Use a nickel for height adjustment checking...

GearGeek01

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I haven't delved into Fender and any other brand trying to be my own tech guy,,, but tonight I gave my new Epiphone Les Paul Classic a pretty good once over...

This Epiphone isn't one of the "marvels" people sometimes find that have a spot-on perfect set up from the factory. (I have an "Inspired By Gibson 2022 Epiphone ES-339 that is one of those). This one needed quite a few little tweaks...

First off the bridge pickup is (oh noooo) tilted... ugh... just what my OCD needed to see. But it's not tilted in only one direction. the black coil is closer to the strings than the cream coil with screws )zebra pups). Then... the two covers come together fine at the 1st string side of the pickup... but the cream side is farther away than the black side from 1st to 6th string... the pickup is screwed from the factory.

Nothing under the pup making it so it's not level. It was just made crooked.

I changed most of the foobar points this guitar had by using a nickel...

I ran across a Gibson/Epiphone spec of... string height off the pickups as... under the first string to the pickup... 4/64"... under the 6th string side, 6/64"... I'm sure there are a zillion combinations all according to personal preference...

I had to give the neck a teeny twist of the trussrod (counter-clockwise) to give it a hair's worth of forward bow (it was rubbing against the frets at the 7th-9th fret...). Then my first measurement with the nickel was the string height at the 12th fret... no capo or anything at the first fret, just how did the nickel pass under the strings at fret #12... it had a LOT of space...

Next was a learning experiment with which way to turn the thumbwheels on the tune-o-matic bridge... of course I thought it would be "lefty loosey" or something but here's how the thumbwheels roll...

Clockwise LOWERS the TOM
Counter-Clockwise RAISES the TOM

Once I got that figured out, I loosened the strings and adjusted the thumbwheels to bring the strings in closer (Clockwise LOWERS)...

TA nickel is super close to being exactly 4/64" so I used it as a measuring tool until by moving the thumbwheels several times, I got the 1st string making sort of a scratchy sound as I passed the nickel under it... and the 6th string I set up so the nickel would pass through a little easier...

Gibson/Epiphone has the same spec for string height over the pickups... 1st string >> 4/64"... 6th string 6/64"... The nickel works great... here's how I did it...

I raised the pickups one at a time until I could just trap the nickel under the string on top of the bobbin with the screws... then I used my little screwdriver to lower the pickup until the nickel fell out easily... I did this for the bridge and the neck pickups... plus gave just a tad more space on the 6th string side (as that string is a bit fatter and will vibrate slightly larger)

Before all this the guitar was a freak... the neck pickup was way way louder than the bridge pickup... and the bridge pickup from the factory sounded to my ears ice-picky...

This guitar has 3 x push/pulls... vol/vol does a coil split... and a push/pull o the neck tone shove it out-of-phase (OOP) when the toggle is in the middle (both pup on) position. Prior to this adjusting stuff I did, that pickup was terrible in OOP mode... worse when the vol was pulled up and coil split at the same time as OOP

But now... the entire guitar is very well-balanced as far as play-ability (much better, and great sustain... no "splank splank splank" of a too-low LP action...

I didn't check the 7th-8th frets with a capo on the 1st fret and my finger on the 22nd... then slide (like) a chunk of a 1st string underneath (the first string if you use 10's is 0.010"... or I suppose one could use the second string, which in a set of 10's is 0.013". Gibson/Epiphone spec for string height at the 7th or 8th fret... is 0.010" - 0.012" (depending on where you get the specs... got mine just watching YouTube...)... so I didn't measure this measurement... I just "guessed" at how much to move the trussrod... and pretty much guessed at where to set the bridge tumbwheels...

I sort of had a "feel" for how much tuning on each (trussrod, not much, and thumbwheels... more than I expected)

Now after fiddling around with this and my nickel, I have a really good playing and great (balanced sound between the volumes of the pickups) solid tone when I hit the 3-way toggle. It wasn't that way before. Before the action was "splanky" (too low) and the pickup's heights were all foo-barred in...

For $549.00 I think I now have a really great axe.

