The FRT-3 replaced the FRT-1. Floyd Rose started his USA “garage-made” FRT-3s in his Seattle, WA shop starting sometime in late 1981. Floyd contracted out to Fernandes Japan to also produce these units from 1982-1985, and they were put on a variety production Fernandes guitars during that time.
A factory in Kyoto, Japan supposedly fabricated the official Japanese units based off wax moldings Mr. Rose sent them (Fernandes was a marketing company and never actually made anything. They contracted out to other factories to create their products). Floyd Rose contracted with Fernandes to make his official units, and this is a fact most people aren’t familiar with.
The Japanese FRT-3 is the first Floyd Rose tremolo to feature the “Floyd Rose” logo on the base plate. It’s a more refined version of the FRT-1 and features a gigantic steel sustain block, T-block inserts, and high quality steel. 1983 was a pivotal year for Floyd Rose, as he was starting to contract out to Schaller Germany, yet still maintained production in Japan. I discuss more of this in the FRT-5 article.
There were prototypes and transitions to the FRT-3, which I will discuss later in this article to avoid confusion. For now, I will discuss the differences between the USA and Japanese Official FRT-3s.
FRT-3 Model Overview
The earliest known official FRT-3s have the following details and common: hot-rolled steel sustain blocks, bent steel base plates, cast steel saddles, early “USA” versions had a stick on the base plate which read “ROSE Tremolos” with the patent number. Japan stickers often had “Floyd Rose” stamped on them with black/red ink with the patent listed. Be aware that some stickers came off over time and there are a few odd-ball variants, but this is the generall common theme.
“USA” FRT-3: had the same base plate as USA FRT-1s. Imperial measurements. Earliest version of the cast saddles, which were likely made in Japan. 1981/1982. Often had a sticker that said “ROSE” tremolo in red or blue ink. Sustain block was slanted and made of hot-rolled steel, but sometimes they featured early Japanese sustain blocks.
Japan No-logo FRT-3: First batch made from Floyd’s wax moldings by Fernandes Japan. Metric measurement. Sustain blocks were hot rolled steel and slanted. Thicker than USA versions. Base plates differ – Intonation screw holes closer to edge, knife edges are stubbier and have shorter points. Same saddles as USA version but more refined. Circa 1982.
Reversed Logo FRT-3: Possibly the first ever batch with the “Floyd Rose” logo on baseplates. Similar to No-logo Japan FRT-3 but with the reversed logo on base plate. The sustain blocks were generally flat on the bottom (and not slanted). Sustain blocks had “Floyd Rose” on them with the patent number in red/black ink. Circa late 1982.
Production Japanese FRT-3: Same as Reversed Logo FRT-3 but with the “Floyd Rose” logo the opposite direction. late 1982-1983 versions had chromed insert blocks. 1984-1985 versions had black insert blocks.
German FRT-3: Often called the NFT (non-fine tuning) Floyd Rose. Made by Schaller Germany when Floyd Rose was contracted with Kramer Guitars. Often seen on Kramer Focus guitars from 1983-1988. This model is still available today but with revisions over the years.
Notable FRT-3 Clones
One key identifying feature of an FRT-3 copy are the “black painted” sustain blocks which are often times made of brass (sometime steel). Furthermore, sometimes the base plate and/or saddles were made of chrome-plated brass, which is likely a cost-saving measure. You need to put a magnet to metal to see if it’s non-magnetic. If so, it’s likely made of brass (and not steel). Also, saddles differ from the official Japanese Floyds.
There were a variety of clones from differing steel factories in Japan during this era. It’s important to realize that some of these factories making the clones probably played some role in developing parts on the real Floyds, which is why you might see similarities in base plates and some parts.
Although we aren’t 100% certain, the following factories were likely involved in created the real and/or cloned FRT-3 Floyds: Takeuchi, Gotoh, and a factory based out of Kyoto, Japan,.
