Fretted Instrument Repair
There are six factors that all great guitars have that make them play like we all dream guitars would.
- Neck Pitch Angle
- Different manufacturers or different designs of guitars require different pitch angles if any. Gibson vs Fender for example. Take a Les Paul with its set neck that is pitched away from the guitars body vs. a Stratocaster that has an almost straight pitched neck. Both great guitars and both have a certain pitch that meets their respective bridges properly.
- Flat fingerboard. By flat I don't mean classical style with zero radius, but relative to the sanded shape either cone for Compound or cylinder for Straight radius. A neck must be flat relative to its shape.
- Flat frets. If frets are installed incorrectly then a flat fingerboard does little to help. The fingerboard and the tops of all the frets must be parallel to each other. A straight neck does not mean straight frets. Both must be checked.
- Truss rod. I prefer a two-way truss rod or carbon fiber reinforced necks depending on the players style of music. Two-way truss rods give you more flexibility for different setups and playing styles, imagine Swiss army knife, more options. Carbon fiber reinforced necks are perma-straight necks. There is no adjustment available but that neck is straight for the life of the guitar. I like to start with a straight neck with my setups and depending on the neck pitch angle or any high and low frets I'll loosen the truss rod to add .003-.007 thousands of relief as necessary.
- Saddle height. Saddle height is very important for downward force applied by the strings. This is what gives you your power for your acoustic guitar especially if you're using a piezo style pickup under the saddle. Piezo's need sufficient pressure in order to translate your guitars vibrations into an electrical signal. The weaker the downward force the weaker your guitar will sound. I like to see between 5 and 7/64ths of the saddle above the bridge. Much higher than that and the guitars action will be too high, much lower than that and there may not be sufficient force being applied.
- Nut Height. Filing into the nut is the icing on the cake of a guitar playing well. Lets be honest, many guitar players play within the first 5 frets of their guitar and its here that we fight our guitars the most. There is no give at the first fret so the strings need to be set as low as they can without buzzing
Setting Up A Guitar
What is a setup? The guitar world considers a setup as what is needed in order for a guitar to play comfortably. I say "what is needed" because it is just that. Most guitars, especially new, need a setup at one time or another. What is involved in a setup? The 6 factors I outlined at the top of this page breakdown what determines a comfortable and easy to play guitar. A guitars neck must have proper pitch in order for the strings to be close to the frets. A guitar neck must have a flat fingerboard relative to its radius; no high and no low spots. A guitars frets much be flat, when inserted, matching the fingerboard radius. The guitars truss rod allows the player to adjust the necks straightness depending on the players choice of strings. Heavier strings like a set of 13's will pull the neck with greater force compared to a set of 10's. A guitars Saddle height should not be too high or too low. Too high, the string height will follow, too low and your guitars tone will diminish. Lastly the strings height filed into he nut determines the guitars comfort in the first position where many guitar plays tend to play. Why is this needed? Why don't guitar manufacturers setup their guitars before shipping them out? I cannot speak for any manufacturer but I would argue that guitar makers do setup their guitars; just higher than what players want. Look at it from a manufacturing point of view. Guitar makers are working with an imperfect material, wood, that moves based on moisture and temperature. In a climate controlled area, like a factory, wood can stabilize. Leave the factory however, and wood will begin to adjust to its environment. My example for customers is usually Florida, Arizona, and Nevada. Florida with its high temperatures and humidity, you can expect the guitar to swell with too much moisture. Arizona with its high temperatures and low humidity, you can expect a guitar to shrink and eventually crack. Nevada with high deserts like Reno with low humidity and temperatures, you can expect the guitar to shrink and eventually crack. Its the lesser of two evils for a guitar manufacturer to have higher string height compared to lower. With higher string height a guitar is far more likely to play without having any buzzing issues after the guitar adjusts to its new non-factory controlled climate. With lower string height the possibility of string buzz is greater after the guitar adjusts to its new climate. The issue is that a guitar that has string buzz will be less likely to sell and customers forget who the real customer of guitars are, Guitar Stores. You the customer may buy a guitar of a brand or mix of brands while the Guitar Store will buy many more guitars than any customer with the hopes of selling them all. If a guitar has a buzz then it is less likely to sell. Yes, Guitar Stores should be able to adjust string height but not all stores have qualified technicians and the guitar may have to be sent back to the manufacturer.
Partial Neck Reset and custom Bridge Shim Seagul S6
I say partial neck reset because that seems the most appropriate for a bolt-on neck with a glued tongue. The neck was already loose when the customer brought in the guitar, the real issue was the torn off bridge and how much of the top had been ripped away. In order for a glue joint to hold there can't be weak spots with no wood or glue. So the job required getting below the lowest point in the top and gluing in a shim to fill the gap so I could glue the bridge to the guitars top properly. I cut a shim out of Redwood Cedar to match the guitars top. After gluing the shim and leveling its height to that of the guitars top I was ready to glue the bridge. Lastly after the bridge was secure I was able to attach the neck, check my pitch angle, and bolt/glue the neck in place.