Learning how to do my own setups..... Help Appreciated!

yeatzee

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Hey guys, a while back after I got my first Gibson my ES 339 I sent the guitar to a luthier a friend knew to lower the frets (railroad ties to the extreme) and give the guitar a basic setup. Long story short I got the guitar back and it buzzed like crazy and was basically unplayable using any open strings. I tried raising the bridge action myself which helped to some degree but it was still bad. I felt like I had basically sent my child off to a doctor and they got even more injured and it was all my fault... I really felt terrible. Needless to say I brought the guitar back and told him my complaints. When I got the guitar back the second time it was better but still buzzed to much because he cut the nut slots too deep. His "fix" (which I presume to have been the glue trick) helped enough to stop audible buzzing for the most part through an amp but after all of that I had enough letting anyone mess with my guitars again. Fast forward to now and I've taken it upon myself to learn how to setup my own guitars and be self sufficient for the "easy" stuff.

With that being said I bought a straight edge, feeler gauges, a string action ruler / straight edge (still waiting on that one to arrive so all measurements below are taken with the feeler gauges which only go up to .025". I stacked gauges to get anything more than that making sure they were stacked very tightly; not an exact way to do it but the best method I've got until the action gauge arrives) and some other misc stuff and I'm ready to start learning how to improve my guitars. My experience previously has been that whenever I touch the guitars and mess with them they just seem to get worse so I'm looking for some guidance and help along the way from you guys. Below are the measurements I've taken for my three guitars in question. The two ES guitars are strung with 10's and the SG is strung with 9's.

ES 137
This guitar sounds great but has some fret buzz on the Low E-G strings. The second complaint is that the guitar is a little hard to play bar chords on higher up, I'd like to lower the action especially on the wound strings but they already buzz a bit. Based off of my measurements what would be your diagnosis and what would be your suggestions?

1st fret capo'd & 15th Fret pressed, 7th fret action (relief):
• .009"

1st fret capo'd & 15th Fret measured:
• High E = .039"
• Low E = .045"

12th Fret Action:
• High E = .036"
• Low E = .059"

Nut Action:
• Low E = .025"
• A = .022"
• D = .018"
• G = .016"
• B = .012"
• High E = .011"


ES 339 Measurements:
This guitar has a really nice action, pretty low from what I'm used to but not terribly low. Though the measurements don't tell a big difference this guitar is much easier to play than the 137. The guitar does buzz on the E, A, and D strings when played open / on the first few frets a bit. That is my only complaint apart from wishing it sustained a bit more.

1st fret capo'd & 15th Fret pressed, 7th fret action (relief):
• .009"

1st fret capo'd & 15th Fret measured:
• High E = .039"
• Low E = .043"

12th Fret Action:
• High E = .043"
• Low E = .043"

Nut Action:
• Low E = .01"
• A = .012"
• D = .009"
• G = .01"
• B = .016"
• High E = .013"


SG Junior Measurements:
My first vintage guitar and its got its fair share of issues. Sounds great, but tough to play back to back with the other two. The action is just way to high higher up the neck, I'd like to lower it but it buzzes on the G string open and the B string is deadened a decent amount played open because of how low the nut slot is. Can a nylon nut be salvaged until I can afford a new nut with the super glue trick? Any other setup suggestions (more relief?)?

1st fret capo'd & 15th Fret pressed, 7th fret action (relief):
• .01"

1st fret capo'd & 15th Fret measured:
• High E = 0.08"
• Low E = 0.1"

12th Fret Action:
• High E = 0.08"
• Low E = 0.1"

Nut Action:
• Low E = .016"
• A = .014"
• D = .016"
• G = .026"
• B = .012"
• High E = .009"


I realize this is a lot of info, but this is also an easy record for me of what the setups are/were.

1. Ideally I'd like to lower the 137's action on the low end without getting any more buzz (current amount is fine I guess, doesn't come through the amp). Could I add more relief to the neck? Do the nut action measurements for the 137 sound off? It seems like a pretty high action to still buzz so its got to be either the nut or not enough relief or the frets are high.

2. As for the 339 could I use the super glue trick (guidance appreciated) to raise the nut action a bit on some of the strings and keep everything else as is? It plays great but it does buzz more than I'd like.

3. For the '63 SG Junior, its nut is heavily worn in. Very wide nut slots and very deep. I know it needs to be replaced but until I can afford for a real luthier to do that with a new refret is there anything that I can do to lower the action higher up the board without introducing more fret buzz? Can I raise the B string slot a bit as a temporary fix to stop it from deadening out until I can get it all fixed properly with some glue (even though its a nylon nut)?

If you made it through all of this my hats off to ya, and thank you! I'm a thorough kind of guy and I really care for these instruments so I want to get them setup as best as I can within safe boundaries. I have this reference from some book that seems to be re-quoted throughout the forum posts I've read. Whoever's personal specs are posted are really very low compared to the majority of what I've got so I'm confused if all the buzzing just comes with the territory or my guitars need some more work then I thought.

29646236581_9c12e9b097_c.jpg


Anyways any help / guidance is appreciated! I'll be likely tinkering with the guitars and posting any findings I have, and re-measuring when I get that string action gauge in the mail tomorrow.
 

ARandall

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If you are going to mess with nut cutting, there is a great tool I have been using for my own builds:

http://www.stewmac.com/Luthier_Tool...Saddles/Safe_Slot_Nut_Guard_Complete_Set.html

I use it for every guitar now, and have gone back to the guitars I set up before I got it to re-do them. It allows for the correct slot depth for any fret height based on the frets you have.


