About Us

Self bio of Ray Olsen

The RTO tremolo system from idea to conception.


I was very lucky as a kid growing up. I had an extremely talented gear head for a father. my earliest memories are of Corvettes, flat bottom V-drive boats, flat track and motocross racing motorcycles and some very fast street motorcycles. my father never anything half way. custom built flat track race bikes to flat bottom V-drive big block powered boats. they all had to be the best he could possibly build, damn the cost or time.


looking back, I learned from my father at an early age that you never started a project wondering IF you could do it, but HOW you were going to do it. at age 16 years old I bought my first car; a 1956 Corvette. later I ran across a 1957 Rochester for it's 283ci engine in dire need of a rebuild. some laughed at me. some said it would never run and if I did get it running they told me how bad it would run. I'd never seen one in the flesh before. I bought a reprinted 1957 service manual and proceeded to rebuild the unit all the way from its high pressure fuel pump to surfacing the mating faces of its many vacuum actuated diaphragms. It ran flawlessly when I sold it two years later to buy another Corvette.


I started working at my fathers motorcycle dealer ship when I was twelve. By the time I was seventeen, I was rebuilding complex multi-cylinder pressed together crankshafts. I had no idea I was too young and inexperienced to do them because my dad never told me I was. I worked for my father for sixteen years until we decided to sell our motorcycle dealership. I went from there to working another fifteen years In the motorcycle service industry. my father passed away in 2006. I found myself with a mother who didn't want to move out of her house. a thirty foot high ceiling A-frame home my father designed and built. my father had built a huge basement workshop, complete with a machine shop. I moved out on the family property in May of 2006. I wondered what I was going to do with the rest of my life. the answer came from a counselor I was seeing in 2006. I told her about my lifelong motorcycle addiction that I could not seen to escape yet I was burned out. she asked me if there was ANYTHING else that might interest me?

 "Electric guitars, I used to play years ago." She replied, "I want you to go out and buy one." So I did and the seed was planted. I bought an Epiphone Limited Edition (Flame Cat) that came stock with a Bigsby tremolo. Dissipointed with the Bigsby, I purchased a Floyd Rose equipped guitar. I was just disappointed  but for different reasons. I looked at the other brands from Kahler to Washburn Wonderbar; even looked up there U.S.A. Patents. I started eyeballing my father's milling machine; had not operated one since high school metal shop class thirty-three years ago. I could not understand coming from the highly technical world of motorcycles the mechanical crudeness of both the Bigsby and Floyd Rose. I was going to design my own. 


It had to be a surface mount design and the bridge, hold down roller and tremolo mechanism housed in a common tray for easy retrofit with no need to route out perfectly good wood. I wanted nothing to do with a string locking tremolo with its mini tuners and the locking nut. besides, guitar nut and locking tuner technology had come a very long way. almost two years and a vast array of prototypes. I was starting to understand why nobody had built  anything better. after all, you were taking a perfectly tuned guitar and yanking, stretching, relaxing the strings, and then expecting them all to come back to perfect tune. I was contemplating chalking the whole experience up to just that, an experience, when I decided to me from a compression to an extension spring design. I had been convinced a compression spring was the answer; I was wrong. then it happened. I had a working prototype. I got the "Thumbs up" from my friend Rich at the local music store. a lifelong electric guitarist, better yet a tremolo maestro. He had tried all previous attempts ending in my walking out of the music store and kicking someone's dog. I applied for a provisional patent at "Legal Zoom" in 2008. two years later my patent lawyer submitted all legal documents and a year after that it was awarded a U.S. Patent on it first submission. the month and the year s August 2010. since then I steadily refined the initial design,  machining and assembling them one at a time. The original design I bumped the high e string ratio. I offer this and now have six and twelve string tremolos that stay in "Relative Tune", (Cord Bender), for the majority of their range. Recently I have designed another tremolo to fit inside the spring cavity of a Stratocaster and the goal was Floyd Rose range without the lockers and mini tuners, with better tune stability and easier to adjust and change strings on. 

For descriptions and pricing on all tremolos please click RTO Tremolo