How do I adjust the locking tremolo on my Stratocaster guitar?
INTONATION AND ADJUSTMENT FOR STRATOCASTER® GUITARS
There are two types of locking tremolos found on Fender® guitars. The Floyd Rose® tremolo uses a fine-tuning system at the bridge in combination with a locking nut. The American Deluxe locking tremolo is used in combination with an LSR roller nut and locking tuning keys. Though both are locking tremolos, they are strung, intonated and adjusted slightly differently.
Determine if your bridge is free-floating or flush-mounted to the body. If it's free-floating, we recommend that you place a block or stop-piece under the bridge to prevent it from collapsing when removing strings. The block must have soft foam or cloth on the underside to prevent damage to the finish. A tremolo block device can easily be purchased at your local music store or made at home.
INTONATION (ROUGHING IT OUT)
With a locking tremolo system, it's desirable to preset your guitar's basic intonation before installing the strings. With a tape measure, measure from the inside of the nut to the center of the 12th fret (the fret wire itself; not the fingerboard). Double that measurement to find the scale length of your guitar.
On a Floyd Rose® locking tremolo, loosen the hex nut on top of the saddle. On an American Deluxe locking tremolo, the hex lock-down screw is found beneath the bridge plate. Adjust the first-string bridge saddle to the scale length, measuring from the inside of the nut to the center of the bridge saddle. Re-tighten the lock-down screw. Now adjust the distance of the second-string saddle back from the first-string saddle, using the gauge of the second string as a measurement. For example, if the second-string gauge is .011", you'd move the second-string saddle back .011" from the first-string saddle. Move the third-string saddle back from the second-string saddle, using the gauge of the third string as a measurement. The fourth-string saddle should be set parallel with the second-string saddle. Proceed with the fifth and sixth strings in the same manner used for the second and third strings.
Note: Remember to re-tighten each lock-down screw as you make your adjustments.
To properly install strings on both types of bridges, the hex screw located on the end of each individual saddle must be loosened. Cut the ball-end of the string off directly above the tie-off windings, insert the string as close to the center as possible and tighten the hex screw, locking the string in place. Caution: Do not over-tighten the hex screw.
If the locking system incorporates a locking nut, remove the nut lock-down pieces while installing the strings and going through the setup procedures. After the setup is complete, replace the nut lock-down pieces, check your tuning and tighten the hex screws to lock the strings at the nut. Caution: Do not over-tighten. Use the fine tuners at the bridge to compensate for any tuning changes.
After the strings are installed, remove the tremolo back cover. Check your tuning. Allowing the bridge to float freely (no tension on the tremolo arm) and using the claw screws in the tremolo cavity, adjust the bridge to your desired angle (on most free-floating systems, it is recommended that the bridge sit parallel to the body). You'll need to re-tune periodically to get the right balance between the strings and the springs. For the flush-mounted bridges, you might want to adjust the bridge to rest on the body. You can adjust the spring tension to an equal string tension, with the bridge resting on body (you might want to put an extra 1/2 turn to each claw screw to ensure that the bridge remains flush to the body during string bends). Finally, you may wish to apply a small dab of lip balm or petroleum jelly at the pivot contact points of the bridge for very smooth operation.