The output jack was loosy goosy so I had to tear into that, too. I do appreciate Epi giving us metal jackplates on these guitars. I have a Les Paul Modern Figured, and an SG Modern Figured, and both of those have metal jackplates as well. The Epiphone jack plates are in schematic measurements in metric... whereas Gibson USA jackplates do not fit properly, as they are in SAE measurements (inches and such), not metric.

As far as a trussrod wrench... the Epiphone spec is to use a 4mm wrench... well, 4mm in decimals is 0.157... a 5/32" is 0.156 so it is a thousandth of an inch smaller... and all I had was the 5/32" hex and it worked fine to give the trussrod a little twitch...

I didn't have any fancy measuring doo-dads... for the whole maneuver... all the tools I needed were...

- small Phillips head that fits the pickup adjustment screws
- a string winder to loosen and tighten the strings as I adjusted the thumbwheels on the bridge
- a 5/32" hex wrench (calls for a 4mm)
- a small pair of pliers to gently start the thumbwheels moving (they were pretty tight at first, then moved with my thumbs)
- a nickel

All this being the first time I've ever done this took me several hours. But what a cool learning experience.

My 2002 (Inspired By Gibson) SG Modern Figured has the same issue... it's rubbing between the 7th-9th fret... Next I'll break out my trusty nickel and set this one up myself, too... I'm really happy with the Les Paul Classic set up I did (myself)... Depending on what the techs might charge to do the same. I'm sure someone with more knowledge and experience could do what I did in a few minutes... So, I saved myself anywhere form $25-75 tech charges. Jeesh... I should have learned to do this years ago... LOL
 

GearGeek01

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Joined
Jan 26, 2007
Posts
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Location
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In case you're wondering what are some Fender specs, etc... I found these 2 links... they have string heights, and a useful set of specs on how far away from the strings for several different kind of Strat pickups...

What are (the Fender) factory setup specs?

--------------------------------------

How do I set up my Stratocaster guitar properly?

--------------------------------------

I watched this YouTube that told me what the strings heights and such were for a Gibson/Epiphone humbucker guitar...


The same fellow has a YouTube on Gibson/Epiphone SGs that is about the same as this video...

- 4/64" (use a nickel, it's 4/64" wide)
- 6/64"
- 0.010"- 0.012"...

-----------------------------------------------

If you want to jump down th Gibson rabbit hole... here ya' go...
 

GearGeek01

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Joined
Jan 26, 2007
Posts
622
Location
Detroit
This Gibson video is about string height and action. At the 12th fret he sets his at 3/64" and 5/64"... I think for me that would be too low. I call it "splanky", he calls a too-low action "splatty"... I think I like the nickel idea, and slightly looser

He mentions using a dime at the 12th fret under the 1st string... and he also says a nickel under the 6th string, 12th fret...

I like to play jazz, very clean, and relatively low but good sustain... and on the same guitar I might play electric blues and use a slide... so just a tad higher is good for me

Here's the Gibson setup video...
 

eallen

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Good job! A pic of your axe would be nice, especially the wonky pickup heights.

Action depends greatly on personal taste rather than a measurement. The measurments are a good refrence starting point though. A string action guage is a good simple tool as well.

For those who like the lowest action possible, possible only with leveled frets, I throw out the measurements and lowered each string until it buzzes & then raise it a quarter turn of the saddles until it doesn't buzz. Then raise it a hair more to allow for humidity changes. On a TOM bridge you only have the option to do so on the high & low E & the rest are as they are. On bridges with individual adjustable saddles I will do the same on adjustment on each string.
 

Freeman Keller

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I approach every guitar exactly the same way. Measure everything before I touch anything (and write it down). Deal with any humidity, structural or geometry issues. Deal with frets. Do the setup. Balance the pickups. Target specifications will vary with the instrument and player, but remarkably usually end up pretty much the same


Ps the spreadsheet that I reference has a page with lots of setup specifications from various manufactures and techs. Its very handy if someone says "I want my guitar set to factory specifications"
 
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FenderLover

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For setup, I employ the empirical method. I've never measured anything. Eyeball it, then tune it in. It's never failed me. People enjoy playing my guitars.
 

