Measure string height

Discussion in 'The Custom Shop' started by Bryan, Nov 17, 2007.

  1. cooliokid2009

    cooliokid2009 Junior Member

    Messages:
    1
    Likes Received:
    0
    Joined:
    Oct 20, 2008
    YOU CAN BUY A FEELER GUAGE - THIS IS A SET OF THIN BLADES WHICH YOU ADD TOGETHER TO GET A CERTAIN LIKE 2MM. ITS REALLY USED TO BY MECHANICS TO MEASURE SPARK PLUGS. BORROW ONE. BUY ONE!
     
  2. Wuchak

    Wuchak Senior Member

    Messages:
    260
    Likes Received:
    10
    Joined:
    Jun 30, 2008
    I use feeler gauges to set the pickup height. No need for them setting the string height.

    1. Make neck flat. If necessary to turn truss rod do so only 1/8 or 1/4 turn at a time. Then retune and give the neck a while to settle. I don't like messing with the truss rod and I would never move it more than 1/2 turn in a day.
    2. tune guitar and lower action until it buzzes when depressed at 12th fret
    3. raise bridge 1/4 turn on both sides, retune and check for buzz
    4. repeat step 3 until no buzz. If one side is buzzing and the other not then only raise the side that buzzes. Usually the lower strings will need to be raised a bit higher to provide room for their extra mass to vibrate.
    5. Raise height an extra little bit if you want. This will help keep it from buzzing with every little change in temperature and humidity. Don't be surprised if you do need to tweak the setup in the fall when you turn on the furnace and again in the spring when you turn it off.
    6. Look at string height over the first fret, depress string on first fret and check height over second fret. They should be nearly identical. If the space over the first fret is much higher then you may need to lower the nut by sanding some off the back of it. The height of the nut is only important for clearing the first fret but if the nut is too high you will never get the action to be decent. Don't mess with the nut unless you are really sure what you are doing. If you take too much off then you need to get brass shims and shim it to the correct height or a new nut.
    7. Set the intonation. With guitar tuned, play a harmonic at the 12th fret and then play the fretted note at the 12th fret. If the pitch of the fretted note is higher than the harmonic then you need to lengthen the string by moving the saddle toward the tailpiece. If it is lower than the harmonic you need to shorten the string by moving the saddle toward the neck.
    8. Play it and tweak it a little here and there to really get it dialed in. If you notice some buzz, raise the bridge a little, if it seems like you could go just a bit lower without buzz then drop it down a little. Don't be afraid to give the bridge height a little tweak up or down. Just be sure to check intonation afterwards and adjust as necessary. Small changes in height won't change the intonation enough to worry about immediately. Once you get it dialed in to the perfect height (you'll know it when you hit it) then spend 10 minutes and get the intonation perfect.
    8. Set the pickup height. Once the action is set you need to set the pickup height. The settings recommended by Gibson are a good place to start. Again, tweak as necessary.
    9. Set the pickup pole height. If you don't your pickups will overemphasis the bass and treble and you'll have no mids. You can always scoop the mids out with an EQ pedal or on the amp but you can't put them back if they aren't getting picked up to begin with. To set the pole height: with your strings off the guitar place an index card at the end of the neck, flat against the body of the guitar. With a pencil trace the radius of the top of the neck from one side of the fretboard to the other. Then trim off the bottom of the card straight across from one side to the other in line with the edges of the fretboard. Place the card on top of the pickup and adjust the pole pieces so they follow the curve.

    Once your string and pickup heights are dialed in you might want to use a feeler gauge to measure them and record it so you have it to reference for future setups.
     
  3. nakleh

    nakleh Senior Member

    Messages:
    766
    Likes Received:
    66
    Joined:
    Mar 25, 2008
    That's what I use, works great.
     
  4. ehamady6

    ehamady6 Senior Member

    Messages:
    3,787
    Likes Received:
    551
    Joined:
    Sep 4, 2008
    I use a Feeler Gauge I got from AutoZone.
     
  5. asmith9509

    asmith9509 Senior Member

    Messages:
    225
    Likes Received:
    2
    Joined:
    Jun 7, 2008
    As mentioned above, you can get feeler guages OR a 6" machinist's scale at Autozone for about $8 each. I find both to be useful when doing setups.

    That Stewmac gauge looks nice though.
     
  6. ogrfnkl

    ogrfnkl Junior Member

    Messages:
    1
    Likes Received:
    0
    Joined:
    Apr 30, 2009
    I use a stainless steel caliper (see below). The little "dipstick" that slides out the back end of the caliper when you open it is ideal for measuring the action height. All you have to do is place the tip of the "dipstick" on the fret right next to the string and then adjust the caliper so its body just touches the top of the string without depressing it. Take the measurement, subtract the thickness of the string, and voila! This works just as well for measuring pickup height.

    [​IMG]

    For setting neck relief, as well as checking clearances on the first fret, I use an automotive feeler guage (the kind meant for valve clearance adjustment, not spark plugs).
     
  7. Ole'Lefty

    Ole'Lefty Premium Member

    Messages:
    5,206
    Likes Received:
    1,717
    Joined:
    Oct 25, 2008
    Feeler gauges or caliper as above. Any other way and you are still eyeballin'. If you do this regularly, then your eyeballs adapt to become accurate gauges. No buzz and the right feel is the goal, therefore if you are familiar with the nuts and bolts of your guitar, then the certified eyeball described above works with your "caliper fingertips." The benefit of hardware measuring is the ability to return to what the player likes. Don't forget that a string gauge change can make a real difference.Ole'Lefty ( I have the S-Mc gauge- it is nifty but has the same drawbacks as the ruler-it is one)
     
  8. Torren61

    Torren61 Senior Member

    Messages:
    12,437
    Likes Received:
    16,751
    Joined:
    Dec 25, 2008
    Feeler gauge from AutoZone.
     
  9. kspeed

    kspeed Senior Member

    Messages:
    1,473
    Likes Received:
    13
    Joined:
    Apr 14, 2008
    I've been using Snarling Dog picks for this for years:

    [​IMG]

    The only guitar I've ever bought that was already setup perfectly (for me) was my Tele. Holding the pick as it's pictured against the fingerboard at the 12th fret, without depressing the low E string, I was able to clearly see the dots in the 6th row from the bottom. This is the standard I use for each guitar - if I can get it that low without any buzz I'm happy.

    Of course the Stew Mac tool would be much easier :thumb:
     

Share This Page