Adjusting truss rod - at full tension?

Discussion in 'Luthier's Guitar & Bass Technical Discussion' started by CyberFerret, Feb 6, 2012.

  1. CyberFerret

    CyberFerret Member

    Feb 25, 2010
    Darwin, Australia
    I've got a question about adjusting the truss rod on my guitars - should I be tweaking my truss rod whilst the strings are still on there at full tension?

    I will have to slacken off the 'D' and 'G' strings to move them out of the way so I can get my allen wrench in there at the headstock - so the question is, after every adjustment, should I tune up to normal pitch and check the relief along the neck?

  2. edi_87

    edi_87 Member

    Oct 18, 2010
    Warsaw, Poland
    Hey, I'm not a luthier, just a fellow player, but have set up my guitars myself for a while and IMO yes, what you're talking about is the most common technique.
    Make adjustments with your guitar in tune (although some guys lower the tension of the neck before adujsting and after assessing curvature of the neck). If you have to slacken one or two strings to access the truss rod, no problem, but you should tune the guitar afterwards to take any measurements.
  3. fumbler

    fumbler Member

    Sep 26, 2006
    The Garden State!!!
    Yes, but you do need to wait for the neck to settle down between each adjustment. Some people say no more than a 1/4 turn at a time and let it rest over night when you get close and are really trying to dial it in.

    I'm a bit more reckless than that, though. After tweaking the truss rod I always try to help "convince" the neck to move by physically bending it in the required direction (gently).
  4. Chris Scott

    Chris Scott Silver Supporting Member

    Sep 1, 2006
    Playa Jaco, Costa Rica
    Necks are like people - we may look more or less the same, but we're still a bit different. Some necks require no more than +/- 1/8 turn, you get an immediate and predictable change, and it remains stable from the git-go, while other ones fight you like the proverbial ex in divorce court - you just gotta muck in there and start working, and in pretty short order you should know what that particular neck wants to do.
  5. Sensible Musician

    Sensible Musician Member

    Nov 17, 2009
    you can "help" the rod find equilibrium with the strings. when tightening, pull the neck in that direction; i like to put the guitar on my foot and press the back of the neck with my leg. when you loosen the strings are already pulling the neck that direction.

    this also helps to prevent rod nut damage, since it will turn easily if the neck is already bowed in the direction you're going

    i've seen rods in teflon sleeves - i wish they would all do that. i think some of the wonkiness of adjustment might come from the rod not sliding very freely against the wood. pre-bending helps with that
  6. mikeylikesit

    mikeylikesit Member

    Aug 6, 2010
    This doesn't really address the Op's question but I was doing some work on my '92 G&L S500 this weekend and I was amazed at how much i could deflect the neck by putting light pressure with one finger on the peghead. This was with the guitar unstrung and using a notched straight edge.
  7. GtrDr

    GtrDr Member

    Apr 25, 2008
    Central Florida
    If I had to turn the truss rod 1/4 turn & wait over night, a set up would take a week. Loosen the 2 center strings adjust it & tune it up & re check it. Some necks need more adjustment than others, 1/4 turn might be too much if the relief is only a bit off.
  8. walterw

    walterw Gold Supporting Member

    Oct 16, 2006
    +1; turn the rod until the neck is where you want it, get on with your day.

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