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Crowning saddle height to match fretboard radius

franklsferd

Member
Messages
118
How important is it to have the saddles' height "crown" (4th and 3rd string the highest, then 2nd and 5th slightly lower and the 1st and 6ththe lowest)? And using just a 64th" graduated ruler, what are the height differences roughly (I realize you'd have to know the exact radius of this particular fretboard)
 

RAILhead

(real name is Maury, BTW)
Messages
4,642
The bridge saddles should *always* match the fretboard radius as closely as possible.
 

franklsferd

Member
Messages
118
I should've mentioned that it's a Strat I'm trying to set up. If the measurement for each string height is taken at the same fret, won't the fretboard radius reflect the measurements? Ie: I can set each string to 3/64ths, and as long as I'm getting my measurements from the same fret, that will be naturally "radiused"?
 

RAILhead

(real name is Maury, BTW)
Messages
4,642
I should've mentioned that it's a Strat I'm trying to set up. If the measurement for each string height is taken at the same fret, won't the fretboard radius reflect the measurements? Ie: I can set each string to 3/64ths, and as long as I'm getting my measurements from the same fret, that will be naturally "radiused"?
Yes, that's one simple way to do it. Let's say you like 4/64ths above the 12th fret. Just use your rule and adjust the saddles so that the bottom of the string rests on top of the 4/64ths mark on the rule, going from E to E, all on the 12th fret.

I prefer to use a radius gauge right off the bridge saddles, but if you don't have that tool, the aforementioned method will still work well enough.
 

franklsferd

Member
Messages
118
Thanks man. Yeah I don't really have any tools beyond a 64ths rule, truss rod / saddle adjustment wrenches, feeler gauge set and a capo, so I'm working primitive Pete style. A buddy of mine got a basket case Strat off of Ebay and gave it to me to make it playable for him. I use tune-o-matic bridges exclusively, never really touch individually adjustable saddle bridges.
 

jimshine

Member
Messages
1,594
The bridge saddles should *always* match the fretboard radius as closely as possible.
Not always. A compound radius would be the exception. A proper compound radius creates a cone shape with the radius starting at the nut as one size and gradually flattening as you move to the bridge. If the neck ends at about a 16" radius, you want the bridge to be set at about a 20" radius.
 

RAILhead

(real name is Maury, BTW)
Messages
4,642
Not always. A compound radius would be the exception. A proper compound radius creates a cone shape with the radius starting at the nut as one size and gradually flattening as you move to the bridge. If the neck ends at about a 16" radius, you want the bridge to be set at about a 20" radius.
Yep, the bridge should be set to match the radius. 9.5" fretboard = 9.5" bridge. 12" fretboard = 12" bridge. 10"-16" radius = the closest natural progression, which I would still keep at 16", but 20" would be erectly fine.
 

jimshine

Member
Messages
1,594
The natural progression is a flatter radius at the bridge. The cone shape does not stop at the end of the neck. It continues to flatten as the string spacing flares out to the bridge (wider then the end of the neck).
 

RAILhead

(real name is Maury, BTW)
Messages
4,642
The natural progression is a flatter radius at the bridge. The cone shape does not stop at the end of the neck. It continues to flatten as the string spacing flares out to the bridge (wider then the end of the neck).
We're saying the same thing, just explaining it differently. :aok
 

walterw

Platinum Supporting Member
Messages
37,729
The natural progression is a flatter radius at the bridge. The cone shape does not stop at the end of the neck. It continues to flatten as the string spacing flares out to the bridge (wider then the end of the neck).
which is why i don't bother with radius gauges at the bridge and just measure all the strings off the same fret with that very 64ths ruler; this naturally incorporates the correct "cone" into the string pattern.
 

RAILhead

(real name is Maury, BTW)
Messages
4,642
which is why i don't bother with radius gauges at the bridge and just measure all the strings off the same fret with that very 64ths ruler; this naturally incorporates the correct "cone" into the string pattern.
Yes, this is what I do with compound radius necks from time to time. The old dog in me still uses radius gauges on non-radius necks, though. Ha :aok
 

walterw

Platinum Supporting Member
Messages
37,729
thing is, if you think about it, even non-compounded necks still create a cone out of the string pattern; the strings start out close together at the nut and end up wide apart at the bridge.
 

Tone_Terrific

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
32,096
thing is, if you think about it, even non-compounded necks still create a cone out of the string pattern; the strings start out close together at the nut and end up wide apart at the bridge.
They have to.
They don't follow the contour of the fretboard, perfectly, in any case.
You can't put a 6 inch (diameter) rod into a 6 inch hole; the hole has to be bigger.
 
Messages
2,176
The bridge saddles should *always* match the fretboard radius as closely as possible.
In a symmetrical universe full of symmetrical players, that might be the case, but the truth is there are quite a number of professional players that like the saddle radius on electric guitars to be flatter / larger than the radius of the fingerboard. I know a few players that want the strings flat (zero radius) regardless of the fingerboard radius.
 

