Les Paul Factory Setup

TreeHugger

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This is for anyone out there that would like to restore their Les Paul to Gibson factory specs for use, or as a starting point for your own liking.

I've included Dan Erlewine's personal specs. If anyone isn't familiar, Dan Erlewine has worked on and set up many pro guitars, and has the inside scoop on how the pros like their guitars set up.

I believe his book, Guitar Player Repair Guide, has a newer 3rd edition. It's a great book, worth checking out.

Gibson neck relief:

at the 7th fret factory: .012" Dan's: .004"


String height at 12th fret:

Low E factory: 5/64"

High E factory: 3/64"

String height at the nut:

Low E factory: 2/64" (.030") Dan's: .015"

A string factory: 2/64" (.030") Dan's: .014

D string factory: 1.5/64" (.022") Dan's: .013"

G string factory: 1.5/64" (.022") Dan's: .012"

B string factory: 1/64" (.015") Dan's: .010"

High E factory: 1/64" (.015") Dan's: .009"


Pickup Height:

Neck pickup treble side factory: 3/32"

bass side factory: 3/32"

Bridge pickup treble side factory: 1/16"

bass side factory: 1/16"

(pickup height measurement is achieved by depressing high and low E strings at the last fret, from the bottom of the string to the top of the pole pieces.)

Information borrowed from:

Erlewine, Dan: Guitar Player Repair Guide, 2nd Edition, p.27-28
Miller Freeman Books, San Francisco, CA
 

Rock

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I have a question about the neck relief numbers. I have a problem with my 5th and 6th (mostly) high E kind of fretting out. It plings when I hit it and you can hear the string hitting the next fret as you play or bend it kind of fretting out but not exactly. I'm wondering if my neck is too straight.

So, when you get those neck relief numbers do you hold down the first fret and then measure the 7th fret, just measure it without holding any frets down at the 7th, or use a feeler gauge. Also, are you measuring the High E or Low E string to get those numbers?
 

dwagar

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you can use a straight edge or just use the string as one. Hold down the first fret (or put a capo on) and hold down about the 15th fret, then you can check the clearance between the fret and the low E string.

I usually just use the string method, and give the string a tap over the 7th fret, that gives me an idea of how much relief there is.
 

Rock

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Hmmm, there is no relief. I think it's pretty much flat against the board. I'm totally afraid of messing with the rod and the only guitar stores that sell Gibsons and might have repair guys is 40 - 45 mins by car.

I think I messed with a rod in the mid 90s. After turning and turning nothing happened. I'm afraid I'll just keep turning and I see nothing happening. Good luck trying to get it back to the original spot after that. Then there's the whole intonation thing. If you add more bow to the neck won't the intonation be off? Wouldn't that need to be messed with too? I think my intonation is pretty right on and I don't dig messing with it. Every time I think about it I just see my Boss tuner fluctuate with ever string vibration (especially the low strings.) I can see the needle moving up and down as the string vibrates making it super hard for me to set it up. I would set it up to where it looks good. Hit the string and it's flat/sharp. Reset it, hit it again and goes the other way. Some dude set up the intonation a long time ago and he used a much better tuner than my Boss. When I watched him and he hit the low strings the needle didn't fluctuate back and forth like my Boss does. He was able to do in minutes what would take me hours.

Man, I don't know to do? I thought my neck is too straight with no relief. The only store at the time didn't fix the problem, since I had this from the beginning, plus they did something to the pickup cover and my chrome has been flaking off ever since. The other one is a new Guitar Center and I read all kinds of stores on line about people not liking Guitar Center repairs. Like they are good for cheap guitars but they wouldn't trust them to do Les Paul setup or work on them.

I wonder if anyone had a great experience getting a Les Paul fixed/repaired/setup at a Guitar Center? That might be my only option seeing how I'm afraid of messing with the rod and intonation.
 

TreeHugger

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Based on my experience with other guitars, and reading about setups, you should only turn the truss rod about a 1/4 turn at a time. I've read that you should let the neck rest for 24 hours before attempting more adjustments.

Twelve thousandths of an inch is pretty much straight.

I think setups are GC are kind of hit and miss. Some guys there really know what they're doing, others maybe not so much. I haven't had any personal experience with them and setups, that's just going on what I've read at other forums.

I would make the drive to a qualified tech who can do a proper setup. I would ask around. There are guitar gurus everywhere, and you might find one that really knows his stuff.

Maybe it's something about BOSS tuners. I never had any luck intonating or tuning my guitars with a BOSS TU-2. I bought a Korg Pitch Black tuner, and that thing does wonders for tuning and intonation, I'm very happy with it.

