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PostPosted: Sun Nov 26, 2017 9:50 am 
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Mahogany
Mahogany

Joined: Fri Feb 10, 2017 11:09 pm
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First name: Conor
Last Name: Searl
City: Duncan
State: British Columbia
Zip/Postal Code: V9L 2E5
Country: Canada
Status: Amateur
A customer dropped a guitar off without a truss rod yesterday asking for a set up. There isn't much wear on the frets, except for below the 5th fret. Usually I'd straighten out the neck and get on with things, but obviously without a truss rod that's not possible. Anyone have any tips on dressing frets other than taking a fret rocker and addressing each one individually?


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PostPosted: Sun Nov 26, 2017 10:58 am 
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Koa
Koa

Joined: Thu Nov 04, 2010 1:46 pm
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First name: Freeman
Last Name: Keller
Focus: Build
Status: Amateur
What kind of guitar (steel string, nylon, ...? What is the starting relief (under tension and not)? What is the 1st and 12th fret action? What is the "next fret clearance" for all frets?

What do you have against "taking a fret rocker and addressing them individually"?


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PostPosted: Mon Nov 27, 2017 1:13 pm 
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Mahogany
Mahogany

Joined: Fri Feb 10, 2017 11:09 pm
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First name: Conor
Last Name: Searl
City: Duncan
State: British Columbia
Zip/Postal Code: V9L 2E5
Country: Canada
Status: Amateur
Freeman wrote:
What kind of guitar (steel string, nylon, ...? What is the starting relief (under tension and not)? What is the 1st and 12th fret action? What is the "next fret clearance" for all frets?

What do you have against "taking a fret rocker and addressing them individually"?


Hi Freeman, its kind of a D-28 clone. Under tension, the relief at the 7th fret is .023", without tension its .011". There's some weird stuff happening with the high strings and it looks like the nut and saddle both need replacing, so I'll be making new ones, but the action as it is at the first fret is .022" on the low E, .019" at the high E. The action at the 12th fret is about 7/64" give or take a smidge across the board. "Next fret clearance", (I've never measured that before, I'm assuming you fret the note and measure the clearance at the next fret?) Fretting the first fret the clearance at the 2nd is .023, then it moves progressively through these measurements up to the 14th fret .015, .014, .013, .012, .012, .012, .011, .011, .009, .007, .008, .009.

I don't have anything against using a fret rocker, I've just come to realize that it's always good to sit on my first impulse and ask if there's a better way to do something.


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PostPosted: Mon Nov 27, 2017 2:18 pm 
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Koa
Koa

Joined: Thu Nov 04, 2010 1:46 pm
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First name: Freeman
Last Name: Keller
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OK, that is very helpful. As we have discussed several times before, there are folks here that can look at a guitar and know exactly what it needs, I don't have that kind of experience but with a few numbers I can make a pretty good guess.

The first question for you (and your customer) - is that amount of relief acceptable and if not, what can you do about it. If he/she only plays in the first positions it might be, but in my humble, its way too much and I would consider the options. Unfortunately, they aren't good - if there was an adjustable truss rod it would be easy (if its an old D28 clone it probably has a steel bar t/r - and the old Martins were pretty stable).

The "next fret clearance" thing is something that tells me a lot about the neck and current setup. Here is how I use it. Assuming a string does not buzz when fretted at 1, I measure the clearance at 2. It will usually be around 2 or 3 or 4 thousands of an inch. If that amount of clearance is buzz free at the first fret it should be at every other fret. I just move up the neck with that feeler gauge checking the next fret. If the clearance stays the same I know the action is about as low as it will go, the relief is good and it won't buzz.

If the clearance gets steadily higher I know the action can come down a bit. If it gets steadily lower (or increases, then starts decreasing) then there is probably too much relief. If it suddenly pinches off at one fret then that fret is probably high (rock it). There is frequently some changes in clearance at the neck to body joint - if so you've got a 14th fret hump.

One last check is to fret between 2 and 3 and measure the clearance at 1 - again, ideally you have a slight gap of 2 or 3 or 4 thou - more and your nut action could be lower, no clearance and the open strings might buzz.

