Help me set up my Strat (pretty please)

Discussion in 'Luthier's Guitar & Bass Technical Discussion' started by stevel, Jul 30, 2008.

  1. stevel

    stevel Member

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    I have a strat with a roller nut (LSR).

    I felt like the nut was high on the low E side, so I checked to see if I could remove any shims. I found only one on the bass side. I removed it. It's much better feeling now - it might feel a tad high, but it's way better.

    So, my trem is floating, and set up per fender specs.

    I've got the intonation exact for the way it sits now (which I know may change).

    So I started measuring. I have automotive feeler gauges.

    Ok, people here said the height at the 1st fret should be .020" when the string is fretted at the 3rd fret to set the nut height.

    Mine is less than .012' /.30mm (that's the smallest gauge I have). I just clipped the rest of the .010 gauge string I put on there, which I assume is .010", and it won't even fit.

    Now, it's closer to .020 UNFRETTED.

    Unfretted, on the treble side, the high E is .018 from the first fret, and the bass side low E is .025 from the first fret - that's without any shims under the LSR.

    Ok, now the truss. Fender says the relief should be .010" at the 8th fret, with the guitar in tune, capo on the first fret, and last fret depressed.

    Mine is 0. I mean, it's flat. Now that doesn't worry me, because I know people will set their necks pretty straight. And there's no tension on the string so it's not convex.

    But my god, that seems like a lot of curve to put into the neck, especially from where I am now (again, it's been set like this a long time).

    Ok, now the string height (action). Fender again recommends 4/64" or 1.6 mm between the top of the 17th fret and the bottom of the string. I don't have 1.6 mm but I can add feelers together to get 1.57mm.

    I swapped some saddles around so some of the heights have changed, but my D and G, which haven't moved since before I started this, are at about 2.28mm - yes, that's not a typo, my string height at the 17th fret, open strings, is 2.28mm. It's even more on the outer strings.

    Now, to be honest, I like a higher, less buzzy action, and, it could go higher from where I am now and I'd still be comfortable. But, I'm wondering if my problem is in the lack of "concavity" of the neck?

    If the neck is more concave, what does that do? Does it curve the middle of the neck away from the center of the strings, or does it "raise" the nut end of the neck (so the neck is more like a hockey stick rather than a bow if that makes sense).

    Help!

    Steve
     
  2. David Collins

    David Collins Member

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    A lot of questions there (waiting for a book or at least a large chapter of answers), but I'll just hit one point regarding the nut for now.

    Nut height is measured many different ways, none of them good in terms of assigning numbers to it. I would say .020" when pressed at the 3rd fret would make for a good Hawaiian guitar - absolutely unplayable. I consider .003" way way too high. .001" is still higher than ideal for the treble side of a Strat in my opinion. I generally shoot for the .0005" range. Getting a roller nut to within these tolerances is sometimes impossible to do in a practical way, which is one reason I've never liked them. No real advantages over a well made bone or Delrin nut, and comes with unnecessary compromises.

    It's not uncommon at all for me to have to remove wood under roller or locking nuts to bring them to "acceptable" heights.
     
  3. Scott Auld

    Scott Auld Staff Member

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    I think you need to find a tech who knows how to do this stuff who is also willing to teach you.
     
  4. David Collins

    David Collins Member

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    I didn't want to be the one to say it - thanks Scott. ;)

    You can lay out numbers and procedures till the cows come home, but have 5 people adjust to those same numbers, and you'll often get five noticeably different setups. Teaching the fine tuning and details of a setup can be tricky enough to do in person, and doing it over the internet is even more difficult. Each instrument is different, and viewing the geometry and measurements can be quite subjective. There's just no substitute for being shown in person.
     
  5. stevel

    stevel Member

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    Ok, I certainly agree. It seemed way off to me.

    Ok. I removed the one shim under the bass side and that's as low as it can go. And now, it's far more playable (and I corrected the bow, and set the action, and to me, it feels better than it did two days ago before I put on new strings).