Double Eagle FRT-3 clone. Chrome-plated brass saddles and base plate. Gloss black painted brass sustain block. Made in Japan and base plates likely made at same factory that made the official Floyds. Saddles unknown. Usually had long, plain steel tremolo bars that are chrome plated. One of the earliest known Floyd Rose Clones. Circa late 1982.
Bracchus FRT-3 clone: steel base plate, saddles, and sustain block. Sustain block has gloss black paint like the Double Eagle. Knife edges further back and tail piece is milled and not bent into place. Unknown factory. One of the first Floyd Rose clones ever made. Circa late 1982.
Brian Guitars FRT-3 Clone: Similar to Double Eagle FRT-3 clone but with different saddles. Made of chrome-plated brass. Sustain block is gloss-black painted brass (like DE FRT-3). Also generally has longer, plain steel trem bar. Often found on “Brian” guitars, a Japanese store model brand. Unknown factory. One of the first Floyd Rose clones ever made. Circa late 1982.
ESP FRT-3: Similar and more refined version of the “Bracchus” FRT-3. Often find on custom ESP Navigator models from late 1982 and early 1983. Unknown factory.
USA FRT-3 (1981-1982)
You could buy a USA FRT-3 directly from Floyd Rose’s Seattle, Washington shop from 1981-1982. These USA FRT-3s can be seen on certain USA Charvel guitars as well if the customer requested it.
Mr. Rose sent his FRT-3 wax moldings to Fernandes Japan to start production versions of this unit in the second half of 1982. It’s possible Mr. Rose co-mingled Japanese and USA parts in 1982 once he got shipment of parts (saddles, etc.) from Fernandes.
The USA patent sticker is a tell-tale sign of a USA FRT-3 you could buy from Floyds’ shop in Seattle, Washington. Mr. Rose also sold these at the 1982 NAMM show, which is where the owner bought the red-ink version.
Mill marks on the locking nut.
Flathead “prototype” USA style trem posts. These can be seen on other early USA models.
USA hand-made locking nuts by Floyd Rose were partially milled and seemed to be “offset” on one side and slightly coming off the base.
This USA FRT-3 was sold by Mr. Rose at the 1982 NAMM show. The patent sticker has red ink (instead of blue ink like previous unit).
USA Patent sticker – red ink
Official Japanese FRT-3 (1982-1985)
Mr. Rose would partner with Fernandes and have them fabricate his official FRT-3s. He sent them a wax molding he used for his USA versions, and production would soon start in the second half of 1982. The earliest Japanese FRT-3s were unmarked on the base plate, much like the USA version. Eventually, a “Floyd Rose” logo would be put on the base plate, making it the first ever Floyd Rose unit to feature the iconic logo.
An unbenownst fact to many is that Floyd Rose was contracted with Fernandes all the way until 1985, even when Floyd was working with Kramer guitars and Schaller. There are official Floyds coming out of Schaller Germany and Fernandes Japan starting in 1983. However, Japanese units were not available international, and few of the Japanese units ever left Japan.
Early unmarked Japanese FRT-3, also called Japanese prototype.
^ Production Japanese FRT-3 with logo, in gold, with “Floyd Rose” logo on baseplate.
Early unmarked Japanese slanted sustain block on left. Japanese production FRT-3 sustain block on right.
The unmarked Japanese FRT-3 bridge sports saddles similar to the USA version. In fact, it’s very possible Mr. Rose received shipments of these saddles from Japan and used them on some of his USA versions.
Above is a fully complete Japanese FRT-3 directly from Floyd Rose, evidence that Mr. Rose sold the Fernandes version and/or mixed parts with the USA versions starting sometime in 1982.
Photos courtesy of Scott Dunham.
Japanese Fernandes FRT-3 signed by Mr. Rose.
Above you see an unused Fernandes locking nut with the #2 (R2) sticker still in tact.
The Japanese FRT-3s have a different patent sticker than the USA versions. These ones say “Floyd Rose” on the sticker, as compared to “ROSE” on the USA versions.
