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PostPosted: Thu Jun 02, 2022 4:58 am 
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Walnut
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Hope you're feeling better. My mom was in the ER recently with heart issues as well. Not fun. I hope you were able to get any issues sorted out or schedule any follow-ups if necessary. I'd be the same way by the way, I actually feel like avoiding working on guitars is bad for my health, mentally and physically. Had a customer over today with a few jobs and it really made my whole day. It's good for the soul.

--------------------------------

I'm very tired at the moment, typed out an extremely long reply, but will have to think more. I really need to sleep but did want to leave a message sending you my regards and wishing you a quick recovery -- and beyond -- for whatever it is you just went through. I hope you can take some time to enjoy the inspiration and motivation from your work and everything else that comes up throughout the day. No medicine beats being excited to get out of bed in the morning. Appreciate your contributions and insights here and it continues to motivate me. Keep that energy going and I hope you get better soon.



These users thanked the author slightreturn for the post: Hesh (Fri Jun 03, 2022 5:38 am)
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PostPosted: Thu Jun 02, 2022 7:40 pm 
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Hesh wrote:
Again with no offense intended I don't want to confuse the forum here and there are people reading this who wanted to take our classes and then we stopped offering them. But some of the things I read from you make me wonder why you are doing what you do and how you learned it because you are chasing your tail man. This is not complicated at all and predictable, successful results are achieved by us and others who use this method now too every day.

Anyway I can help you with what we do and how we do it but as far as commenting on your method I'm staying out it and don't want to confuse others either.


To clarify, I tried my best to copy the method you described as closely as possible, as you wrote it. Every string on every fret seems to be working perfectly except for the low E string.

I had an epiphany tonight: every other string is working perfectly on every other fret, so why would the A string be working perfectly, but not the Low E? They were leveled together, so what gives?

That's what I was referring to in my previous post: I used the method you described to the best of my ability, and everything worked perfectly except for the Low E string. I did not do any understring leveling, or spot leveling, and when I'm referring to the Low E buzzing, it happened after following your instructions as closely as I possibly could, using your method with a full-length steel leveling beam and treating the fretboard as an entire plane.

I'm just trying to understand what could have gone wrong, and why there's exclusively an issue on the Low E string, while the A is perfect, and as I mentioned, the fret plane for those two strings should be identical, as I leveled that whole area with a little back bow in the neck *after* leveling every fret flat and inducing fallaway with the neck dead straight, as you described.

For reference, the setup specs are as follows:

E: .018" @ 1st fret, .065" @ open 12th fret
A: .017" @ 1st fret, .042" @ open 12th fret
D: .017" @ 1st fret, .035" @ open 12th fret
G: .010" @ 1st fret, .030" @ open 12th fret
B: .010" @ 1st fret, .030" @ open 12th fret
E: .010" @ 1st fret, .030" @ open 12th fret

Neck relief is .000" on the treble side and middle of the neck, and .005" on the Low E/A side of the neck. Nothing is buzzing when played open, even played hard, everything frets beautifully and legato is a breeze, and no choking out on whole step bends.

The only issue is the buzzy Low E, and in a perfect world I'd be able to get the action lower. Even at .065" it seems far from perfect, and that's much higher than I'd like compared to the heights of the rest of the strings. I'm struggling to understand how this happened. My only thought is that the Low E has a wider vibrational arc and simply needs more room to vibrate, but I'm loving the setup exactly where it is and would really like to think this over more before messing with anything unless I'm sure it will 100% solve the problem.

The Low E was buzzing just as bad after leveling, vs. after crowning and polishing. One thought I have is that it's possible I messed up the crown and polish on the Low E side, or even the leveling, because the Low E is *very* close to the fret bevel. The string spacing on this guitar is very wide, and maybe that led to some inaccuracy in my work somehow.

It's unlikely, but I'll test that later by stringing up the Low E on the A string tuner, and seeing if, on that fret plane, if it's buzz-free like the A string is. If it still is buzzing just as bad, I'd be curious what you'd think about that, and how you might address it. I keep thinking more relief might be necessary, but again, everything plays so well right now and I like it exactly where it is, so I'd prefer doing the absolute minimum necessary to solve this issue.



These users thanked the author slightreturn for the post: Hesh (Fri Jun 03, 2022 5:42 am)
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PostPosted: Fri Jun 03, 2022 5:41 am 
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slightreturn wrote:
Hope you're feeling better. My mom was in the ER recently with heart issues as well. Not fun. I hope you were able to get any issues sorted out or schedule any follow-ups if necessary. I'd be the same way by the way, I actually feel like avoiding working on guitars is bad for my health, mentally and physically. Had a customer over today with a few jobs and it really made my whole day. It's good for the soul.

--------------------------------

I'm very tired at the moment, typed out an extremely long reply, but will have to think more. I really need to sleep but did want to leave a message sending you my regards and wishing you a quick recovery -- and beyond -- for whatever it is you just went through. I hope you can take some time to enjoy the inspiration and motivation from your work and everything else that comes up throughout the day. No medicine beats being excited to get out of bed in the morning. Appreciate your contributions and insights here and it continues to motivate me. Keep that energy going and I hope you get better soon.


