First thing to adjust to lower action?

radiocaster

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I usually do the bridge, then truss rod, then bridge again.

I could skip the first step. Sometimes need to detune the guitar to mess with the bridge height.
 

adjason

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this is pretty rare but I have run into some guitars with a rising hump- which means the action is real high near the bridge. I hope you do not have this problem. adjust the truss rod and then put a straight edge on the neck and you will know
 

2HBStrat

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So I've had a Classic Player Triple Telecaster stored in it's case for several years and felt the need to play her and decide if I want to keep it or sell it and buy something else.

After years in storage she needs the action adjusted. The strings look to be too high off the fretboard and gets more-so as you go higher up the upper neck.

But which do I adjust first, string height at the bridge, truss-rod, or possibly shim the neck?
Truss rod first, if needed. Then the saddles. Then a shim if absolutely necessary.
 

Ricky D.

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Total respect for the knowledge and ability of those who posted before me. Peegoo in particular has a very attractive analysis.

However, I’m going to disagree a little.

if it was mine, I would try adjusting the saddles first. Might be all you need. Truss rod next.

I can do a decent setup, but if I do my best and then hand it off to a real pro, it comes back better than I can do.
 

Boreas

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Assuming the guitar's setup was fine when it was stored, the only thing that's going to move (and increase the strings' distance from the frets) is the neck having flexed into an up-bow condition. Think about it this way: the bridge saddles and the nut are not going to grow any taller while the guitar is asleep. Unless something like the neck screws letting go occurs, it will always be the truss rod that needs a tweak.

The distance from the frets' tops to the strings remains generally consistant between the highest fret and about the 13th or 14th fret on most guitars. There is often a slight increase as you continue up the neck, but it's not something you can easily see simply by eyeballing it.

Another thing to consider is when pulling an instrument out of "storage" that one allows the instrument to simply adapt to the world above ground for a while. If it was good when it was stored, if you bring it to the same temp and humidity, any changes in the neck will likely return to the previous setup. Before jumping into setting up an instrument coming out of hibernation, give it a chance to breathe fresh air for a while. Play it as-is for a week and see what happens.
 

Peegoo

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I usually do the bridge, then truss rod, then bridge again.

I could skip the first step. Sometimes need to detune the guitar to mess with the bridge height.

That's the thing about properly doing a setup: making a change to one of the factors (truss rod, nut slots, bridge saddles' height, string gauge) will affect parameters of the other factors. For example, lowering the saddles often decreases relief (neck profile).

When doing a setup, there's a logical sequence of events to follow. And when finished, you step through that same sequence again (or perhaps even three times) to 'sneak up' on the ideal geometry for a specific guitar and specific player.
 

Boreas

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That's the thing about properly doing a setup: making a change to one of the factors (truss rod, nut slots, bridge saddles' height, string gauge) will affect parameters of the other factors. For example, lowering the saddles often decreases relief (neck profile).

When doing a setup, there's a logical sequence of events to follow. And when finished, you step through that same sequence again (or perhaps even three times) to 'sneak up' on the ideal geometry for a specific guitar and specific player.

Indeed - that is why a setup is a step-by-step SEQUENCE and not just randomly tweaking stuff that can effect your action. Get the sequence wrong, and you will likely be running in circles. Again, check out the sequence described by Freeman and others. With a new (to me) instrument, I start with making sure the neck angle is correct. But if you took a perfectly set-up solid-body instrument, threw it in a case for several years, and pulled it back out, the typical things that can actually change is the string tension (weaker) and the neck relief. But if your saddles are way high or decked, start with analyzing the neck angle.
 

Night Prowler

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You guys are great and very helpful. Thanks everyone for your advice.

I just wanted to mention that the guitar was an impulse buy back when they were blowing these out at clearance prices from an online retailer (Adorama I believe).

I don't recall what the setup was when I got it but I thought it was a cool guitar so I kept it. But it probably needed a setup back then.

So I checked the relief of the neck and it's very slight. Like almost perfectly flat with an ever-so minor gap at the seventh fret after placing a capo on 1st and fretting the 17th. So I'm going to leave the truss-rod as it is for now.

