This guitar belongs to a well accomplished musician and longtime friend of mine.

He's a big fan of Rusty Cooley-esque hyper-shred, which is very demanding on the setup of a guitar. He had previously brought this guitar to somebody else for a setup and was really happy with the way the guitar played but, alas, it wasn't long before the guitar started experiencing some issues.

When it arrived, we did a full diagnosis and playthrough to determine what the issues were. Primarily, there was a noticeable amount of fret buzz up and down the neck (particularly the low and high frets). 

A quick look that the action was set a little 'too low' (yes, that's possible and we'll touch on it later) and the truss rod had a little too much tension in it. A couple of measurements later confirmed this.

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The action was so low, basically the slightest bit of downward pressure (whether it was depressing a string or heavy open notes) were causing buzz. Also, the amount of tension in the truss rod was causing the middle of the fretboad to 'bow', which wasn't helping matters.

The plan:

  • Adjust truss rod to correct level of tension
  • Recheck fret level
  • Adjust bridge height accordingly

Additionally, while we had the strings off, it seemed appropriate to do some routine maintenance. This consisted of:

  • Fret polish
  • Fret board conditioning
  • Bridge de-crudding
  • Re-intonate bridge
  • Bridge angle adjustment

The bridge angle wasn't terrible but could still use a little more relief. It was in great need of a good cleaning, however.

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After clipping the strings, we removed the bridge and got to work cleaning it (unpictured). 

 In the meantime, we got to work prepping the fretboard for fret polish. This isn't particularly elaborate... basically the fretboard is covered in low to medium tack masking tape, then the frets are sanded with super fine sandpaper (600, 800, 1000, 1200), fine steel wool (0000) and polished using fine metal compound on a cotton dremel tip.

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After the tape is removed, the fretboard is flooded with lemon oil, scrubbed with a medium bristled brush, then dried with a polishing cloth before another light application of fretboard conditioner.

Next came making the necessary truss rod adjustments. 

There are very elaborate neck tensioning jigs out there, which are certainly worth their weight in gold, but enough experience adjusting truss rods and you can read how much bending the neck does under tension as opposed to how it sits when without strings on it.

If you're inexperiened and don't have access to a neck tensioning adjustment rig, an easy way of accurately estimating the amount of 'bow' in the neck under tension is (while strung and tuned to pitch) to lay a reliable straight edge along the length of the fretboard and measure the distance between the straight edge and the 10th fret. After you remove the strings and give the guitar a few minutes to settle, come back and take that same measurement. This will give you a pretty accurate measurement of how much your neck bends when you have it strung up, and you can take that into account when you're making your truss rod adjustments.

Back to this project, we laid a straight edge across the strings and made the necessary adjustments. I like to have a gap at the 10th fret just big enough to slip in a credit card (~1mm). Always adjust in small increments (8th to 1/4 turn at a time), wait a minute and recheck.

The bridge was reassembled, mounted and the guitar was restrung.

Now comes the bridge adjustments. There are a few ways to do this, I chose to run a straight edge from the saddle to the nut and make some rough adjustments. The strings are installed, and the spring tension tweaked until the bridge sits flat (in the case of this guitar, it has an Ibanez Lo Pro Edge, which requires you to level the knife-edge face, as opposed to the baseplate [which sits at an angle]). Once that's dialed in, the strings are raised/lowered until it measures within range. For "low" action, I recommend ~3.5mm from your highest fret to the bottom of the string.

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A few shots of the cleaned and leveled bridge.

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As a finishing touch, the whole guitar was gone over with a light spray of Martin Guitar polish and the polishing cloth. After some rechecking and testing things out, it was time for some poser shots.

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The customer was elated to get the guitar back and really happy with the way it played.


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