Freeman Keller

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A really handy way to measure things is a standard business card. Most of them are right at 10 thousands of an inch thick. One card is the maximum I like to see for relief, one is the minimum and two is the maximum for first fret action. Six on the high E and 8 or 9 on the low is a very sweet 12th fret action for both electrics and acoustics.

They will never replace a nickel but for a quick check they work well
 

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SixStringSlinger

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For setup, I employ the empirical method. I've never measured anything. Eyeball it, then tune it in. It's never failed me. People enjoy playing my guitars.

I don't necessarily recommend any particular measurements as a goal, but I do recommend measuring everything before you tweak anything. That way you can tweak back any secondary effects of an adjustment you make (you raised your action, so you may want to raise your pickups to the same relative distance) or get things back to where you started if you want to start again from "scratch".
 

pixeljammer

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I haven't delved into Fender and any other brand trying to be my own tech guy,,, but tonight I gave my new Epiphone Les Paul Classic a pretty good once over...

This Epiphone isn't one of the "marvels" people sometimes find that have a spot-on perfect set up from the factory. (I have an "Inspired By Gibson 2022 Epiphone ES-339 that is one of those). This one needed quite a few little tweaks...

First off the bridge pickup is (oh noooo) tilted... ugh... just what my OCD needed to see. But it's not tilted in only one direction. the black coil is closer to the strings than the cream coil with screws )zebra pups). Then... the two covers come together fine at the 1st string side of the pickup... but the cream side is farther away than the black side from 1st to 6th string... the pickup is screwed from the factory.

Nothing under the pup making it so it's not level. It was just made crooked.

I changed most of the foobar points this guitar had by using a nickel...

I ran across a Gibson/Epiphone spec of... string height off the pickups as... under the first string to the pickup... 4/64"... under the 6th string side, 6/64"... I'm sure there are a zillion combinations all according to personal preference...

I had to give the neck a teeny twist of the trussrod (counter-clockwise) to give it a hair's worth of forward bow (it was rubbing against the frets at the 7th-9th fret...). Then my first measurement with the nickel was the string height at the 12th fret... no capo or anything at the first fret, just how did the nickel pass under the strings at fret #12... it had a LOT of space...

Next was a learning experiment with which way to turn the thumbwheels on the tune-o-matic bridge... of course I thought it would be "lefty loosey" or something but here's how the thumbwheels roll...

Clockwise LOWERS the TOM
Counter-Clockwise RAISES the TOM

Once I got that figured out, I loosened the strings and adjusted the thumbwheels to bring the strings in closer (Clockwise LOWERS)...

TA nickel is super close to being exactly 4/64" so I used it as a measuring tool until by moving the thumbwheels several times, I got the 1st string making sort of a scratchy sound as I passed the nickel under it... and the 6th string I set up so the nickel would pass through a little easier...

Gibson/Epiphone has the same spec for string height over the pickups... 1st string >> 4/64"... 6th string 6/64"... The nickel works great... here's how I did it...

I raised the pickups one at a time until I could just trap the nickel under the string on top of the bobbin with the screws... then I used my little screwdriver to lower the pickup until the nickel fell out easily... I did this for the bridge and the neck pickups... plus gave just a tad more space on the 6th string side (as that string is a bit fatter and will vibrate slightly larger)

Before all this the guitar was a freak... the neck pickup was way way louder than the bridge pickup... and the bridge pickup from the factory sounded to my ears ice-picky...

This guitar has 3 x push/pulls... vol/vol does a coil split... and a push/pull o the neck tone shove it out-of-phase (OOP) when the toggle is in the middle (both pup on) position. Prior to this adjusting stuff I did, that pickup was terrible in OOP mode... worse when the vol was pulled up and coil split at the same time as OOP

But now... the entire guitar is very well-balanced as far as play-ability (much better, and great sustain... no "splank splank splank" of a too-low LP action...

