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Strat Trem Block Question...help needed

WKG

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
504
I've got an Ash 2001 Am Strat I've been tinkering with and have been thinking about changing the trem block. I know that the new Am Standards have an upgraded block which is intended to improve tone so I am wondering if swapping this one out will make a notable difference.

I've been looking at the Callaham site and they've got a few options for American Strats, block, saddles etc. I know GFS make brass and steel blocks also which are a bit cheaper.

Has anybody swapped these out on an older American Strat? Any improvements? Notable differences between GFS & Callaham etc?
 

VaughnC

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
18,399
Going from pot metal to steel there's a big difference....but which is "better" would be very subjective. Going from steel to steel I don't hear much difference unless the seating depth of the string ends are different. Personally, I prefer shallow drilled blocks as the notes seem to have more push behind them when compared to deep drilled blocks. I never tried other metals so I can't comment on them.
 

alaskafingers

Member
Messages
30
I put a Wilkinson Stainless Saddle Trem from GFS into my '01 Indonesian Squier Strat Standard and it made a significant difference in the tone of the guitar. You might consider some cheaper units like it as well.

But be warned. Regardless of which trem unit you choose, it may not be easy to install. Despite the insistence that trem units are interchangeable, it ain't always so. I had to do a lot of work to get mine to fit correctly. First came a lot of measuring, drilling, sanding and cursing. I finally implanted some big chunks of hard, maritime mahogany into my Strat to ensure that the trem unit stayed in place in the soft, basswood body of the guitar.

Eventually, I ended up blocking my trem unit since I found I didn't use the tremolo function. However, the mass of the stainless steel unit continues to add to the tone and the sustain of the guitar.

The guitar has since been switched from right to left hand action so my south-pawed, bass-playing son can have it. He may unblock the unit and try it again.

It was an...uh...adventure putting the trem unit in. But overall, I would say it was worth it.
 

WKG

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
504
Thanks for the info. I am just thinking, if it's worth it, to change just the trem block itself not the entire unit. The earlier American strats use a "cast powdered steel block" per Callaham's description, theirs is "cold rolled steel" and lead free. GFS also says theirs is lead free and solid steel, and they also have a brass option.
 

Lespaulsignature 74

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
4,788
You can't go wrong with a Callaham Steel Block, I have them in both of my Strats and they improved the tone and resonance of the strings. I do not believe that Callaham makes a complete replacement bridge for American Standard Strats. You can get the trem block and the Vintage bent steel saddles and trem arm.
 

jski59

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
149
I also replaced the block in my Classic Player 50s strat with a Callaham...big improvement!
 

WKG

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
504
I am leaning towards the Callaham but just wondered if the GFS is comparable. Can anybody tell if the Callaham's string holes deep seated? Their website doesn't really say.

Sorry to have so many questions, new strat convert here on a learning curve.
 

Lespaulsignature 74

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
4,788
No, the Callahams are not deep seated.

I am leaning towards the Callaham but just wondered if the GFS is comparable. Can anybody tell if the Callaham's string holes deep seated? Their website doesn't really say.

Sorry to have so many questions, new strat convert here on a learning curve.
 

candid_x

Member
Messages
9,667
Love the Callaham block, springs and saddles in my 08 Am Standard.

However, on another one just like it but with a super thin neck, the stock (new style) 08 block sounded better to my ears. The thin neck made a much thinner and brighter sound, and the Callaham block's more refined effect did not work to its overall benefit. With my current one, the improvement was noticed immediately, even before the guitar was plugged in. That plus a small wiring mod, and suddenly the guitar sounded like it was worth few hundred more, with the stock Delta-tone pickups. It was that much of an improvement on this particular guitar.

Something else to be mindful of is that Callaham's offset intonation screws on pre-08 Am Standards might cause the new bent steel saddles to drift to one side. C's tolerances are good and snug and materials are higher grade than stock, so this may not be a problem, but then it might. There's more play room to move around with bent steel. I think I'd consider upgrading to a quality block saddle for offset adjustable saddles, rather than to bent steel. But I can't speak from experience on it.