The Japanese production “humpback” locking nuts were made of cast and often featured the numbers “4805” on the back.
Japanese stud posts often generally (but not always) had a phillips screw heads, as compared to the thicker flat-head screws for early USA stud posts. All Floyd Roses, Japanese and German until 1985ish, had screw-in tremolo posts. These were replaced by the thread-in style we see today. This was probably due to the fact that these screw-in posts were hard to adjust and didn’t work well with soft woods, often moving forward with the tension of the strings (over time). That being said, some Floyd fanatics still prefer these screw in posts.
Above is a picture from the 1983 Fernandes catalog. The FRT-3 is top right and bottom left. Although this is the first time it’s shown in a catalog, it was being produced in late 1982.
Brad Gillis of Night Ranger was a huge proponent of the FRT-3 and even preferred it over the later fine tuner versions. Brad Gillis’ Fernandes guitar is a copy of his 1962 stratocaster he used on tour. Brad also had an FRT-1 on it. He still uses the FRT-3 to this day.
Although artists such as Eddie Van Halen and many others wanted the fine tuning versions, the FRT-3’s design is preferred by some simply because it lacks the fine tuners which would obstruct certain playing styles.
A “modern” Brad Gillis playing his signature Fernandes. Cara Guitars can remake this guitar with incredible stainless steel saddles.
For years, many people thought Eddie Van Halen played an FRT-3 on this guitar, but it’s actually an FRT-1. I’ve never found a photo of Eddie playing an FRT-3.
Vinnie Vincent of KISS was also an early user of the FRT-3 and featured it on most of his guitars. Here you can see it on his Jackson V guitar, but it was also on his Carvin (and possibly Washburn) signature.
Above is Vinnie during his “Vinnie Vincent Invasion” band (after KISS stint) where he plays an FRT-3 on his Carvin guitar. In specifics shots, you can see Vinnie’s rare unreleased Washburn signature with a gold FRT-3.
Above you see Vinnie’s chrome FRT-3 on his Carvin guitar. Vinnie’s FRT-3 has the “Floyd Rose” logo on it, which indicates it’s a production unit (and not a prototype).
Here is a recent photo of Vinnie in 2019 still playing an FRT-3 on his Carvin guitar. Like Brad Gillis, Vinnie perhaps prefers the non-fine tuning versions simply because they lack fine tuners.
Above is Vinnie with his Jackson VV guitar and FRT-3.
Here is Brad Gillis on the cover of the 1985 Fernandes Catalog with his signature guitar, and this is the final year you’ll see the Japanese official FRT-3 on any guitars or catalogs.
Brad still plays a Fernandes ST-155BG to this day which looks to have a chrome FRT-3 on it (above). It’s possible Brad put on an FRT-1, but it’s difficult to see.
Above are JS series guitars in the ’85 catalog with the FRT-3.
Above is an FRT-3 Japanese advertise in some magazine. Notice the picture of Floyd Rose on bottom of ad.
Above is Floyd in Japan. July 16, 1982. Interview published in Rockin’ September issue 1982 (probably published mid-late August). Thanks for Jon L. for the pictures. If any Japanese readers want to translate this, please let me know!
And alas, here is an ’85 catalog picture featuring the FRT-3 and German Schaller FRT-5, soon confirming the end of the Japanese Floyd Rose relationship. The FRT-3 will be redesigned and live on in Schaller Germany, however. Before we discuss the German FRT-3, it’s important to discuss some features of the Japanese FRT-3.
In-Depth Model Analysis and Identification
DISCLAIMER: Most of this information may not be 100% accurate because Floyd Rose himself has never discussed the Japanese era in detail (or ever). This is an accumulation of evidence-based research from myself and other vintage Floyd Rose experts. Some of this information may change as time goes on. If you have any information to add on these pages, please email me.
The FRT-3s are the most confusing because there seems to be multiple variations. Many people call all FRT-3s “prototypes” when in fact they are simply production versions. The FRT-3, in fact, was in full production for three years. Most people don’t realize Japan was an official contractor of Floyd Rose production from 1981-1984ish. For some reason, this vitally important era has been lost from the history books.
