Neck relief tools

Discussion in 'Tele-Technical' started by portside, Jan 29, 2019.

  1. portside

    portside TDPRI Member

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    Hello,

    I could use advise & knowledge regarding checking & setting neck relief on my tele. I've just got into learning what's involved so I'm very much a newbie & inexperienced.
    For future maintenance plus use on several other of my guitars would you consider getting something like the Stew Mac Neck Relief Gauge? Consider it a good investment or would you recommend other methods, different or tools that would be just as effective, cheaper etc..?
    Any other essential tools I should have?

    Thank you
     
  2. jimgchord

    jimgchord Tele-Afflicted

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    I personally avoid stew Mac at all cost. All you need is a set of feeler gauges. Around 5 bucks at an auto parts store. In a pinch you can just use a high e string as a gauge to get you close, the numbers don't always matter as long as it plays well for you.
     
  3. 8barlouie

    8barlouie Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

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    I just use my eye. I straighten the neck to he point where the string just about moves when I press against it at the 8th fret when holding it down at the 21st and capoed at the first.
     
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  4. telemnemonics

    telemnemonics Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

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    All you need is a straightedge from an office supply store, and whatever tool firt the truss rod nut.
    You may want feeler gauges from the automotive department, but I didn't use numbers until the internet. A piece of copy paper is a small amount of relief, and 2-3 layers is more relief.
    Learn to understand rather than buying piles of tools and applying other peoples numbers.
     
  5. telemnemonics

    telemnemonics Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

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    I used my eye for 35 years but around your age it got less reliable, so I wnt to a straightedge and some reading glasses...

    Wait, sorry, I am your age!
    Thought it said 54, where's my glasses?
     
  6. jimgchord

    jimgchord Tele-Afflicted

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    Yup. 20lb copy paper measures .0035. three layers would be a good all around starting point
     
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  7. Peregrino69

    Peregrino69 Tele-Afflicted

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    Methinks that gauge isn't worth the money, unless you're a pro.

    I use a ruler gauge like this:

    https://www.amazon.com/dp/B071KK9RDY/?tag=tdpri-20

    ... don't pay attention to the pictures where it's laying on the neck - that's NOT how it's supposed to be used :D

    I just set my neck straight. Then I adjust it so that there's a minuscule space between the fretboard and the ruler, just about enough to slip a paper through. That's it.
     
  8. schmee

    schmee Poster Extraordinaire

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    It's pretty easy to look at and you dont have to measure with feeler gauges etc really. A piece of standard printer paper is about .005"
    -Put a capo on at fret one.
    -fret the string at fret 15 or so
    -observe the gap between the string and fret at about fret 8.

    - if no gap you may want to relieve the truss rod a bit.
    - about .010" is in the ball park of what people like. But half that for some people.
     
  9. LutherBurger

    LutherBurger Friend of Leo's

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    I use a capo and a set of feeler gauges.
    It's not essential, but I like to use a 6" steel machinist ruler to set my string height after the relief is good.
     
  10. jhundt

    jhundt Doctor of Teleocity

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    I spent much of my life not worrying about relief. Nowadays it seems all I do is worry about relief - do I have too much, do I get too little? Oh Lord, please give me relief!

    I bought a '69 Strat in '71, from the original owner. I played it until 2016 without ever checking/changing/adjusting the truss rod. I used every sort of string gauge over the years, too. And I played the heck out of that guitar back in the 70's and 80's.

    I sometimes wonder if all the knowledge available these days is necessarily a good and worthwhile thing. Leo put the truss rod adjuster at the bottom end of the neck so that owners who did not understand it wouldn't mess with it.
     
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  11. trapdoor2

    trapdoor2 Tele-Afflicted

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    While neck relief has been measured by eyeball forever and with feeler gauges since they became ubiquitous, I like the authority and repeatability of a dial-indicator.

    "it looks like 0.012" vs "it is a measured 0.012" means a lot to me. I can log that data and when the customer comes back, I can see if it has changed. You can do that with a straightedge and feeler gauges but it is a PITA and you don't really know if you've moved the straightedge with that last feeler. With a dial indicator, you get a reading right now, you don't have to mess with "feel" and the customer can see the reading as well as you can.

