StewMac's Notched Straight-Edge - anyone use one for set-ups?

Discussion in 'Luthier's Guitar & Bass Technical Discussion' started by AshlandBump, Feb 4, 2008.


  1. AshlandBump

    AshlandBump Member

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    I need to set up some of my guitars and I need help adjusting the truss rod. StewMac (www.stewmac.com) sells a notched straight edge that allows the straight edge to measure the bow of a neck without taking fret height into account. Anyone use these? Any opinions on them?
     
  2. Rosewood

    Rosewood Member

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    I use a home made notched straight edge for reading the fingerboard before I file and crown frets. But a regular straight edge to read the tops of the frets is what you need if you are just setting the relief. Fret tops being more important than fretboard surface to to set the action.
     
  3. Dana Olsen

    Dana Olsen Gold Supporting Member

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    Rosewood's right -

    You can fret the low "E" at the first fret with your left hand index finger, then fret the last fret with your right hand little finger. The string is now your straightedge - tap the string down at the 9th or 19th fret and view the relief there.

    Also, sight down the neck to make sure there are no obvious high frets or 'waves' in the neck. The Truss rod adjustment is kind of a 'feel' thing - if it's too tight, the strings won't sustain and the high end will be plinky. You don't have to measure the relief exactly or set it to a pre-conceived number, it's more of a range - about .005-.010, or nearly but not quite straight. If it frets out and the action is still 4/64" or higher at the 12th fret, either raise the action a little or add a little more relief to correct the buzz.

    I don't think a straightedge is necessary to adjust the truss rod. It IS necessary if you're doing fretwork or planing the neck. But sincerely, I don't think your guitar's gonna play any better if you buy a straightedge to adjust the truss rod.

    Just my opinion, Dana O.
     
  4. Mike9

    Mike9 Supporting Member

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    I use a capo at the first fret, hold down the low E at the last and use a feeler gauge for setting relief. Just make sure your guitar is in the playing position, or gravity will give you a bum reading.

    I make my own notched straight edges from Drafting squares and really only use them to check the fretboard and set it before a fret dressing. No need to invest that kind of money - ;)
     
  5. Soapbarstrat

    Soapbarstrat Senior Member

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    I have one. Seldom use it for typical set-up. It's used for wasting your life away fussing with guitars rather than playing them.
     
  6. David Collins

    David Collins Member

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    As said above, it's useful for evaluating the board surface during fret work, but really has no place in common setups. When setting up an instrument, the fret board surface should be considered essentially irrelevant. It's the surface of the frets themselves that dictate setup decisions.
     
  7. mjl927

    mjl927 Member

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    Just to add on to what has already been said: It is pretty easy to build one yourself if you really want one. I simply purchased a piece of steel roughly the correct size, stuck it in a vice then filed out the appropriate notches using my dremel. The resulting ruler works great. The un-notched side is used to check the frets while the notched side of course checks the fretboard itself. I still need to build another one for my Gibson scale guitars however.
     
  8. Bob V

    Bob V Member

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    OK I'll admit that I'm a lot more talented at fussing than I am at playing, but isn't that a little harsh?

    My mechanic doesn't bother with a torque wrench for the oil drain plug since he has the experience to do it by feel and he knows how tight is enough. When I do it myself, it's not like I'm doing it more than a few times a year, and the torque wrench helps me to make sure I'm not going to strip the aluminum oil pan threads. Same thing with a setup. Yes, it can be done by feel without any measurements. If you do take measurements, you can confirm what you like for your playing style and a given type of instrument, and take that knowledge on to the next guitar. Can't do that with "well it felt like enough relief." Second, a measurement helps you to tell if the instrument is stable, since some things like relief might change by season or they might not. Always make adjustments based on playability instead of some rigid factory specs, but there's certainly no crime in using a tool that helps you measure.

    Also, an un-notched straightedge tends to give you more accurate measurements than using the string. If I set up a guitar to what I thought was .009 relief using the string, it'll measure closer to .007 with a straightedge (the string deflects when you slide the feeler gauge under it, the straightedge won't).

    As for the notched straightedge (wondering when I was going to get around to the question in the original post?) it might be helpful for setting the neck dead straight before doing a level-crown-polish job on the frets, but I prefer to evaluate the frets if the frets are what I'm working on - besides there are gouges and dips in fretboards, too.
     
  9. Mike9

    Mike9 Supporting Member

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  10. Soapbarstrat

    Soapbarstrat Senior Member

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    Consider me harsh in a Don Rickles kinda way.
    It's a great tool for fret-work. Would not want to be without it for that.
    But for set-up, the 'string as a straight-edge' is the way to go. So what if it's off a thou or two. Your fretting hand is probably going to change the relief a thou or two depending on what strings you're fretting, position on the neck, etc.
    I can pretty much tell within a few thou how much relief there is, by fretting at the 1st fret with my thumb, reaching to the 7th fret with my little finger and tapping on the string to see and hear how much it moves. (other hand is fretting same string around 15th, 17th, or 22nd fret at the same time- nothing new there, but figure I better say it).
     

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