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Vintage 6-screw tremolo guide

Here i will cover vintage style tremolo Bridges.
There are a handfull out there  to select from. I will cover modern trems later.
Strictly 6-Screw with Bent saddles on this guide. You can always replace the saddles with any other styles like block saddles anyway.

Short HISTORY and the DESIGN of Tremolo:
While Bigsby was designing his own in 1953, Fender simplified the concept of the tremolo unit at the same time. In 1954, Stratocaster debuted with a very rudimentary, simplified and clean design.
The Stratocaster Tremolo is a very easy mechanic, yet genius at the time.
However, it had its limits on use, as it was designed to only flutter slightly (Divebombs did not exist then) and to this day, i has been virtually unchanged in design. Fender has improved it, but basically on a different pivot style: The 2-point tremolo, which still uses the same mechanics.
Since then, Floyd Rose saw the day of light in the late 70´s and turned the system into a flexible beast. But yet, still adapting the springs counterweight system of Leo. Many others have followed with their own take on it to improve its tuning stability which is the main drawback of the standard vintage unit..
More historic information on Fuzzfaced


String Spacing Info

Tremolo spacing measurement can be very confusing at first. But it is actually quite easy once you get your head around it. In Fenders own eco system, there are three common spacings for the mounting holes and saddle width: Vintage, Mexico and Japan. If you fiddle with asian knockoff guitars, i really cant help you. The specs on tremolo´s can be all over the place on those.

Distance is measured from the outermost mount/ screw holes (See drawing Below)


We roughly name them 52, 54 and 56mm  to distinguish them more easy.  Japan Strats can occationally use USA specs but mostly use their own 2-1/8 spacing. Please measure your MIJ before buy.

On the American continent, bridges comes in 3 variations.:

Vintage Bridges are mostly featured on reissue models and Custom shops by Fender today.
On todays models, they usually fit Vintage Narrow bridges which has become standard.
Mexican narrow/narrow came on most MIMs but have not been used since 2017. You find them mostly on Squiers these days.

You can easily rough-measure with a regular ruler to determine what bridge you have. You either land on 52mm, 54mm or 56mm.

Remember, as long as your guitar body is drilled for Vintage 56mm (2 7-32) spacing, you can fit either a Vintage Bridge or a Vintage Narrow bridge.

If you already have a vintage bridge and are annoyed by strings slipping off the frets on outer E-strings, you may consider installing a Vintage Narrow bridge.
You can also visit my  Tech spec sheet where many Fender models are listed with spacing specs.
Toneshapers has an excellent description and illustration of the US bridges.

Screenshot 2023-09-10 at 09.40.36.jpg

The official Fender 6-screw is virtually unchanged and stuck in time since Leo invented it. Fender even use some of the tooling machines to make the saddles from the Fullerton factory. When the American Standard hit the market in 1987, it was a turning point for Fender with the 2-point tremolo, that they redesigned and made the tremolo more fluid and stable with the knives edge pivot system.
Today, the 6-screw has been deemed to be an obsolete unit, and even the Mexico Strats where 6-screw was a standard, has gone over to the 2-point. 

But the 6-Screw are still installed on Custom Shops, Signature models and Vintage reissues like AVRI models and Vintera. So it will still be avaliable from Fender for a long time still.

A major step up is Bill Callaham´s units. He is probably the most well known 3rd party vintage tremolo manufacturers around.

He machines out the majority of his products in Stainless steel. The action is more smoother and more precise on his tremolo unit. Mount holes aligned more perfectly for correct pivot, and improved mounting of the tremolo arm featuring a Delrin bushing to hold it more snug without slop in the arm. But it still has the same classic look.

You can select between three lengths on the arm.
A popular choice for many who want to upgrade.
Priced at $150 and up. Features all sizes.

Wudtone is based in England.  Compared to Callaham, they have taken the Tremolo to further steps but without the Stainless. Wudtone offers a pivot base place, Milled string holes and notched bridge plate for screws to clear off better. In other words, excellent machined for a more gently handling of action to clear all obstacles the comes in its way.

They are fairly expensive bridges as well at $250. They offer two models. The standard CP Vintage and the "Holy Grail" with added mass. Comes standard with Highwood saddles. Sold in US trough BYO Guitar

The Kluson brand started making tremolos after the WD Music acquisition to expand the selection to more than just tuners.
I would say, Kluson are on par with the USA made Fender units, but in machining, are very much the same but smoother finish. No bushing to eliminate slop og the arm or anything. Also has the same mis-aligned mounting holes.
They do not feature the details of Callaham or Wudtone and they come fairly simple. What they can offer though, is a tremolo block in Aluminum for weight reduction (sold separately). Its probably the only tremolo you can get in an all nickel finish. But also black and gold.
They come at a reasonable price around $100.

Wilkinson is known to most. They offer an wide range of bridges for any guitar. Their most traditional designed bridge in their catalog is this model  simply named "Year One" (WVS54). Trevor Wilkinson actually designed this with Leo Fender's support while he still was alive.
It is dubbed as a "simple recreation of the original design". On this unit, the mount holes are machined perfectly at the knives edge to pivot more correctly just like Callaham and Wudtone does. But that is basically it. Standard threaded arm without Delrin bushing as Wilkinson is known for with other designs. Very simple but fairly pricey at $190. I would rather get a Callaham or save up for Wudtone instead.

Gotoh always makes the list. The japanese manufacturer makes almost every part of the Stratocaster. This bridge has excellent machining and polished finish. Comes in dark chrome and gold as well. You can also find these in relic.
The mount holes are on par like Callaham and Wudtone. The downside is that its only avaliable with vintage string spacing. For narrow spacing you have to select the 510T-SF2 for the vintage look. (upside is a modern bushing for arm) 

But these unit i can highly recommend. Excellent quality bridge for its price.. 
And the price? You can find these for as low as $65-70 which is a steal. 

Not technically a 6-screw but RR is advertising it as a "Improved Vintage Trem" so i will slip it trough the needle. If weight relief is on your table, then consider this one. The block, plate saddles and Claw are machined out of titanium.  which brings the unit to just 12oz (or 340gram). 

The block has offset G&E string like Wilkinsons.

The saddles are as close looking to bent steel as can be, and like Wudtone, the plate has notched screwhead cradle so it pivots more naturally.
They decided to ditch the 2 middle screws as they thought that "they were not needed". 
An exciting piece of unit to try. 
The price is steep at $350. 

Various Asian Budget Bridges

There are a few select budget bridges out in the internet. All Asian made. Click on the photo slide to reveal a few. Quality-wise, dont expect the best. Sloppy tollerance threading and such occurs.
Kaish ($24)

Musiclilly ($25)
Guitarfetish ($40)

Guyker ($20)

Wilkinson  WVC-SB ($40)

Fleor ST (Japan 10.8 spacing)
Göldo Vintage Tuner ($68)

There are many more unnamed tremolo´s on Ebay and other asian markets. But these are the dominating economy brands. Usually fitted on cheap guitars, Squiers or kit builds. 

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