Ibanez RG270DX Tremolo Upgrade for Cheap

Overview

This is a little guide detailing my recent project of upgrading the stock tremolo on my Korean Ibanez RG270DX. I was originally considering putting a Gotoh 1996 in it like the RG470 project I recently did. However, I decided I didn’t want to sink $180 into a tremolo I didn’t use that often so I found a far less expensive option.

The stock tremolo on the RG270DX isn’t all that bad. The base plate is not hardened steel like the higher quality tremolos. I’m not sure what it is, but it looks more like brass in coloration. The other drawback is that it’s a single locking tremolo, meaning that it has a locking nut but does not have locking saddles. After doing some research on the internet I found it mentioned several times that this tremolo could accept Floyd Rose locking saddles with no modifications. After a little more research I found that the best quality saddles of this type are the Schaller ones or the OFR saddles you get directly from Floyd Rose. Unfortunately these saddles run about $20 each, which get’s expensive enough that I may as well just put the Gotoh on the guitar. I did however find a good alternate set of saddles at StewMac. They are replacements for the OFR and only cost about $20-$25 for a set of six, depending on what color you want. Obviously, these aren’t going to be of the same quality as the OFR saddles, but all reviews say they are still very good. It seems that they are cast metal instead of formed steel. Again, I’m not sure of what kind of metal they are. I decided to go ahead and take a chance on them.

So for this project I’ve spent roughly $22.00 on saddles, $5.00 on a new set of posts and bushings from StewMac as well, and about $5.00 for a set of saddle shims. $32.00 isn’t a bad investment to turn a single locking tremolo into a double locking tremolo. Let’s move on to the details.

Dis-assembly

The first thing I need to do is remove the strings from the guitar and remove the springs and tremsetter from the back of my guitar.

Old Tremolo

Old Tremolo

Tremolo Cavity

Tremolo Cavity

Springs and Tremsetter

Springs and Tremsetter

Now let’s look at the new saddles I got from StewMac

New Saddles

New Saddles

And a comparison shot next to the old saddles. The sizing is almost identical.

Comparison

Comparison

Before proceeding with the tear down, I’ll take the time to measure each saddle position from the front edge of the base plate to the front of the saddle peak where the string rests. I’m hoping that by doing this I can duplicate these positions with the new saddles and avoid a massive headache setting the intonation, which is never easy with a Floyd style tremolo.

Measuring for Intonation

Measuring for Intonation

Next I’ll use a pin gauge to get the shape of the old saddle set. This works fairly well for recording the existing radius of the saddles if you don’t have radius gauges. You can get a pin gauge fairly cheap at any home improvement store. I usually use this for measuring the shape of window casings that I have to cut ceramic tile around.

Measuring the Radius

Measuring the Radius

Measuring the Radius

Measuring the Radius

Now I want to remove the old saddles from the base plate. First I’ll use a flat head screwdriver to loosen the string tubes from the rear of the tremolo.

Removing the old saddles

Removing the old saddles

After I’ve broken them loose I can finish removing them with just my fingers.

Removing the old saddles

Removing the old saddles

Next I need to use a hex wrench to loosen the bolts holding the saddles on the plate.

Removing the old saddles

Removing the old saddles

Removing the old saddles

Removing the old saddles

They slide right off without having to completely remove the bolts. This is the empty base plate.

Bare Plate

Bare Plate

I’ll mention a few things of note here. Notice the large hex screws in line with the tremolo arm holder. These screw hold the block onto the base plate. These may be of interest to you if you ever consider upgrading the block to something like a larger brass block in the future. Also notice the staggered pattern of the screws that were holding the saddles on. There are multiple holes for these to allow for greater adjustments to the intonation. I ended up moving one of these to the back hole to make the new saddle fit better. The old one was barely being held at the very tip.

Next I’m going to clean the plate while I have it apart. I’ll use an old toothbrush and a can of compressed air to get the loose dust and other crud off of it. Then I’ll wet a rag with denatured alcohol to wipe away any built up residues and other gunk.

Cleaning supplies

Cleaning supplies

Denatured Alcohol

Denatured Alcohol

I’m using alcohol because it dries quickly, does a good job of cleaning, and isn’t so potent that it’ll take the finish off the metal.

Next I’m going to examine my knife edges for damage. Considering the cheap nature of this no name tremolo, they are in very good shape. There is very minimal wear on them. I’ll take a fine half round file and gently file them back into smooth round outs while I’ve got the tremolo out of the guitar. I should mention that these edges should be checked for damage at the beginning of the project. If they are in really bad shape they may not be useable and a new tremolo would be a better route to pursue instead of this low cost upgrade.

Filing the roundouts

Filing the round outs

Re-assembly

Now lets start putting things back together.

The first thing I want to do is swap out my pivot posts, which have some wear on them from over 15 years of use. In my other guides I showed you how to pull the bushings out of the wood and tap new holes for new bushings and posts. In this case, the new posts from StewMac are nearly identical to the old Ibanez posts. They are so close in fact that they screw right into the old bushings. That means it’s pointless to pull the old bushings. I’ll just swap the stud itself this time. I will note that these posts take a different size wrench than the old ones did and they don’t come with that wrench so I’ll have to add a few more wrenches to my guitar case.

Stud comparison

Stud comparison

Now it’s time to place the new saddles on the base plate. This is just like taking the old ones off only in reverse.

Installing the new saddles

Installing the new saddles

And here they all are after I measure them back into the same position as the originals and tighten them down.

New saddles installed

New saddles installed

I will note here that after stringing the guitar up and getting it all back in tune I discovered some string buzz due to the radius being slightly out. Most RG series guitars have a neck radius of about 16″. Most Floyd saddles are designed for a 14″ radius, which is not quite as flat. That means that my outer strings ended up being a bit too close to the fretboard in relation to the inner strings. To remedy this, I removed the high E and B saddles and placed a shim under them. The shims are just thin pieces of metal with a hole in them. They lay directly under the saddle to boost it up and the screw that locks the saddle to the base plate goes through the hole to hold it all in place. So far I just did these two saddles, but I may have to shim the low E as well once the strings stretch out completely and I get the entire assembly tweaked.

Now let’s see the tremolo once it’s back in the guitar.

New saddles installed

New saddles installed

I always put a drop of TriFlow Superior Dry Lubricant on each post when I put the tremolo back in. This is a thick liquid that dries very fast and leaves a thin layer of teflon behind with no sticky residue. It provides great lubrication to the knife edge without leaving a residue for dirt to stick to.

Strung Up

Strung Up

I also add a drop of the same lubricant to the peak of each string saddle where the string lays over it. I’m careful not to let any lubricant run down into the saddle where the block is. This can cause the string to slip out of the block. Just plug the hole with a paper towel while lubricating the peak.

Strung Up

Strung Up

I now have it fully restrung and the springs and tremsetter back in place. I’ve got it all pretty well balanced out. I’ll have to make some adjustments to the tremsetter once I get all of the stretch out of the strings and then I’ll start testing it. So far it sounds fine and the intonation came out pretty well perfect, just as I was hoping for. We’ll see how well it handles diving once I get the tremsetter adjusted.

I hope someone finds this guide helpful. I’ve seen a few questions about how to do this in the past. I’m sure this will work on other tremolos as well but you’ll have to figure out if the saddles will fit the tremolo you have in mind.

With all that being said, I’d like to conclude this guide by leaving you with a picture of my balls, which I can now proudly display thanks to my new locking saddles.

My Balls

My Balls

 

 

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