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First Time Builder

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First Time Builder

Postby Joe Bruno » Thu Mar 23, 2017 10:47 am

Hello All;
I am a first time guitar builder and all around novice. I built my first guitar using a Stewart Macdonald kit. My first build was not for the purpose of actually making music but because I love the craftsmanship. I actually don't even know how to play. Hopefully this will lead to me learning how to play.

Anyway on to my question. After I completed my build, I brought my instrument to the local shop for an initial set up. He explained that there was buzzing when played at the high frets and there wasn't much he could do. There is a truss rod but it does't fix the issue. I was ambitious on my first build and opted for the dovetail joint neck. Maybe in hindsight I should have opted for a bolt on. The buzzing has really hampered the playing of this guitar. From what I can tell, I screwed up the construction of the neck/fretboard and when you play frets 7 and up there is buzzing. I think the strings are vibrating against the other frets. My initial thought was would I be able to install a slightly higher saddle to raise the strings a little higher? Or maybe file down frets 7-10? Or possibly both?

I am attaching a photo to show the problem area.

Thanks for all of your help,
-Joe
Attachments
guitar.jpg
Joe Bruno
 
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Re: First Time Builder

Postby Barry Daniels » Thu Mar 23, 2017 12:10 pm

It looks like the fretboard is quite bowed up. So the truss rod is adjusted as far as it will go? Place a 18" long straight edge on top the frets and look closely at what is going on. The use of feeler gauges may be necessary until your eyeballs get calibrated. You should have somewhere around .010" of relief near the middle. Any more than that requires some adjustment. If there is too much bow to remove by using the truss rod, or leveling the frets, then you may need to remove the frets and level the fretboard. This is not a serious operation and it looks like you have plenty of fretboard thickness to allow a bunch of leveling.

To your question about raising the saddle: yes you can do that too but get the fretboard straight first.
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Re: First Time Builder

Postby Steven Smith » Fri Mar 24, 2017 10:23 am

Your saddle looks high enough over the bridge and I wouldn't change that yet. As Barry said your fretboard needs to be fixed. I commonly level the frets on guitars that have a similar problem but yours looks to be too bowed for that to work. My guess is that your neck is a bit under set. As you work with this pay very close attention to the geometry between the fretboard and the bridge; simply leveling the fretboard may not get you to where you need to be. Take your time and enjoy the journey because when you do get it fixed you will have acquired some valuable skills.
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Re: First Time Builder

Postby Gordon Bellerose » Fri Mar 24, 2017 2:01 pm

It looks like the truss rod needs to be adjusted also.
If it is already under strain, you can help straighten the neck using a couple small blocks, a level, or other steel bar, and a c-clamp.

1. Place a small block of wood on the fret board at the body joint, and another over top the first couple of frets.
2. Place your level or other steel bar on top of the wooden blocks.
3. Use a c-clamp from the bottom of the neck, to the top of the bar.
4. Use some kind of wooden block or caul in between the clamp and the back of the neck, to stop the clamp from making marks.
5. Tighten the clamp gently, straightening the neck, just past straight.
6. The truss rod should be able to be tightened at this point.

This may not cure your problem, but is a method that can help straighten difficult necks.
I need your help. I can't possibly make all the mistakes myself!
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Re: First Time Builder

Postby Bob Howell » Sat Mar 25, 2017 7:23 am

I am cutting the frets for my first build and looking at this in prep for installing my first neck. It bolts on so easer to adjust but I'd like to get it right 1st time.

I would have said the problem was the trust rod needs to be adjusted down and the bridge raised but no one proposed that so I am certainly missing something.

I do see the bow in the fretboard but adjusting the neck down and raising the bridge might fix it. I am trying to head off problems but I guess I'm going to have to jump in like the op and start swimming. Campino's book is my guide so I'll keep re-reading that section and work on my understanding.

Good luck with your fix. I'm right behind you learning too.
Bob Howell
 
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Re: First Time Builder

Postby Freeman Keller » Mon Mar 27, 2017 12:08 pm

Consolidating all of the advice from several responses (and maybe giving Bob a direction) here is how I approach this.

- if the guitar is strung up when I get it I measure and write down everything before I start (actually I've got a spread sheet for this). I even measure the strings that are on it - you would be surprised how many people don't know what they have. My spreadsheet has a column of target values for each of these measurements - that helps me discuss with the owner what needs to be done

- make sure the guitar is structurally sound and properly humidified. Fix if not.

- adjust the fretboard flat with no string tension. Level and dress the frets so they are perfect

- check the neck angle and set/reset the neck as required. I like the fret plane to just hit the top of the bridge. Decide if there is a problem at the body joint (hump) - normally a little fall off is OK

- put a too tall saddle in it, string it up and check the relief. Adjust the truss rod so it is close to your target value (with perfect frets I shoot for 0.004-5 but you might want a little more).

- lower the nut slots to close to your target values. If my goal is 0.014 to 0018 I might leave them a couple of thou high.

- measure the action at 12 and start taking the saddle down to approach your target. I like to leave the top flat (but radiused) and put a little piece of wire on it (a piece of B string works good) - move that around until the intonation is good and mark the top of the saddle. Shape between the break points. Continue to lower the action by sanding the bottom of the saddle. I like to stop a hair higher than my target and let everything settle in under tension for a few weeks.

- cycle back through these things using both measurements and feel. Remember that its easier to take nut and saddle down, harder to take it back up. There are a bunch of little things that I like to check to make me feel good - relief at each fret going away from the center, next fret and back fret clearance. Slot and ramp bridge.

- I write everything down so I know exactly where I'm at (another column in the spreadsheet)

It is important to remember which parts of a setup affect others - that establishes the order that I do them. Changing relief will change the action (but that isn't why you do it), changing the action will not change the relief. Changing the nut slots has a very small effect on action, changing action has a very very small effect on the nut slots. Lowering the action generally improves the intonation (makes the fretted string less sharp). A dry or overly humidified guitar needs to be stabilized before you start. Going to heavier strings may increase relief and action slightly.

So, looking at the guitar in the first picture I would agree that it has too much relief (if I can see it its probably too much) but without measuring anything I wouldn't start trying to fix it.
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Re: First Time Builder

Postby Barry Daniels » Mon Mar 27, 2017 2:11 pm

I'm not sure Joe is still with us. Joe?
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Re: First Time Builder

Postby Bob Howell » Mon May 01, 2017 4:40 pm

Joe does not seem to be around but I am still reading this. I have frets up to 14 in but only half down snug. I must get those down and then decide how to proceed with the last 5, so as to avoid some of his problems.
Bob Howell
 
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Re: First Time Builder

Postby Barry Daniels » Mon May 01, 2017 6:30 pm

Are your slots too tight?
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Re: First Time Builder

Postby Bob Howell » Mon May 01, 2017 9:05 pm

Barry Daniels wrote:Are your slots too tight?

I have the SM fret saw and fret wire and coated them with white Elmers per Compino. I have a 12" radius but did not think to bend the wire in advance. This afternoon I heated the worst ones and then pulled them right out. Don't know how to access if the slots are too small/tight. I next will make radius clamping cauls. then try again.
Bob Howell
 
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Re: First Time Builder

Postby Barry Daniels » Tue May 02, 2017 11:06 am

Take a short length of fret wire and carefully grind off the barbs. Then check the fit of the tang in the slots. It should go in freely.
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Re: First Time Builder

Postby Bob Howell » Tue May 02, 2017 12:01 pm

Made the clamping cauls shaped with the spindle sander to span two frets, as I saw here somewhere. Glue drying now. Seemed to work fine. Think the slots are ok.
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