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Vintage saddle height + shims

Discussion in 'Tele-Technical' started by iris186, Jul 8, 2011.

  1. iris186

    iris186 Tele-Meister

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    1st off - this isnt an action setup question. More complicated than that Im afraid!

    Im taking my guitar to a guitar tech to adjust the intonation for an upcoming recording. I was showing him the guitar - Ive a MIM telecaster with a 3 saddle Gotoh Wilkinson bridge. I explained to him, to get the action low (now, I dont mean low - I mean low enough, ive actually quite a high action with 52-10 strings - at the 12th fret 4/32 on the e string), I had to add a bridge side shim. The saddles were simply too high to achieve this action on the guitar. It was a major problem.

    My opinion of the shim was actually - its great - I got a bigger break angle off the saddles, the strings felt easier to bend, and I got the action perfect. I didnt notice any loss of sustain. The guitar was easier to play, and just fun.

    Hes taking the opinion of removing the shim as part of the setup and getting the intonation right - its not that its a problem because of the shim - he just doesnt seem to like shims. This is extremely risky for me as if the guitar returns and I dislike the way it plays, Ill have to get it set up again at more expense and extremely close to the recording in 2 weeks.

    My question is - so ive some way to explain the situation - I want to convince him that the action will be too high if he removes the shim. Altering the setup majorly. So what I need to know is - roughly - with saddles at a certain height, on a standard telecaster what roughly the resulting action is.

    So for example (with the shim) My saddle height on the 6 string is 30/32, resulting in a unfretted action of a little under 4/32 at the 12th fret.

    The saddle height minimum is 12/32 - Im wondering what the minimum action would be on a normal tele neck without shim at the 12th fret.

    Hes the tech, I understand that, hell be able to bend rules to make it easier to play - but I think removing the shim will totally alter the way the guitar feels and responds.

    Its not like theres a gun to my head to take the guitar to him, but Im pretty sure Im right, which is also important for me to know! :lol: Although I could be wrong. Its not THAT unusual.
     
  2. KokoTele

    KokoTele Doctor of Teleocity Vendor Member

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    If you say to him you want the action at 4/64" and you know it can't get there without the shim, he'll likely figure out that the shim needs to be there.

    You didn't mention how much relief you have in the neck. This is something that many people overlook, and it can have a significant impact on both your action and your intonation.

    Increasing the break angle at the nut or saddle has a tendency to make a guitar feel stiffer. If he's able to get the action you want without the shim, it's likely that the guitar will feel a little easier to play.

    Personally, when a guitar shows up on my bench with a shim, my first reaction is that the person who installed it probably did so after misdiagnosing a different problem. If they're not necessary, I take them out too.
     
  3. iris186

    iris186 Tele-Meister

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    Thanks koko, the relief is pretty ok, I used to have it at the "paper thickness" size, so pretty straight. Right now its a little more than that. But it def wasnt back bow if thats what you mean. Im pretty ok with setting up guitars and judging them - just setting intonation with brass saddles and with my size strings AND the shim to have close to perfect for a recording (understanding the limitations of a 3 saddle) is a responsibility I wouldnt relish! Best get it done by someone doing it day in day out.

    With the easier to bend - I meant with respect to action I guess. I wasnt entirely enjoying the experience of playing the 52-10s with the old 6 saddle, Im sure it was just a culmination of changes that made me happy with the setup I have now. Its difficult to judge past instruments and setups as you develop as a player and understand more now!
     
  4. KokoTele

    KokoTele Doctor of Teleocity Vendor Member

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    FWIW, having a shim doesn't make it any easier or harder to intonate. All it takes is an accurate tuner and a bit of patience.
     
  5. iris186

    iris186 Tele-Meister

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    Ha! Im an extremely patient person - yet intonation wants to make me hurl my guitar into the lake of lost souls. :D

    Yeah - I think the tech is expanding the "intonate" to a full setup which Im sure is more expensive. Just at the same time, im getting the guitar shielded so I guess - whatever - i might as well have the experience of getting the guitar set up. See if he can do better than my 5 years of toiling.

    On an ordinary day - Im quite happy to wreck my guitar with the goal of learning but today is not that day! I REALLY want to use my guitar for the recording - and it would be pants if an engineer says "guitar sucks - take this" and its strung 9s or something. Perfectly nice - but not your sound.
     
  6. rolling56

    rolling56 Friend of Leo's

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    A lot of times when a guitar tech needs to do many things to the same guitar, they will charge less than if you take it to them many times.......mine does here.
     
  7. iris186

    iris186 Tele-Meister

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    Well, he is doing a deal on the combined setup/intonation. So that works out a bit better.

    Anyways - anybody have any more info on the original question? If someone could sacrificially raise their 6th string saddle to 12/32 in the interest of science and see what height it gives at the 12th fret, that would be amazing!
     
  8. KokoTele

    KokoTele Doctor of Teleocity Vendor Member

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    Well, you can't really intonate without doing a full setup anyway, and no decent tech would do so. Since the relief and action affect the intonation, you have to check them first.

