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Neck angle/fret plane height for new build?

Discussion in 'Tele Home Depot' started by fjordprefect, Jan 4, 2021.

  1. fjordprefect

    fjordprefect TDPRI Member

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    Hi all,

    I'm working on my first DIY tele build (thanks for all of the great past posts for help!), and I need some advice on the initial setup. I'm following along with Freeman Keller's basic setup thread, and I'm paused at the neck geometry step. When I put a straight edge on the frets to see where the "fret plane" hits the bridge, I'm still above the saddles in their lowest position. FK's guide recommends that the straight edge just touches the top of the saddles, so I'm a bit high by about 1/8 inch.

    I have checked the tightness of the neck screws, and even lightly sanded the neck and the body joint to make sure the contact with smooth. The neck is an Allparts TRO-C (10" radius, C shape, 0.85-0.95 in. thick with rosewood board), the body is a swamp ash body from bayviewmusic on ebay (3"x 2-3/16"x 5/8" neck pocket), and the bridge is a Gotoh nickel vintage style bridge with the cut-down sides and 3 compensated brass saddles. I confirmed the 5/8" depth of the neck pocket and the 0.95 in. neck thickness at the neck joint with calipers. I have the truss rod loosened completely and I have confirmed there's no forward bow in the neck (and no back bow to the best that I can tell).

    At first, I thought it might be good enough and went ahead and leveled the frets. When I went to start the setup, I had to raise the bridge saddles a lot to make sure the strings didn't buzz in the upper frets (12th fret and above). I haven't gotten to anything with the nut yet. Given how much I had to raise all of the saddles to stop the buzzing, I decided to pause and ask for help.

    How do I go about getting the right neck angle/fret plane height?
    Should I reverse shim it to raise the angle? Should I induce a forward bow by tightening the truss rod?
    Should I sand down the back of the neck heel and/or the floor of the neck joint to keep the same angle and lower it by removing material?

    Thanks for any advice!
     
  2. mfguitar

    mfguitar Tele-Afflicted Silver Supporter

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    I would share a picture of your bridge and the screw adjustment as well as the straight edge on the frets to the bridge. You can actually have the saddle adjustment screws quite high (there was a fairly recent thread discussing this). Adjusting the truss rod for your issue is not the answer. I would hold off sanding anything until you post some pictures and the experts here chime in.
     
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  3. RickyRicardo

    RickyRicardo Friend of Leo's

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    The neck should be 1" height at the heel at its thickest point.. Where are you measuring .95" from?
     
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  4. fjordprefect

    fjordprefect TDPRI Member

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    Hi guys,

    Thanks for the replies and the initial advice.

    I've attached pictures showing the gap between the straight edge and the saddle, and the neck joint from the side while mounted. The gap between the bottom of the straight edge and the saddle is exactly 1/16 inch.

    IMG_0075.jpg IMG_0076.jpg

    I re-measured this morning, it's about 1" from the top of the fingerboard to the bottom of the heel.


    What's my best bet? Trying a shim or just go for the rest of the setup with the saddles higher? I'll try to find the thread that mf mentioned.
     
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  5. guitarbuilder

    guitarbuilder Telefied Ad Free Member

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  6. fjordprefect

    fjordprefect TDPRI Member

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    When is it appropriate to shim for a forward angle vs. removing material from the neck heel or the floor of the joint on the body? I guess my concern was that my current gap was 1/16 inch, and even the thinner end the shim would still have some thickness that would contribute to the high action problem at the bridge. But I'm new to this so I'm really trying to learn troubleshooting here from the expects.
     
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  7. guitarbuilder

    guitarbuilder Telefied Ad Free Member

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    Personally I think if you need to put a shim in front of the neck cavity, then I'd say something is wrong with:
    A the neck heel. B. The neck cavity. or C...the bridge you selected. A fender bridge should work with a 1" thick neck heel in a .625 deep neck cavity. I wouldn't do a front shim as I think that is a bogus way to deal something that is wrong. Others feel differently.
     
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  8. schmee

    schmee Doctor of Teleocity

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    Shim the heel end to lower the strings. No big deal. A little goes a long way. Try .015" or so first.
     
  9. guitarbuilder

    guitarbuilder Telefied Ad Free Member

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    Putting a shim at the back of the neck cavity raises the end of the neck closer to the strings without moving the saddles. It lowers the action.
     
  10. NoTeleBob

    NoTeleBob Tele-Holic

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    I would use cheap shims at the least to get it set up and working. Once you figure out all the issues, you can decide on whether you are OK with an old school shim, a Stew-Mac shim, and or neck or pocket changes. Make it work first before doing serious things.

    Somewhere I have a link to a calculator that will figure out the correct neck angle, I will try to dig it out later.
     
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  11. Freeman Keller

    Freeman Keller Poster Extraordinaire

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    Fjord, since you are following my set up instructions I'll tell you that I have frequently shimmed necks to get the angle to work.
     
  12. fjordprefect

    fjordprefect TDPRI Member

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    If I try to sand either the neck heel or the floor of the cavity, how easy is it to mess up the level contact between the two? I left the neck heel and neck pocket unfinished, save for some very very light sanding with some 400 grit using a sanding block. The bridge plate is a nickel plated steel plate (.048" thick) with cut down sites from Phila. Luthiers, with Gotoh compensated saddles.


    I did order some shims to try if needed, but if there's a more permanent way to adjust the geometry that's not difficult I'm hoping to learn how to do that.