Thanks Matt I did see my primary care and they reduced my meds to half because of low heart rate. Currently at this very moment my rate is 45 BPM... so we still have some work to do.... Sorry to hear about your Mom and I wish her the very best. Mom's are precious and we owe them everything in my opinion. Mine is doing well at 90 but she is blind now. She spends her days waiting for time for the next chocolate/chocolate Dove bar that I keep her assisted living freezer stocked with. :) I'm bringing her to my place tomorrow for her favor meal, my tacos that I scratch make. Love tacos. :)

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PostPosted: Fri Jun 03, 2022 6:00 am 
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slightreturn wrote:
Hesh wrote:
Again with no offense intended I don't want to confuse the forum here and there are people reading this who wanted to take our classes and then we stopped offering them. But some of the things I read from you make me wonder why you are doing what you do and how you learned it because you are chasing your tail man. This is not complicated at all and predictable, successful results are achieved by us and others who use this method now too every day.

Anyway I can help you with what we do and how we do it but as far as commenting on your method I'm staying out it and don't want to confuse others either.


To clarify, I tried my best to copy the method you described as closely as possible, as you wrote it. Every string on every fret seems to be working perfectly except for the low E string.

I had an epiphany tonight: every other string is working perfectly on every other fret, so why would the A string be working perfectly, but not the Low E? They were leveled together, so what gives?

That's what I was referring to in my previous post: I used the method you described to the best of my ability, and everything worked perfectly except for the Low E string. I did not do any understring leveling, or spot leveling, and when I'm referring to the Low E buzzing, it happened after following your instructions as closely as I possibly could, using your method with a full-length steel leveling beam and treating the fretboard as an entire plane.

I'm just trying to understand what could have gone wrong, and why there's exclusively an issue on the Low E string, while the A is perfect, and as I mentioned, the fret plane for those two strings should be identical, as I leveled that whole area with a little back bow in the neck *after* leveling every fret flat and inducing fallaway with the neck dead straight, as you described.

For reference, the setup specs are as follows:

E: .018" @ 1st fret, .065" @ open 12th fret
A: .017" @ 1st fret, .042" @ open 12th fret
D: .017" @ 1st fret, .035" @ open 12th fret
G: .010" @ 1st fret, .030" @ open 12th fret
B: .010" @ 1st fret, .030" @ open 12th fret
E: .010" @ 1st fret, .030" @ open 12th fret

Neck relief is .000" on the treble side and middle of the neck, and .005" on the Low E/A side of the neck. Nothing is buzzing when played open, even played hard, everything frets beautifully and legato is a breeze, and no choking out on whole step bends.

The only issue is the buzzy Low E, and in a perfect world I'd be able to get the action lower. Even at .065" it seems far from perfect, and that's much higher than I'd like compared to the heights of the rest of the strings. I'm struggling to understand how this happened. My only thought is that the Low E has a wider vibrational arc and simply needs more room to vibrate, but I'm loving the setup exactly where it is and would really like to think this over more before messing with anything unless I'm sure it will 100% solve the problem.

The Low E was buzzing just as bad after leveling, vs. after crowning and polishing. One thought I have is that it's possible I messed up the crown and polish on the Low E side, or even the leveling, because the Low E is *very* close to the fret bevel. The string spacing on this guitar is very wide, and maybe that led to some inaccuracy in my work somehow.

It's unlikely, but I'll test that later by stringing up the Low E on the A string tuner, and seeing if, on that fret plane, if it's buzz-free like the A string is. If it still is buzzing just as bad, I'd be curious what you'd think about that, and how you might address it. I keep thinking more relief might be necessary, but again, everything plays so well right now and I like it exactly where it is, so I'd prefer doing the absolute minimum necessary to solve this issue.


OK thanks for hanging in with me Matt I was about ready to send you an PM and did not mean to be offensive. I just can't comment on what I don't know. The advise that I provide here I do vet for accuracy and I would be horrified if I was ever responsible for leading someone astray or if they got hurt using a tool in a manner that I suggest.

So the low e is the biggie, got it.

One thing I see in your description is what we do is level everything level and then with the finger tip pressure and pulling lightly on the head stock instill a tad of back bow on the treble side ONLY and a tad of FORWARD bow on the bass side. I think you wrote that you did back bow everywhere and that's incorrect. Bass strings need more relief because of their mass so what the neck should look like when the rod is adjusted, strings on, tuned to pitch, in fact EXACT kinds of strings on and tuned to pitch is a bit of relief on the treble side and more on the bass side.

Static with no string and the rod adjusted for the straighten neck possible a tad of forward bow on the treble side and a tad of relief on the bass side. When strings are added it changes because of their tension to light relief on the treble side and more relief on the bass side.

This is what great necks need to look like by the way and not our thing but just how the physics work. We know a number of boutique makers, the best ones by the way that shape necks the same way.

OK I can't read your numbers I need fractions man :) Will convert here when I have more time but I can't do it now. Please use 64th" so we speak the same language?

Ok with no relief on the treble side it may not rattle but you are lucky that it doesn't, I like around .003" of treble side relief so put some in and you will have a bit more bass relief as you relax the rod to get treble relief which may help with the low e issues. But you have it correct Matt more relief on the bass side and less on the treble side.

I want to suggest that the action may be too low on the bass side for this guitar, these strings, etc but I have to translate your numbers first.

OK I have someone at my door and will not be able to finish this for an hour so I'm posting this to not lose it and will come back, please stand by I am going to convert your numbers too so we can solve this for you.

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PostPosted: Fri Jun 03, 2022 6:54 am 
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I've deleted my comment to avoid confusing the OP. I've PM'd Hesh and we'll go through this off-line.

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PostPosted: Fri Jun 03, 2022 7:21 am 
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slightreturn wrote:
Hesh wrote:
Again with no offense intended I don't want to confuse the forum here and there are people reading this who wanted to take our classes and then we stopped offering them. But some of the things I read from you make me wonder why you are doing what you do and how you learned it because you are chasing your tail man. This is not complicated at all and predictable, successful results are achieved by us and others who use this method now too every day.

Anyway I can help you with what we do and how we do it but as far as commenting on your method I'm staying out it and don't want to confuse others either.


To clarify, I tried my best to copy the method you described as closely as possible, as you wrote it. Every string on every fret seems to be working perfectly except for the low E string.

I had an epiphany tonight: every other string is working perfectly on every other fret, so why would the A string be working perfectly, but not the Low E? They were leveled together, so what gives?

That's what I was referring to in my previous post: I used the method you described to the best of my ability, and everything worked perfectly except for the Low E string. I did not do any understring leveling, or spot leveling, and when I'm referring to the Low E buzzing, it happened after following your instructions as closely as I possibly could, using your method with a full-length steel leveling beam and treating the fretboard as an entire plane.

I'm just trying to understand what could have gone wrong, and why there's exclusively an issue on the Low E string, while the A is perfect, and as I mentioned, the fret plane for those two strings should be identical, as I leveled that whole area with a little back bow in the neck *after* leveling every fret flat and inducing fallaway with the neck dead straight, as you described.

For reference, the setup specs are as follows:

E: .018" @ 1st fret, .065" @ open 12th fret
A: .017" @ 1st fret, .042" @ open 12th fret
D: .017" @ 1st fret, .035" @ open 12th fret
G: .010" @ 1st fret, .030" @ open 12th fret
B: .010" @ 1st fret, .030" @ open 12th fret
E: .010" @ 1st fret, .030" @ open 12th fret

Neck relief is .000" on the treble side and middle of the neck, and .005" on the Low E/A side of the neck. Nothing is buzzing when played open, even played hard, everything frets beautifully and legato is a breeze, and no choking out on whole step bends.

The only issue is the buzzy Low E, and in a perfect world I'd be able to get the action lower. Even at .065" it seems far from perfect, and that's much higher than I'd like compared to the heights of the rest of the strings. I'm struggling to understand how this happened. My only thought is that the Low E has a wider vibrational arc and simply needs more room to vibrate, but I'm loving the setup exactly where it is and would really like to think this over more before messing with anything unless I'm sure it will 100% solve the problem.

The Low E was buzzing just as bad after leveling, vs. after crowning and polishing. One thought I have is that it's possible I messed up the crown and polish on the Low E side, or even the leveling, because the Low E is *very* close to the fret bevel. The string spacing on this guitar is very wide, and maybe that led to some inaccuracy in my work somehow.

It's unlikely, but I'll test that later by stringing up the Low E on the A string tuner, and seeing if, on that fret plane, if it's buzz-free like the A string is. If it still is buzzing just as bad, I'd be curious what you'd think about that, and how you might address it. I keep thinking more relief might be necessary, but again, everything plays so well right now and I like it exactly where it is, so I'd prefer doing the absolute minimum necessary to solve this issue.


OK back to help, sorry for the delay.

What kind of guitar is it, what are the strings please? I don't think you mentioned this. .065 is WAY lower than the physics of a guitar will do reliably. You may like the feel but it's not an available setting and lower than physical possible.

Also if it's an electric lower the pickups dramatically and take them out of play. The magnetic field of pups when too close to the strings is constantly sucking them downward to the pups and will cause fret rattle. Eliminate this possibility (and maybe the rattle by lowering them a lot for now just to eliminate a variable).

On rare occasion when I am surprised that I have some buzzing after a fret dress on an electric it has always been the pups are too high with no exceptions. The frets are always perfect but not in the sense of a phone call to Ukraine ;)

This may be your situation too but again I don't know what kind of guitar this is that you are working on and we know the action is way too low at .030 and .065."

Let's look at converting your number to what I understand: .030" is WAY too low and not reliably possible for the high e on any guitar. Very low high e action on the high e would be at least 3/64th" and only on a good day and that .100". So you are setting things lower than physically possible for a guitar string on planet earth with gravity and that is like wby it's buzzing.

We measure action ONLY at the 12th and no where else, that's useless and makes us chase our tails.

Looking at your action settings you are setting way too low on all strings.

Please use an engineer's scale, 6" metal ruler and measure in 64th so we can both speak the same US guitar language and that will speed up my ability to understand and help you.

If it's an electric set to 4/64th" high e at the 12th (always measured at the 12th) and 4.5/64th" also at the 12th for the low e. An acoustic set to 4/64th" and 6/64th" and these are standard numbers for low action on both instruments. We do vary a tad in either direction for body sizes, scale lengths, player preference but 3/64" for any low e is lower than low, achievable with certain players and only superb fret work. Our system will permit 3/64th" every time but the player has to have a touch like a butterfly.

Then see how it plays.

We can go a bit lower but now but no where near your numbers which are less than 1/64th" and around 2/64th".

This should have jumped out at me but you used decimals and I don't use decimals and don't know anyone else who does for action measurements stateside.

Check the pups too that can be a problem and more so the lower the action.

Curious to see what you have to say Matt, you might want to look at my set-up specs I posted yesterday, you are way off of from them and that would help you with set-ups too.

One last word for now. I can set an instrument lower than low too and I can play it kind of OK because I know how but this is not of any value commercially to anyone because it's unreliable and will buzz. Players should have the option of using attack for expression and volume and that means no buzzing, anywhere, reliably all of the time.

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PostPosted: Fri Jun 03, 2022 7:22 am 
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It occurred to me if your dial caliper is a 200 thou in an entire revolution are you sure you don't mean .130 and .165 because that is more inline with what's possible?

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PostPosted: Fri Jun 03, 2022 11:47 am 
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I put the neck into a forward bow on the treble side only, and into a back bow on the bass side only, just as you described. I will add that adding forward bow and leveling on the treble side seems to be a big part of how I was able to get the action low, and I'm grateful for that! I never thought to try this, and it's genius.

I'm wondering if leveling a bit more on the treble side while in a forward bow will allow me to add some more relief to the neck, so the bass side has even more clearance. I only did maybe 4 or 5 strokes with the leveling beam with the forward bow in the treble side. I've never tried it before so I was hesitant to go too far, but it seems to have worked beautifully, even with such minimal leveling.

The carving relief *only* into the bass side is something I started doing on my own over three years ago, the only difference being I was inducing a back bow by tightening the truss rod instead of tipping the neck into a back bow by hand.

But I've always had this issue with the Low E string buzzing more than every other string, even significantly more than the A. It's made me wonder exactly how much added relief is necessary. The *minimum* amount of relief for a given action, specifically. I'm under the impression that at 4/64" on the Low E, with .005" relief, buzzing with moderate pick attack should not happen.

----------------------------------------------------------

As for the action: the misunderstanding here is very simple. I'm using a digital action gauge, and I'm zeroing out the probe on top of the string before taking the measurement. The probe zeroes out at .120". If you were assuming the probe zeroed out at .100", that would explain why you thought my action was way too low.

For many years I've used a Stewmac string action gauge, measuring the action in 64ths, and only recently transitioned to using a digital action gauge for greater accuracy. The decimal equivalents to fractional measurements are kind of burned into my brain at this point and I didn't consider this, which I apologize for.

I've gotten used to thinking of 4/64" as .062", 3/64" as .046", 2/64" as .031", and so on, and these are the exact measurements I get when zeroing out the digital action gauge probe on the top of the string before depressing it to the top of the 12th fret.

Using the Stewmac action gauge to measure my action right now, it's 4/64" on the Low E string, 3/64" on the A and D, and 2/64" on the G, B, and E, i.e. the exact fractional equivalent of the decimals I listed. Assuming I didn't zero the probe out, that would measure .186" on the Low E, .150" on the high E, and so on. Again -- just a matter of semantics here, so to clarify, how I'm measuring action these days is with a digital action gauge, measured in the playing position, and zeroing the probe out on top of the string before depressing it.

You mentioned in another thread getting 3/64" bass and 2/64" treble action on a jazz guitar for a customer. This corroborates my theory that that's the lowest possible action without buzzing, and perfect fretwork. That's the reason I'm frustrated with the Low E on this particular guitar (a Stratocaster I put together). The action on the Low E is currently at 4/64", with .005" of relief carved into the frets, and is still buzzing more than I think it should be. It's not *horrible* at 4/64", but it's buzzing with moderate pick attack, and to get it to not buzz at all, I have to pick it *very* lightly.

Meanwhile, the A string is at 3/64", with the same .005" relief, and I can dig in with moderate pick attack without having any buzz.

For clarification: the string gauges I'm using are .008, .011, .015, .022w, .030w, .046w.

I'm glad you shared this information, as I simply needed some corroboration to verify that 3/64" bass and 2/64" treble is indeed very low. My theory with that as well is that 2/64" on the treble side may be too low to expect more than whole step bends, and even with whole step bends, the fretwork has to be just about perfect to get those whole step bends without any sitar sounds.

I'm basically completely choking out if I bend above a whole step, and forget about 2 whole steps, AKA the 'Albert King' bends that I'm occasionally a huge fan of. I was wondering if my fretwork was falling short, and if I should expect to be able to do those big, 2 whole step bends with 2/64" on the treble side. I suspected this was asking too much.

I can live with only being able to do whole step bends, but was wondering who else had a lot of professional experience with setups and fretwork, to let me know what their results are.

I'm extremely well versed in setups and do setups for customers all the time, and typically the lowest I'll ever have anyone ask for is 4/64" on the bass side and 3/64" on the treble side, with .002" to .005" relief. For the average customer that is *very* low, and I can't remember a time in recent memory I had anyone request action at 3/64" bass and 2/64" treble.

