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Martin Owners

For those who own one or more Martin guitars, those who want to own a Martin, or those who just like talking about Martins

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Discussion Forum

Time for a Change 7 Replies

Started by Mike Bishop. Last reply by Mark Barrett yesterday.

Tour................. 12 Replies

Started by James Baxter Bain. Last reply by FloridaGull Jun 13.

Finally making the pilgrimage to Nazareth! 15 Replies

Started by Jud Hair. Last reply by Jud Hair Jun 13.

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Comment by Greg Maxwell on January 20, 2013 at 12:13pm

Phil asked me to make a few comments about Martin setup techniques. The steps I used in setting up his HD-28 apply to most flat top acoustics regardless of brand, and the final measurements often need to be tweaked for each individual guitar.

1. First thing is to tune the guitar to pitch (or whatever tuning the player maintains) and then adjust the truss rod to straighten the neck. Adjusting the rod does no harm if you know what you are doing, the rod was made to be adjusted. The neck should be adjusted dead flat or very nearly so. Most factories ship guitars with excess relief (upbow) in the neck to avoid warranty complaints about buzzing. Phil's guitar had way too much relief (.012 at the 7th fret) so I adjusted the rod to reduce the measurement to .006. I use a notched and regular straigt edge plus feeler gauges to measure relief. I was not comfortable adjusting the rod any tighter, so I left the relief at .006 at the 7th fret. I'll adjust a neck dead flat if the rod and the fretboard will allow.

2. Once the neck is adjusted I take a measurement of the action at the 12th fret. Adjusting Phil's neck reduced the action from 4/32" bass and 3/32" treble to 7/64" and 5/64". It is important to understand that while adjusting the rod will impact the action to some degree, you do not adjust the rod to raise or lower the action! The purpose of the rod is adjust the neck straight.

3. I then measure the action for each string at the first fret. The first fret action is determined by the depth of each nut slot. In Phil's case, the depth of th slots was about .020" which is good. If the slots need lowered or evened out, I do this now before setting the final action.

4. The final action is adjusted by the height of the saddle. With Phil's guitar, I needed to lower the saddle to achieve the target action of 3/32" bass side and 2/32" treble side. The rule is to remove double from the saddle what you need to lower at the 12th fret. Phil's action needed to be lowered 1/64th at the 12th fret each side, so I removed 1/32 from the saddle, making sure to finish with the bottom of the saddle dead flat and at the perfect angle in relation to the bridge.

In my professional opinion, it is time to have a new saddle made if the action is too low. It is time to have a neck reset done if the action is too high and there is no more saddle adjustment left. Shimming saddles and shaving bridges are "get-by" methods that may decrease tone and sustain; and shaving the bridge will reduce its weight which impacts the fundamental resonance of the soundboard. If you need a new saddle, have it made from bone.

These are the basics of setting the action for an acoustic guitar. There are possible issues that may affect the ability to perform these steps. These include correct neck angle, loose or uneven frets, and rise in the tongue (very common). I also lubricate the rod nut on Gibson style truss rods, and check the bridge plate for wear or damage on all acoustics.

Comment by Phil Manuel on January 20, 2013 at 8:34am

Robin, sorry about that link breaking.  Thanks for the update.  The article appears in the Volume 32 January 2012.  Also, my martin is a 2012, not a 2011, fat fingered that, and had a memory burp.  After reading the article, I was really unimpressed with the statement that

"Most Martin guitars built in Nazareth are set up using aPLEK® Pro machine"

Given the number of folks that are reporting setup issues, it would seem "most" ain't quite cuttin' it.  As far as what Greg had to do to get the guitar setup, I'll ask him to respond himself - he's a member, and a very fine craftman, and luthier.  He let me play his showpiece jumbo, and it is beautiful and lush sounding.

Comment by Robin June Nakkula on January 19, 2013 at 8:09pm

Oops, Phil, your Sounding Board short-circuited itself on you.  If you can say which volume that article was in on page 14, here's the "front door" to it:

Comment by Jonathan Gates on January 19, 2013 at 6:07pm

Phil- Did he adjust the neck, shave the saddle or remove any shims? I am still playing hide and go seek with the action on my D35. Too many neck adjustments impress me as unhealthy. I had the actin lowered but now it rattles. I ahve shims for my 1965 Gibson acoustic

Comment by Phil Manuel on January 19, 2013 at 5:10pm

I just got my 2011 HD-28 back from my luthier, Greg Maxwell (Dogwood Guitars).  When I found this guitar, I just took it straight from the shop to home.  It play nicely, and sounded great.  After having it over 6 months, I noticed that the action was higher that was comfortable for me, so I wanted to get it checked out.  Long story, but, Greg did a quick general setup, and now it plays and sounds fantastic.  Never underestimate the skill of a luthier who cares about instruments.  Now, if you are wondering about the standard Martin setup, here's a link to a Marting Soundboard newsletter that has a nice informative article, "The Lowdown on Setup" (pg.14).  Cheers

Comment by Denny Ryan on January 17, 2013 at 5:32pm

i just bought this D28 copy guitar made by a local luthier. 

Comment by Denny Ryan on January 17, 2013 at 5:31pm

Comment by michael schwartz on January 17, 2013 at 10:19am

Nice write up, I looked for Shenandoah, but they didn't have it!

Comment by Edward Sparks on January 17, 2013 at 8:06am

Interesting Sigma information...a question from James Popp prompted me to do a little internet research on Sigmas and I found this!

Comment by Walt Pilcher on January 11, 2013 at 2:22pm

Announcement!  To my many fans who have lamented the mysterious disappearance from YouTube of my videos, "Recovering the Errant Plectrum" and "The County Library," I'm happy to announce that they are back! 

You may find them here:  Enjoy!


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