Best Way To Adjust This Nut For First Parts Build?

Discussion in 'Tele Home Depot' started by Yonatan, May 20, 2019.

  1. Freeman Keller

    Freeman Keller Tele-Afflicted

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    I'll add a couple more comments to the above.

    - I do all my measuring in decimal inches below one inch, usually fractional inches above. I find it so much easier to compare 0.095 to 0.078 (or 0,080) than trying to remember if 5/64 is bigger that 3/32. Metric of course rules, but was born in the old US of A.

    - the handiest tool in my quiver if the StewMac string action gauge - it makes measuring action simple. Its also a decent fret rocker and comes with some pretty reasonable generic setup specifications

    - I always measure the action at the 12th fret (I know lots of electric techs do it farther up the neck). By doing it the same way each time it really doesn't matter if I'm working on a mandolin or a double bass. It also makes the math much easier - to lower the action by X lower the saddle by 2X.

    - I understand which changes affect others and in what order. Changing relief will change the 12th fret action and slightly, the 1st fret action. Changing either of those actions will not affect the relief. Everything effects the intonation, changing the compensation has little or no effect on the others.

    - I also understand string gauges, tension, and tunings. In fact I almost always measure the strings that are on a guitar before I start work - you would be surprised how many players don't know whats on their guitar.

    - And I'll repeat, one more time, actually probably many more times, that before I change ANYTHING I measure EVERYTHING and write it down. Its pretty hard to tell where you are going if you don't know where you are starting

    And I suppose I should repeat that I will do a setup on a guitar with less than perfect frets but it will be a compromise. Why waste the time.
     
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  2. Yonatan

    Yonatan Tele-Meister

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    Thanks for the detailed method, I'm learning so much from this thread! A lot of it seems intuitive (simple physics) that I've never really thought about.

    Are these "first fret action" values with fretting the third fret?
     
  3. Freeman Keller

    Freeman Keller Tele-Afflicted

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    If you really want to understand the physics of a guitar get Mark French's book Technology of the Guitar. It has just enough math to be reasonable, but still explain each of the phenomena. Being an anal engineer I like that approach.

    In my usage "action" is the height of the strings above a given fret. First fret action is just sticking a feeler gauge between the first fret and bottom of the string. Same for 12th fret action. The string is not fretted.

    IMG_4818.JPG
     
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  4. Yonatan

    Yonatan Tele-Meister

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    "0.014, 0.015, 0.016, 0.017, 0.018, 0.018"

    That between 1/64 - 2/64. If one wanted a "medium/high action" setup (4/64, 5/64, etc.), would they still want a low "first fret action?"

    Meaning, when people talk about action, is it mainly referring to what's going on higher up on the neck (as set by the bridge/saddle)? And first fret action is always kept low?
     
  5. Freeman Keller

    Freeman Keller Tele-Afflicted

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    Once again, that depends on the guitar and the player. Most acoustic guitar players never go above the 5th fret - for them being able to make barre chords in the first few positions is critical. For my jazz playing friends, making those diminished 6 chords at the 9th fret is golden, for the shredder down at Guitar Center its the lowest action possible at the 22nd fret.

    I like to watch a player play, I like to look at the wear on her frets. I always listen to what they are saying to me. I often let them play one of my guitars and watch their reaction.

    Setting up by numbers is always a compromise, but its a great way to start. This is actually a pretty fascinating document

    https://www.stewmac.com/How-To/Onli...Setup/How_the_stars_set_up_their_guitars.html

    I couldn't play SRV's guitar, could you?
     
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  6. Freeman Keller

    Freeman Keller Tele-Afflicted

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    As far as nut slot depth - the ideal would always be at or approaching the "zero fret" level - that way the first position would play exactly the same as every other position. Its hard to achieve - you are very close to creating buzzes (you can't just level the nut to the fret plane). There are setup techs who will measure the height of the the frets then stack feeler gauges next to the nut and file the slots down until the file hits the blades. I don't like to do that, for one thing its hard on feeler gauges - my method of having a target for the clearance at 1 AND checking the back fret clearance by fretting at 3 seems to work and I rarely get too low.