Btw, the string ball end sits shallow in the C block.
 

jonesky

Member
Messages
14
I bought the Callaham because...
1) it sounded better (due to the block material and shallow string seating)
2) the vibrato bar bushing design (much better than the spring-in-the-block design
 

delron22

Member
Messages
373
Any high quality Mild Drawn or Cold Rolled (same thing) steel block will make a massive improvement in tone and sustain over the cheap alloy blocks that most Strats ship with.
 

Tidewater Custom Shop

Performance Enhancing Guitarworks
Silver Supporting Member
Messages
5,692
Thanks for the info. I am just thinking, if it's worth it, to change just the trem block itself not the entire unit. The earlier American strats use a "cast powdered steel block" per Callaham's description, theirs is "cold rolled steel" and lead free. GFS also says theirs is lead free and solid steel, and they also have a brass option.
Replacing your particular block with a Callaham may improve your tone, or your perception of tone. I've done Fender steel to Callaham steel - the C'ham seemed more tonally clean, but only slightly. I've also done the old non-magnetic pot steel swap ('00 Am Std) with a C'ham with discernible improvement in tone. That swap I'd recommend to any owner of a pot steel block.

The full C'ham Vintage swap offers, IMO, better tremolo action over the Fender due to fulcrum placement on the base plate. I couple my C'ham system with 5 Raw Vintage springs and float IAW Fender specs for a most desirable feel, tone, and stability.

BTW, I removed the paint on my EJ block and it seemed to make an improvement... worth mentioning I think.
 

WKG

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
504
Lotsa helpful info here, thanks guys.

I think I'll go ahead a swap the block for the Callaham, given mine is an 01 American and doesn't have the upgraded block the 08's and later come with. Plus I also like Callaham's trem bushing concept, anything that will take some of the slop out of the arm would be a nice improvement. If I can scrounge up a few more bucks I might just go ahead and spring for the premium upgrade kit with the replacement saddles and the shorter "64" arm as well.
 

WKG

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
504
Went ahead and ordered the premium upgrade kit. Got it here in two days and spent some time last night changing out the stock block, saddles and springs.

Pretty noticeable change, brought a little more volume and cleaned up the overall tone. There was a hollow, phasey sounding tone with the stock parts. That's gone and there's a very nice direct clarity with a bit more sustain. More refined is a good adjective as candid_x said. One of the best things is the trem arm insert, no play at all, very direct feel with no wobble and its stays where I put it. I got the 64 arm which is a little shorter but just right.

One thing worth noting is the block isn't chamfered on the back end like the stock so there's a little less dive clearance, especially if you float the trem. Not a significant issue though as I can easily work with the new one and I don't need to flop my strings on the board anyways. It's probably not an issue if you set your trem flat on the body. Also there is less height adjustment range on the saddles due to the design, bent steel vs block. I had shimmed my neck to give a little more angle and had my old ones jacked up a bit. I had to raise the pivot posts on the trem to get it set where I wanted it with the new ones.

All in all it was a worthwhile change, I appreciate the help.
 

kevinhifi

Member
Messages
3,430
Just had to post this since the comparison between Callaham and GFS is mentioned in the OP. I have (soon to be had) a GFS steel block and arm on my Strat. Last night, in the middle of a gig, I noticed some really strange play in the arm. It turns out the arm was starting to break. When I got home, I played for a few minutes, and the arm snapped right off, leaving the threads in the block. It would have been a cool rock'n'roll moment if this had happened during the gig, but now I'm stuck with a useless trem block.

The Callaham blocks have a plastic bushing to keep the arm snug so you don't have to crank down on the threads, weaken it's strength, and eventually break it like I did. I'm sure a lot has to do with the cheaper steel of the GFS too. I did, without a doubt, notice a difference in how the guitar sounded and played with the GFS block versus the stock MIM Fender block, but it's worth getting the Callaham for the other features along with the improvement in sound.

I'll report back in a week or so with a direct comparison between the two since I'll be removing the GFS and putting a Callaham in.
 

monty

Member
Messages
23,772
I have a C block in my MIM and just love it.
Always seems to sound like I have fresh strings on.
 

candid_x

Member
Messages
9,667
I have a C block in my MIM and just love it.
Always seems to sound like I have fresh strings on.
You make a good point. I've never really associated a good steel block with string life, but of course it makes sense.
 




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