Set Up Tools

jw3571

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I'm looking to learn to do my own set ups, i just purchased "how to make your electric guitar play great" which most everyone recommends. I see on on Stewmac.com they have a set up tool package that's nearly $100 for a string action gauge, 18" precision straightedge, and an understring radius gauge. That seems pretty steep but do people recommend this or something that is cheaper that works just as well?
 

Barnaby

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I'm not a professional by any means, but can say that there are lots of different ways to approach this. First off, the StewMac set consists of things that can be bought more cheaply elsewhere. Scour eBay and you'll find plenty of alternatives.

As someone who does my own setups as well as for friends fairly frequently, I find myself reaching for the same basic tools again and again. Truss rod wrenches, a string winder, a set of nut files - and the Katana fret levelling system, which allows you to level, crown and polish frets. With that lot, even a dodgy neophyte like me can get pretty well any guitar to play well unless there is some sort of serious problem like a major neck twist or loose truss rod.

I have other tools, but rarely use them for straightforward setups. One thing I will say is that many people balk at the cost of a set of nut files and try to make do with cheaper alternatives, but I am very, very happy that I simply sprung for a set. I use mine all the time on nuts and saddles and they just work perfectly.

There are plenty of other ways to get to the same point. The stickies by Roman Rist and Freddy G are excellent starting points to see the tools and techniques that top professionals use.
 

lpplayer

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I suppose I am the most basic of a basic set up-do'er.

Literally I have a truss rod wrench, Dental Floss, a small Regular and a small Phillips screwdriver.....
 

Freddy G

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absolutely necessary tools?

6" steel rule
small and medium Phillips and slot screwdrivers
side cutters
needle nose pliers
truss rod wrench
hex key set
nut files- gauges .013, .017, .024, .036, .046" with these you can do pretty much any string gauge set.
#11 x-acto knife
adjustable wrench
Soldering pencil and solder
accurate electronic tuner


That's about it for set-ups. These are the tools that I use everyday, every time for set-up work. I didn't include a precision straight edge because a tight string is a perfect straight edge.
I didn't include radius or action gauges either. Use the 6" rule. You might want to get a set of feeler gauges for cutting nut slot depth. Personally I never use them anymore, I just go by eye and feel.

You also need other supplies like masking tape, fretboard oil, paper towels etc.

Also, don't use steel wool (unless you can remove the neck). If it's a set neck use synthetic steel wool like 3M scotchbrite
 

jw3571

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One other question on the stewmac set, why do you need a ruler and the string action gauge? Can't you measure the action with the straight edge?
 

Ronsonic

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You don't say what sorts of guitar you want to set up, or how far you want to go with it. The basic setup functions are: Truss rod, string height at bridge, Intonation.

The other things like nut slots and fret condition are relatively stable and are generally thought of as their own jobs.

To do the basics you'll need whatever screwdriver, nut driver or allen wrench fits your truss rod adjuster. a screwdriver set. An allen set for fender bridges. Just real normal, basic hand tools. You'll see pictures in that book use stuff like he's got. Freddy G has a pretty good list.

I have no idea where some of the Stew Mac things come from, like why in $%^& would I use an under string radius gauge to set up the bridge when the NECK I AM MATCHING IT TO IS RIGHT #$%^&* THERE.

Sorry, that sort of thing slips out once in awhile.

Set up the guitar to the parts that are already on it. Why ever would you need a feeler gauge to set neck relief. Set it where it suits your own playing style and string choice. Don't set string height to a number on a scale, set it either to your preference or as low as it goes without buzzing. No ruler can tell you that. And it will be dependent on that last adjustment. Sequence is very important here and don't be afraid to take small steps and repeat them in order.

You are doing your own guitar. You are not like us guys who are on the clock, if you adjust play a week and then adjust and keep playing and tweaking you can achieve a level of perfection that would be hard to match in any one setup session.
 

Ole'Lefty

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I save the numerical results. Makes for easier diagnosis of what "has changed." Also, a customer likes having them-if on the road, and an issue comes up, either you or the customer or whatever kind of tech you might dig up have finite comparison.

A string radius gauge(mine are either over or under) carries the arc from bridge to fretboard-I might be missing something that makes an arc measuring tool unnecessary-maybe a thin piece of sheet metal taped down on the FB, duplicating the radius and long enough to bridge between FB and the bridge with its saddles?
 

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