My new way to fine tune relief for low action

Discussion in 'Tele-Technical' started by DugT, Jan 1, 2019.

  1. DugT

    DugT Tele-Holic

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    I figured this out on my own but for all I know it is common practice or there is an easier way.

    First I set the relief so that there is very little gap between the strings and the 5th, 6th and 7th frets. Then I set the heigth of the saddles so that the strings would buzz if they were much lower. Now for the new part.

    Then I capo at the first fret and measure the gap between the strings and the second fret. (I've been measuring between .004" and .009")
    Then I capo at the 10th fret and measure the gap between the strings and the 11th fret.
    If the gap is higher at the 2nd fret than at the 11th fret, I increase the relief a little (and raise the saddles)
    If the gap is higher at the 11th fret, I decrease the relief (and lower the saddles.)
    I believe the best results are achieved when the string gaps at the 2nd fret and 11th fret are real similar.

    Then I readjust the saddles and measure again and adjust relief again if necessary. Repeat until the string gap when capoed is similar.

    Rather than measure all of the strings, you might be able to get away with just measuring the 1st and 6th strings.

    For true anal overkill accuracy, this system requires good feeler gauge technique and some kind of magnification, but for me it is a labor of love because I like to monkey around with my guitars. I use a jewellers loupe for magnification.

    Any and all comments are welcome unless you disagree with me in any way. ;)
     
    Last edited: Jan 1, 2019
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  2. telemnemonics

    telemnemonics Telefied Ad Free Member

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    I'm too confused too disagree!
    So, what does the relief end up being?

    I've found I like very little, maybe .001- 008 or something like that, depending on how level the frets are and if there's any other issues to manage.

    Maybe in the morning I'll be able to understand your method, too sleepy now...
     
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  3. Tonetele

    Tonetele Poster Extraordinaire

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    Ditto
     
  4. DugT

    DugT Tele-Holic

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    I think the ultimate amount of relief varies from guitar to guitar. My method find tunes relief so that the action is as low as possible all up and down the neck for each guitar. This assumes you're nut is set up well.

    It is late where I am too and I'm tired. Maybe in the morning I'll find a way to make it more clear.
     
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  5. TimTam

    TimTam Tele-Holic

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    So with any of these 'relief' measurements are you also fretting on a high fret eg, last fret, or near the neck join ?

    It's hard to tell if your method is actually assessing anything really like what we conventionally think of as 'relief' ie the amount of bow in the neck/fretboard. The fact that you adjust both relief and the saddles at the same time makes me think that it's action rather than relief that you are effectively adjusting. And it's therefore hard to see whether doing both together is in any way a 'good' idea ... whether or not it eventually achieves a low action.

    Maybe you could explain why your way could be better than a more conventional approach ?
     
  6. Dennyf

    Dennyf Tele-Afflicted

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    That sounds very logical to me. Two data points instead of my usual juggle-saddles-and-truss-rod until I'm satisfied "technique."

    Proof is in the pudding though. Have you tried this with a variety of guitars, and did it help optimize the settings for each of them?

    It sounds good to me, I'm going to give it a shot!
     
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  7. DugT

    DugT Tele-Holic

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    Here is some additional info that is the reason this technique works. With too much relief the strings are more likely to buzz at the lower six frets. With too little relief the strings are more likely to buzz between the 6th and 12th frets. I've read this info at a few different sources and I have found it to be true. So, if the relief is set perfectly, the strings are less likely to buzz anywhere. After the relief is set perfectly you can lower the saddles until the strings buzz and then raise them until they don't buzz.
     
  8. DugT

    DugT Tele-Holic

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    I have tried this on two Ibanez guitars, an RG (Gibson style) and a Talman (nashville tele) and it worked great on both of them. It seems to me this technique should work with any guitar with a truss rod. But it might not work in Australia. ;)
     
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  9. DugT

    DugT Tele-Holic

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    You are correct in that my technique doesn't involve measure the relief. Instead, I measure the action and set the relief accordingly.

    Relief only affects the action between the nut and the 12th fret.
     
  10. Floyd Eye

    Floyd Eye Tele-Meister

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    Seems like a lot of stuff to do just to set relief. I suppose it's not if you are working on a new guitar or one you haven't played or previously set up though.
     
