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Truss rod is loose but I need more relief?

cardinal

Member
Messages
5,487
Hi all,

Hopefully someone here can give me some good news about an easy fix.

Just received a new guitar. Seller shipped it to me down tuned; the strings barely had tension. I restrung the guitar using .010s and attempted to set the relief: but the rod is completely loose and I still want more relief. I don't have a straight edge, but using a metal tape measure, I *think* the neck bows backwards when the rod is loose and the strings are completely slack.

I was hoping that it was just because it spent a few days with no string tension, but it's been several days with it tuned to pitch, and the neck is not moving in the right direction. I don't really want to use thicker strings. And it actually plays pretty well, I just need a light touch in the middle of the neck on the wound strings. But if it gets more humid in the summer, I'm afraid it will become unplayable (I think that's right: more humidity causes the fretboard to swell and expand, reducing the neck relief even more?).

So... what can I do to get more relief? I've read about a few potential fixes (heat clamping the neck; planing the fretboard with the strings off and the rod tightened and then refretting; widening the fret slots and refretting), but these all might cost more than the guitar is worth.

Thanks!
 

dazco

Member
Messages
15,488
You DO have a straightedge....the string ! Just fret the hi E ate the 1st and last fret and there you have it. Measure the relief between the string and about the 10th fret. I just eyeball it. Sometimes you can loosen the rod a few turns past total loose then bend the neck with your hands and sometimes they will give some. Also, what gauge do you use? If you are using a very light gauge that may be why. Or if someone refretted it with wire that has a wider tang and didn't widen the fret slots to compensate, that will lose you some relief, possible a LOT.
 

walterw

Platinum Supporting Member
Messages
39,578
yep, the tuned-up string is your straightedge.

if you have any relief, you might be OK; you really want as little as possible, as long as it's not none.

if there is the slightest relief, try just raising the saddles a pinch.
 

cardinal

Member
Messages
5,487
You DO have a straightedge....the string ! Just fret the hi E ate the 1st and last fret and there you have it. Measure the relief between the string and about the 10th fret. I just eyeball it. Sometimes you can loosen the rod a few turns past total loose then bend the neck with your hands and sometimes they will give some. Also, what gauge do you use? If you are using a very light gauge that may be why. Or if someone refretted it with wire that has a wider tang and didn't widen the fret slots to compensate, that will lose you some relief, possible a LOT.
Thanks. I'm using 10s. There is relief when the rod is loose and the strings are tuned to pitch. It's not much. Maybe a business card at the 7th fret when fretting the string at the first and 15th fret.

But I'd like more relief. It's a 7 string and I like a LOT of relief to let the low B vibrate freely.

In pretty sure there was not a refret.

I've tried bending the neck by hand and resting the guitar flat with a support under the nut to gently push the neck forward. It's still not moving.

yep, the tuned-up string is your straightedge.

if you have any relief, you might be OK; you really want as little as possible, as long as it's not none.

if there is the slightest relief, try just raising the saddles a pinch.
Yes, there is some relief, but I want more. I've raised the bridge as high as is comfortable. Any higher and the upper frets are too difficult to play.

What really concerns me:

1) neck seems back bowed with the strings off and the rod loose. Is this as big a problem as I'm a afraid of?

2) While there's some relief now, I worry that humidity in the summer will cause the neck to shift, obliterating what little relief I have now. Is that as big a problem as I'm afraid of?
 
Last edited:

B. Howard

Member
Messages
1,211
I'm using 10s. There is relief when the rod is loose and the strings are tuned to pitch. It's not much. Maybe a business card at the 7th fret when fretting the string at the first and 15th fret.

Not quite the proper procedure to measure relief. Hold or capo strings at the 1st fret. Hold string down at the body joint for set necks or last fret for bolt on's and measure relief at the 12th. Relief here on most electrics will wind up being 0.003"-0.008" to yield best action and playability. That's about half a business card at the most.

But I'd like more relief. It's a 7 string and I like a LOT of relief to let the low B vibrate freely.

If it is not buzzing that's all the relief you need, actual vibrational tendencies are more controlled by the saddle and nut. maybe what you really need is a custom set of heavy bottom strings.
 

zztomato

Senior Member
Messages
11,391
Hi all,

Hopefully someone here can give me some good news about an easy fix.

Just received a new guitar. Seller shipped it to me down tuned; the strings barely had tension. I restrung the guitar using .010s and attempted to set the relief: but the rod is completely loose and I still want more relief. I don't have a straight edge, but using a metal tape measure, I *think* the neck bows backwards when the rod is loose and the strings are completely slack.

