Swapping an Ibanez LoPro Edge for an OFR
Ask ten metal guitarists what their favorite trem is, and you'll probably get ten different answers. Well, maybe not quite that many, but there's quite a diversity of high quality trem systems on the market, each with their own strengths and weaknesses, supporters and critics. Sometimes (especially here on the 'net) the discussion of the relative merits of each can get quite heated. So, let's open with a disclaimer; I didn't swap an Ibanez LoPro Edge for an Original Floyd Rose because I found the Edge somehow deficient or vice versa. Rather, my Universe is now old enough that in certain states of the Union I could marry it given a somewhat open-minded justice of the peace, and over a long and hard life both its previous owners and myself have absolutely destroyed the thing. In short, it's a trem that was on its last legs, and an OFR was cheaper than a replacement LoPro.
That said, behold the patient, etherized upon the table:
I couldn't find anyone who'd ever swapped a LoPro for an OFR at the time I ordered it, so I was kind of taking a chance. For those of you who believe in doing their homework, you can take the very existence of this guitar as evidence an OFR drops neatly into an old square-joint Universe, and for all other makes and models the below measurements will probably help:
Ibanez Universe (pre-'98) Trem Route
- Depth (front to back): 3 5/8"
- Depth (shoulders): 1 13/16"
- Width (shoulders): 4 1/8"
- Width (back) 3 3/8"
Original Floyd Rose 7 Dimensions
- Length (front to back, intonated): 2 15/16"
- Length (shoulders): 1 1/2"
- Width (shoulders): 4"
- Width (treble saddle to shoulder): 5/8"
- Width (bass saddle to shoulder) 3/8"
The slight asymmetry relative to an Edge is worth watching out for, but more on that later. Aside from that, it's worth noting that to allow proper range for intonation (and to make your life a hell of a lot easier while changing strings, you want a trem cavity that can take a trem that, when seated on its' saddles, has at least 3" of room routed out behind it.
However, the most important thing you need, before you begin operating?
Only pinko commie scum doesn't like hops-y beer, and Harpoon is of course Boston's finest.
Anyway, first thing's first - pull the old trem out. If you want you can start snipping off strings and go from there, but Rich Harris over at Ibanez Rules got me started simply popping off the springs in the back ages ago, to pop out the trem without removing the strings. For trem adjustments or a quick fretboard clean, this can save you hours.
Also note the Tremol-No installed in this thing. I may be biased as I've been using one of these since beta testing, but, well, I've been using one of these since beta testing. Aside from all the obvious perks from a playing standpoint, this too is going to save you hours while doing tech work. All my trem-equipped guitars have one.
Anyway, the springs are out, and the bridge is leaning forward in the body. I think I snapped this shot mostly to show just how funky the old trem was:
Worn, rusted, pitted, and generally haggard. Really what did it in though was the metal around the arm holder had rusted to the point where it simply started flaking away. I replaced the holder and Lock-tited the shit out of it, but the problem was mostly with the body and not the arm holder, which meant it was new trem time.
Anyway, a quick unbolting of the strings, and she's clear. Time for the test fit.
Like I said, I hadn't found measurements before I decided to chance it, so my order was mostly based on eyeballing a whole bunch of pictures on the net. Thankfully, it fit like a charm. Photo credits to my roommate Liz here, as I sadly am not blessed with a third arm (think of the tapped runs...).
The nut, however, was a different story. While there was nothing wrong with the Ibanez nut on the guitar, I'd originally planned to swap it simply to keep the guitar color coordinated, and then eventually toss on a chrome set of tuning machines.
Such was not to be the case, however. The stock Ibanez nut was already slightly off center toward the bass side (I have no idea why, but I suspect it came from the factory like this), and the replacement nut was even more so. I strung it up like this just in case, but it was a little too far off center for me to be really confident on - the low B string was right up against the edge of the fretboard. I've talked to a few people since, who've told me this problem is not uncommon. So, keep this in mind if you're swapping your bridge - you may need to hold on to your original nut.
Anyway, time to start stringing up. Notice I kept the old Ibanez trem studs, as well - there were two reasons for this. The first is that they're threaded differently, so I'd have had to re-sink the things, which was both more than I was in the mood for and a little more than I was comfortable doing to an old, beat-up, and much-beloved player. The second was that one of the real strengths of the Ibanez Edge design is the locking studs - there's an internal set screw that immobilizes the studs, improving tuning stability and reducing the risk of ovaling.
Once I get the trem roughly dialed in, it's time for two things. One, another beer:
One of the fun things about Magic Hat Brewery, up in South Burlington, Vt., is they put all these dorky little rhymes under their bottle caps (the other is that it's just exceptionally good beer). Anyway, if you were in doubt, life is not, in fact, a dress rehearsal.
The other thing it's time for is while I forgot to take a picture, as I'm tuning up it quickly becomes apparent that even once I have the bridge flat again, the neck relief is going to be a little sharp. So, I quickly pop the springs off the back of the bridge, pull out the trem, and unscrew the neck, to partially de-shim the neck.
I'm kind of of the belief that Ibanez ships their guitars with a little too little neck relief. This is obviously personal taste, but I've never owned an Ibanez that didn't play better after I put a slight shim in the neck pocket to increase the neck angle, allowing me to raise the bridge a touch for better pull-up without having the action get out of control at the top of the neck. Others may disagree, but ultimately this is the real benefit of learning to do your own tech work - do it long enough and you'll begin to get a very good sense of how you like a guitar to play, and how you can tweak it to get it closer to your ideal. It really varies a lot from person to person.
Anyway, before - two little sheets of cardboard:
After - one:
From that, it's just a quick matter of tuning her up, and adjusting the string tension in the back until it has a nice, level float, about even with the top of the guitar, when tuned to pitch, like so:
...and that's about it. Not shown is the fact that the bridge got awfully close to the treble side of the trem route, to the point where it rubbed slightly on pullback. So, the evening after I swapped the trems, I pulled the trem back out and gave the edge of the body a few light passes with a file, basically just enough to strip the finish. That was all it took to get smooth pullback.
So, for a parting shot, behold the old trem in all its rusty glory: