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Truss rod adjustments

4/21/1999 11:55 AM
Fred G.
Truss rod adjustments
Help clear me up on this. I do this adjustment so seldom, in my old age I have forgetten for certain if I am right or not.  
Face the headstock (on a Gibson, anyway). To increase warp (relief), turn adjustment bolt counterclockwise. To decrease warp, turn clockwise. Do in small increments (1/2 turn at a time), tune to pitch, and wait 15 minutes or so before checking again.  
Depress low E at 1st fret and simultaneously at fret where neck joins body to check amount of warp. The correct amount of relief should be about the thickness of a playing card.  
Correct ?  
Thanks in advance,  
Fred G.
4/21/1999 10:51 PM
Steve A.

    Sounds about right, except that I would maybe only do a 1/4 turn at a time. And for measuring the distances I use a set of automotive feeler gauges.  
    IMHO for fast metal shredder-type music you want the truss-rod to pull the neck fairly tight. For blues and blues/rock guitar (with plenty of bent notes) I prefer a little bit of "slop" in the truss rod- but not so much that the string tension will permanently warp the neck. With an extra bow to the neck you can push the strings across the fretboard without having them bottom out or get all tangled up in the other strings (like you might on a shredder's guitar).  
    Experiment around a bit and keep track of where the truss rod was originally. If you want very low action for fast riffing, you'll probably want it on the tight side. If you like your action high enough so the strings will really sing, you'll probably want it on the slack side. It seems like there is a "magical" tension point on the truss rod where if you go 1/8 of a turn CW it is perfect for shredders and if you go 1/8 of a turn CCW it is perfect for bluesmen...  
    Unless you set it tight enough or loose enough to ruin the neck, it's largely a matter of personal playing preferences.  
Steve Ahola  
P.S. Here's some things I copied from the GP book on Guitar Repairs:  
Truss rod adjustment (capo at 1st fret and hold down string at body fret + 1) maximum dip (@ fret 5-8) should be 1/64"- no more than 1/32"  
Action on an electric measured at body fret +1:  
Low E: 6/64"  
High E: 4/64"  
add 1/64" for high action  
subtract 1/64" for low action
4/22/1999 8:10 AM
Fred G.

Thanks Steve !  
I was wondering what the "recommended" heights were- you must have read my mind. I very seldom need to make this adjustment - this time around, a young guitar tech begged me to let him do a "setup" on my ES-345, which I had taken in to him for other work. Well, he apparently has a thing for really straight necks - I would rather have them with warp/relief/slop in them(for string bending and slide). So, to avoid hurting his feelings (he really IS a very talented tech), I'm just discreetly returning things back to normal.  
Thanks again,  
Fred G.
4/22/1999 2:36 PM

Unless all your frets and fingerboard are perfect, a straight neck (zero relief) won't be suitable. The neck needs a slight curvature, or there will usually be fret buzz at various places. I would go with the method of adjustment Steve outlined. I don't measure the actual mid-span gap, but have gotten used to checking it visually.  
So far, I've run across one les paul that would play well with a straight neck and a low overall action, but no fenders. Your ES might very well play without buzzing (at zero relief), but it's pretty rare that any guitar which hasn't had some very careful professional fret dressing will do so.  
Remember, the height of the strings above the fingerboard is affected by the neck curvature and the bridge height. You have to set the relief first, then fine tune the height adjustment at the bridge.
4/23/1999 1:59 PM
Fred G.

It actually played pretty cleanly with the "straighter" neck, but it is physically uncomfortable for my playing style. I am certain there was a visually imperceptable relief in the neck.  
I prefer visually noticeable relief and a higher action, and, like you, I can "sight read" how much relief is desireable for me . I just couldn't remember which way for sure to turn the dang bolt !  
So, while the tech's work itself was admirable, it just ain't my cup o' tea. But I'm sure many players would love it.  
Fred G.
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