    If I'm setting up a strat with light gauge strings I may not take the nut as low as I do on my acoustics - the player won't be down there that much and the strings are floppy enough that its pretty easy to fret. I just want to avoid any rattles.

    One little trick that will teach a new setup person a lot is to measure every guitar you can get your hands on. If your local store will let you, take your feeler gauges and a capo to the store, play a guitar and measure it. Do you like what you feel? Then write it down and try to duplicate it. Do you NOT like what you feel, then avoid it. My humble opinion is that most guitars hanging in a guitar store could use a setup - most of the time the settings are conservatively high. Even if they've been Plek'ed the frets could use a little finessing. Try it and see what you think
     
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  7. Freeman Keller

    Freeman Keller Tele-Afflicted

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    I use those values for almost every acoustic and electric. For "medium/low" action (fingerstyle, most electric players) my 12th fret targets are 0.060 on the high E going up to 0.080 or so on the low E. For "medium/high" action (bluegrass, strumming, rhythm electric) I might go to 0.075 to 0.100 at the 12th fret. I know lots of bluegrass players that want it higher. For slide I might go 0.080 to 0.110 or a hair higher.

    My target for all guitars with good frets is 0.003 to 0.005 relief. I'll let that creep up to 0.010 with marginal frets, anything above that is going to buzz up the neck.
     
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  8. Yonatan

    Yonatan Tele-Meister

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    That helps explain a lot, thanks again for sharing your knowledge and experience.

    When I planned this parts build, I put the whole setup topic into the back of my mind. But now that I have a functional guitar (no finish yet though), I realized that I can't ignore it anymore if I want it to play optimally. Though (if I didn't have to work) I could play it all day just like it is, out of tune first frets an all!
     
  9. Freeman Keller

    Freeman Keller Tele-Afflicted

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    I've been looking thru my gallery of pictures and I think I have enough to do a Basic Setup tutorial sort of thread. A couple of forumites have contacted me privately about this also. Would something like that be helpful?
     
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  10. Ian T

    Ian T Tele-Holic

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    Invest in some nice nut files, they make the job far easier. Assuming you'll be playing guitar for life, these are nice to have around.
     
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  11. Yonatan

    Yonatan Tele-Meister

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    Freeman, that would be great, but please don't do it on my behalf! I work really slowly, get caught up with work and family things etc. for weeks at a time, before making progress on my build.

    Ian, yes, I just need to figure out which kind/sizes/etc. In terms of shipping to Israel, I'm generally limited to eBay sellers who can offer reasonable international shipping, though in some cases Amazon shipping to here is reasonable.
     
  12. Korken

    Korken TDPRI Member

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    Hello Freeman Keller: I came to this thread after receiving an email from TDPRI with “trending threads”. Thank you very much for sharing so much information and the patience to write it very clear. At this moment I need to adjust the nut of an eight string guitar and have the files from StewMac. So I will adapt your instructions to it.
     
  13. telecastasaurus

    telecastasaurus TDPRI Member

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    Two things you need to look at. I would look to see if the neck straight enough to finish the setup and what is the neck angle. You can cut nut slots, raise and lower pickups all you want. It won't help you one bit if your neck is angled down into the body or angled away from the body. I shape the neck pocket with a sanding block that I made. You don't want to shim and create an air space. You want as much neck to body contact as you can get to transfer tone.
    sandblock1.jpg sandblock2.jpg
     
