Charvel Bridges
Written by Jim Shine
Charvel offered any bridge by request, and by default they used bridges supplied by Gary Kahler’s Brass Factory. At the very beginning these bridges were heavy brass upgrades of the Fender Stratocaster tremolo. A standout item of these early units is how detailed they are. The inertia blocks are dressed and polished to a fine luster and often are even plated. Base plates are also nicely de-burred and very “clean looking”. There were 2 styles typically found.
Bent- Called this because the tremolo base plate is stamped out to shape.

Bent plate with version 1 key hole saddles.

Milled- Named as such because the base plate was milled from a solid block of brass. The extra mass of brass behind the saddles was called the “rail” and there were three different sizes. Small, medium and large. Charvels typically feature a small sized rail. The grooves in the base plates are called “Tracks”.This style is often referred to as the “Stars Bridge” because a company named Stars bought these from the Gary Kahler and resold them stamped with their own brand name.

Milled base bridge with version 2 key hole saddles.

The style saddles on these bridges is referred to as a “key hole” style because of the round hole with a stem like a key hole. There are two slight variations in the hole style. Version 1 has a slot that faces toward the nut and version 2 faces the opposite direction.
Gary’s shop was producing these tremolos for many brands at the time including, but not limited to: Charvel, Fender, Dimarzio, Stars, Brass Man, Mighty Mite, BC Rich, and Schecter. As demand grew and production increased we see some if the early fine touches disappear. One of the first and most obvious changes was to the inertia block. The blocks were no longer detailed. They had the corners filed off and then was media blasted to de-bur the edges. Base plates had more squared of edges lacking the older hand rounding of edges.
By 1980 the saddles were given a “slotted” style. They are very similar in design to the saddles Fender making for Telecaster Deluxes in the early 70’s. The first version of these saddles are quite a bit longer than usual. It has been said these were redesigned due to issues with intonation.

These saddles didn’t last long and were replaced with the style we all know today as the “standard” Charvel brass “V-trem”.
Just like the early “key hole” bridges, The Brass Factory sold these in 2 1/8” and 2 3/16” spacings. The visual tell tale built into the saddles is saddles with a squared off edge above the intonation screw were 2 1/8”, saddles rounded on both ends was a 2 3/16”

By the early 80’s Gary Kahler’s company was named “American Precision Metalworks”, or APM. He had started development of his Kahler tremolo systems at this time. He was focusing more on those than on his OEM business. There were 2 alternate saddle styles made by APM that can often be found on Charvels.
First are the “bottle” shaped saddles. These are always a narrow spacing.
In the same line are the “Pear” slots, which looks almost like a beaker. These have a tapered cut to the hole and is a visual identifier to denote these are standard spaced saddles. Many of these were sold by Fender under the “Brass Works” line of parts.
Vintage style tremolo tips:
I will quickly mention that during the early 80’s the shape of the tips changed a little. Earlier on the tips were a smooth brass oval made to look very much like a Stratocaster tip. During 1983 the shape became pointier and the tooling was set up differently making the overall appearance very different. This style is what has been reproduced today.

Early tip on top, redesign on bottom.

“Diamond” or “Witch Hat” tips were and are still made by Gotoh. Back at the time Schecter and ESP were selling lots of them. It is unlikely these were factory supplied by Charvel and likely were installed as replacement after leaving the factory.
As Gary began winding down his OEM bridge making to focus on the Kahler line, Grover had to look elsewhere for his standard tremolos. He had already started using Dimarzio steel tremolos on his Holdsworth models. He began using them fairly regularly in 1984. These are essential a reissue of the old Fender Stratocaster tremolo units with full steel construction. Charvels almost always feature a narrow “G” spaced unit. On the tremolo block and base plate one will find a G or F stamp denoting the bridges string spacing.

Non- Tremolos
Most Charvel “hardtails” feature a Brass Works/APM made standard bridge similar to the tremolos offered in the era. That means bent plate, milled plate, and the same saddle style all apply.
On some prepros we see the use of BC Rich “Quadmatic” bridge, which was also manufactured by the Brass Factory.

Locking tremolos:
Due to their custom nature, and thanks to Eddie Van Halen’s exposure of both brands, Charvels have always been available with Floyd Rose tremolos. In the earliest days the tremolos were very hard to obtain. While there may be a couple Charvels made with units actually made by Floyd himself, they are very scarce. It appears that the majority of Charvels were made during the era Fernandes was manufacturing Floyd Rose tremolos. These units are very similar to the ones made by Floyd himself. Especially the earliest units. The two units can be very hard to tell apart. The most obvious items are the labels (when intact), the fact the Floyd made units were never stamped with his brand name, and some finer details of some of the parts. Both units lack a country of origin stamp (except some Fernandes units have “Made in Japan” on the label) and feature non-removable tremolo arms. You will NEVER see “Made in Germany” on one of these units.
Actually made by Floyd unit:

Fernandes made units:

Original Floyd Rose
The Original Floyd Rose hit the market in 1983. Kramer guitars purchased an exclusive license from Floyd Rose for his units. They contacted Schaller in Germany to manufacture a redesigned version of Floyds design with fine tuners (and made briefly by Fernandes). Under this agreement, Kramer had total control over the bridges and they did not sell the units “wholesale” to other manufacturers. The only option outside buying a Kramer was they sold a retail version of the bridge at a very steep price of $300-400.
Because Charvel MFG did not want to say “No”, they now only would install a Floyd Rose tremolo if it was supplied by the customer. One would ship in a Floyd and Charvel would install it. In the earliest days only chrome was available, and even when colors were made available, they were very hard to get due to backorder. Charvel MFG would sometimes convert the chrome system to the desired hardware color. Here is an example of a black powdercoated early chrome Floyd Rose.

Kahler flatmounts:
Grover began selling his friend Gary Kahler’s new “Kahler cam tremolo” units as soon as they were released. Earliest units feature a “Pat Applied” stamp on the rear. Gold units were cleared brass for the first year or so, but by 1985 they were chrome plated and had a gold finish applied.
Units with brass rollers and cams are model #2320 Standard models. Steel rollers and cams are the 2300 “Professional models”. And lastly, units with steels saddles and cams that have a provision for the “palm arm and finger control” are 2310 “Professional models” and sometimes called the “State of the art” model in Kahler catalogs.
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