My goal here, and all my ruminating, is based on this quest for the lowest possible action with the least possible relief, not only for myself, but any potential customers, such as the Jazz guitarist you ran into that requested that ridiculously low action, and you had to deliver.

I'm also obsessed with this Low E buzzing, as in the past I've had times I couldn't fix it, even with the action set at 4/64" on the Low E string, and 5/64" in the worst cases, though that might have been a twist in the neck. I haven't used the relief carving method on customer jobs as much yet, as I don't want to use it unless I can guarantee results.

But I'm very excited to be able to do so. I've been doing setups and fretwork for customers for a very long time, and haven't gotten any complaints, but I'm seeking to take things to the highest level I can. I really want to be the best I can possibly be, and I'm excited to know that you've achieved the 3/64" and 2/64" action, which in my opinion is the "holy grail" litmus test for perfect fretwork.

On my current Strat, I feel like I'm *almost* there, but I'd love your input on what is reasonable to expect from such low action, as far as string bending and buzzing on the bass strings goes. As it stands, as I said, all seems perfect except the Low E, *and* I'm choking out on the treble strings if I bend much beyond a whole step. And on some notes, I am getting a slight amount of 'sitarring' during vibrato or bending. Nothing completely deal breaking, but just trying to determine what is realistic here for such low action, assuming the fretwork is *perfect.*

Perfection is my goal, and if the frets are causing issues due to user error, I'd love to improve my skills to the level you guys have developed them to. Thanks again so much for continuing to discuss this with me, I'm enjoying this thoroughly. I hope you are too...I know I talk a lot, perhaps too much.



These users thanked the author slightreturn for the post: Hesh (Sun Jun 05, 2022 3:25 am)
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PostPosted: Fri Jun 03, 2022 2:09 pm 
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Hey Matt, you said: "I'm wondering if leveling a bit more on the treble side while in a forward bow will allow me to add some more relief to the neck, so the bass side has even more clearance."

It will and it's trial and error but what is important to understand here is that we are basically milling in a difference now between the two sides. The more difference we mill in the more relief the bass side can have if we set the the treble side under tension with the truss rod for less relief. The amount of relief "difference" won't change much at all so we can favor one side or the other.

Good question by the way and we are way out there now on this concept so cool that you understand it.

I'm looking for your comments on me saying that you are setting the action impossibly low. You mentioned 4/64th, thanks for the fractions on the bass side, that's too low too much of the time for an electric guitar and only certain players can play that.

So again in my experience which is considerable with over 600 guitars that I personally do a year your action goals are simply unrealistic.

I wasn't assuming anything on your gauge and have no idea what you use or your method you said .030 and .065 and those numbers are impossible for a buzz free set-up. Physics maters.

No need to apologize we just both need to speak the same language.

The stew Mac gauge sucks we won't use it and use a simple Starrett engineers scale in inches and it works for us. I dispute the statement that a digital gage is more accurate because it's very hard to use without perhaps moving the string. There is error in the engineers scale too and measuring under string action at the 12th is difficult to do with anything. Constancy matters regardless of method.

It also should be done tuned to pitch and in the playing position because these things impact the results.

OK it sounds like you have a personal attack when you play that can play low action and I do too although I normally play moderately. The strings you use are a very odd set and I only see anyone with 8's once a year and he's very good but his bass side is not heavy like yours is.

Are you aware that a smaller string will lash out further all things being the same? It's counter intuitive but it has less inertial to over come so it launches from an at rest state faster further requiring better fret work.

In our world and we have some of the most famous players in history and alive to day as clients very low action is not desirable and I am not speaking of my buzz free low action I am speaking of your buzz free low action. I would not call your goal the holy grail I would call it "stupid low" with no insult intended, it's not possible WHEN it has to be playable by more than you so I have no idea why you want it.

Commercially we do not want the client to have to come back at us so why go there. The RH will shift in the winter and your action levels will likely deteriorate further to a very buzzy guitar if that instrument is not maintained at a stable RH. Acoustic guitars are at times shipped with two saddles because relief changes and so does action in a dry winter in some climates like mine. Very low action becomes a buzz factory here in Michigan if the guitar is gigged.

So we have some disagreement here Matt on the goals and what is appropriate for a commercial offering and a generic player. I can only assist you with what I believe in and what's in my experience.

In my world any of the things that you are describing that you are getting with your Strat buzzing low e is unacceptable and your action is too low. Choking out on treble strings is unacceptable as well and the sitar tone is also not good so I don't understand how you call this "almost there" it's FAR from there to me and my clients would be pissed if I handed that to them.

Mu goal is a low, playable action for those who ask for it that is buzz free everywhere and I can do two step bends with no choking, none.

I want the frets to feel like glass and smooth as can be. I use industry, time tested published specs because they work and have worked long before me and will work long after me.

So in short what you want to do with your Strat will be problematic as it is now and that's because your expectations are unreasonable and if you achieve them god help ya if the RH swings or that gutiar leaves your house.

I have to service instruments that travel to lessons, schools, gigs and recently one went to the bottom of the ocean in a US nuclear submarine. Can't have a sitar sound 1,500 feet under the Atlantic.