Your numbers are pretty high compared to what I've seen. The fact that they go steadily down corresponds to the high relief (crude picture but as you pull the string down into that valley you can see that it gets closer to the fret to the right)

Image

7/64 action is slightly high (maybe not too bad for a hard strummer) but if you try to go down much you are going to get some buzzing at those higher frets unless you can lower the relief. Your first fret action is normal but could be lower - I like Bryan Kimseys values of 0,018 for the low E going down to 0.014 for the high (but checking that back clearance I mentioned before). Remember that nut slots only affect the feel of the first position fretting, once you've fretted a string the nut is out of the picture as far as buzzing. Also I'm not sure why your second fret gap is so large (sound like the first fret is high, again, rock it (or if its high span 1-2-3 and see if 2 is low).

Are the first few frets worn enough that they need replacing? Have the frets been dressed before? If it were my guitar (or customer) I would seriously consider pulling the frets, leveling the board (the fact that tension pulls about 0.010 tells me a flat board would barely meet my relief specs) and refretting it.

Last question I forgot to ask is about the structural condition of the guitar - is it well hydrated, is the neck angle OK and is the bridge on tight?


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PostPosted: Mon Nov 27, 2017 2:56 pm 
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Mahogany
Mahogany

Joined: Fri Feb 10, 2017 11:09 pm
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First name: Conor
Last Name: Searl
City: Duncan
State: British Columbia
Zip/Postal Code: V9L 2E5
Country: Canada
Status: Amateur
Wow, thanks for the insights Freeman. Your explanation around next fret clearance is really helpful, and will definitely be something I incorporate into the future.

My work is generally basic set up and maintenance stuff, more involved tricky things I'll send on to others, although I don't mind taking on "learning" projects when time and the situation allows. This guitar is handmade by a guy named Kevin Hall from the early 80's out of Toronto. The customer is a friend, he scooped the guitar up for $340, and wants to put a bit of work in but not tons. Structurally, I'd say the guitar is at the place where it is passable now, but could need a neck reset in the near future, which we talked about. The saddle is about as low as you'd want to go, and there is a bit of a hump at the 14th fret. Hydration wise the guitar looks great, and there doesn't seem to be an loose braces, the bridge is on good too. The customers playing style is basically bluesy fingerstyle stuff, so a higher action doesn't really bother him, and a guitar you have to fight with a bit suits him anyway.

The first 3 or 4 frets are pretty worn but I think I have enough meat I can get away with dressing them.

He was comfortable with addressing the immediate issues and waiting on addressing some of the bigger things down the road.


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PostPosted: Mon Nov 27, 2017 4:10 pm 
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Mahogany
Mahogany

Joined: Mon Sep 17, 2007 12:00 pm
Posts: 50
Location: Australia
In this sort of situation, I would still use a levelling beam (mine is 16") but wrap a layer of masking tape around it at the body end to help focus on the first 5 frets. By the time you get below the wear which is usually worse on the b string you may have reduced the relief a bit, and with filing nut slots down to match the first fret that may be enough to get acceptable action.
Agree with Freeman's comments too


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PostPosted: Mon Nov 27, 2017 4:36 pm 
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Koa
Koa

Joined: Thu Nov 04, 2010 1:46 pm
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First name: Freeman
Last Name: Keller
Focus: Build
Status: Amateur
Conor_Searl wrote:
Wow, thanks for the insights Freeman. Your explanation around next fret clearance is really helpful, and will definitely be something I incorporate into the future.



Take a guitar that you think has perfect action and playability and try the next fret thing. Lots of times when I'm just evaluating a guitar I'll hold down the first fret, find a feeler that works and then just move up the neck. If I can wiggle it then things are probably OK, I can feel if its opening up, in which case I know the action might be a little high. What I don't want to feel is it getting either progressively tighter (too much relief) or suddenly tight (high fret). Its just a quick test but it can tell a lot.

You can also do a real dirty next fret check - hold down a string at each fret and tap it over the next one. You should see a tiny bit of movement and hear a little "ping" which tells you that you have some clearance and probably it isn't going to buzz. I do this on the first fret nut check that I described above - hold down between 2 and 3 and tap at 1, you want just a hair of clearance.

Sounds like you have a good plan. If and when you pull the neck for a reset it might make sense to pull the frets and level the board even tho they might still be OK. Let us know how it goes



These users thanked the author Freeman for the post: fumblefinger (Tue Nov 28, 2017 1:02 am)
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