Dealing with too-low action

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Dealing with too-low action

Post by Brainfertilizer on Thu Mar 21, 2013 8:05 pm

On a fixed bridge guitar, fender style hardtail, set neck, 2 strings are touching the frets down in the cowboy chord area. When I play up higher, no problem.
Should my first step be to raise the saddles, or to play with the truss rod to try and get some relief?

Or both?

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Re: Dealing with too-low action

Post by Iceman on Thu Mar 21, 2013 8:14 pm

If the neck is where you like it and it already has decent relief I'd vote for whatever vertical adjustment you can get out of the saddles first.

Is the distance from the pickup poles to the strings shallow as well right now?

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Re: Dealing with too-low action

Post by Brainfertilizer on Thu Mar 21, 2013 8:19 pm

Hm...I just got the guitar, so I can't say the neck is or isn't where I like it.
The pickups are a long way from the strings.

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Re: Dealing with too-low action

Post by Iceman on Thu Mar 21, 2013 8:28 pm

In that case a truss rod adjustment would be my first thought. No need to increase any distance from string to pup poles. Check to see if a shim is installed in the pocket already or if one could be installed.

The current state of straightness in the neck will dictate which way to proceed I'm thinking. I know some prefer abit of relief from the nut to 9th fret and straight from there. I've always attempted to get as flat as possible along the entire board myself, but that is just my preference.

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Re: Dealing with too-low action

Post by gittarasaurus on Thu Mar 21, 2013 8:36 pm

i would look closely at the nut slots. plastic nuts are especially prone to wear in the bottom of the string slot, which can cause the fretting out in the first couple frets.

if you remove the strings and get a straight edge on the frets, you can make a mark on the face of the nut to indicate the height of the fret compared to the nut slots. then you will know if you need to adjust neck relief, make saddle adjustment, or repair or fit up a new nut. i have had good luck repairing plastic nuts with crazy glue and re-cutting new slots into it.

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Re: Dealing with too-low action

Post by Brainfertilizer on Thu Mar 21, 2013 8:55 pm

Man...you guys are way too high speed for me. I can't even solder.

...which reminds me: is part of my problem that my soldering iron is too cheap? I got it from Walmart for less than $2.

How much should I spend for a good one?

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Re: Dealing with too-low action

Post by Barry on Thu Mar 21, 2013 9:05 pm

Iceman wrote:...Check to see if a shim is installed in the pocket already or if one could be installed...
"Set neck" Ice. Wink

Nathan, Mike's offering some good advice. I find that quite often what you're describing usually indicates that some neck relief is required. (see THIS POST for a helpful diagram)

I say "usually" because it depends on whether the action around the 12 fret is good or on the high side already. Adding more neck relief will increase the action height which may clear your first position problem but mess up your higher register playing. That said, you may be able to compensate for that by lowering the bridge saddles at that point. With luck, this teeter-totter approach will work. It's a juggling act...fiddle, fiddle, fiddle.

There is also the possibility that you have a couple of high frets. That's a whole 'nuther thang and we can talk about it if needed. But it's always best to start with the simplest approach first. Let us know what happens.



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Re: Dealing with too-low action

Post by Brainfertilizer on Thu Mar 21, 2013 9:21 pm

After hearing all this, I think it might well be the nut slots.

The action, overall, is fairly low. The only strings that fret out (in the open position) are the d and g string, and those are already set the highest at the saddle.

The action from the 3rd fret on up is fine...but it clearly higher at the 21st fret than the 9th, so if I play with the truss rod, it will probably end up with HIGH action above the 9th. Want to avoid that if I can.

The strings do seem fairly deep in the nut slots. So I guess that's what I'll try to fix.

So I take it fill the slots with crazy glue, then use a file or saw blade to cut down to just above the point I marked when I used a straight edge?

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Re: Dealing with too-low action

Post by Sgt. Vimes on Thu Mar 21, 2013 9:32 pm

a nice trick with super/crazy glue is to add baking soda which acts as an accelerator in the hardening process, I tried this on a bass nut slot and I was filing it back down in 2 minutes.

http://www.ipmsstockholm.org/magazine/2004/10/stuff_eng_tech_ca_glue.htm

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Re: Dealing with too-low action

Post by Brainfertilizer on Thu Mar 21, 2013 9:59 pm

Here are the pictures:







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Re: Dealing with too-low action

Post by mortarman120gang11c on Thu Mar 21, 2013 11:14 pm

You can try a simple trick on the nut slots if you care to. Take a small thin plastic or paper milk carton etc and cut out a very slim piece and bend it in a V shape and slip, loosen the strings and slip it under the string at the nut then tighten and tune the guitar again. If the action is better or corrected then a new nut or a repair to the nut will fix her up. You can even sometimes use a standard piece of paper folded over to fit the smaller string slots. If the relief goes back to normal with that under the string at the nut then you know it is the problem and it only takes a few min or so to test it., Works for me and saves the $$ of having the luthier or trch tell you the same thing.Good Luck

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Re: Dealing with too-low action

Post by hoax on Fri Mar 22, 2013 4:31 am

As everyone else says its nut slot or truss rod too tight.

Start with the truss rod. Put a straight edge on the board which covers the whole length of the board.

If you can rock the straight edge then the truss rod is too tight.

If it aint too tight then look at the nut. Sarge is absolutely spot on with his superglue fix.

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Re: Dealing with too-low action

Post by Brainfertilizer on Fri Mar 22, 2013 7:06 am

I've used a 12-inch straight-edge (the longest I could find with minimal thought) and it doesn't rock at all.

So I'm going to try the paper trick just to make sure, but I'm guessing it probably is the nut.

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Re: Dealing with too-low action

Post by hoax on Fri Mar 22, 2013 7:32 am

That being the case then you have nailed it down to the nut. When you recut the nut after filling it, go just a few strokes at a time and recheck clearance.

Do this with all the string on and guitar fully tuned. Simply lift each string out of the nut slot one at a time, and slip them back in to check as you go.

Angle your cuts down towards the head of the guitar and that should be it.

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Re: Dealing with too-low action

Post by Brainfertilizer on Fri Mar 22, 2013 7:59 am

what do I use to make the cuts?

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Re: Dealing with too-low action

Post by hoax on Fri Mar 22, 2013 8:07 am

Personally, I use a finely serrated kitchen knife for B and E, a junior hacksaw for D and G and a normal hacksaw blade for E and A.

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Re: Dealing with too-low action

Post by Sgt. Vimes on Fri Mar 22, 2013 8:53 am

I use E A and D string off cuts for those slots, and same as hoax for the unwound slots

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Re: Dealing with too-low action

Post by The Chad on Fri Mar 22, 2013 10:13 am

There's a LOT about set ups on the web. As Barry said, it's all fiddle-fiddle till it's right.

OR spend around $75 and have a pro give you a new nut and set up.

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Re: Dealing with too-low action

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