Glad your excited about this stuff but I really again think that your expectations are up against the realities of physics and you don't need me to say this you can test all this out yourself.

Lastly a set-up is the user interface to playing a guitar. It's as important as anything if not more so. Set-ups, great set-ups require an intimate understanding of what these things do under string tension, with magnetic fields acting on them, weather, temp, different players and wood is not the most homogeneous material either and it moves and shrinks and expands just trying to trip us up at every opportunity :)

Your on the right track, your understanding of this is VERY good but in my experience your definition of perfection is not realistic, commercially problematic and will cause to chase your tail as I have mentioned prior.

Happy to help with this except for the low action questions, what's not possible is simply not possible and I don't want to have to keep saying this. ;)

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These users thanked the author Hesh for the post: joshnothing (Fri Jun 03, 2022 6:49 pm)
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PostPosted: Fri Jun 03, 2022 11:15 pm 
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Hesh wrote:
I wasn't assuming anything on your gauge and have no idea what you use or your method you said .030 and .065 and those numbers are impossible for a buzz free set-up. Physics maters.


My method for determining action is measuring the distance between the bottom of the open string and the top of the 12th fret.

Your fractional to decimal conversions are incorrect. It's important to point that out because I never at any point had the action at 1/64" and 2/64".

For example, 3/64" is .046." The decimal is simply the result of the fractional equation: the top number divided by the bottom number. They're exactly the same number using the SAE system, just written in a different form.

4/64 = .062, 4.5/64 = .070, and so on.

However, that's irrelevant. Potato potahto. Just a personal preference. I'll refer to the specs as fractions from here on out. I do have a 6" machinist ruler, so I'll use that as well to measure the action for this discussion.

Hesh wrote:
so when Glenn D. a jazz player needs action of 2/64th" and 3/64" at the 12th that does not rattle we have to deliver and know that our methods will deliver.


I understand as a jazz player, that guitar likely had flatwounds, which are far less prone to buzzing, and he likely uses little if any string bending, so you can get away with much lower action than with roundwounds and aggressive bending.

But my concern here is that you're saying my setup of 3/64" and 2/64" is not physically possible without issues, when on the previous page you mentioned getting a guitar to play perfectly, which was set exactly to those specifications.

I'm assuming that's because it was a jazz guitar, intended for straight note runs and chord chopping, not string bending, and using flatwounds instead of roundwounds. But I'll wait for your direct response on that for clarification.

I'd like to have a 'gold standard' for the lowest possible action with perfect fretwork, though I understand the confounding factors that make a specific number impossible. String gauge, scale length, play style. Regardless, you do allude to a 'gold standard' here, which is what I'm looking for:

Hesh wrote:
We do vary a tad in either direction for body sizes, scale lengths, player preference but 3/64" for any low e is lower than low, achievable with certain players and only superb fret work. Our system will permit 3/64th" every time but the player has to have a touch like a butterfly.


To be clear: you're saying your system will permit 3/64" on both the Low and High E? I'm not clear if the 3/64" is referring to either the Low E or high E, or both.

Hesh wrote:
it's not possible WHEN it has to be playable by more than you so I have no idea why you want it.


The reason is *exactly* that: because it has to be playable exclusively for me. I have a disability in my fretting hand, so I have limitations that my customers don't have. Basically, with a standard setup, I have to compromise my playing and deal with a lot of discomfort, but with a very low setup, I have to compromise the physics of the guitar itself, and accept that there is a point where it's too low to peform without issues.

Hopefully that clarifies what's going on here and why I'm so obsessed with this. I'm trying to strike a very delicate balance for me personally.

Customer jobs are a completely different animal for me, and over the last 17 years I haven't had any customer complaints, and regularly get new referrals based on the quality of my work. I'm very familiar with the standard setup specs you mentioned, and refer to those all the time. Doing work for other people almost feels like a vacation for me, as the specifications they demand seem easy to achieve compared to what I face when I sit down with my own guitars and the issues I have to face when playing them.

------------------------------------------

However, still lots of room to improve my fretwork to the highest level. I never have had issues on customer jobs when dealing with a normal amount of action, but for both my guitars *and* the pickiest of customers, I want to be able to deliver.

I do want to make it clear I would never, ever let a guitar that came into the shop go out with action this low or having these issues. Have only had extremely positive responses to my setups and fretwork so far, but I'm always seeking to take things to the next level. I live for it. But I don't want anyone getting the idea that I'm an amateur or ever let anything go back to a customer without being in perfect condition. I had the importance of doing as perfect work as possible drilled into me thoroughly starting 17 years ago, and that has stuck with me 100% ever since.

I realize that for my own guitars, with my personal limitations, compromises are going to be necessary, and I'll have to figure out for myself if I want to compromise my hand or the guitar. It's just the way it is, and it's a physical problem I simply have to deal with.

The reason I started making my own custom set was for the same reason, the issue with my hand: even .009" gauge strings are far too difficult for me to use, and before I started making my own sets, I just tuned my .009 - .042 sets down to D standard instinctively to make it easier to play.

There is a theory about progressive string tension that I found years ago. It works for me personally. I first read about it here:

https://www.jemsite.com/threads/string- ... rts.73846/

I'm not arguing for or against it, just saying what works for me personally. I've experimented with many different string gauges and I just love the way this feels. I went to a .046" on the Low E and am considering going to a .050" because of how frequently I play in Drop D.