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  11. Asmith

    Asmith Friend of Leo's

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    It seems my setup technique aims for a similar goal but a different process. I get the nut down so it's near level with the frets, then I just the truss rod till the neck is straight. Adjust the action height, till it stops buzzing past the 6th/5th fret. Then I give the neck a little more relief set the action again till the buzzing starts again higher up neck. I repeat this until the buzzing is constant across the entire neck when the action is just a little too low but is pretty much gone when the strubgs are raised a bit.
     
  12. eallen

    eallen Tele-Afflicted Silver Supporter

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    Sounds a bit complicated. On all my builds with all frets and strings tuned, I finish cut the nut slots, set neck releif to about .010", set initial saddle height at a happy medium, retune, drop each saddle as low as it will go until it buzzes and back up until it doesn't for the lowest possible action, set intonation, and final check action. When the guitar recipient shows up I tweak adjust the relief or individual saddles to their liking.

    Measurements are great but when the rubber meets the road it is desired feel and buzz free operation that matters. That is why I have recently talked to several high end guitar owners who had their guitars pleked and came away unsatisfied. A measurement means nothing if it is not the individuals desired feel.

    Eric

    Sent from my SM-G892A using TDPRI forum mobile app
     
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  13. Widerange Hum

    Widerange Hum Tele-Holic

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    Wait, what?
     
  14. DugT

    DugT Tele-Holic

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    It doesn't take that long and the result is you know the relief and action are ideal and consistant up and down the neck. It replaces "Feeling" and guesswork with confidence that the relief and action are as near perfect as you want them to be. A setup that feels great to someone is likely to be similar to a setup that they are accustomed to. That could be far from ideal. I would rather adjust to a measured ideal action guitar than change the ideal guitar so that it feels just like the old guitar that I used to play.
     
  15. schmee

    schmee Doctor of Teleocity Silver Supporter

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    Trying to think through the trig and how there could ever be less gap at the 11th than the 2nd...? The closer you get to the bridge, the bigger the angle in the triangle right? Is it possible? :>)
     
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  16. DugT

    DugT Tele-Holic

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    I'm not sure I understand your question but maybe it works because of the bow in the neck.

    Maybe you missed the part about the capo. In my method, I measure the gap at the second fret with a Capo on the first fret. Then I measure the gap at the 11th fret with a capo at the 10th fret. On both of my guitars, that gap was close to .005" between the strings and the frets at both the 2nd and 11th frets when I use a capo. On one of my guitars the gap was much higher at the 11th fret so I reduced the relief until the gap was similar at both frets. Now the action is good and low everywhere.
     
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  17. robt57

    robt57 Telefied Ad Free Member

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    I like the secondary sanity check, if you wanna call it that in the OP's technique. Not something I worry about, and I tend to use more relief and higher action over all. I don't get the sound outta a guitar I want with low action. It' like a real [console or bigger] Piano VS a keyboard without weighted keys if I am going to draw an analogy. To me 'Action' is a verb pretty much. ;)
     
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  18. JL_LI

    JL_LI Friend of Leo's

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    Good question. What you say would be correct if all lines were straight. Most of us adjust the truss rod so there is a slight bow in the neck. The combination of (maybe too much) bow and saddles set too low can bring the strings closer to the higher frets than the middle frets. That's the reason the procedure described by DugT is iterative. Keep tweaking truss rod and saddle adjustments until you have low action and no buzz. DugT's method is really rather elegant from a mathematical perspective. Like all iterative solutions, the first guess doesn't have to be perfect, just better than the starting point. There is a tendency for the second guess to overcorrect but it will be closer to the ideal solution. The third guess will be closer still. The idea is to oscillate toward the best possible solution. The solution doesn't have to be perfect, and on a guitar neck it can't be perfect. There is a confounding variable, twist. The wound strings exert greater tension on the neck than the thin unwound strings causing the neck to twist ever so slightly. Look at your neck closely next time and you'll see what I mean.
     
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  19. DugT

    DugT Tele-Holic

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    If you don't like low action then the sanity check is less useful. You might like that the action is more consistent up and down the neck but it is less noticable if the strings are higher.

    Until 1.5 years ago I only played acoustic guitars with relatively high action. Now I am loving the lower action of electric guitars and how easy it is to adjust the action. The sanity check is fairly quick and easy considering how rarely relief has to be adjusted, espicially if it is adjusted right the first time.
     
  20. robt57

    robt57 Telefied Ad Free Member

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    Less necessary, I'd agree.

    I did not mean the comment in a disparaging way. Just an old fart that uses the action for how the technique of it makes it sound. Because that is how I learned.

    I am a simple payer and probably have little use for a low tight action a tapping wizard would appreciate. ;)
     
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