String action/height at the nut - general initial setup question

Discussion in 'Tele-Technical' started by Jim_in_PA, Jul 11, 2019.

  1. Jim_in_PA

    Jim_in_PA Tele-Meister

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    Folks, I'm about to begin the physical setup of my first build and will appreciate some input as in full disclosure, I'm a keyboardist who is a very rudimentary and out of practice guitar player. Part of the setup is adjusting string action/hight at the nut through careful filing. What I'd like to know is "in general", acknowledging this can be a very personal and subjective metric, what string height off the frets should I shoot for as an initial effort for average initial playability without going too low? The majority of you likely are actual guitar players so your thoughts on this will be helpful to me. :) Thanks in advance!
     
  2. SixStringSlinger

    SixStringSlinger Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

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    I once took measurements of all my guitars, just to be able to quickly get things back where I like them were I too experiment with something different and not like the result.

    Across my 5 electrics, the distance between the bottom of the low E string and the top of the first fret was between 0.20" and 0.30" I didn't check for every string, but nothing feels obviously "off" on any of them, so I assume they're reasonably even.

    With my guitars as they are, this string height at the first fret gives me plenty of clearance (so I don't accidentally fret something I intend to mute, for instance), but also doesn't require excessive effort to cleanly fret a note, barre chord etc.

    Do you have any guitars you already like this aspect of? You could just measure that and follow something similar on your build. You don't need dead-on measurements for adjusting every aspect of your set-up every time, but it can be handy to be able to do so. I like this tool...

    https://www.stewmac.com/Luthier_Tools/Types_of_Tools/Straightedges/String_Action_Gauge.html

    ..but anything that gives you accurate small measurements will work.
     
  3. Tuxedo Poly

    Tuxedo Poly Tele-Afflicted

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  4. Armo

    Armo Tele-Holic

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  5. Vizcaster

    Vizcaster Friend of Leo's

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    As a frame of reference for the initial nut slot cutting, I like to measure the final fret height (using a straightedge across two frets and stacked feeler gauges underneath). Then add .008 or .010" to that measurement and put together a stack of feeler gauges to get that figure. This will be the "stop" that you'll use when roughing in the nut slots (and it will mark the feeler gauges so make sure they're not borrowed). You will still then have enough leeway to tweak the slots lower when it's strung up.

    When strung, I fret at the third fret and then tap on the string to make sure there's still clearance over the first fret - stop filing before you get too far and eliminate this gap. For me the final tweak of nut slot height does not involve a specific height measurement but rather I like to see how it behaves and plays. Unfortunately it's only after you get the nut slot height that you can deal with action at the saddles and the imperceptible change of action height at the first fret when you move the saddles is probably enough to frustrate the setup so again, I don't rely on a measurement of the height of the string off of the first fret when cutting nut slots.

    I'm sure there have been discussions here before that explain it better than I have.
     
  6. Jim_in_PA

    Jim_in_PA Tele-Meister

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    Thanks for this things folks. Helpful for sure. I'm all about learning the correct way in this journey. Hence the questions.

    I do have my Kramer (unique horseshoe aluminum neck) and I can certainly use it for some comparison, but I cannot confirm it's setup properly although I remember it played reasonably well the last time I touched it. The strings are 30 years old so I'm about to replace them so I have a reference that doesn't sound like someone is strangling their dog or something through an amp. :)
     
  7. KelvinS1965

    KelvinS1965 Tele-Holic

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    I only bought my first set of nut files last week, so this is a subject I've been paying a lot of attention to recently. I'm putting a project guitar together with a MIM Fender neck with a pre slotted nut. I've looked closely at all my nuts :eek: :D on my various guitars and I'm surprised at the variation considering that 3 of them have had replacement nuts/fret dressing and/or re-frets done by professionals.

    My Gretsch is really well set up straight from the factory and yet this has the strings quite deep in the nut slots (which goes against what I've read suggesting that they should be 1/3 above the nut).

    My Strat was re-fretted and played the best it has ever played when I got it back. However the nut is cut very deep, though I don't have problems with open string buzzing.

    I've cut my project Tele nut slightly higher than the first fret (a slight 'click' if I fret the 3rd fret and tap the string above the 1st fret as suggested in a few places I read).

    With the variation between my guitars I'm more in the camp to say that so long as the slot isn't too high (like my MIM neck was with it's 'guide' slots when I first strung it up), then maybe it's not something to get too precious about and if anything, just stop before you get open string buzzes, provided first fret notes don't go sharp.
     
  8. Jim_in_PA

    Jim_in_PA Tele-Meister

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    That makes sense, Kevin. I kinda am just seeking "a target" for the first go-around since I have such limited experience. Ultimately, I'm merely hoping for "easy to play". LOL Tell that to my fingers... ;)
     
    KelvinS1965 likes this.
  9. NashvilleDeluxe

    NashvilleDeluxe Tele-Holic

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    moosie and Jim_in_PA like this.
  10. FenderGuy53

    FenderGuy53 Poster Extraordinaire

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    Use the setup order and measurements from Fender's website. They work quite well. Tweak to taste.
     
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