Bridge problem with saddle height screws

Discussion in 'Tele-Technical' started by SStudio, Apr 2, 2014.

  1. SStudio

    SStudio TDPRI Member

    Apr 2, 2014
    I have one Tele that is a 96 MIJ that I have a love/hate relationship with. The most recent issue I've addressed is this...

    The guitar has a six saddle bridge. In order to intonate the strings (10 gauge) some of the saddles seem to have to go back further than the design will allow. Either the saddle height screws fall into the recessed bridge mount screws (a mess), or the saddle length screw bottoms out and pinches the string. Or in the case of the low E, both.

    What is up with this? Is this an issue with 6 saddle Tele bridges in general? Am I over looking something? Seems like such a stupid issue for a decent, mid grade Fender.

    As a temporary solution, I've taken some shorter saddle length screws from another bridge and created a thin metal plate, about the size of a credit card that goes under the saddles and covers the bridge mount screws. This is working, but looks a little silly.
  2. _dave_

    _dave_ Tele-Meister

    Nov 10, 2013
    Southern California
    Hi and welcome to the forum!

    My gut tells my you may have your strings too high, also may need to adjust your neck angle and possibly truss rod. Others may correct me if I'm wrong.

    I'm not an expert, but IMHO, setting up a guitar is done as a group. What I mean is, intonation, string gauge, tuners, nut, neck relief, neck angle, and saddle height, etc... can all have some effect on each other. If one part of the equation is changed, something else could also be affected or could affect other areas of the guitar setup.
    If I'm ever having an issue that doesn't resolve easily, I usually do a complete setup and adjust everything as I go along.

    Weather, playing and other factors can throw a guitar out of whack without realizing it.

    Here is the link to the Fender Telecaster Setup Guide in case you might need it.

    Hope this helps.
  3. Vizcaster

    Vizcaster Friend of Leo's

    Sep 15, 2007
    Glen Head, NY
    If you need an unusual amount of compensation (you need to move the saddles further back away from the neck) then you might have very high action and are stretching the strings a lot when fretting them. Intonation is the last thing to do in a setup.

    Another possibility is if you've got jumbo frets and maybe are being a little overzealous fretting at the 12th when checking the intonation - I hate tall frets because you can easily squeeze the note out of tune.

    Last thing that occurs to me is that it might be that particular pack of strings (some brands are notorious for inconsistency in this regard, I won't mention names because I've never had a problem this way unless the string is damaged). So, out of the blue I'll just ask, "You're not using DR strings, are you?"
  4. FallsRockShop

    FallsRockShop Tele-Holic Vendor Member

    Jan 16, 2014
    Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio
    It could be any one of a number of things. I'd start with neck relief, then check nut action, then overall string action at the 17th fret. If you still can't get the low e to intonate properly, you can remove the spring from the saddle adjustment and get a few more mms of adjustment out of it.

    Hope that helps!
  5. SStudio

    SStudio TDPRI Member

    Apr 2, 2014
    Thanks all! This has been driving me nuts and I haven't been able to find anything online regarding this issue. I'm pretty comfortable with setting up the bridge and adjusting the truss rod (by removing the neck in this case : X ) The neck is currently dead straight, with a hair of relief. Nut seems okay. Frets are not worn. I do wish I could get the action a little lower without fretting out up above the 15th. Other than that the guitar plays oaky currently and is intonated with the shim that I made to cover the bridge mount screw holes. The low E saddle is pulled all the way back.

    Im thinking that maybe I should try a shim under the neck to pull the angle back a little. Thats one thing I haven't thought of or had to do on any of my other guitars. Is fretting out above the 15th on a straight neck a reason the think the neck angle should be pulled back? I understand that the bridge will need to be totally readjusted.

    Is there a thread about shimming under the neck, or any idea about what material/thickness I could use?

    Here are a couple of pics...
  6. SStudio

    SStudio TDPRI Member

    Apr 2, 2014
  7. SStudio

    SStudio TDPRI Member

    Apr 2, 2014
    Ok, so I read up on shimming and went ahead and made a shim out of a Formica swatch that I sanded into a wedge. I removed the goofy metal place under the saddles and reset the bridge. Huge difference. Having the saddles high up has changed the sound and feel of the guitar greatly. Feels and sounds more like a Telecaster now, rather than vague and dead sounding as it has since I've owned it. The intonation is making sense now. The frets above 12 need to be leveled to get the action down a bit more, but I am getting a glimpse of its potential for the first time. Thanks for your input all... case closed!
  8. boris bubbanov

    boris bubbanov Telefied Ad Free Member

    Glad you got a good result.

    But for the benefit of others, can you provide us with a picture of the net result?

  9. SStudio

    SStudio TDPRI Member

    Apr 2, 2014

    About a week after my last post I went ahead and took the guitar in for a total refret job. Increased the size from partially worn stock vintage to medium jumbo (ish). The luthier kept my shim in place and said the guitar setup better with it in. He also leveled the fretboard a bit around the 15th-17th. The guitar feels really nice now, finally hitting its full potential and should play great for a decade or so. I'm pretty easy on the fret wear.

    Since I went ahead and overhauled the frets and neck, a pic isn't going to be accurate in showing what the shim accomplished. I would summarize what I learned as this...

    A tapered shim can be used to pull back the neck angle which allows the bridge saddles to sit higher up and a little further forward (when intonation is set). The extra downward string pressure on bridge seems to enhance the feel and tone slightly and in my case offset any possible negative effects of adding a shim.
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