    Last edited: May 24, 2019
  14. sid9170

    sid9170 TDPRI Member

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    Great discussion- lots of useful information. Freeman Keller provides a lot of logical procedures. I have trouble intonating low E between open and 3rd fret. When in tune open, fretted 3rd fret G sounds sharp. This is partly because G chord has the major 3rd (B) on A string, and the ear wants to hear that major third 15-20 cents flat, so the low G is perceived as sharp. But it is actually sharp on tuner. Can you guys tell me if you have this problem, and what you do about it? It seems like a compensated nut could address this, but very few luthiers around here do that (NE Ohio). Thanks
     
  15. Yonatan

    Yonatan Tele-Meister

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    telecastasaurus, thanks for bringing up neck angle (and sharing your pics). I was thinking about neck angle recently, and I don't understand how neck angle really matters, as long as the saddles can be raised/lowered enough. Maybe it slightly changes the "break angle" of the strings over the saddles, or angle of pickups in relation to the strings, but I don't know if that's significant. So is neck angle only a factor when you run out of adjustment on the saddles? Or is there something else at play?
     
    Last edited: May 24, 2019
  16. Freeman Keller

    Freeman Keller Tele-Afflicted

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    That opens the whole subject of our tempered tunings, modern fret locations, string construction and physics and what we expect to hear. The very simple answer is that our method of compensating a string (which we call "intonation") is an attempt to deal with the properties of real strings - most notably the fact that they have stiffness and the fact that as you pull it down to the fret you stretch it. Compensating simply tries to make the string play more in tune.

    The fact that certain notes sound out of tune in a chord has to do with the way we define those notes mathmatically - our so called even tempered scale and the way we locate the frets relative to ratios of notes. It is possible to move frets around so that notes are better in tune for some scales, but they get worse for others. Some people will sweeten their tuning for a particular scale. Its a huge and complex subject and has been vexing guitar builders for ever.

    Compensated nuts are just another way to divide the compensation between both ends of the string, usually the first couple of frets are moved too. Obviously when a string is fretted the nut is out of the picture but compensated nuts can help with open string within a chord.

    Bottom line, our modern music system and our little boxes are compromises

    Guitar geometry, including neck angle, is one of the most important parts of getting it to play well. If (when) I write my little tutorial it will be the very first discussion. Very simply, the correct neck angle allows you to have the maximum range of adjustment of your setup parameters, including allowance for future changes in the guitar. I come from the acoustic world where guitars change with environment and age and its hard to make the sort of adjustments that we take for granted with an electric.

    Gotta write that tutorial....
     
  17. telecastasaurus

    telecastasaurus TDPRI Member

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    If your angle is high (headstock well above the plane of the body) you can get a halfways decent action until around the fifth fret, depending on how high it is. Beyond that you will notice the action rising to an unplayable height. No matter what you do with your nut slots and saddle height, your action will be very high in the deepest part of the "valley". The inverse will occur if your headstock is below the plane of the body. You can raise your saddles up and have a playable action at the butt end of the fret board, but you will need your action very high in the nut. During a new build or a neck replacement, I will remove the bridge and pickups, check the neck deflection, run a straightedge down the center of the fret wires (never on the nut) out over the body and see what I have at the removed bridge locatoin. Ideally your neck and body are parallel and you have to slightly raise you E string saddles and then finish your radius. I like to lower my saddles and have that measurement for this inspection, you can always raise them. At that point I can fit the pocket to work the neck in to a height that I can work with. One more idea (right or wrong) this is what I do. At the nut I radius match the first fret, a little higher on low E than high E by measuring the distance UNDER the strings. On the butt end of the neck I radius the TOP of the strings. That's where you make pick contact, my personal preference setting the saddles according to the top of the strings at your bridge, they don't necessarily have to match at the fingerboard radius. That's where picking feel comes into play. After all you're doing this for you and the optimum way that you play, not to match some spec. You would be surprised how your little fingers can feel a few thousandths difference.
     
    Last edited: May 25, 2019
  18. telecastasaurus

    telecastasaurus TDPRI Member

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    I found it to make the magic happen. I run a low action with a slight amount of back bow, no fret buzz, feels great.
     
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