Mounting the tremolo & initial trem setup
Place your 6 point bridge on the face of the body, inertia block downwards. Fix in place with the two outer screws; in practice these two are all you really need. Add the remaining four when the guitar is ready and if you want. Turn the body face down and fix the springclaw in place such that there is about 2 cm space between wood and claw - do not tighten the screws completely.
Now do some setup of the trem. As soon as you have a string mounted you can set up the trem in your favourite position using the two screws in the springclaw.
You can fix the trem with the backplate flush with the body - allowing only dives - or with more space, allowing whammy up as well as down.
You have the springclaw already at 2.5 cm. String up completely, not yet to pitch Now add three springs as in picture (5 springs if you are into heavy gauge strings) Tune to pitch
Now haul in the springclaw using the two screws which increases the spring tension, see pic
The strings will pull the trem forward, adjust the springs so the trem is in your favourite position.
Readjust springclaw when you change to different string gauge, or when you want to change the home position of the bridge!
Now we have built a guitar there is a fair chance that it is not very playable, or rather its fairly certain to be unplayable. The setup is by far the most important step in the process. I have split setup in in two parts, first here all the little adjustments that are needed and secondly intonation.
You can take a very simple, cheapo guitar and with a good setup make it a great instrument. A 10K dollar 1956 Strat with a lousy setup will just yield a lousy old guitar.
Place a Capo on position one, just before the fret. Now depress each string (one string is enough basically) at fret 17 and measure open space between top of fret 8 and underside of string. This should be very small in the order of 0,25 mm. or less (my prefence is 0.1). If the neck is too hollow you have to adjust the trusrod. Detune your strings a bit to take away tension. Very carefully tighten the trussrod - a quarter turn at the time to the right (clockwise) will straighten the neck. Take this very slowly.
Retune to pitch. Preferably leave it to set and check again. If the neck is too concave release the trussrod (turn anticlockwise), the strings will pull the neck into position. Some guitars have a trusrrod that can work bothways. Standard is however a trussrod that only pulls the neck straight.
Action is very much determined by your own preference - more so than the other measurements.
It is measured with the capo still at fret 1 and you look at the string height between fret 17 and underside of string. A good start is 1.5 mm for E6 and slightly less for E1.
Thicker strings need more space. Take it from there.
Adjust by raising or lowering the saddles using the small Allen (typically 1 or 1.5mm) hex screws.
Here you may hit a serious problem if the neck tilt w.r.t. the body is wrong - see below.
If you find that you cannot reduce action because your saddles are at their lowest posible point its time for a SHIM.
Shimming means that you take a small piece of plastic (or whatever material) about 0.25 or 0.45 mm thick and about 5cm by 1 cm, and place it in the neck pocket before the screws on the closed side (away from the headstock). This will change the action, normally enough to be allow adjusting the saddles again. In general one 0.45mm shim will do the job.
If you find that the saddles are in their highest position with strings to low or even touching the neck, place a shim at the other side of the neckpocket.
Obviously you will have to unscrew the neck for this operation. Its not necessary to unstring, just take the tension off.
Pickup to string distance
With the bolts either side of the pickup adjust the distance between polepiece and string to around 2.3 mm whilst depressing the string at the last fret.
For the higher strings take a bit less more like 2.1 mm. Experiment, but as you take a smaller measure check sound and sustain as the magnets can mute strings if too close. Too far will of course yield a lower output signal..
The problem: if your intonation is not good, you will find that you can tune the guitar reasonably well for example for open chords but then playing in higher positions will sound awful. Familiar?
The illustration above shows in schematic form what its all about. The drawing represents the E1 string, which basically represents the Strat scale of 648mm, and thats what you set for starters.
The principle for other guitars is the same, but the scale will be different for a bass, or a Les Paul.
Even if you accurately adjust your high E string to 648mm than still the properties of the string especially when depressed can cause that the wave form of the string doesnt match the fret positions, with best reference to fret 12 ( octave). This is caused by the material of the string, the age of the string, the gauge (.009 will be different from .013!), accumulated dirt etc.
As in the pic above it can therefore occur that when depressed on fret 12 the note is slightly higher than the open string or the flageolet harmonic.
You can see that in this case when the note is sharp, this is caused by the string being a bit too short between fret 12 and the bridge. You have to make that part a bit longer, by moving the saddle to the back. You then move the acoustic midpoint of the string to its right position above the 12th fret.
Intonation is by far the most important step in the setup, you have to do this. Worse, you have to do this each time you change any of the above settings!
This is best done with a good electronic tuner, possibly a stroboscopic one if you have USD 300 or so to spare.
Start by ensuring E1 scale is 648mm, and from there the other strings a tiny bit more (about the width of string itself). This will be almost right, but not good enough.
Now for each string starting with E1 do the following:
Correctly tune the string.
Check at fret 12 with the note depressing the string at fret 12.
They must be the same the open string (or flageolet) and the depressed note must be the same.
If not adjust by moving the saddles for- or backward.
If the depressed note is sharp, increase the stringlength (see the schematic above!); move the saddel to the back.
A bit more on electronics
I add one extra ground (mass) wire from the volume pot housing to the shielding of the PU cavity, this is not in the drawing but is easily added, similar to the one called 'ground to bridge', you could call it 'ground to shield'. It improves to total shielding effect.
If you don't have a loaded pickguard, mount all the components on your pickguard, turn it upside down and get your soldering iron out. Cut all wires to the desired length, strip all wires and apply solder to the stripped part. Apply a thin layer of solder to all other contact points like lugs of the pots. This pre-soldering ensures a quick connection.
This set of pots and a capacitor is referred to as 'the guitar electronics' . Actually these circuits are passive (there are no active elements such as transistors or integrated circuits), so electronics is a bit of an overstatement.
Things get more electronic when preamps and the like are added. Currently thats outside the scope of this edition, but I'm in the process of writing a another book on electronics and mods (also some content of that book will on this site).
This drawing is a basic schematic, most Strat-alikes conform more or less to this layout.
The Strat 5-way switch
Most people only have a vague idea how that PU switch on the Strat works, let alone how it must be connected if you must replace or modify something.
Basically on the Strat we have a double rotary switch with three contacts in and one out. - The two switches sit on one axle and thus operate in perfect unison. The modern switches dont look this way, but behave the same.
The runner is broad enough to touch two contacts when placed in the middle (this was how the early players tricked the two additional positions with a 3-way switch.)
So we have 3-way switches with 2 additional stops in between, yielding 5 possibilities
In the Strat the pups are connected to one switch, the tone pots to the other and the two outputs are bridged and go to the volume pot.
On http://www.youtube.com/lambertusjan i have published all 5 pictures as a video clip, which shows the working quite nicely.
Here I show the first 3 positions, which should suffice to clarify the operation.
The red lines are the active connections in that position. Have a look:
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