    Steve
     
  6. stevel

    stevel Member

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    Oh, I understand that guys. I was just looking for some "typical" starting points (and to make sure that the .020 nut height was inaccurate, which it obviously is). After a put some bow in (it's right around .011) I set the height at 2.55. That's much higher than Fender's starting point of 1.6 but anytime I pick up a strat set to factory specs with 9s on it, it seems overly buzzy and slappy to me. So this works for me and feels like it has in the past. I used to play 11s but went to 10s with a wound third. I think the neck was previously set to counteract the tension of those 11s, and now with 10s, it "straightened out" a bit.

    And yes, I'll take it to a tech whenever I come across something that's really getting me. Obviously though, anything I can do in home, and save gas money and tech money on, the happier I am.

    So right now, I'm happy. Of course, knowing me, that'll change in a week :)

    Thanks,
    Steve
     
  7. Eagle1

    Eagle1 Member

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    absolutely spot on.:AOK
     
  8. 9fingers

    9fingers Supporting Member

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    The good thing about Strats is that they are made to be worked on. Unless you manhandle something & strip out a screw/allen head you can always readjust. Get Dan Erlewine's 2 books, Guitar Player Repair Guide and Make your Electric Guitar Play Great and follow what he says. He has great descriptions, explains a lot of the "whys" and has lots of pix. More info there than we can possible put into this thread. Just be gentle & if anything is stuck, stop & figure out why before you force it. Be especially aware of this with the truss rod and the little allen set screws that adjust saddle height. Protect the guitar body from tool marks with pieces of cardboard wherever you work (it is easier to slip than you think). If you count & record how many turns you give an adjustment, the worst that can happen is you can always go back to where you were. Don't be afraid but get some good info first.
     
  9. Bob V

    Bob V Member

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    Yes, sure, best advice is to take it to a tech for a setup. But lets face it, that's not going to happen, and the guy wants to understand what's going on even if he does pay for the work.

    So to answer the question, assuming the trussrod is responsive and in working order, then backing off the trussrod tension will allow the neck to bend slightly and the nut comes up a little at the same time. It's more accurate to hold the string (or straightedge) at the first fret and the fret where the neck meets the body, not all the way up at the last fret. As you loosen the trussrod nut, relief will start to appear (which is what the trussrod adjustment is for) and at the same time the action will come up a bit. Sounds like somebody misunderstood the reason for the trussrod and they cranked on it in an attempt to bring down your action height. Instead the neck might need to be shimmed if the saddles can't be lowered enough to get the action down low.

    +1 on 1fingershort's advice to get the Erlewine book. I'd start with the thinner book, How to Make Your Electric Guitar Play Great, which is restricted to setups whereas the fatter book goes into some really deep repair and rebuilding topics.
     
  10. 9fingers

    9fingers Supporting Member

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    "1fingershort"! First time anyone has thought of calling me that (guitarists maybe should not do much power tool woodworking- jointer was the culprit in my case).

    Steve, keep us posted with your progress.
     
  11. stevel

    stevel Member

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    Oh, I've got it at what I find to be very nice.

    I did put a little bow in the neck - I could barely pass a .010" string beneath it at the 18th fret - so it's at .010, or .011, or .0105, etc.

    I did make the action higher than "default", but that's what I like. I think I did 2.55 or so at the 18th fret. No problems playing on that for me.

    The removal of the one nut shim brought the nut down to a "reasonable" height. It could be lower, but knowing that's as far as I can go without taking it to a tech, I'm OK with it.

    Before this (and after the refret), the frets felt great, but the strings were "more buzzy" around the 3 to 7th fret region. There was also a little uneven-ness in the string height I felt.

    So now, I feel like I've corrected all these deficiencies, and it's playing "like it should be" - for my taste anyway.

    Thanks to all of you for the recommendation on the book(s), and thanks for all of the help and comments.

    Steve
     

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