“USA” FRT-3: Circa 1981/1982
The “USA” is in parenthesis because the unit itself is likely not 100% made in the USA. It’s seems that the saddles were in fact made in Japan. Furthermore, there is evidence that Mr. Rose mixed USA and Japan parts together during 1982. However, here are some methods of identifying a unit that possesses USA features:
Patent Sticker/Sustain block. USA FRT-3s often possessed the stickers above, usually in red or blue ink. It seems the blue ink is more rare. The sustain blocks are made of hot-rolled steel, and black mill scale is present on most of them. Note: Some USA FRT-3s had the thicker Japanese sustain block on them, usually the earlier slanted version.
Base plate: The bass side knife edge often has a pointer “edge” when compared to Japanese base plates. Also, the intonation screw holes are further back than Japanese FRT-3 base plates. These base plates are the same as the USA FRT-1 plates and are believed to have been made in Floyd Rose’s own basement in Seattle.
Imperial Measurements. The threading for screws are imperial (USA, inches) and not metric like the Japanese FRT-3 screws. The
Brass Lock bolt hex screw: USA FRT-3s tend to have brass hex bolts for changing intonatation. Japanese hex bolts were stainless steel.
Casting mark on saddle. Although the saddles are likely made in Japan, the earliest style of this saddle has a visible “hump” outline from the casting process. Fernandes Japan refined their casting process, and these lines aren’t visible in later FRT-3 models.
Above is the exact same style but in gold. This person claims they got this directly from Floyd Rose’s shop in the USA. They actually made the thin plating of actual gold(!), from what others claim. Notice you can see the rather rough texture on unit, which resembles a rather rough casting process which most FRT-3s were made of.
No Logo Japanese FRT-3, 1st generation: A.K.A. Japanese Prototype FRT-3
This is a Japanese “prototype” FRT-3 that was supposedly made from a Floyd’s lost wax tooling in Japan according to one person who contacted Floyd Rose with questions (more below) regarding this FRT-3 style. It features no Floyd logo, has thinner chrome-plated insert blocks, and features an extremely rare end-slanted sustain block. This is what one seller claimed about this proto style FRT-3 when asking the Floyd Rose marketing department:
“I called and was transferred to the President of Marketing and he asked me to send photo’s. He’s obviously a busy guy, so took a few weeks & he got back to me. The following is the main text/body of his reply and I will forward the actual e-mail in it’s entirety to the next owner:
Hi Mike Sorry for my delay as I have been very tied up..
After the review of the photos…
This was definitely made by Floyd. It’s not one of the original machined ones, however they are one of the ones made off of the lost wax tooling that he made. This tooling was sent to Japan later and they took over manufacture of this type of tremolo. But I can tell by the sanding marks Floyd made this one.
I hope this helps.
So, according this this person, this was made from lost wax tooling by Floyd Himself. That being said, none of this has been completely confirmed.
Identification: When compared to the USA version, this has some differences: shorter knife edge point on the bass side, intonation screw holes closer to edge of bass plate, Japanese sticker on sustain block, metric threads, and stainless steel hex bolts on locking screws. However, the saddles are the same.
This style also features an extremely rare end-slanted steel sustain block as you see here. The production FRT-3s did not have the slant – they were flat. This one does have a patent sticker on it.
Reversed logo Fernandes/Japan FRT-3. The first Floyd logo on base plate?
These are nearly identical to the production Fernandes/Japan FRT-3s but have the logo on the base plate reversed. It’s either a mistake batch or possibly the first ever with the “Floyd Rose” logo on the base plate. We may never know.
Production FRT-3 (Fernandes/Japan)
The 2nd half of 1982 saw the rise and production step forward in Fernandes Japan for their premier non-fine tuning model. They implemented this until on many of their guitars until 1985. The earliest production versions had chrome/gold insert blocks. Starting in 1984, the insert blocks were. black.