    Sure, there are drawbacks. It is expensive up front. You need a flat reference surface to set it and check it.

    I wouldn't buy one for myself (I use feeler gauges). If I had a shop and was doing setups, I'd have one in a heartbeat.

    edit: Stewmac sells these for $120. Eat a sandwich instead of eating at a restaurant for the next 5 or 6 times. Paid for.
     
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  12. jimgchord

    jimgchord Tele-Afflicted

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    Where did you hear that piece of info?
     
  13. NewKid

    NewKid Tele-Holic

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    I agree with the capo and feeler guages. I just set the neck relief on my Tele for the first time last week and its at 0.009 at the 8th fret (capoed at the 1st and pressed down on the 21st fret). It could go a little lower but the guitar plays great with the 11's I put on it.

    New feeler guages are typically heavily oiled so have a paper towel ready to wipe it down a little. Also, I turned the truss rod slightly (1/8-1/4 turn) and let it settle for a day before checking relief again just to be safe.
     
  14. Ian T

    Ian T Tele-Holic

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    Just get an 18" straightedge from Philadelphia Luthier for $22 and feeler gauges for $6 and don't look back.

    The string gets kinked by the frets and is not totally straight.

    You can also use the makeshift measuring methods above, but they are not as accurate.

    Once you have the straightedge and feeler gauges you can start playing with different relief settings to find what feels best to you. Once you are in the ballpark, it becomes personal preference. if you want more headroom and don't mind higher action, more relief. Lower action w less headroom - less relief.
     
  15. telemnemonics

    telemnemonics Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

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    I've had a '64 Tele neck for 15 years that has never needed any tension on the truss rod, and have had a few other early Fender necks over the years that were comparably stable as graphite. They just never move. At all.

    More modern necks though, seem to need more regular adjustment, and the change seems to have been in the early '70s for Fender. Gibson I'm not sure ever had the same stability due to a weak neck wood and a poor truss rod design/ implementation.
    Modern cheap imports seem worse/ more unstable than higher quality MIJ and USA necks.

    My presumption, having been a woodworker for longer than I've been a guitar tech, is that lumber was better seasoned back when the owner was in the shop with the workers, just because that was the old school method handed down over literally hundreds of years of musical instrument making.

    It was pretty much Leo that changed quality guitars from luthier made to factory worker made, but those early factory workers still adhered to at least some of the old world ethics.
    As hand work was more and more replaced by machines in pursuit of higher speed production, the end result seems to me to have been guitars with less stable necks, and the instability kept growing as the prices dropped.
    We still get some more stable necks by accident, but there is a reason musical instrument wood used to be aged for at least 100 years before milling into instruments.
     
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  16. jimgchord

    jimgchord Tele-Afflicted

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    Nothing weak about mahogany.and fender just bought whatever wood was available, they didn't do any in house seasoning.
     
  17. telemnemonics

    telemnemonics Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

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    Both vary but I find average mahogany to be softer than average maple.
    There are certainly softer maple varieties but Leo didn't use them for necks.
    I've found most or all vintage Gibson necks to be softer and weaker/ more dependent on truss rod tension, than most vintage fender necks.
    Of course we can't tell if a neck was leaned against a radiator, left in a hot car, adjusted by a hobbyist, but this is what I've noticed in 39 years of working on guitars.

    Not sure where you get your info on how and how long Fender stored/ seasoned their lumber, but I've been a woodworker for over 40 years and the ethics and methods behind seasoned lumber has gotten progressively worse and worse.
    Meaning what Fender bought in the '50s/ '60s was already better seasoned than what Squier ships to retailers.
     
  18. jimgchord

    jimgchord Tele-Afflicted

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    Well let's not confuse hardness with strength. And I agree, kiln drying produces a different product than air drying. It's a rush these days.
     
  19. IronSchef

    IronSchef Tele-Holic

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    Check out the Frudua set-up videos. He shows how to do all of the needed adjustments w/o any special tools. This is an example -- he goes over truss rod adjustments in this one

     
  20. beagle

    beagle Friend of Leo's

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    I use my eye/feel. I've never had to adjust some guitars at all. Others only ever once, when they were new and had their first set up.
     
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