    He may have a minimum charge (many of us do). Even if you only ask for X, I figure that if you're paying me for an hour, you get an hour of work, so I'll go ahead and take care of anything else I find that needs fixing, unless, of course, I think you'd rather keep it broken :)
     
  9. telex76

    telex76 Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

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    If you want to be your own guitar tech, do it.
    If you want to take it to a tech, you are paying for his expertise. If you don't trust him, take it to someone else or do it yourself.
     
  10. iris186

    iris186 Tele-Meister

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    Yeah, in a normal circumstance that would be fine, but this is my 1st time doing it, I clearly cant nor want to do it myself, and i dont have the time nor money to make a mistake.

    I can make an educated request to have the shim left in place once I have facts instead of based on assumption. Which is the point of the thread. And why im looking for an answer to the question. I obviously could say "leave the shim alone", but then I could be losing out on a improvement. Since i have a very generic guitar that a bazillion people own, and if they frequent these forums theres a good chance they know their truss from their elbow, and i figured there would be a good chance someone can answer the question.

    Im sure alot of you professionals have an understanding or a least familiarity with your engineer, that they understand what youre looking for after a couple times going. Which, having not done it before is a shot in the dark.

    Also - adding to this - since the intonation is my primary goal, if the guitar isnt playing how I want, even though I know how to tweak the playability and could make an easy fix - that of course impacts the intonation and Im back at square one.
     
  11. telex76

    telex76 Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

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    We could have identical guitars. We could both like our actions the same.
    Your guitar might require a shim to achieve that. Mine might get the same set up without a shim.
    Nobody can possibly guess what your guitar needs for sure until they get it on the table, check neck relief, string height, pickup height and intonation. If you can make all the proper adjustments without a shim, then you don't need one.

    If you get it set up properly, but you think the saddles are sitting too low (I don't like mine too low) then a thin shim might make it better for you, but you have to start the process all over.
     
  12. iris186

    iris186 Tele-Meister

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    I think we've crossed wires here. This exact sentence is what im asking for - i need to know whether I need the shim. So I need someone to verify it is possible to get an action as low as I want without a shim. The shim can go. Thats not the problem - the tech is advising to remove the shim for sustain - i simply want to know whether the action I have is possible without. I dont want the engineer to remove the shim if it means I accidentally lose the current feel.

    The problem isnt the break angle of strings - or the saddle height. Its specifically whether at their lowest height of 12/32 whether the 4/32 height is possible with a standard MIM tele and neck relief. Thats all. Thats all I want to verify.

    Playability, like tonality are subjective. Im not interested in that - I simply want to know whether its possible without removing my current shim and checking and messing up the way I like the guitar setup.

    I cant copy anybody elses feel - im not interested - Im asking simply for a number. Otherwise, ive to take out the shim, and risk losing the position and angle and action I enjoy to play. I thought this would be a really simple question to ask but its turned into a pretty large thread which has gone a bit off topic. If nobody else can verify it on an MIM tele thats fine if its impossible - Were talking about variable action + variable truss. I would have thought alot of people keep the same truss adjustment - even if its completely off Id still get a rough estimate. Which is what I asked for.
     
  13. KokoTele

    KokoTele Doctor of Teleocity Vendor Member

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    You're making too much of this. If the tech can get the same action without the shim, he should. If he can't, he'll leave the shim in there. Simple as that.
     
  14. Thinlineggman

    Thinlineggman Tele-Afflicted

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    tech knows what he's doing. Don't argue with him. If the shim can be removed without any negative side affects, it should be removed as it is completely pointless to have it there if it is not serving a purpose. Just take it in and if you aren't happy when it returns, take it back. You're making way too big a deal about a simple setup.
     
  15. iris186

    iris186 Tele-Meister

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    Yeah ok, fingers crossed.
     
  16. Telecasteur

    Telecasteur TDPRI Member

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    I'm not a fan of really low saddles, especially with an ashtray bridge...

    Sometimes, a shim is required to get low action, and keep the saddles at a comfortable palm-mutable height. Plus, as Ron Kirn has said on here before, a shim could be the missing thing to get your guitar into its sweet spot.

    Check out this pictorial from Danny at Straight Frets in Austin. If a business card shim is too cheap for you, some techs are using carbon fiber shims now.

    http://www.straightfrets.com/content/carbon-neck-shim-copper-lining

    My opinion: Don't Fear The Shim
     
  17. LocustPlague

    LocustPlague Tele-Holic

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    One huge problem with the measurement you were asking for is that action is usually measured VERY VERY accurately while all of the bits and pieces that made up the guitar are not. A little thicker finish here, a little more moisture-related swelling in the wood there, etc, and you get two guitars that APPEAR to be identical, but the minute differences add up.
     
  18. chrisgblues

    chrisgblues Tele-Afflicted

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    IMHO the bigger question is...

    Does your tech seriously think that removing the shim will give you more sustain?

    Sounds like he's been drinking the Kool-Aid. Just on that point alone I say he's not a quality guitar tech.

    Tons of builders have used shims to get the angle perfect (Fender included, and a couple high quality builders on this forum as well, it's been discussed many times). I have two guitars with shims, I NEVER EVER catch myself saying "gee...I wish this guitar had more sustain".

    If it ain't broke...

    JMHO.
     
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