RAILhead

(real name is Maury, BTW)
Messages
4,642
In a symmetrical universe full of symmetrical players, that might be the case, but the truth is there are quite a number of professional players that like the saddle radius on electric guitars to be flatter / larger than the radius of the fingerboard. I know a few players that want the strings flat (zero radius) regardless of the fingerboard radius.
Okay guys, we're all starting to get a little pedantic here. The OP's question is how important it was to have the saddles match the radius. Perhaps my use of "always" wasn't the best, but for 99% of people who play the guitar, the bridge radius is set to match the fretboard. Gibson ships them that way. Fender ships them that way. Gretsch ships them that way. JG ships them that way. Ibanez ships them that way, etc., etc., etc. That's just how it's done, and there's no arguing that. It's part of a basic, general guitar setup, and it has been for years.

OBVIOUSLY each player will do whatever they want, just like there's no rule about pickup clearance, etc. that suits everyone for every guitar. But if a guy asks if his bridge radius should match the fretboard, I'll answer yes. If it's being asked, chances are the person asking isn't so advanced they know how to do a custom radius setting. Further, to do a custom radius on a Nashville/ABR style bridge would require getting new saddles and doing a custom notch -- again, something only an advanced player would think to do. If he has a 9.5" radius and keeps fretting out, he needs to know the bridge radius could be screwed and that there's a way to set it to "factory" specs.

There will always be people that stray from the norm and the general for whatever reasons, but the norm and general is yes, the bridge radius should match the fretboard. Those of us old dogs that know different -- more power to us.


EDIT: Reading back over this, I hope this didn't come off rude! I apologize if it did! :aok
 
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fumbler

Member
Messages
1,471
Every guitar I've ever worked on and every guide I've ever read seems to want the heavy strings to have a (slightly) higher action than the skinny strings.

Like Walter said, just set the action of each string at a particular fret (I use the 12th fret) and you don't have to measure anything at the bridge.

With a capo at 1st fret, I usually end up at the 12th fret with about 3/64" on the high E graduating to 5/64" on the low E.
 

walterw

Platinum Supporting Member
Messages
37,729
Every guitar I've ever worked on and every guide I've ever read seems to want the heavy strings to have a (slightly) higher action than the skinny strings.
...which ironically suggests a use for the radius gauge, to create the curve connecting the two outside strings.

I still just use measurements, gradually going from the lower distance to the higher one as I check each string, then looking across the strings near the bridge to check for any "lumpiness" in the curve.
 

Mark Robinson

Platinum Supporting Member
Messages
8,418
Speaking of Fender type instruments with adjustable individual saddle heights,,,
That sort of uniformity is admirable, but doesn't suit me. I like the action to be just high enough so that when I bend, my finger in motion, goes beneath the adjacent string. So my skinny E string, can be lower obviously, then the B a bit higher, so that under the wire thing happens, and the G little higher too.

The wound strings seem to be high enough if they are set buzz free, for the most part.

I set action by play feel and never measure anything. Just listen for buzz, which I cannot tolerate, and work it down, until I lose that finger under thing, then bring it up so that bending can happen without snagging.
 
Messages
23,884
The bridge saddles should *always* match the fretboard radius as closely as possible.
I respectfully disagree, on 2 counts:

1) the individual style saddles should not be canted but should be parallel to the plane of the guitar body. The string stays put better, and screws stay put also. Saddles press down on the bridgeplate and don't lean against one another and there's less trashy sounds;

2) the radius of the 6 strings at the saddle should IMO be much flatter than they are at the nut. Call this a Hillbilly Compound Radius, but if you can flatten out the plane of the 6 strings at the picking hand, IMO you have access to better playing techniques and the outputs of the pickup pole pieces will match better. Obviously the upper frets still have to be playable but you do not need to slavishly match string heights of all 6 strings totally perfectly and if the outboard strings are a wee bit higher above the 15th fret (and the center 2 a little low) so what?
 
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Messages
23,884
, but for 99% of people who play the guitar, the bridge radius is set to match the fretboard. Gibson ships them that way. Fender ships them that way. Gretsch ships them that way. JG ships them that way. Ibanez ships them that way, etc., etc., etc. That's just how it's done, and there's no arguing that. It's part of a basic, general guitar setup, and it has been for years.
I know this isn't proportional, because like Mark I normally don't measure things I just work on the guitar until it feels, plays and sounds right, but:

Would you consider taking a radius guage and checking the radius at the nut (say 7.25) and then seeing if that 7.25 really carried over to the saddles on a guitar out of the packaging? I've tried it a few times and the value is always higher, i.e., the radius is flatter at the saddles. It does NOT match, in my experience.

But sure, I will concede I push the radius even flatter than what I find, normally, out of the box. In just the very simplest terms, while the relative heights of the strings vis a vis one another may stay the same, the spacing between each string grows a lot whether the string array at the nut is 1 + 3/8ths or less or more, and whether the string array at the saddles is 2 + 1/8ths inches or less or as much as 2 + 7/32nds inches. The math is, when the relative heights remain the same but the strings get that much further apart, the radius has changed.
 




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