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SurfGuitar101 Forums » Gear »

Permalink Mustang Vibrato Permanent Solution

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After buying my Squier Mustang and going from stoked, to annoyed with its inability to return to pitch, to utterly contemptuous of Fender's "Dynamic Vibrato" design, I have taken it upon myself to build the vibrato they should have.

Actually, I'll back up. The first thing I did when I got my Mustang was address the silly design of the rocking bridge and make THAT what Fender should have. I guess since the wheel hadn't been invented at the time of the Mustang's development, Leo had to get by with his bridge resting on points in cups hoping that the strings it supports don't push it forward and then possibly returning to whatever position the user initially wrestled it into after each bend.

But now that we have roller bridges... that's what I used. I drilled the bridge post holes for steel sleeves, fixed it in there rigidly, and replaced the barrel saddles with Kahler Flyer saddles from the 80's. These allow for individual height and intonation adjustment and have brass rollers. They're ever so slightly narrower than the stock ones so there's a small amount of clearance between them (very small) but they work pretty well.


Actually, the bridge is going to get reworked but that's not the focus of this post. So moving on, after I strung my Mustang with 12s and moved the springs down to the lower notches on the posts, it took very little time before my vibrato had become worthless at its original task, which is to drop the pitch and then RETURN it. You can see in the pictures how the holes in the plate have been all chewed up. Using those as a pivot is just idiotic. With an original Fender plate and especially with a crap thin Squier plate.

So I decided that I really like the Jazzmaster vibrato and that it should live in my Mustang so I set to reworking things to allow that to happen. I bought a JM assembly, dropped my Mustang off at the Body by Forstner clinic for a few minutes, and cut the necessary slot and screw holes in my stock plate, which is just the prototype. The horse's mule.

Issues that need ironing are that the stock JM vibrato rocker places the vibrato arm right where the Mustang bridge is so either the entire assembly needs to move rearward or the collet mounting hole needs to be redrilled closer to the pivot. I originally planned on a new mounting plate slightly longer than original to accommodate the stock JM layout but now I really like the idea of retaining the stock Mustang shape. It's big enough as-is. So I need to redrill the collet mounting hole about 1/2" back.

Another issue is that the bottom two plate mounting screw holes are not accessible with the JM rocker in place so they will have to be relocated out to the sides. And actually, this relocation just might allow the rocker slot to be pushed far enough back that the collet arm can stay where it is but I'll figure that out once I know this thing can work..

And the last issue is the spring preload screw. I used the stock Mustang center plate mounting screw hole for it but it should be about 1/8"-1/4" closer to the bridge. And my plan to rework the bridge will entail moving the lip that holds the screw heads slightly rearward to allow the 4 reversed saddles to be turned around (the issue is that the reversed ones have contact between roller and spring) so the issue will be compounded. I figure this will be solved with a countersunk flathead screw.

If you're still reading and still interested, stay tuned!



I like it!
Some good, smart tinkering going on there.


WOW! Genius idea! Can't wait to see how this comes along.

Thanks a lot for this informative post, Redfeather.

As mentioned in the "workbench" thread, I have a vintage Aria 1803T body missing its trem (and very little hope of finding one). The trem unit, as shown in this pic, is quite similar to the JM one in its principle, but incorporates a roller bridge on the same rectangular baseplate.

Excuse the ignorant question from someone with close to zero experience in metalworking, but how did you cut the slot in the Mustang baseplate ?

Old punks never die... They just become surf rockers.

Thanks guys.

LeeVanCleef, yeah it seems like the JM vibrato got copied a lot over the years. From what I've seen, though, none of them utilize one key element of the Fender design, which is the separate detachable pivot point. The copies seem to always let the vibrato piece just pivot on the forward edge of the slot. I believe Fender used the separate piece so that they could make it of hardened steel for durability. That said, the one your Aria used to have looks nice and effective.

I cut my slot by masking it out with tape, drilling some starter holes through it, and then finished the job off with a small dremel cutting wheel and then touched up with a hand file. It's hardly factory looking. But eventually I'll draft the final design in autocad and have it laser cut from much thicker stainless steel.

Well, it's pretty much done and it's a raging success. I'm stoked! Tonight I finished relocating the collet mounting hole and filing the clearance hole for it in the cover. A new set of 12's, a round on the strobe tuner, and it's off to the races.

The vibrato works perfectly! Even though I'm using the old Mustang arm, which is too small in diameter and not the geometry I want to use ultimately, it still works well enough to get a sense of the action and the action is good. Surfy downbends and upbends all day long. And the part that's novel for a Mustang: it returns to pitch!

I can't believe (well, yes I can) how much better this setup is than the stock one. Curses on that godawful cigar tube debacle! This is how the Mustang should have been built.



Nice job!


Get a Patent Attorney and shop your idea. Then, when it comes to market, I'll buy one. Smile

-Cheers, Clark-

-Less Paul, more Reverb-

Reverbenator wrote:

Get a Patent Attorney and shop your idea. Then, when it comes to market, I'll buy one. Smile

This needs to happen. This idea is way too good to not be shared with the masses.

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