Check relief by...

Discussion in 'Luthier's Guitar & Bass Technical Discussion' started by aleclee, Aug 6, 2006.

  1. aleclee

    aleclee TGP Tech Wrangler Staff Member

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    One thing I've been toying with is to fret the guitar at the first and last frets and to pluck the strings. If I hear them buzz, there's not enough relief.

    Has anyone else tried this? If so, how did you feel about the results?
     
  2. FlyingVBlues

    FlyingVBlues Gold Supporting Member

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  3. aleclee

    aleclee TGP Tech Wrangler Staff Member

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    I'd seen it before but, to be honest, wonder whether it's worth $65 more than a set of feeler gauges. Even if I thought it was, I'm not a big fan of setting action/relief/bias/etc. based on what some meter tells me. It seems more pragmatic to make such adjustments based on the properties of the individual piece of gear.

    If I were to change my mind on that issue, I'd definitely check out tools like that a lot more closely.
     
  4. PaulM

    PaulM Member

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    Here is how to do it without any gauges:

    1. Capo at first fret (or you can fret it with your left hand, just don't let go in steps 2 and 3

    2. fret the E string at fret 15 with your right thumb

    3. tap the E string at fret 7 with your right forefinger--the amount of play at fret 7 is a good indicator of relief.

    This is a good way to get a real sense of how much backbow or relief the neck has, and you'll come to see that some of your guitars like being flatter than others. Some will like a lot of relief. I generally go with as flat as I can get away with before I bring on a buzz at the third fret in open C and G chords...
     
  5. John Phillips

    John Phillips Member

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    I just posted this in another thread, but worth repeating...

    Hold the guitar in the playing position - this is important because the weight of the neck affects the relief if the guitar is lying on its back.

    Fret the G string at the first fret and the first one which is over the body (eg 17 on a Strat, or 22 on an SG :)). Look at the gap between the string and the 7th or 8th fret. It should be about half the G string diameter, regardless of string gauge or guitar type.

    (Kind of what PaulM said, but I always use the G not either of the Es because it's in the middle of the neck, more or less. The Es can be used to check for a twist.)

    Depending on your playing style you may want less (down to almost no gap at all) or more (up to about double the G string diameter for really heavy thrashers) depending on whether you get rattle in the low positions when playing hard.

    I've been setting up guitars professionally for twenty years now and I've never once used a feeler gauge to check relief. It simply isn't the right way to do it IMO - it's both unnecessarily precise and too crude at the same time - because it doesn't take account of playing style. The same applies to any other aspect of setting up - it's how the guitar plays and sounds which tells you when it's right.
     
  6. Rhomco

    Rhomco Silver Supporting Member

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    the fact that your strings must lay on the saddles with the same radius (on the bottom) as the fretboard. Always set your radius before you try to get minimum relief. I prefer to get both "E" strings relief happy then make sure the other strings match the radius.
    Rob
     
  7. Steve Foley

    Steve Foley Member

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    I agree - trust your eyes, ears and fingers, but, having worked on a lot of friend's (and not-friend's) rigs, some of which are pure junk, and could be anywhere from a little to a lot off, a gauge like this can have it's place...
    I made a cheapie sort of like Stew-Mac's using a dial guage from Harbor freight. I bolted it into the middle of a 2' peice of oak, and drilled holes concentrically spaced, about an inch apart, near where the typical frets used to check relief would be, and use these holes for mounting two screws with rounded tips. It's not nearly as classy as Stew-Mac's but I would bet it will get you pretty close to the same results. Each time I use it, I calibrate it by setting the reference point on an aluminum level.....simple but it works.
    If anyone's interested, I'd be happy to post photos...
     

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