I was hoping that it was just because it spent a few days with no string tension, but it's been several days with it tuned to pitch, and the neck is not moving in the right direction. I don't really want to use thicker strings. And it actually plays pretty well, I just need a light touch in the middle of the neck on the wound strings. But if it gets more humid in the summer, I'm afraid it will become unplayable (I think that's right: more humidity causes the fretboard to swell and expand, reducing the neck relief even more?).

So... what can I do to get more relief? I've read about a few potential fixes (heat clamping the neck; planing the fretboard with the strings off and the rod tightened and then refretting; widening the fret slots and refretting), but these all might cost more than the guitar is worth.

Thanks!
No. With really dry condition- as we are having in spades this winter- the neck wood shrinks. This pulls the neck back because the glue line of the fretboard does not get effected and rosewood is more dense and holds it's moisture better than maple and other neck woods.
 

John Coloccia

Cold Supporting Member
Messages
9,584
In light of a similar thread we had a couple of weeks back, before you do anything make sure that you don't have a double action rod. THAT was embarrassing. LOL.
 

cardinal

Member
Messages
5,487
Not quite the proper procedure to measure relief. Hold or capo strings at the 1st fret. Hold string down at the body joint for set necks or last fret for bolt on's and measure relief at the 12th. Relief here on most electrics will wind up being 0.003"-0.008" to yield best action and playability. That's about half a business card at the most.

If it is not buzzing that's all the relief you need, actual vibrational tendencies are more controlled by the saddle and nut. maybe what you really need is a custom set of heavy bottom strings.
Thanks! I'll use that procedure to check the relief tonight. Not sure a nut would help around the 7th to 9th frets. I'll try to raise the action. It's a tune-o-matic, so it's tricky to raise just the low-B, which is the one that's giving me issues.

No. With really dry condition- as we are having in spades this winter- the neck wood shrinks. This pulls the neck back because the glue line of the fretboard does not get effected and rosewood is more dense and holds it's moisture better than maple and other neck woods.
Ok, that's good to hear. My main concern in all of this is that while it plays OK now, if the neck moves any further backwards I can't do anything about it. But maybe this is about as bad as it could get.

In light of a similar thread we had a couple of weeks back, before you do anything make sure that you don't have a double action rod. THAT was embarrassing. LOL.
Unfortunately, it's single action. I've spun the nut several times past when the rod was loose, and the nut never caught again.

Keep any suggestions coming! Or tell me I have nothing to worry about.
 

John Coloccia

Cold Supporting Member
Messages
9,584
How do you tell the difference ?


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
If you unscrew it, and a nut falls off, it's single action....if you unscrew it and it just gets tighter again, it's double action.

There was a thread a couple of weeks back where we went down the rabbit hole with heat pressing, compression fretting, sanding the fingerboard etc, and then he comes back a week or two later with, "Oh never mind, it's a double action rod." Pretty funny, actually :)
 

Tone_Terrific

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
35,066
Every time you put it away slide something like a dowel under the strings around mid-neck to encourage the neck to stay bowed.
 

Down and Out in NYC

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
2,064
Next question. Is it safe for my nuts to fall off ?

Seriously though are their any negative ramifications of loosening the nut to the point that it falls off ? When would you want to do that and for what ?

If you unscrew it, and a nut falls off, it's single action....if you unscrew it and it just gets tighter again, it's double action.



There was a thread a couple of weeks back where we went down the rabbit hole with heat pressing, compression fretting, sanding the fingerboard etc, and then he comes back a week or two later with, "Oh never mind, it's a double action rod." Pretty funny, actually :)




Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
 

John Coloccia

Cold Supporting Member
Messages
9,584
Next question. Is it safe for my nuts to fall off ?

Seriously though are their any negative ramifications of loosening the nut to the point that it falls off ? When would you want to do that and for what ?







Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
You often have to do that to do a repair. Also, if I have a trussrod nut that's stiff, I'll back it off completely and put a small touch of vaseline on the threads and between the face of the nut and the washer....that will lubricate everything nicely and keep the threads from corroding. That's not a bad idea to do anyway, but I'm sure that most would agree from experience that when you're working on guitars, it's often best to just leave well enough alone. I can't tell you how many additional problems get caused by fixing things that aren't broken.

There's no problem with the nut coming...no danger.
 