I'll also add that I build and wind my own pickups, and make my own custom magnet staggers for the strings I use, speaking of magnetic pull. The pickup type matters as well. Humbuckers typically have about 300 Gauss of magnetic strength at the pole tops, while Alnico 5 Strat pickup poles are around 1,000 Gauss. Gauss strength has a significant impact on how close you can get the strings to the magnets without getting "wolf tones" or "Stratitis."

On my personal pickups, I get the Low E and G the lowest, the D and high E the highest, and the A and B the same. It works great for me personally, and the strings I use. I'm a big believer in custom tailoring things to each specific guitar, and that's also something I live for, but that's another discussion.


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PostPosted: Sat Jun 04, 2022 7:01 am 
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"My method for determining action is measuring the distance between the bottom of the open string and the top of the 12th fret."

So is ours, so is everyones.

"Your fractional to decimal conversions are incorrect. It's important to point that out because I never at any point had the action at 1/64" and 2/64"."

It was indeed incorrect the conversion threw me off and I made a math error nonetheless your .030 and .065 is too low and closer to 2/64th and 4/64th is still too low. 2/64 you may achieve it but it won't be buzz free with 99% of players and if you draw it out over what happens with a radius on a neck you can see the strings choke out. 4/64th is less problematic for some players but still very low.

Regarding Glenn D. it's not just flat wounds his attack is very refined and he can play very low action with clear notes. It's rather amazing to watch and he is our lowest action client and a one-off of sorts. We also have a famous client who was on TV for years and he's a low action player too but not as low because it buzzes.... he's 3.5 and 4. We drop the denominator when conversing professionally with peers. Thanks for using fractions too, much appreciated and I don't have to chase my tail and lose my thought OR make a math mistake as I have.

There is no gold standard for the lowest possible action because there are too many dependencies on things we cannot control with the player being a huge one. From the radius of the fret board to string gage and type and even brand.... to how the nut slots are prepared to the species of wood the neck is made out of to gravity on earth the very idea of the SM neck jig is that we are faced with a plethora of variables some of which can be illustrated on the jig. And there are alternate tunings too and you wrote that at one time you tuned to D which changes everything too.

I can't help you with a gold standard I can help you with my experience and in my experience setting lower then 4 and 4.5 for a player that we have no idea what their attack is is dicey and potentially problematic for all. I won't do it unless we can have a conversation that it might buzz without fretwork (from us) and it might buzz too even with fret work from us if someone plays with the attack of SRV RIP. I play 4 and 4.5 on guitars most of them have had my fretwork or were PLEKed by Collings and Suhr. I make them buzz as I play and so long as it does not come though the amp I'm personally OK with it. As I improved my action need to come up and I find this statement to be true with my good players but of course not an absolute, Glenn D. again, superb player, better than me and uber low action.

Moving on, because again this is a subjective area and I am uncomfortable with subjective topics in Lutherie it often becomes like much of the crap on the internet, incorrect...

Also I do not mean to imply that Glenn D's 3 and 4 is perfect and without looking back I doubt that I use the word perfect and that's my objection to how you are quoting me. 99% of the people who play guitar could not play Glenn's ax's without issues and that to me makes his set-up far from perfect. It works for him, he likes it and we provide him with this as a one off because we heavily qualify in advance that we will not guarantee rattle free playing at this action.

3/64th and our system permitting it is a reference to the treble string. But again we will not guarantee this, do NOT consider it perfect and most people can't play it. There is no perfect it's a misleading term when speaking of fret work.

OK so you have a special physical situation you could have told me this earlier my time here is limited and I would have appreciated learning that you are not intending to deliver to all clients action levels that are problematic to the vast majority of players.

My response is draw things out on paper, use a tube and a cone for the neck and you will see visually what settings choke and what setting clear frets. Experimentation on your part as you already know is required and there is no gold standard that's going to help you here in my experience your Strat and my Strat have different necks, radius, strings and I hit harder than you do when I play and prefer 4 and 4.5 and even then I rattle a bit.

So Matt you do what you need to but you have reached the limits of my ability to help you here with the special set-ups that you seek. I've provided you with some real value and a bird's eye view of what a successful, high volume commercial shop offers. We are very secure in our methods and so far in 2022 we are turning away over 55% of the work that comes our way because of bandwidth on our part.

The desire for low action has been explained to me now, late is better than never and I am sorry that you have some challenges and wish you the best in finding your gold standard. I don't know where it is and can't take you there and being an honest man I find no harm in saying so.

Best of luck to you.

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PostPosted: Sat Jun 04, 2022 8:35 am 
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The lowest I go on electrics is 3/64" treble and 4/64" bass measured at the 12th. This is for a pro player with a jazz background although he mostly plays the Nashville circuit. He uses Ernie Ball 10-46 Slinkys and has a light touch.

Most electrics get a 4/5 action because the players can't play clean with it lower. And then we have what I call the bangers that play so hard they need even more clearance. When I can I like to have new clients play the guitars before they leave the shop so I can tweak the action to suit their style.

