Guitar Setup Question

Discussion in 'Tele-Technical' started by Toast, Aug 31, 2019.

  1. Toast

    Toast Tele-Holic

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    I can adjust the string heights of my guitar by changing the back bow/forward bow of the neck with the truss rod. However, I can also adjust the string height by raising the block saddles on the bridge. I haven't messed with the block saddles because I don't have a hex key yet that will fit the saddle. Now I always hear that you should start a setup by first getting the neck relief of the guitar sorted out (truss rod adjustment), then do the intonation (getting the strings in tune all along the fretboard). That's pretty straight forward.

    However, where should you start a setup if your block saddle string heights are out of whack? Should you first get your saddles adjusted? And if you start with the saddles, is it a matter of tweaking the saddle height, then tweaking the truss rod bow, and going back and forth between them until you find the right saddle height to bow in the truss rod proportion? I ask because my truss rod adjustments are not killing all my fretbuzz and I'm scratching my head thinking I need to get my saddles right. Pardon my ignorance if I'm way off the mark. I appreciate any insight.
     
  2. Freeman Keller

    Freeman Keller Friend of Leo's

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    https://www.tdpri.com/threads/basic-setup.952636/

    As you have learned, changing the relief will change the action, but that is not what the truss rod is for. Changing the action will not change the relief, so set it first and leave it alone. Also changing any action parameter will affect the intonation, changing the compensation will not change the action. Therefore set the action first, then do the compensation.
     
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  3. stefanhotrod

    stefanhotrod Tele-Meister

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    1) You must not adjust string height with the Trussrod!
    2) see above!

    Don‘t get me wrong, but you should visit a good luthier and let him set up your guitar. Or/and get a good setup instruction before tinkering around. If you straighten your Trussrod too far it‘ll break: New neck.
     
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  4. SixStringSlinger

    SixStringSlinger Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

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    First, just to be clear, neck relief (set via truss rod), string height (set via individual saddle height or overall bridge heaight, depending on the guitar) and intonation (set via the positioning of the saddle closer to the nut or bridge) are all different things. One might affect another (like in your case, neck relief affecting string height) because a guitar is a system where all the parts interact with each other. But they're still different aspects of the guitar meant to be adjusted via specific means.

    That being said, there isn't really an "order" you have to do things in. It's more important to decide on a process and follow it through, and repeat it the same way over and over till you get things where you want them. Each repetition will get you closer and closer till you're there.

    Depending on the guitar and the person making the adjustments, there may be a "preferred" order for doing things, but the difference isn't so great that one way is necessary and the other is detrimental. Just follow whatever process you decide on, time after time, so you don't get lost in the weeds.
     
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  5. SixStringSlinger

    SixStringSlinger Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

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    Addendum:

    Don't be afraid of screwing anything up. Anything you adjust one way can be adjust back the other way. If it makes you more comfortable/confident, take measurements of everything so that, in the worst case, you can bring things back to where you started.

    It is possible to turn your truss rod so much that it will break, and that is one thing most people are not knowledgable enough/equipped to fix. However, I'd think in 99% of cases that it will be obvious that you're approaching going "too far" with it. Turning a truss rod will be tougher than turning the average screw, say, but you shouldn't have to fight it, either.
     
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  6. Freeman Keller

    Freeman Keller Friend of Leo's

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    Toast, please take the time to read that link carefully. There is a sequence of adjustments that will work every time and the evaluation stage is one of the most important parts. Every guitar that crosses my bench gets carefully measured before I touch anything - based on that I know what needs to be adjusted (and what does not) and I know what order to do it.
     
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  7. nojazzhere

    nojazzhere Doctor of Teleocity

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    All good advice.....especially stefanhotrod's. If you're not experienced at set ups, you can't really damage anything by playing around with your bridge. (saddles, intonation) YOU CAN, HOWEVER break your trussrod if you aren't knowledgeable and careful. I strongly suggest consulting an experienced guitar repairman to do your initial set up.......unless you have a bunch of extra guitars. ')
     
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  8. Toast

    Toast Tele-Holic

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    I suspect my truss rod might actually be messed up. The tension in it when I turn it seems to fluctuate from very loose to tension resistance. Nevertheless, it still seems to change the truss rod bow. The problem is I don't have much experience turning truss rods so I don't know what the tension should feel like :). I might take it in to a luthier and have them clue me in on its health. I can still play the guitar and it sounds alright, but it's not perfect and I want to kill the fretbuzz.
     
