoh 1996T I’d heard quite a bit
about, and that has some nice design features. I chose it because 1) the Original Edge is much more expensive and
difficult to find as a complete set as such, 2) the bar tension is adjustable so A/C tremolo motion can be quiet for quiet
expression (no clankety clank of a loose bar), 3) the upper knife edge (opposite bar) is not cupped to allow for several
post spacings, 4) it has locking posts WITH IT so you don’t have to buy that $40 kit or make your own. It pre-tensions the
posts so they don’t turn or rock in the threaded hole. Some guys put silicon on the threads which also works but is still
potentially loose under force, 5) it is built largely like the original Edge and finally that it carries recommendations &
reviews from many picky players.
So this is what I did, FYI only, and know that there are different ways to skin a cat.
Stripped the guitar of anything not pertaining to the mod.
I just laid the posts on top of the marks. They’re just sitting there i.e. no holes drilled / not installed or anything yet.
NOTE: look at what will amount to a very thin wall between where the post holes will be and the Humbucker pickup
pocket is. There’s no way this will work. If you drill into this body, the material will be so thin there that the posts under
bending toward the nut will cause them to strain the wood enough to become loose. This hole must be filled in.
Using a piece of tape as a base, I measured and marked the side-to-side hole locations and marked the 25͟ from the
bridge-side of the nut to the tape. This signifies roughly where the studs would go. There is room for leeway here
because your saddles are adjustable. You just want to ensure you don’t post your tremolo where your saddles are at the
25 ½͟ distance (the scale for a Strat) from the nut where the saddles are at 1 extreme end of their adjustment which will
hurt you later when you might need adjustment the other way to get your intonation right. I got the side-to-side
location by stringing a low and hi E string from the tuners down to the tremolo and moving it physically back & forth on
the neck until it measured centered (distance from the string to the edge of the neck both below the high e-string and
above the low (the big one) e-string. If you just eyed it, it would probab
I just used a Freud top-bearing ½͟ router bit and adjusted it to take only a little off the floor of the pickup cavity,
clamped it all down to the bench and cleaned it out quickly.
This is what it looked like after the routing (and after blowing off all that sawdust!)
Next I went to the lumber store and picked up a piece of ¾͟ thick red oak wood since that is solid and will transfer
vibrations better than something like a pine 2x4 which you can use if you really wanted to… (why would you?) Measure
the cavity and cut the block. Since the router bit was ½͟, you would only need a ¼͟ radius female / outside router radius
bit to go over the edges so they fit.
As they say, measure 10 times and cut once if you really want to be sure. So I re-marked this again, marking also roughly
where the tremolo will be. The tremolo seller mentioned to drill the post holes at 25͟ but after measuring the bridge
with the saddles centered, accounting for the distance from the front edge of the tremolo to what would be the center
of the post, I came up with 25͟ & change (see tape below). Remember, this is measured from the front edge of the nut
to whatever measurement you want. That edge sets 1 end of your scale. Scale basically = distance between the 2 points
that hold the string i.e. the vibrating length of the string.
Next I tapped the old nut out of the groove. The new nut is locking, and is obviously much wider and will need to be
fitted onto the neck with appropriate material removal.
The old nut is short. The new nut is taller. If you just made room for it, it would stick way up and feel like grandpa’s toy
ukulele. How far down do you route? It depends on your tastes I guess, but if you like how it used to play before,
measure the thickness from where the string would sit in the ͞V͟ of the new nut on the same string (or strings for
corroborating measurements) – to the bottom of the nut. Do this on both nuts. However much thicker the new nut is –
that’s how much vertical material needs to be routed away for the same ͞feel͟ Round numbers – let’s say the old nut is
¼͟from bottom of nut – to – bottom of ͞V͟. New nut is ½͟ on same measurement. You would need to subtract the old
dist from the new (1/2 – ¼ = ¼͟) and take off ¼͟.
Next, you know you’ll need to set up to route. But if you just clamp a board to the neck for the router to sit on, it will be
sitting on RADIUSED FRETS!! So is it level? Who knows. I notched out a board that allowed me to control how level or
parallel it is to the base of the existing nut channel. I marked the board on either side so it would fit perfectly.
Then measured in 1/8͟ on either side and marked again. This will be the step that actually sits on the outside of the
frets – the rest in the middle will be hogged out.
I put a piece of old nut back in the channel to ensure the location was SPOT-ON. You definitely do NOT want to route
out any length off of the fretboard toward the bridge side. That’s critical. You can see how the block was hogged out to
just sit on the outside edges. You can set how deep your saw runs for the edges to control its level / parallel with the
nut channel. You can do this with a cheap skil saw if you want to. I used a slider miter.
