Guitar Setup Question

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

  1. Toast

    Toast Tele-Holic

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    Damn, I knew there had to be other options out there that were more reasonably priced. I'm trying to avoid buying stuff on Amazon. Thanks! That's a great link. If anybody else knows where to buy cheap luthier tools, feel free to link them :).
     
  2. coloradojeff

    coloradojeff Tele-Holic

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    THANKS SO MUCH for the link to the tools on Amazon. I've been wanting to get some string radius gauges. I like Stew Mac but the prices and the shipping are high. Got a set of radius gauges for $10.99. Thanks again!
     
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  3. Freeman Keller

    Freeman Keller Friend of Leo's

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    I don't own a notched straight edge (actually, that isn't true, I made one and never use it). A notched straight edge tells you if your fretboard is flat, but you can't do anything about it if it is not. An inexpensive 24 inch aluminum rule from a box hardware store will tell you what your fret plane is doing, that is what is important to me.

    Add to that the fact that I work with scale lengths from 24 to 27 inches, I would need several to cover all of them. However some people feel they are helpful so take what I say with a grain of salt.

    StewMac's prices are high but their quality is good and its very convenient to be able to buy almost everything I need from one source. I wait until I need several items to lower shipping costs (LMII ships free). What I will say about StewMac tools is that I have never had one break or fail and many have been used daily for 10 or more years.

    ps - if you go thru my little setup description you'll see the tools that I think are important and how I use them (and a couple of substitutes if you need to get by)

    pps - I don't own string radius gauges either (altho sometimes I use my fret pressing cauls to check radius). If you set the action of each string by measuring off the fret you'll follow the radius plus you and make the strings progressively higher (if you want)
     
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  4. Toast

    Toast Tele-Holic

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    Well, I tried just using feeler gauges and my eyes, but my eyes are actually pretty bad. I'm practically blind in one eye and the other one has its own problems. The tool I probably need the most is a clamp light with a magnifying glass :). I like the notched straightedge cause you can assess the frets with it easier (I assume), i.e. de-emphasize the need for visual acuity. Since I need a straightedge anyway, I might as well get the notched straightedge. That's my reasoning for it. I'll probably pick up an 18" straightedge too at some point.
     
  5. Freeman Keller

    Freeman Keller Friend of Leo's

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    What a notched straightedge will tell you is that you have adjusted the neck as flat as possible before you start doing any fret leveling. That is a good thing. However if it tells you that you have humps and bumps in the fretboard (not the frets) there isn't much you can do about it short of pulling frets. If you pull frets you no longer need the notches.

    I simply start by backing the truss rod off or going to its neutral position and measuring the fret plane with a 24 inch straightedge and feeler gauges. I just take a small feeler, say 2 or 3 thousands and try poking it between each fret and the rule. Basically the straight edge has to be resting on the two highest frets - this will tell me where they are. I rock the rule to see what is going on at the body joint - does it drop off or not? Does working with the truss rod improve the frets or make them worse.

    At some point I say that its as good as I can make the neck, time to work on the frets themselves. My goal is to take as little off the frets as need, but still get their tops perfectly level. The board is out of the picture.

    There are some people who swear by that big neck leveling beam that StewMac sells - the idea is to simulate the string tension when leveling. This is somewhat the idea of a Plek, simulate the playing condition, measure the frets and correct the ones that need work.

    During this whole evaluation phase I'm also deciding whether the frets need replacement, and if so, is it all or only some. If I replace frets then I have the wide open fretboard to work on issues there - in fact I prefer to do complete replacements rather than partials because it lets me level the whole board.

    I have a couple of good desk lamps on my work bench that I can put down close to my work and I keep one of those little back packing LED headlights handy. Dan Erlewine (at StewMac again LOL) swears my that optivisor thing he is always wearing.

    We each do it differently and we each need to come up with a method that works for us.
     
  6. Toast

    Toast Tele-Holic

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    Setup Update. I got my notched straightedge today and it made things so much easier. My truss rod works. I got rid of most of the fretbuzz. I'll try raising the block saddles a bit to remove any remaining fretbuzz once I have a hex key that'll fit the saddle nut. Interesting thing happened. I had my guitar flat on a padded wooden table and plucked the strings to do the intonation. Wow, what a difference in tone the wooden table made. I pluck the string and the entire wooden table the guitar is sitting on affects its tone. Light bulb went off. The more wood you bring to the party, the greater the resonance. There's a difference in tone, to my ears anyway, when I lay the guitar flat on the table and pluck the open strings as opposed to standing using a strap. When I pluck the strings on the table, a cheap wood laminate table, it's like the entire table becomes part of the instrument. The guitar almost sounds like an like an acoustic guitar when it's flat on the table. I guess that's not so surprising, but it kind of goes to show how the amount of wood affects the tone. Anyway, thanks for all the help in this thread. I feel like I know what I'm doing now.