  9. Toast

    Toast Tele-Holic

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    Yeah, I have things on hold until I can get a better idea of what condition my trust rod is in. I got your setup guide bookmarked and I'm going to use it. Thanks for posting that. As far as evaluating my guitar goes, I already know that there are a couple of frets that need some leveling (nothing too drastic), but for now I'm just trying to get the neck relief worked out. I'll return to fret work once I feel like I got neck relief dialed in.
     
  10. Toast

    Toast Tele-Holic

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    Good advice. I'm treating my truss rod with a lot of care, but I may have crossed line with it in the past so I'll have a pro check it out. If I have to pony up for a new neck, well . . . that's how it goes. At least I'll get comfortable swapping out necks :) I'll chalk it up to experience.
     
  11. Matthias

    Matthias Friend of Leo's Gold Supporter

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    If it’s a two-way truss rod that flexes both back and forwards, it will have a spot of less resistance between the two.

    All wood is different. Some you’ll see adjustments instantly, others can take a day or two to fully settle. Don’t rush it. 1/4 to 1/2 turn then leave it a few hours at least.

    Your best bet, I find, is to get your neck pretty straight and do most of the action adjustments on the saddles. However, unless your frets are very level and your nut cut properly, you might never get the action you’re looking for. I’d suggest taking it to a pro for the full works.

    Plus if you have a very low action, you will get some fret buzz with some playing styles. The trick to cutting fret buzz is sometimes in training yourself to hit notes at the right force for the set up.
     
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  12. RottenTheCat

    RottenTheCat Tele-Holic

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    The only advice I can give is that the saddle elevation, and relief, and intonation are all part of an adjustment ensemble. Each effects the other to some degree. Once "set" for the strings (or string gauge) you like, the only adjustment that is occasionally made is the truss rod - which as noted - does effect the "action", or perhaps rather, the "micro-action".

    In some climes, winter months, with heated building interiors are dry air, and the string elevation tends to increase a bit, a humidifier in the case will help or even eliminate that. In Florida, where I am, we open windows in the winter - its moist air, compared to the dry air of air conditioning. So, don't get into the seasonal changes as much as "humidity" changes. Again a humidifier helps - ESPECIALLY - with an acoustic guitar, whose top will vary all over the place, as well as the neck. A reason I really love my Adamas carbon fiber top.

    I don't know crap from crapola, but here's how I've done it for 50 years -

    String up, tune up to pitch
    Set the coarse elevation, by eye, not worrying about perfection at this point
    Set the coarse intonation, by ear, not worrying about perfection at this point
    Check the relief and adjust to the desired amount - usually between .005 and .010 inches. Feeler gauge helps!
    Now set the elevation to a finer level. For me 4/64 to 4.5/64 from string 1 to 6 respectively.
    Set the intonation to a finer level, using a tuner.
    Set the pickup height

    Play the crap out of the guitar for a week, and maybe reset the relief if its bedded in some. Maybe experiment a little with the pickups too.

    That's worked for me. I've done more setups for friends and working pros than I can begin to recall. Few complaints, and those are mostly personal preference for taller elevation, or some change in climate that requires a small relief change (ie, I'm playing all outdoor gigs, so we set a bit more relief to adjust for the additional fretboard tension)

    I know folks have their own methods and tricks, but that's always worked for me, and the only real important thing I can add is, don't trust your eyes, use a feeler gauge for the relief (a wire gauge works better than a flat one), and a machinist ruler elevation.

    Hope that helps some...
     
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  13. Freeman Keller

    Freeman Keller Friend of Leo's

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    There are several different types of truss rods in use today and they can each have a different feel when adjusting. Single acting rods like the old Fender skunk stripe are simply a curved rod anchored and one end and threaded on the other, it sits in a curved trough in the back of the neck. Loosening the adjuster simply backs it off like taking a nut off of a bolt, tightening it puts the rod in tension and tries to straighten it, which because of the curved track, pulls the nut back. The important thing is that tightening it dramatically increases the tension - make any adjustment in very small increments (1/8 turn or less). Let the neck settle, then check the relief. Your adjustments should be made under string tension but if you have a heel adjuster you have to take the neck off, guess how much to adjust (1/8 turn) put it back on and measure, then repeat until you have the relief you want.

    As a starting point with most necks and rods I like to loosen the nut completely and see how straight the neck is - often is is pretty flat and I can start my fret leveling. With many necks if I start with the truss rod backed off and flat frets under string tension it will pull a few thousands relief and I can control it with only small increments of truss rod tightening.