I set the depth of the router bit to JUST kiss the bottom of the channel by measuring & accounting for that when setting
the bit depth (plunge router base). Verify first that it just touches it so that every hundredth of an inch you adjust your
router will be a hundredth taken off of the nut base to ensure your new nut is at the right height when you’re done.
Here is how the router looks when it is positioned accordingly. Again, critical that you use the old nut or something to
guarantee your wood block (what will basically be the template) is perfectly square and flush with the edge of the
current nut channel so your router bit doesn’t take any off of the existing fretboard; only some of the meat behind it so
the new nut will fit. This pic shows it already routed.
The new nut is sort of clamped in place. Just showing a drill bit there since I next needed to drill the holes that will be
used to fasten the nut to the neck.
I simply used a hand drill for this since the installation will require 2 special wood screws (or some might just be
Next I went back to the body and again found the side-to-side position of where the tremolo will be by first locating
where the strings would be centered,
…then measuring the center of the ͞scoop͟ edge of the tremolo & marking where the center of the post would be.
Remember, the radius of the post is way smaller than the radius of that scoop.
Once you have that center point, you also have your parallel line from the 25͟ line you previously drew so you just
measure over the 74 millimeters (2.913͟). It’s kind of funny that I’m using a Starrett dial caliper to measure, then
marking with a pen, then drilling a hole in wood. Kind of like using a laser mic to mark a line and then cutting it with an
axe. But every little bit helps I guess.
Next we are ready to drill the holes for the posts. I was intrigued by a similar post I saw where the guy had a cheap ͞drill
press͟. Whereas I have a large press I bought this $19 ͞press͟ from harbor freight. Well… after I removed about 0.04͟
material from one of the adjustable arm flanges so it would slide freely top-to-bottom without binding, it was liveable
but I would not recommend this route unless you didn’t know anyone with a press you could use. I mean, they’re kind
of handy but they are really only a guide because they are so flimsy. I strongly recommend drilling these holes in a few
stages i.e. start with a small – very small bit to ensure your hole is dead on. Then drill with a larger bit that will follow
the other hole as a pilot. Work your way up to your desired size. This was ½͟.
As you can see, as we knew beforehand, that ½͟ drill bit pushed out the thin wall of material. Fortunately, we had our
reinforcement filler block there to minimize the trauma. NOTE – none of this is glued yet.
Next is another fun part. The Gotoh tremolo is really made like a tank but they get a ZERO for product information (like
maybe a few dimensions or recommendations?) It came with NO paperwork. So I measured what I thought was
important and sketched what it would need to be so I could make the routing template. Spend some time on this so you
don’t mess up the route. Routing is quick and easy. Making the template is harder. Not sure if they made one for this
tremolo or not. It didn’t matter, I didn’t want it. I wanted to make my own to see how hard it would be and it’s really
not hard at all.
This is the routing template showing one of the grommets slightly pushed through it into the body to locate it. I drilled a
dowel hole for the template closer toward the front into the body knowing it would be covered by the pickup plate
anyway. Important here to make sure it’s where you want it.
These are the 2 dowels I mentioned earlier. You definitely don’t want the template to move once you start!
Gluing – I lined the holes with Elmer’s wood glue with a Q-Tip and glued the splines on the grommets.
Drove them in with a rubber mallet & wood block left over from making the Humbucker pocket filler.
Next I mixed up some wood glue & very fine sawdust for some wood filler to be used where the thin wall was messed up
a little bit from the ½͟ holes I’d drilled for the grommets. You could use that on the filler block if it were loose but this
one fit in to the pocket pretty tightly so it just needed glue all around.
Finally, time to put the posts into the hole and mount the tremolo.
I tuned the strings and paid attention to the bridge being parallel to the body, adjusting the spring holding plate as I
tuned to maintain bridge level.
Step 30: Step 30
At this point, it was time to set bridge height for string action, level, tune, and intonation.
Next, using some basic kid tools I measured the pickup and drew that outline on a clear lexan board to be trimmed into
another routing template. Honestly, this plastic was too thin to be a good template. You’d need ¼͟ or thicker. I routed
that pickup pocket only to the required depth to install the pickup plate. Before I re-installed the electronics I painted all
of the pockets with black conductive paint to be used as shielding for noise reduction. Not necessary, just a nice thing to
have. I’ve lined guitar pockets before with copper foil which is a little more tedious to do.
Finally, and what I did not show, was the trimming of the pickup plate to make room for the tremolo. That’s another
matter of marking & trimming using a dremel tool and some patience. This is the final product. It stays in tune with
harsh movements of the tremolo bar. I would recommend this tremolo. Especially for the money, it holds its own even over the original Edge with its features and performance. I bought mine from RODRIRA1 on eBay. He was quick to
respond and knowledgeable about the different trems out there.
I hope someone is helped by this. .