I didn't check the 7th-8th frets with a capo on the 1st fret and my finger on the 22nd... then slide (like) a chunk of a 1st string underneath (the first string if you use 10's is 0.010"... or I suppose one could use the second string, which in a set of 10's is 0.013". Gibson/Epiphone spec for string height at the 7th or 8th fret... is 0.010" - 0.012" (depending on where you get the specs... got mine just watching YouTube...)... so I didn't measure this measurement... I just "guessed" at how much to move the trussrod... and pretty much guessed at where to set the bridge tumbwheels...

I sort of had a "feel" for how much tuning on each (trussrod, not much, and thumbwheels... more than I expected)

Now after fiddling around with this and my nickel, I have a really good playing and great (balanced sound between the volumes of the pickups) solid tone when I hit the 3-way toggle. It wasn't that way before. Before the action was "splanky" (too low) and the pickup's heights were all foo-barred in...

For $549.00 I think I now have a really great axe.

The output jack was loosy goosy so I had to tear into that, too. I do appreciate Epi giving us metal jackplates on these guitars. I have a Les Paul Modern Figured, and an SG Modern Figured, and both of those have metal jackplates as well. The Epiphone jack plates are in schematic measurements in metric... whereas Gibson USA jackplates do not fit properly, as they are in SAE measurements (inches and such), not metric.

As far as a trussrod wrench... the Epiphone spec is to use a 4mm wrench... well, 4mm in decimals is 0.157... a 5/32" is 0.156 so it is a thousandth of an inch smaller... and all I had was the 5/32" hex and it worked fine to give the trussrod a little twitch...

I didn't have any fancy measuring doo-dads... for the whole maneuver... all the tools I needed were...

- small Phillips head that fits the pickup adjustment screws
- a string winder to loosen and tighten the strings as I adjusted the thumbwheels on the bridge
- a 5/32" hex wrench (calls for a 4mm)
- a small pair of pliers to gently start the thumbwheels moving (they were pretty tight at first, then moved with my thumbs)
- a nickel

All this being the first time I've ever done this took me several hours. But what a cool learning experience.

My 2002 (Inspired By Gibson) SG Modern Figured has the same issue... it's rubbing between the 7th-9th fret... Next I'll break out my trusty nickel and set this one up myself, too... I'm really happy with the Les Paul Classic set up I did (myself)... Depending on what the techs might charge to do the same. I'm sure someone with more knowledge and experience could do what I did in a few minutes... So, I saved myself anywhere form $25-75 tech charges. Jeesh... I should have learned to do this years ago... LOL
The Stewmac® GitNickel™
The original, and still the best.
Now only $39.95
 

bobio

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Here
I am an OCD numbers guy. I prefer to have before and after measurements I can record.
Fractions of a nickel would make my brain itch. 🤪
Besides, what would I do with all the Stewmac measuring tools I have accumulated over the years? :eek:
I also hate carrying around change. :confused:
 

GearGeek01

Tele-Holic
Joined
Jan 26, 2007
Posts
622
Location
Detroit
The Stewmac® GitNickel™
The original, and still the best.
Now only $39.95
Seems to me that everything StewMac sells is somewhere between $1.50 and $40+ being more expensive than any other place on Earth... so you thought all that "free" advice and knowledge pages were actually "free"...
 

rand z

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Joined
Feb 19, 2004
Posts
4,707
Location
trumansburg, ny
For setup, I employ the empirical method. I've never measured anything. Eyeball it, then tune it in. It's never failed me. People enjoy playing my guitars.
THIS^^^^.

Generally, I follow the same pattern.

If there are issues (about half the time), I will sometimes address them with measurements.

(This is mostly to insure that I'm OK and not going crazy.)

I've been around this stuff for a long time and have a pretty good idea what I need... and, hopefully, what I'm doing.

Your needs may be different and require more specific actions.

imo.
 

Ricky D.

Doctor of Teleocity
Joined
Oct 22, 2006
Posts
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Age
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Location
Marion, VA
I adjust my saddle height entirely by ear and feel. First, each string as low as possible such that there is no string rattle unplugged. Next, adjust the middle four so that there is a smooth radius across all six.

Done.

I have a Tele, an Esquire, a Strat, and an Epi LP. They all end up the same: 4/64” high E and 6/64” low E.

To measure string height without a ruler, just roll a drill bit under the string.
 




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