    Edit: The fretbuzz I have now is negligible. I can't hear it through my amp, but I want to experiment with my block saddles to try some fine tuning. If it mucks things up, I'll just lower them back.
     
    Last edited: Sep 7, 2019
  7. mkdaws32

    mkdaws32 Tele-Holic Silver Supporter

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    This is actually a very important bit to understand. I was never really happy with “Pro” setups on my guitar because I didn’t understand how I needed it set up and couldn’t communicate that to the tech. I always asked for a dead straight neck and low action because I thought that was how a guitar was supposed to be setup. I would get the guitar back and it would buzz like crazy. Then I would attempt to work out the buzz myself and end up with what I figured was unreasonably high action. I figured all my guitars were duds and could not be properly set up!

    I now understand three things:

    1) I have an aggressive playing style - not in a bad way and not because I have bad technique or anything - it’s just part of my style.

    2) I can not tolerate any strings flapping on the fretboard, unless I’m doing it intentionally.

    3) I actually prefer a bit of neck relief and slightly higher action. Not unreasonably high, but a bit higher than the way most people like it.

    I can now easily setup all my guitars to my liking in minutes, barring any drastic truss rod adjustments that might take a few hours to settle.

    I also use the TRAIN method.
     
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  8. moosie

    moosie Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

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    That visor works for me, too. I have two lenses jimmy-rigged on it (just like Dan! LOL). I use the visor for all guitar work, and it helps when doing things like dovetailing, too. And performing my main grampa job, which seems to be fixing all manner of broken toys.


    For the OP, I have difficulty checking relief using the time-honored method of the string as straight edge. Either tapping it, or slipping a feeler underneath.

    Assuming the frets are pretty good, I lay a non-notched 18" straight edge over the fret tops, and use the feeler underneath that. The edge is heavy and doesn't give. When the gap is smaller than the feeler, it doesn't raise up and let the feeler pass, like the string will. It's like hitting a wall, and I know the feeler's too big.

    This won't work if the fret tops aren't in pretty good shape. But if they aren't, then I'm not setting the guitar up until I dress the frets! And for that, I use the notched straight edge to get the board flat.

    Think of it this way: the notched board tells you about the neck itself (using fingerboard as proxy). This is what you need to know when doing fretwork.

    When setting up a guitar, you only play the frets, not the board, so you care about the fret tops. That's why the notched edge isn't very helpful here. Depending on the state of the frets, or what was intentionally done to them (like grinding them to a flatter radius than the neck), the tops can be wildly different than the fingerboard.


    I guess I use the FNRAPI method :D. Check Frets, tweak Nut, set Relief, set Action, set Pickup height, Intonate. I wonder why I never thought of that helpful acronym until now? :rolleyes::lol: There's no point setting relief if I need to flatten the neck to work on the frets. And the nut will require tweaking (or replacing) anyway after the fret job. Also, the nut only requires the first couple frets to be in place - relief doesn't come into it. Pickup heights determine string pull, which affects intonation.
     
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  9. LuckyJinx

    LuckyJinx TDPRI Member

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    I got one of that type (not this exact one) a while back. It does 25.5 and 24.75... from the first fret, not the nut (place the first slot over the 2nd fret). Not that it said anything in the instructions, because it didn't come with any. This has the added "advantage" of allowing it to be used for 24.06" and 23.36" scales (prob close enough to 24 and 23.3, which might actually be useful and I would definitely test if I had a mustang at hand), of course, by placing the thing the way I expected it to be used, with the first notch on the first fret.

    Honestly, it's probably good enough for most uses, unless the fretboard has some weird slope between the nut and first fret.

    That's what I get from buying from wish.com, I guess.
     
  10. Musekatcher

    Musekatcher Friend of Leo's

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    I never use my notch straight edge. I use a 24", 18", 12" and 6" metal rule. Many times I get by with just the 18 and the 6. They are thin, so I can cup them and swing them to find the high spots on frets, as well as using feeler gauges (when I don't trust my eyes). Some will object, but I play to the top of the frets, and therefore adjust the final relief from the frets, and let the neck and fretboard be where they may be. I found it to be a time saver, with no real penalty. If its really bad, like a hump, I re-plane the fretboard prior to a re-fret.
     
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  11. teleplayr

    teleplayr Tele-Afflicted

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  12. moosie

    moosie Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

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    Exactly.
     
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  13. Toast

    Toast Tele-Holic

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    It fits my fender neck perfectly. I'm sure I can fit it onto my other guitars, but if not I'll probably just buy a regular old straightedge from the hardware store. I just want to see the light coming underneath in the place I want a concave curve in the neck and no light sneaking through in places I want the neck straight. I know that I'm not experienced enough to eyeball it using the string and see the relief. Maybe after I've used the notched straightedge enough I'll be able to see the relief with my naked eye better. I'll also use it for checking out my fret heights as well. It's an essential tool for me.
     
    Last edited: Sep 10, 2019
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