PRODUCTION VERSION #1: FRT-3s that have the “Floyd Rose” logo generally are production models. I believe ones with chrome inserts blocks, as pictured here, are from the earliest production run. This is assumed because most of the FRT-1s and prototype FRT-3s had chrome insert blocks.
PRODUCTION VERSION #2: This production version is the same as the last but has black insert blocks instead of chrome. I believe this was typical of Japanese FRT-3s made from 1984-1985, but nothing is certain.
The death of the Japanese Official FRT-3 coincided with the new Kramer Guitars deal in 1983. Fernandes Japan still created official Floyd Roses until the end of 1985 and also sold Schaller-made FRT-5s near the end of this.
For some reason, which perhaps we may never know, Floyd Rose decided to move production to Schaller Germany (I discuss more of this in the FRT-5 article). Rumors say that Germany did not have as many restrictions on chromium, which may have played a part in the move. From here, Schaller made their own version of the FRT-3, which was rather different than its Japanese cousin.
Overall, the Fernandes Japan FRT-3 was an amazing non-fine tuning tremolo. The massive steel sustain block paired with the high quality steel plates made them tone machines that will last generations.
The German Schaller made FRT-3 was made sometime in 1983ish and is rather different than the Fernandes Japanese version. These did not have T insert blocks but instead had the modern “square” style that fall out. This is the first run of the design. Released in 1983. The sustain block is brass and chrome plated, and there is no US Patent stamp – making it a 1983. It has a 42mm sustain block.
Later versions of this German FRT-3 varied in regards to the sustain block and slight difference in the saddles, but the German FRT-3 looks very similar today.
The German Schaller FRT-3 was mainly put on lower-end Kramer models such as the Focus and Striker series, a far cry from its Fernandes Japan reign in late 1982 when it was considered an expensive, prestigious model played only by the highest class musicians.
Part of this reason is because the German Schaller FRT-5 was exploding in the USA in late 1983-1984 and was the flagship model. The FRT-3 without fine tuners, I’d imagine, was slightly cheaper to produce. Also, artists (EVH and others), were complaining that non-fine tuning Floyds were a hassle to tune once clamped, due to the nature of the strings going slightly sharp or flat once clamped.
The original Floyd Rose FRT-1 prototypes did not have this issue because Floyd could make the locking nuts within tolerances of 1/1000th of an inch. This wasn’t possible with full production. Hence, the invention of fine tuners. All in all, as mentioned before, many famous musicians still preferred the FRT-3 design when the more popular FRT-5 was the king in town.
CLONES: Double Eagle FRT-3 Clone
These tremolos are possibly the very first Floyd Rose clones to exist and likely made in Japan by “Double Eagle” which was a Japanese parts maker that sold aftermarket in the USA. They are also responsible for creating the first FRT-4 clones. There is a strong likelyhood the company utilized the same factories that created the official Floyd units. While there are similarities in the base plate and bolts, there are some significant changes in them, mainly being that these are made of chrome-plated brass, which was likely a huge cost-saving measure (much softer and easier to mill than steel).
The tremolo above supposedly came off a Mastumoku Washburn Falcon.
Above is another pair of slanted brass sustain-block versions.
CLONES: Brian Guitars FRT-3 Clone
The “Brian” FRT-3 clone is called such because this style is often seen on “Brian” guitars, a Japanese store model guitar company. Like the Double Eagle FRT-3 clone, this also has brass-plated steel saddles and base plate. It also features the same gloss black painted sustain block. A distinguishing feature of this tremolo are the longer and deeper “oval” recess on the saddles. Furthermore, there isn’t a “hump” on the saddles like some of the Double Eagle versions.
(TRANSLATION) *The best-selling Chewsapo sold only by Alex ●Freud Rose Model Tuning Supporter Special Price ¥15,000 (Silver/Gold)*
Thanks to Jon L. for the photos and information.
