Martin Action Help

Discussion in 'Acoustic Instruments' started by sixstring531, Apr 8, 2008.

  1. sixstring531

    sixstring531 Supporting Member

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    I have a wonderful Martin 000C-16RGTE that I got from a fellow TGPer and am wondering the best course of action for lowering the action? It sounds magnificent, but for being an almost $2000 guitar, the action isn't where it should be.

    A buddy of mine who has attended a luthier school in California and built his own very nice acoustic told me to shave the already tall stock bridge.

    Is this where I should start? How much is an acceptable start? 1/16th? What is the best way to shave it? Sander?

    Help me out here please!
     
  2. AaeCee

    AaeCee Member

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    Hold on thar! Now I'm far from well informed in acoustic set up, but I know a little, enough to know that shaving the wood bridge seems extreme. When I had the action lowered on one of my acoustics by a very competent luthier, he merely pulled the bone saddle (that what it's called on an acoustic?) out from its slot in the bridge, and shaved a bit from the bottom, leaving the top radius and slots unchanged. Quick and simple, and worked perfectly. Maybe that is what your friend meant anyway. And be sure to set the neck relief well before doing anything else, as taking any relief out of the neck will lower the action a bit as well.
     
  3. PeeWee

    PeeWee Member

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    Shaving the actual bridge insert is the answer. Martin sets their guitars up from the factory with a very tall saddle as everyone has a different idea of what is best. My HD-28VR was as hard to play as a truck with no power steering is to drive. After a slight shaving of the saddle, a little filing of the nut and a truss rod tweak, it plays perfectly now....well, at least for me. I still have enough clearance to get plenty of projection but with an action that's more suited to my needs.

    Really easy fix - just hand it over to someone with plenty of experience and you'll be fine.
     
  4. guitarstan

    guitarstan Member

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    Visit this web site....http://www.guitarsaddles.com/

    Bob Colosi is the Man, he can help you. I ended up changing several saddles all successfully and very happy.
     
  5. Laird_Williams

    Laird_Williams Member

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    You probably already know this - but I have to point this out anyway just in case...

    Before you do anything to the saddle - check that the truss rod is properly adjusted and that there is no bow in the neck. Your action can be pulled high when the truss rod is too loose. If the truss rod is adjusted properly and the neck is straight, THEN consider more radical adjustments.
     
  6. avincent52`

    avincent52` Member

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    Martins tend to come with "bluegrass action" so they don't buzz even on hard rhythm playing. The saddle probably needs to be lower and the nut slots may have to be adjusted as well.

    Since you spent a bundle on the guitar, you should find yourself a good luthier and let him or her tweak the action.

    That said, if you've got a drop in saddle, you can experiment a little yourself. You can pull the saddle out (straight up, carefully) with a pair of pliers, protecting the top from accidental tool drops. See the link below for details.

    If you screw it up, you can always replace the saddle with a nice bone one from Bob Colosi.

    Here's a great site with step by step info. Keep in mind that this is information for luthiers. If you've got a "through" saddle that's glued in, I wouldn't mess with it.

    http://www.frets.com/FRETSpages/Musician/Guitar/Setup/LowerAction/loweraction01.html

    Laird
    You're right about adjusting the truss rod if necessary, but just to make it clear. A neck should have just a little "bow" or "relief" and acoustics need more than electrics.
    See this page on Frets.com

    http://www.frets.com/FRETSPages/Musician/GenSetup/TrussRods/TrussRodAdj/tradj.html
     
  7. Laird_Williams

    Laird_Williams Member

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  8. Rob Sharer

    Rob Sharer Muso-Luthier

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    Action is a subjective thing; everyone has a different idea of what constitutes good action, which is the kind of variety that makes life interesting. What remains constant, however, is this: a guitar's action is a result of many different factors, all of which interact and none of which can be changed without at least considering all of the others. A short list would be:

    Neck straightness
    Neck angle
    Bridge/saddle height
    Nut height
    String gauge
    Player technique

    Just to choose one to make a point, let's say a guitar has a nut which holds the strings too high off the first fret, making the action in the low positions feel stiff. The remedy for this is to file the slots deeper, so say we do that. Afterwards, an F chord is indeed easier, but the action gets gradually stiffer as you approach the 5th fret. Looking deeper, we discover that the neck needs to be straightened a bit. No problem; off with the cover and 1/8 turn on the rod. Afterwards, the neck looks great, but where did that sizzle on the open strings come from?

    What happened is that we failed to look at everything before tackling what seemed to be the obvious problem. To an experienced luthier, high action at the nut means a look down the neck is the first order of business, since nut action and neck straightness are very interactive. This is but one simple example, which I chose because it is a less complex situation than the action at the bridge. Sometimes a saddle swap is all that's required to lower the strings to a more comfortable height, but for a truly good setup, all the various factors which affect the action should be evaluated at once, in order to avoid inadvertently affecting other parts of the delicate equation. Good luck,

    Rob
     
  9. sixstring531

    sixstring531 Supporting Member

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    Thank you guys! I meant to say the SADDLE, not the BRIDGE when discussing the shaving. You all must think I am an idiot....anyway, the neck is in great shape, very straight, and the saddle is what I need to shave.

    Again though, how much do you think I should start with as far as the shaving goes? (no crass jokes please :)
     
  10. David Collins

    David Collins Member

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    From the sister post on this in the "Guitars in General" forum...

    There's no way to tell you how much to shave from the saddle , or adjust the truss rod, or cut the nut slots (which has to be done on a new Martin), with what we can see from here.
     
  11. Stubee

    Stubee Member

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    Start with very little. You can always shave more, can't add it back w/o shimming the saddle or making a new one. And a little adjustment at the saddle goes a long way up the neck.

    Eyeball how much lower you want it to be. Play around at the saddle, depressing strings to get a feel for "how much". Use a straight edge or do whatever to follow the bottom contour of your existing saddle. Mark a line at the desired new depth, take it about 1/2 way there, string her up, might be OK and if not, take a bit more. Just be careful you don't overshoot. I've done it.

    +1 what's been said about nut height. Many newer guitars, IMO, come with nuts that are too high. I think it's probably a production issue: better to send one out a hair too high than a hair too low.

    Good luck.
     
  12. Steve Gambrell

    Steve Gambrell Member

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    Here's how I was taught. Get a SHARP pencil, and draw a line on the saddle where it contacts the bridge. Sand the bottom of the saddle till the line JUST disappears. Restring the guitar. Repeat if necessary. You'd be surprised how much that pencil line takes down, and still offers room for three or four tries. Make sure that you have sufficient break angle over the saddle, or the bridge won't drive the top. And make sure the string windings aren't in contact with the saddle!
     
  13. go7

    go7 Member

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    Thanks for all the great info and links.My Martin is going to my tech.
     
  14. sixstring531

    sixstring531 Supporting Member

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    I did it! I shaved the saddle 1/16th and it is exactly what I am looking for. No buzzing, just lowered to the right height!
     
  15. in a little row

    in a little row Member

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    Man i got here late...thrilled to hear you got it where it needed to be...cheap

    i cant believe no one suggested getting a second saddle made, as well as a nut for the open strings, instead of cutting up the first, that way you try a lower saddle, action still isnt there, you know you need a rod tweek...then go back to the original

    its important and often difficult to get the edge absolutely square on the saddle bottom

    Im a firm believer in never cutting if you dont have to
     

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