Rock, where do you live if you don't mind me asking?
 

dwagar

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A TU2 is good for stage use, but IMO it's not accurate enough for setting intonation. IIRC it's only accurate to 3 cents.

I use a cheap Seiko SAT500 for setting intonation (about $25), it's accurate to 1 cent. But I still use my TU2 on stage, way easier to see, and close enough for rock n roll. One of these days I'll break down and get a Pitch Black too.
 

DitDah

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Neck relief is all user preference. Some subscribe to dead straight...some want some relief. According to Dan Erlewine and others...your first truss rod adjustment (even if you are trying for less relief) if any... should be for more relief (counter clockwise)...and he says no harm can come from doing this adjustment. Not true if you are going the other way (clockwise). At least by adjusting counterclockwise for more relief...it will give you a good idea if your truss rod is operating correctly. Not 100% definitive...but a good idea. Don't be afraid of it. Yes...you will most likely need to adjust your intonation if you mess with the neck...same same for bridge height. I really like the Peterson line of tuners...really really accurate. More than just about any other on the market. If you have an iPhone or iPod touch...you can get a very nice peterson tuner for about 10 bucks...works great. I use it as my backup to my strobostomp 2.

Remember...the truss rod's only purpose is to counteract the pull of the strings on the neck.

stick to 1/8" to 1/4" turns...and I've also heard you should let your neck settle overnight lets say...and recheck or readjust as necessary the next day. I've personally found that very small adjustments as noted above are all that are necessary if the truss rod is working correctly and you start off dead straight. Small adjustments usually yield pretty large changes in the neck. "Large changes" is a relative term... Waiting overnight hasn't yielded any difference for me.

*edit* forgot to add...if your gonna mess with intonation...put on a fresh set of strings. Stretch 'em...retune...do this a few times...then start your intonation adjustments. If you try to do it on an old set of strings...you may have some headaches (difficulty getting it right).
 

TreeHugger

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I used to be afraid of the truss rod, but I read up on it, and as long as you're making small adjustments you'll be fine. Like DitDah said, 1/8-1/4 turns, and it doesn't take much to notice a difference in the neck.

DitDah... good tip on the set of fresh strings before making any adjustments. And like you said, it's all user preference.

I like the Pitch Black tuner because the LED is so big and bright, it's easier to see than the small needle on the BOSS. Plus the Pitch Black has 3 different settings, which is nice.

Good tips everyone!
 

Rock

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Yeah, that guy used an expensive Korg tuner! I have a Boss TU12.

It's weird how it's only the high E string. Fret 1 is good. Frets 12 - 22 are good. 5 - 6 are the worst. 2 - 4 and 7 -11 are passable.

I don't have any feeler gauges so I don't know any numbers. I just know what it looks like. It's simple really, the string doesn't have enough room on the high E and it is hitting the string in front of it. Not enough to completely kill the fret but enough to hear it when hitting the note or bending; but at 4/64 unfretted and 3/64 fretted at the 1st it seems to be within the Gibson setup numbers. I tried raising the high E only and that didn't help. Also, I raised the action before having it lowered again and that didn't help.

While I wouldn't put up my guitar against anyone else's (I think I would loose that battle) it's not that bad. It's only the high E string around the 5 - 6 frets that is messed up. Sometimes I ignore the problem like when I use distortion to cover it up and sometimes it really bothers me a lot like when I use it with a tube amp and a tube screamer. Then it's just loud enough, yet clean enough, to bring out the problem. I'm in that mood now. A few weeks from now I'll just think about what they did last time to my one and probably only at these prices, look at the messed up pickup cover they did, plug into a distortion and ignore the problem.

I just had a bad experience the last time I had it looked at and I don't have the guts to have it messed with again. Until I do I just ignore the problem.

. . . . and end of rant.
 

TreeHugger

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Use a straight edge on the neck to see if any fret might be higher than the others. Get some cheap automotive feeler guages and see for yourself where the problem could be. I'm new to Les Pauls, so I'm not sure if there has been any issues with people needing a fret level.

You could take it to a Guitar Center, to see what they could do. You never know, you might get someone who knows what they're doing. Be firm and tell them exactly what you want, and you want it done right.

Check online to see if there are any lutherie schools in your area.

If you have an expensive guitar, you deserve to have it play well, no inbetweens.
 

Hamtone

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Sounds as though you could use a complete pro set up. It is only in a few spots I am going to say its more than just action or relief. Sounds like a couple frets could be dressed.
 

dspelman

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dspelman

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This is for anyone out there that would like to restore their Les Paul to Gibson factory specs for use, or as a starting point for your own liking.