And the superglue + bone filings or baking soda trick works well for any nut I've found, save maybe nylon. I'm not sure how you'd go with that, except seeing if you can glue in slivers.
 

jkes01

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^ I have the full size ruler and the guard, great tools for making your own nuts. I'll add that you'll also need gauged nut files to do it right. You don't need a full set to start unless you can afford it. Making a nut is just part of what it takes to make a guitar play the best it can.

All those numbers are just a starting point and every guitar is different. Try giving the neck a little more relief. Without leveling the frets and adjusting the nut slots, it will be difficult to eliminate buzz with the numbers you have. Try .010 - .012 relief and see if that helps.
 

Skit

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To check for proper nut slot height I fret the string between the 2nd and 3rd fret. There should be just a slight space between the string and the first fret, about enough for a piece of paper to slide in between the string and the fret. Or use a flashlight and you should just see a very small space. A properly cut nut makes a world of difference.

For string height I do it by feel but if I were to measure, on the low E if I stack a Fender medium and a thin pick they just fit between the low E and the 12th fret. On the high e two Fender thin picks stacked fit snug between the 12th fret and the string. Necks have a very slight bow, almost straight. I get no string buzz.

YMMV
 

Troy McClure

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Have you tried using a fret rocker to check for high frets before messing around with the nut?
 

yeatzee

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And the superglue + bone filings or baking soda trick works well for any nut I've found, save maybe nylon. I'm not sure how you'd go with that, except seeing if you can glue in slivers.
What about sanding down a piece of the nylon nut and using that in with the super glue?

^ I have the full size ruler and the guard, great tools for making your own nuts. I'll add that you'll also need gauged nut files to do it right. You don't need a full set to start unless you can afford it. Making a nut is just part of what it takes to make a guitar play the best it can.

All those numbers are just a starting point and every guitar is different. Try giving the neck a little more relief. Without leveling the frets and adjusting the nut slots, it will be difficult to eliminate buzz with the numbers you have. Try .010 - .012 relief and see if that helps.
Im not ready to start crafting my own guitar nuts from scratch, really I'd rather not touch them at all but the SG and 339 could use a little raising here and there. I did add some relief to the 137 right around .012 total (a bit more on the bass end a bit less on the high E end) and lowered the action a bit and it seems to play a little better now.

To check for proper nut slot height I fret the string between the 2nd and 3rd fret. There should be just a slight space between the string and the first fret, about enough for a piece of paper to slide in between the string and the fret. Or use a flashlight and you should just see a very small space. A properly cut nut makes a world of difference.

For string height I do it by feel but if I were to measure, on the low E if I stack a Fender medium and a thin pick they just fit between the low E and the 12th fret. On the high e two Fender thin picks stacked fit snug between the 12th fret and the string. Necks have a very slight bow, almost straight. I get no string buzz.

YMMV
I've never played or used any fender picks so I have no idea on what those measurements might be, but per your system for checking nut slot height my results are as follows.
ES 137 - High E, paper slides under with some friction. Low E I could fit probably 3 pieces of paper stacked under it. The rest of the strings are in between the other two.

ES 339 - High E & B are good, G is a tight fit, DAE the paper wont fit unless slid over from the side with some force.

SG Junior - High E is a tight fit, B wont fit without doing the same as above, G is fine, DAE are all tight fits with some friction.

Have you tried using a fret rocker to check for high frets before messing around with the nut?
I got my string action ruler, which is a small 3.5 inch straight edge basically with measurements on it and the 137 definitely has a couple high frets that need to be addressed eventually. The SG's refret is of higher priority though as of right now, is there any chance those frets are just raise a bit and I might be able to tap them down? I've heard of that happening but I'm not sure how to tell.
 

jkes01

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Use something to span 3 frets and rock it. If it rocks, the fret in the middle is high and will need to be leveled to the height of the frets on either side. This can be a credit card, small machinists square, an aluminum ruler, heck even the string action gauge would work. StewMac has the fret rocker, but you can find it elsewhere cheaper.

I've spot leveled and polished, it works, but leveling and re-crowning all the frets at once is better IMO.
 

yeatzee

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Use something to span 3 frets and rock it. If it rocks, the fret in the middle is high and will need to be leveled to the height of the frets on either side. This can be a credit card, small machinists square, an aluminum ruler, heck even the string action gauge would work. StewMac has the fret rocker, but you can find it elsewhere cheaper.

I've spot leveled and polished, it works, but leveling and re-crowning all the frets at once is better IMO.

Should have been more clear, yeah with the string action gauge I went over the guitar and its got at least iirc 4 high frets. What would I need tool wise to just tackle the offending frets to fix that until I can afford a pro to dress them? Not looking to spend much and get uber fancy luthier tools.
 

yeatzee

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I went over the guitar again with the straight edge / impromptu fret rocker and all the X's mark a spot where the fret rocked. The only one that rocked kinda bad was the 5th fret, the rest rocked very slightly, I could feel it more than I could see it. The two lines on the end of the fretboard are there because the straight edge isn't small enough to only cover three frets that high up on the neck but one or both of those frets are high because it rocked over those four final frets.

29484687690_f82502b3eb_c.jpg
 

The_Nuge

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Sounds like it needs a level & polish!
You only really need a straight edge, a fret file and some sand paper and wire wool - and it's not difficult to do?
Where are you located? If you're in Germany, I can lend you the tools.
 

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