The good news is there's plenty of adjustment available at the saddles. The bridge on this guitar is the standard three brass barrel bridge, with small standard adjustment screw near the edges of each barrel. And there's definitely a curvature to the barrels respective to each other to match the curvature of the neck radius.

The saddles are pretty jacked up so I'm going to lower the action and then re-tune. Just wanted to ask if y'all have any tips on how to keep the curvature close to what it is now when lowering the saddles?
 
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Freeman Keller

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You guys are great and very helpful. Thanks everyone for your advice.

I'm curious - did you happen to read the link in post #17? I can't add any more to that other than to say that if you follow those steps in the order given your guitar will play very well.

I'll add that we are working on a down loadable version of that link that will simply be all the instructions in a Word or pdf document. You can print it out and take it out to the shop any time you want to work on a guitar. Right now I could send it to you as an attachment to an e-mail.
 

Wyzsard

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The process is:
-nut slots (fret 3rd and check gap at 1st)
-truss rod (fret first and 17, 19, last depending on who you believe) and measure at the 12th or 7th again depending on who you believe.
-saddle heights.
Yep, if you don't start with action at the nut, you are wasting your time.
 

radiocaster

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That's the thing about properly doing a setup: making a change to one of the factors (truss rod, nut slots, bridge saddles' height, string gauge) will affect parameters of the other factors. For example, lowering the saddles often decreases relief (neck profile).

When doing a setup, there's a logical sequence of events to follow. And when finished, you step through that same sequence again (or perhaps even three times) to 'sneak up' on the ideal geometry for a specific guitar and specific player.
Yup, and sometimes I have to raise the action a bit, either because I got it too low for my tastes, or the neck is kind of crappy and it buzzes but just a bit higher it doesn't.

I've never had anything to do with a stock nut, they're never too high and sometimes (very rarely though) too low for me. I did have a guitar with a nut cut too high and badly, but it was not stock.
 

moosie

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I'm curious - did you happen to read the link in post #17? I can't add any more to that other than to say that if you follow those steps in the order given your guitar will play very well.

I'll add that we are working on a down loadable version of that link that will simply be all the instructions in a Word or pdf document. You can print it out and take it out to the shop any time you want to work on a guitar. Right now I could send it to you as an attachment to an e-mail.

Has anyone asked if @Freeman Keller's setup guide could be made a sticky? Much better than having to search - which implies you already know it exists, and who wrote it.
 

hank57

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So I've had a Classic Player Triple Telecaster stored in it's case for several years and felt the need to play her and decide if I want to keep it or sell it and buy something else.

After years in storage she needs the action adjusted. The strings look to be too high off the fretboard and gets more-so as you go higher up the upper neck.

But which do I adjust first, string height at the bridge, truss-rod, or possibly shim the neck?
 

hank57

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So I've had a Classic Player Triple Telecaster stored in it's case for several years and felt the need to play her and decide if I want to keep it or sell it and buy something else.

After years in storage she needs the action adjusted. The strings look to be too high off the fretboard and gets more-so as you go higher up the upper neck.

But which do I adjust first, string height at the bridge, truss-rod, or possibly shim the neck?
Adjust the truss rod first. Obviously, some bow in the neck has occurred while the guitar has been in storage
 

comfortcove

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If you can level, crown and dress the frets yourself, or have a tech to do it, that's where you start.

Tighten the truss rod so it's ruler flat with the strings removed, make sure there are no twists or bows in it, then crank it by another 1/4 turn. A very tiniest back-bow will help make the 10th to 16th frets buzz free.

get a 10"-12" Single cut bastard file, and 'plane' the frets until everything is as flat as can be, and evenly curved. Use a crowing file (or a Stew-Mac Z file) to get the crown back on the frets... then of course, some 120 then 220/240 sandpaper and 0000 steel wool to dress nicely. Take that 1/4 turn off the truss rod and re-attach the neck.

You should be able to drop the action down to as low as 16 thou off the frets.
 

DanCooz

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When I do a setup, I do nut slot height first. Hold down the string at the third fret, and check height above the first fret. Once satisfied with that, I adjust the truss rod. I typically go between .006" and .009", unless the fretwork is "less than desirable", at which point I usually go around .012". After the nut and truss rod, I do saddle height, playing all over the neck to make sure there's no buzzing or dead frets. Lastly, I do intonation.
 




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