    My idea was to flip the shim around (relative to their typical use) so the thicker end was at the top of the neck pocket, forcing the fret plane upwards and raising the action above the 12th fret.

    I'd appreciate seeing that calculator. I may do just that, try the setup without the shim, if it's ridiculous I'll pop a shim in there (reversed) and try the setup, then finally look into sanding/adjusting the neck pocket and/or neck heel. I'm most nervous about doing the latter given my inexperience, but it would be great if I could get the right geometry with the neck and body joint alone.

    I really appreciate all of the advice and information so far!
     
  13. mfguitar

    mfguitar Tele-Afflicted Silver Supporter

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    Have you tried raising the saddles all of the way? It looks like you have a lot of room to go but it also looks like you need quite a bit. I would bring the saddles up as high as they go, bring strings up to tension and see what you have first. Personally I don't use shims but it would be a simple way to see if you can solve the issue.
    Your neck PU looks high with the screws completely out, will that push down a bit if needed?
     
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  14. fjordprefect

    fjordprefect TDPRI Member

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    Over lunch I did just raise the saddles quite a ways until most of the buzzing at the 12th fret and above is gone. Initially, I was trying to follow Freeman Keller's advice of having the fret plane touch the saddles when they were all the way lowered, so that there's more flexibility with adjusting the bridge saddles. I also had read that having the saddles super high was not good, but I think there's a recent relevant thread I should look into. Does it matter if the saddles are in the top of their height range?

    Regarding the neck pickup, you are right it is a bit high. I'm trying to figure out whether I need to make the pickup cavity deeper to accommodate the TV Jones. My thought was to get the initial neck/bridge and nut setup and action done before messing around with pickup height.

    Pictures attached with the saddles raised up quite a lot relative to their original position. Is this a ridiculous height for tele bridge saddles?

    IMG_0078.jpg IMG_0077.jpg
     
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  15. schmee

    schmee Doctor of Teleocity

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    It appears you are quite close without a shim. BUT I misinterpreted your original post? You evidently need a shim at the headstock end of the pocket, not the heel. That will raise the strings from the frets. Is that what you need, so you can lower the saddle screws down a bit?
    The clear plastic used on packaging comes in .005 and .010 thickness. I just save it off packages. One .005 may get you enough to be good to go. .010 to be sure. Maybe 1/3 of the heel length. It's better than the hokey Tilt Adjust Fender installs. I far prefer this type of stuff to some wood shim.
     
  16. Boreas

    Boreas Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

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    So what does this saddle height give you in relation to your action? If the action is just right, I would recommend a 0.25 or 0.5 degree shim. The reason I wouldn't go with the saddles this high is your pups will need to come up just as high. That will look like crap. And I recommend hokey hardwood shims. I prefer wood-wood contact over the entire neck pocket area. Plastic shims or card stock will work until the good ones come in. But if I just built a guitar, I would shim it with a maple shim.
     
  17. Freeman Keller

    Freeman Keller Poster Extraordinaire

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    Fjordprefect, if you go thru the Geometry 101 discussion you'll see the derivation of my rule of thumb. Bottom line it almost always will give you playable action AND enough adjustment that you can tweak it a little. I hate to have something right at the end of its travel. Obviously your idea of "playable action" might be different than mine.

    The other take away from the Geometry discussion is that there are several factors that affect it - neck angle, overstand, fretboard radius, shape of the top. There is no one perfect "correct" combination - you want something that works for you. If you have to change something, change it.

    Lastly, it is part of Leo's genius that you can pick a neck off an assembly line and screw it to a body and it usually works. However there are a amazing number of perfectly good telecasters out there with something in its neck pocket. You can always add a shim or change it or take it out.
     
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  18. Boreas

    Boreas Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

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    To me, this picture shows the neck angling downward. It could just be an illusion. Is this with NO shims? If so, you may want to consider figuring out why. Adding a shim to lower it will only increase this angle.

    upload_2021-1-5_13-29-27.jpeg
     
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  19. fjordprefect

    fjordprefect TDPRI Member

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    Thanks for another look, I think yes that's what I was asking about...a shim at the headstock end so that I can lower the saddle screws. I hadn't thought of thin plastic, I may try that if any wood shim I use is still too thick.

    Not sure, I haven't filed the nut yet. I ordered a 0.25 and a 0.5 degree shim (I don't have the tools or materials to make one myself at the moment) to try. I'd like to have a little more working range with the saddles for future adjustments as necessary, so the shim might work. The wood shims may still be a bit too thick yet, but I suppose I could sand them thinner or use a thinner plastic.

    Freeman, first thank you for the setup thread, I'm learning so much. This is my first DIY guitar build, coming from just doing basic string changes and intonation adjustments on guitars setup by real techs in the past. This is also my first tele in general, and I'm learning to appreciate the history and design of the guitar while trying to build it myself. Thanks for the additional input. I may try the setup without a shim, see if it works for me, then try it with a shim to see if I prefer the lower bridge action, and then later see if I want to pursue physically altering the neck heel or joint.
     
  20. fjordprefect

    fjordprefect TDPRI Member

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    This picture is with no shims. I thought the same initially that it was angled downward towards the bridge, which is why I was surprised that the fret plane was still 1/16 inch above the saddles (with the saddles lowered all the way). When I put a good straight edge on the fretboard (after confirming that the neck is straight and the frets are level), the bottom of the straight edge on the bridge side still is raised above the saddles at their lowest positions. Perhaps it's an illusion from the pickguard not being completely flat.
     
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