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Richlite vs Ebony 19 Replies

Started by Michael S. Jackson. Last reply by michael schwartz on Saturday.

Finally making the pilgrimage to Nazareth! 19 Replies

Started by Jud Hair. Last reply by Dave Fengler Aug 9.

Time for a Change 7 Replies

Started by Mike Bishop. Last reply by Mark Barrett Jul 23.

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Comment by Michael S. Jackson on January 29, 2013 at 10:49am
Many thanks! Good information. I can only guess that I was taught to slacken the strings and help the neck accept the new shape because I might be working with a weak rod and not know it. Sure is time consuming and probably too cautious for most of the guitars out there.
Thanks again - m
Comment by Greg Maxwell on January 28, 2013 at 10:55pm


1. It depends on each guitar, but I usually make small adjustments with the strings tuned to pitch. For major adjustments I do slacken the strings. If the rod is weak I will even clamp the neck into a slight backbow, adjust the rod as tight as I am comfortable with, and re-tune. This will often allow me to adjust a neck almost flat when the rod can't do it alone. As long as you don't over-tighten a healthy rod, it won't break. I like a neck to have as little relief when I am done as possible, and .006 is where most end up. I rarely have customers who want high action or extra relief but I will sometimes add a bit if I know the person plays with a heavy hand.

In my experience, many players are afraid of rod adjustments because they don't understand how a rod works and how to adjust it. The key is to make small adjustments and don't over-tighten the rod. And remember that the rod is there to keep the neck straight, not to adjust the action.

2. I mark a nut with a fine Sharpie to allow me to return to the same tension easily, then I remove the nut. I apply a light coating of Vaseline to the threads and also to the face of the nut, and then re-install the nut. This will allow the rod to adjust more easily. I don't lube the outside of the nut and I use the correct tool for the nut so that stripping never happens.

3. I agree. I hate high action at the nut!

4. I measure action on an acoustic at the 12th fret, from the bottom of the string to the top of the fret with the string tuned to pitch and unfretted. Factory standard for most guitars is 3/32" bass side and 2/32" treble. I will sometimes take those down another 1/64th if I know the player likes low action, plays well, and the frets are level with some fallaway on the tongue. If there are any slightly high frets or any tongue rise (which is common), you normally will get some buzzing if you set the action any lower than the factory settings.

I hope this helps! Ask away if I haven't been clear enough.

Comment by Michael S. Jackson on January 20, 2013 at 5:23pm
Thanks, Greg, for the great write up on adjusting truss rods and actions. So I can fully understand, would you please answer, and maybe comment on, some questions I have?
1. You wrote, "...tune the guitar to pitch... and then adjust the truss rod..."
Q: Do you adjust truss rods while the strings are to pitch - that is, you don't slacken them for the adjustments? I've been taught cautions on doing that. Of course you tune to pitch for the measurements, but can the neck of the guitar exert undue pressure if the strings are to pitch while you tighten or loosen the truss rod? I've heard of them breaking. To go along with that, I've also been taught to "help" the neck while adjusting the rod, that is, if you are moving the rod in the direction to apply a bow, you would add weight to the neck (hand pressure, etc.) in that direction so the rod is not pressing on the inside of the neck so much. Do I make sense? I think the goal here is to take all the pressure off of the rod that you can while turning it. Some folks like as much as .010" in the middle fret; some like it compeltely flat. Do you find .006" - which is virtually flat - to be a good point? Do you find that, as the strings are lowered to the neck, the amount of relief should change (that is, conversely, if someone likes a high action will the guitar be better set up to have a slight gap at the middle fret)? Any thoughts on this?
2. You wrote,"...lubricate the rod nut on Gibson style truss rods..."
Q: How, and with what, do you lube the rod nuts? Do you ever have problems with your tool slipping on (or maybe even stripping) the nut's OD when you work with it (because of the lube)?
3. I really like your mentioning the nut and first fret string depth - this is one area people often forget when working on a guitar's action.
Q: Would you please further explain the measurement? When you measure the depth, do you measure the bottom of the string at the top of the first fret? If so, do you press the string at the last (22nd or so) fret while you measure? What, in your opinion is a good range for the clearance?
Again, I really appreciate your posting this. I'm not trying to be obteuse with my questions; I just wanna understand what you have written.
Many thanks,
Comment by Ken Rogers on January 20, 2013 at 4:24pm

Denny, I've been playing silk and steel for over 30 years and I've been happy with the sound.  Recently I've been experimenting with silk and bronze.  I think I like them even more...

Comment by Denny Ryan on January 20, 2013 at 3:42pm

Just bought my first set of Martin silk and steel strings and put them on a guitar I just bought. It had some heavy gauge strings which were hard to fingerpick. What a big difference. They sound fantastic. Has anyone else used them?

Comment by Greg Maxwell on January 20, 2013 at 12:14pm

Thanks for the kind words, Phil!

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


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