This is an ad from the “Alex store” in Japan selling this version for 15,000 yen, which is 1/3 the price of an official Floyd Rose. Notice the Brian guitar above that copies the EVH Frankenstein.
This mysterious FRT-3 variant may possibly be one of the very first non-fine tuning copy of a Floyd Rose. They are seen on “Brian” guitars which are Japanese store models. Many Japanese guitar stores assembled their own guitars from various parts and created their own guitar line. This FRT-3 clone/variant was seen on these Brian guitar store models from 1982.
Notice how the saddles are beveled by the insert blocks like some previously mentioned variants, but they lack the “humpback” on the saddle like the other variants. Furthermore, the intonation bolts are different than the standard FRT-3.
Another Brian guitar with the FRT-3 variant. The pots on this guitar date it at 1982.
Gallery of a Japanese “Brian” guitar.
CLONES: Bracchus FRT-3 Clone
Here is a Japanese ad showing multiple different FRT-3 clones. The top left is a real Floyd Rose FRT-3. The others seem to be of the Argus and Tokai brand names. Thanks to Jon L. for the photo and information.
Another example of a Bracchus FRT-3. This one doesn’t have the front bevel under the sustain block like the black one.
A reader sent in this very rare “ESP” Floyd Rose FRT-3, which possibly signals the relationship starting with Kramer guitars. ESP would also make the “Magician” FRT-5 style bridge, the very first FRT-5 clone ever made.
Above is a relatively rare ESP Navigator Steve Lukather model an ESP FRT-3 variant similar to the ESP Mighty Vise. Steve Lukather was very popular in Japan during the 1980s, and there are many store models that look similar to this.
All Japanese Floyds from 1983-1989 had “humpback saddles”. They have a slight half-circle rounded where the screws press down. All Schaller Floyds have a more “V” indentation. The only non-Japanese Floyd that had these humpback saddles was the USA FRT-5 “Whale Tail” used on Eddie Van Halen’s 5150.
Above is the back of the nut which shows no number. This is probably a prototype or very early run nut. Most Japanese humpback saddle nuts of this time had a “4508” number stamped on the back.
The FRT-3 also had the T-block inserts like the FRT-1. The “T’ part held the block in place and wouldn’t fall out. This is a design I wish they still incorporated on all Floyd tremolos.
All Floyd Roses, Japanese and German until 1985ish, had screw-in tremolo posts. These were replaced by the thread-in style we see today. This was probably due to the fact that these screw-in posts were hard to adjust and didn’t work well with soft woods, often moving forward with the tension of the strings (over time). That being said, some Floyd fanatics still prefer these screw in posts.
After the mid-1980s, it seemed the FRT-3 disappeared for about 30 years (literally). No one wanted the non-fine tuning locking tremolos. They were considered an obsolete relic only discussed as an “early” model before the modern FRT-5. And again, no one even knew about the Japanese productions before the German counterpart. That is, until the invention of locking tuners and a high profile youtube guitarist, Guthrie Govan.
Much like Brad Gillis of Night Ranger, Govan prefers the FRT-3 for his playing style. Fine tuners get in his way. Furthermore, the invention of locking tuners lessens the requirement of a locking nut (and hence, don’t need to worry about tunings going flat or sharp once the locking nuts are clamped…because there are none). The German Schaller FRT-3 had varied sustain blocks and saddles as you see on the Charvel Govan model, but it has been relatively similar for most of those years.
So there you have it. Once the king of locking tremolos in the early 80s, then banished from oblivion for 30 years, and now a sought after tremolo in 2020 used on modern custom shop guitars. Who would have thought a non-fine tuning tremolo invented in 1979 would still be as pivotal in guitars today?
Well now, why did exiling of the FRT-3 begin, you might ask? Well, it didn’t start with the modern FRT-5 style as you would think. It started with with Eddie Van Halen being annoyed with the FRT-3 and essentially Floyd Rose creating an even more important lost relic, the FRT-4.
Above is a video I made on youtube going over many of these details I discussed. I’ve since found new information, which I updated on this website.