Mreilander

Member
Messages
124
Where did the guitar ship from? If it's been in one style of climate for a few years and suddenly moves to a different climate, it will take awhile for everything to settle.
 

cardinal

Member
Messages
5,487
Not quite the proper procedure to measure relief. Hold or capo strings at the 1st fret. Hold string down at the body joint for set necks or last fret for bolt on's and measure relief at the 12th. Relief here on most electrics will wind up being 0.003"-0.008" to yield best action and playability. That's about half a business card at the most.
OK, so I checked this way (fretting at the 1th and the 16th: it's a Les Paul, so that's where it joins the body). At the 12th fret, there is just barely some relief. Maybe half a business card, as you said.

This is with the truss rod completely loose.

It's somewhat dry and cold here (Northern Virginia). Guitar shipped to me from Texas, I believe.

Again, my main fear is that if the neck bends backwards any more, there's nothing I can do. It plays OK right now, but I don't like not having any more adjustability for the rod.
 

cardinal

Member
Messages
5,487
Where did the guitar ship from? If it's been in one style of climate for a few years and suddenly moves to a different climate, it will take awhile for everything to settle.
Came from near San Antonio, TX to Northern Virginia. I suppose that's pretty different weather, especially this time of year, but it's not like the guitar's outside in the snow... I assume both places are pretty dry right now.
 

walterw

Platinum Supporting Member
Messages
39,578
y'know, i like my guitars with almost no relief, but i also like them to have the normal range of truss rod adjustment, and to not have a loose truss rod flopping around inside the neck compromising sustain; if you're totally sure that it's not a dual-action rod (meaning you've spun the nut out until it fell off) then i'd just send it back for another one.
 

cardinal

Member
Messages
5,487
Thanks for the help. I can't just get another one easily; they only made these I think for a year in 2000 and traditional-spec 7-string Les Paul's aren't easy to find.

I'll just play it and try not to worry. If the neck starts moving the wrong way I'll try to deal with it at that point.
 

blong

Member
Messages
2,646
Some guitars have a bad neck. On occasion, I find one that has a back bow and the nut is completely loose. The fix for that is complicated and can be expensive. It can be heat pressed (maybe) or the frets removed and the fingerboard planed so that it is straight. This is the least desireable fix, but it can work if you have a competent tech that knows what he's doing. I've done it quite a few times on guitars the owner really wants to keep but the neck does not respond to any other techniques. Even heat pressing is not a guarantee and can result in the need fore a refret or other work done. If it is a new guitar and needs something like this, return it. A small amount of relief is ok. Planing the board can be imperceptable if done right, in most cases, depending upon how much is needed. One other solution, if returning it is not an option, is to level the frets. It can still be a littel uncomfortable for fretting if the neck is bowed but the frets are level. I don't like doing this, but it can be a short term fix until a refret is needed. I give all possible solutions to a customer, then let them choose which one to do. I don't like to do it b/c I don't want someone else to learn I did it and think I am a bozo. It must be the customer's choice on how we fix it.

One thing: if you loosen the truss rod, it should bow forward, not back. Tightening the truss rod will straighten the neck, removing bow, not taking it out.

Double action truss rods were created for guitars to be able to forced into back bow when the neck is bowed too badly and need to be forced straight.

I'd have to see the guitar in my hands and mess with it to properly diagnose the problem, but you have some decent info here to start.

Remember, when staring down the neck from the end of the truss rod that you adjust, if you turn the truss rod in the clock-wise direction, you will straigten the neck or create backbow if you go to far. An indication of this is the strings fret out when bent all the up to about frets 7 or 12, or so. If this happens, it's back bowed (you can tell using the string as a straight edge). If you turn it counterclock-wise, it will creat forward bow (like a bow and arrow). Go to your closest bookstore and look for "How to Make Your Electric Guitar Play Great" by Dan Erlewine and read it section on truss rods thoroughly. Hell, I'd buy the book if you plan on working on or owning guitars. Even if you have someone do the work for you, you will be more informed about what they are doing.

Hope this helps.

Bob
 

cardinal

Member
Messages
5,487
Thanks. Yes: tightening the rod straightens what little relief there is, and I'm sure if I keep going it'll back-bow the neck.

I've got a set of .11s waiting in the wings, I'll see how they do (don't wait to give up on a new set of Elixirs just yet...). If the neck moves the wrong way and if a heavier string gauge isn't workable somehow, I'll try to get it sorted at that point.
 




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