    Newer double acting rods (no skunk strip) are kind of like a turn buckle - as you tighten or loosen the adjuster they flex. They have a neutral center point where they are flat, then increasing tension in either direction as you tighten it. You can actually use this to introduce relief if the strings don't pull enough in altho most of the time you will be removing relief (righty tighty, clockwise).

    Double acting rods are very powerful and put a lot of pressure on the bottom of the fretboard. Single acting rods are also powerful but in a different way - just like tightening a nut on a bolt at some point something will give - threads strip, the rod breaks, neck is damaged. With either kind of rod it is best to start (after taking all the measurements that I describe in my link) by loosening it to a neutral point (CCW, lefty loosey).

    Good luck.

    Edit to add another thought. If you are truly trying to change the 12 fret action with the truss rod you could easily be over stressing it. It is intended to make changes of a few thousands of relief, not tens of thousands of action.
     
    Last edited: Aug 31, 2019
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  14. jimilee

    jimilee Tele-Afflicted Silver Supporter

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    So first, don’t over think it. Secondly, use the truss to straighten the neck. With the guitar facing you, crank to the left about 1/4 to 1/8 depending on the severity of the bow unless it’s back bow, then turn to the right. Then I set the string action, then I set intonation. Then fine tune to taste.

    Doing it yourself is the only way to learn. Don’t let it scare you. You will need to let your guitar sit for about a day for the neck to settle.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
     
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  15. Toast

    Toast Tele-Holic

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    Great info. Here's a question that goes toward diagnosing my guitar's truss rod. I've tried just loosening the truss rod all the way. That is I loosen it till I can't loosen it because I reach a point where the truss rod nut won't turn (I don't know if that is what I should expect with a dual action rod). I suspect I have a dual action rod because my guitar is an American Deluxe Telecaster 2004-2010 (Fender's website doesn't give me the exact year from the serial number). So far though there doesn't seem to be a point where I can't loosen it any more, that is, turn the hex key. In other words, either my truss rod nut is stripped or my truss rod is kaput. I also don't see any forward bow start to show as I keep loosening it. This is what is leading me to think my truss rod has a problem.
     
    Last edited: Aug 31, 2019
  16. Freeman Keller

    Freeman Keller Friend of Leo's

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    This might be a little hard to see but it is a typical double acting rod. The allen head adjuster is welded to the black rod which has a normal thread at the left side and a reverse thread at the right end. When you tighten (CW) the adjuster the to ends pull towards each other. The solid bar (on the top against the straight edge) is welded to the blocks at each end - it can't move. So as the ends are pulled towards each other the bar flexes.

    In this case the rod was adjusted to the flat bar was completely straight, then given one half turn. You can see that its pushing up in the middle against the straight edge, that would be the underside of the fretboard. The ends are pushing down as they would against the nut and heel ends of the neck. If the fretboard (straight edge) had a significant bow (relief) as it would if sting tension was applied, the upward pressure of the bar would be countering that, trying to reduce the relief.

    IMG_1045.JPG

    Here is the same truss rod, this time it has been adjusted one half turn CCW, now the ends are pushing up which would attempt to add relief to the neck. This is almost never required but is a consequence of this design.

    IMG_1046.JPG

    When the rod is neutral the adjuster is easy to slightly turn in either direction - you will definitely feel it. As it starts to load the bar and bend it the torque required to turn the adjuster goes up. If you turn it enough you will either push one or both ends down thru the back of the neck, push the fretboard off the top of the neck or damage the rod.

    Since I don't use single acting rods I don't have a good picture of how it works but think of a very long bolt with a nut on one end. As you tight the nut it gets harder and harder and finally at some point something fails - the bolt, the wood it is trying to move or you simply can't turn it any more. Turn it the other way and eventually the nut unscrews from the bolt and falls off.
     
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  17. Artslap

    Artslap Tele-Afflicted

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    T.R.A.I.N.

    T
    une
    Relief - Truss rod adjustment
    Action - Saddles, nut, bridge.
    Intonation
    Noodle - play and back to the start


    CP.
     
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  18. Toast

    Toast Tele-Holic

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    Thanks for all the amazing advice everyone. You're all a great resource. I have a bunch of house guests this weekend so I have to put the setup on the back burner again. I'm going to take the guitar into a pro and get their opinion on whether the truss rod is working correctly. It's very possible I broke it back around 2005 when I stopped playing seriously and started messing with the guitar one day. I'll keep you update when I know what's what.
     
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  19. Toast

    Toast Tele-Holic

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  20. Luthi3rz

    Luthi3rz Tele-Meister

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