I've included Dan Erlewine's personal specs.
I like Dan's specs *far* better than Gibson's factory specs. That said, Gibson doesn't seem to pay attention to its own specs all that closely -- I've seen a pretty wide variance even on new guitars-out-of-the-box.
 

TreeHugger

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Sadly, Dan's book doesn't have any pro setups for Les Pauls. It's all pro Strat players. Maybe the 3rd edition has more pro setups in it.
 

Rock

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You know what. I just did some measuring. I don't know if these means anything unless it's someone who works with guitars. Maybe it means something to them.

Here's what I found out just now.

I measured my high E frets from the bottom of the fret board to the top of the fret.

My high E string measures 2/64 on the 1st fret as well as my 12th fret where things sound good.

Yet, my 5th fret and 6th fret that gives me the most trouble measures only 1/64 on the 5th and 1.25/64 on the 6th.

So, I decided to measure the 5th fret low E string because that doesn't fret out or has the problem that the 5th fret high E has. Well, I measured 2/64 on the 5th fret low E string from the board to the top of the fret.

So fret 5 is low E 2/64 but only 1/64 for the high E instead of being a straight 2/64 on the 5th fret from low to high.

Except for seeing that the fret goes downhill would that make a note fret out as you bend it?
 

TreeHugger

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That would make it fret out on the 6th fret, if your 5th fret is only 1/64". If you wanted to mess with the action, try raising the action on the treble side up to 1/64 or more, a hair at a time... see if that takes care of the buzzing. You might not notice a big difference by raising the action. But you would have to raise the action on the treble side so compensate for the lower 5th fret.
 

Rock

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Hmmm, I did have the action raised before and it didn't change anything. I then had it lowered. But the thing is, is that the guy raised the action on both ends not just on one end. Maybe only one end needs to be raised? There's tons of stuff that it could be.

Here's a little story. I got this in December and it was very cold out. So, I never knew if I had a messed up neck from the temperature change from warm guitar store to ice cold temps. So, a few years later I ordered a Carvin and it too came in December and too was very ice cold.

So, I get the Carvin and the first thing I noticed it had the same problem as my Gibson. It fretted out or almost fretted out in the 5th, 6th ish fret area on the high E string. It was the same as my Les Paul. I didn't touch anything on the Carvin. It was factory setup, tuned and everything. I didn't mess with it at all. I'm like, "how can this be! It's the same problem as my Les Paul. What's the odds?" "How can two guitars have the same problem?" "They were both shipped in the winter could that be it?"

So, I called Carvin and they said send it back. I get a call a few weeks later and they said that the neck was messed up, warped, or something. I forget the exact words but the neck was messed up. They offered to build me a new guitar. I said yes. This time the second once came around May or so when the weather was all nice and even. 70 degrees at the factory say and shipped in consistent 70 ish weather. Well, this came and it's unbelievable. If I wasn't a Les Paul guy I would be on this thing 24/7. Anyone who has a Carvin knows how awesome their neck, frets job and action is.

What makes me wonder is that two guitars were both shipped during the same month in the same ice cold temps and both had the exact same problem. Carvin said the neck was bad. It makes me wonder if the ice cold temps of shipping did something to the neck. I think Gibson has a humidity chamber to reshape the neck in these instances but I can't prove that the weather did anything to the board. All I have to go by is what Carvin said and the fact that it was the exact same problem on both guitars.
 

Back To Basics

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I just received delivery of a 1982 black les paul custom left handed guitar. This guitar is in mint condition & has never been played apart from the owner checking it when he 1st purchased it back in 82. He's had it in the case since then & never played it as he is right handed. He was a guitar teacher & over the years purchased many different types of guitars for his students to practice on when they arrived for lessons. The good thing for me is he never had a left handed student come to his class. The guitar still has the same strings on it from factory set up. Some of my friends said keep it in the case & dont play it. (I told them I didn't buy it for that). The sound is absolutley amazing & I am totally blown away with it. The action is quiet low & easy to play with no buzzes. One question is, I don't know what guage strings or brand of strings came with customs in 82. The last owner said he wasn't sure either because he's never had to change them. I just want to make sure I buy the right strings for this guitar. Can anybody shed some light on this for me please.
 

dspelman

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I just want to make sure I buy the right strings for this guitar. Can anybody shed some light on this for me please.
A good guitar shop will have a caliper that will tell you what gauge strings you have on your guitar.

Chances are they're 10's.
 


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