Unfortunately, the lower you make the action the more you limit your range of attack with the pick while still playing clean. The nut/fretboard/bridge geometry is the key and, as you know, the type of strings make a big difference. Can't get around that but if you're willing to accept the need for a lighter attack and you can get the fretwork right then go as low as you can get away with. It's all about making music.

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These users thanked the author SteveSmith for the post: Hesh (Sun Jun 05, 2022 2:40 am)
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PostPosted: Sat Jun 04, 2022 2:40 pm 
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I deeply appreciate the responses. I want to clarify that I believe you've already provided a "gold standard" within as much reason as possible, and I do appreciate that from both of you. Keeping in mind I'm likely not using "gold standard" in the sense most people understand it, and I tend to have an odd use of vernacular.

Hesh wrote:
Putting the strings back on and doing a final set-up and I can consistently achieve a playable 3/64th" for the high e at the 12 and 4/64th" for the low e. This is for a light attack player. I can consistently get 2.5/64th which is too low for most players who know how to actually play and depend on being able to get under strings too... for a player who knows how to play very low action with a light attack.

.....

But on the other side of the same coin Matt guitars are imperfect, necks droop, gravity skews our work and many players want what is not possible and even advisable as in the example of getting under a string. So it is what it is.


SteveSmith wrote:
The lowest I go on electrics is 3/64" treble and 4/64" bass measured at the 12th. This is for a pro player with a jazz background although he mostly plays the Nashville circuit. He uses Ernie Ball 10-46 Slinkys and has a light touch.

Most electrics get a 4/5 action because the players can't play clean with it lower. And then we have what I call the bangers that play so hard they need even more clearance. When I can I like to have new clients play the guitars before they leave the shop so I can tweak the action to suit their style.

Unfortunately, the lower you make the action the more you limit your range of attack with the pick while still playing clean. The nut/fretboard/bridge geometry is the key and, as you know, the type of strings make a big difference. Can't get around that but if you're willing to accept the need for a lighter attack and you can get the fretwork right then go as low as you can get away with. It's all about making music.


"Gold standard" is a misnomer I'll attribute to my atypical use of vernacular, but I do want to point out that it seems unanimous that 4/64 and 3/64 is the lowest reasonable action anyone should expect, as a general rule. Not a hard and fast number, but being safe to assume that going below those specifications *at all* gets tricky *fast* as far as fretwork and playing attack goes, and going 1/64" below those specs on either side is the "stop sign," and would only ever be used by players with an exceptionally light touch anyway.

Your example for the guitar for Glenn is the perfect example of that. And even with a player with an exceptionally light touch, action of 2/64 and 3/64 may simply not be possible on a given guitar. All I'm meaning by "gold standard" (which is not the correct term, I understand) is that such action can be considered "rock bottom" and if you ever run into a customer who demands that, it would be reasonable to tell them that that may very well be physically impossible, and to temper their expectations.

This is pretty much all I was looking for, though everything else we've discussed here has been a *great help*, and again, I appreciate your sharing this information deeply.

--------------------------------------------------

The last question I have, in order to redirect this thread to the original topic of fallaway:

As far as your method of fretwork goes, and where you induce fallaway, I'm curious if there are any adaptations based on whether the fretboard radius is singular or compounded. You seem solid on 12 to the end being separate from the rest of the board, and I'm assuming this applies equally to all boards, but am curious if there are ever any changes in this depending on the particular guitar.


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PostPosted: Sat Jun 04, 2022 3:43 pm 
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I don't have anything substantial to add to this discussion but I want to say that the level of detail being discussed here and the specifications listed are like gold to me.

The action specs match well with what I have been taught but your emphasis, Hesh, on the detailed attention to the nut slots is really sinking in for me and has improved my setups substantially.

I'm very grateful for all of the info being shared here.

Also wishing you the best of health Hesh!



These users thanked the author Durero for the post: Hesh (Sun Jun 05, 2022 3:12 am)
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PostPosted: Sat Jun 04, 2022 6:07 pm 
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The whole time I’m reading this, I keep dreading the point where Hesh gets tired of posting. Amazing Information!

slightreturn, I am going through something similar to what you are experiencing. I’m not going for super low action but knowing that a little bit of buzzing is normal with the set up at 4/64” on the low E is encouraging for me. I used to fear fretwork because putting forth that much effort only to find that you can’t get the setup you want is frustrating. I’ve made up my mind to learn and get better. I have necks that I’ve fretted and refretted 3-4 times before I could tolerate them. Some I’ve just throw away. If a fret doesn’t go in right, I rip it straight out and figure out why. Nothing is so sacred that you have to “work around” it. This thread has been a wealth of info that I will probably refer back to for a while as I’m sure I’ve missed some things. Keep in mind that Hesh clearly has some muscle memory after executing this method on the daily for years. Holding the beam with one hand so the other one is free to manipulate the headstock? Come on…. That is something that takes practice. I can’t do it. I can barely keep the thing aligned with 2 hands. I have to stand behind the neck with a radius block (when I use one) and keep my hands symmetrical while staring at the centerline to have a hope of not inducing a twist in my fretboards. Some people can use one hand and stand off to the side and probably hold their phone to their ear and get a perfect result. I can’t.

My point is, what Hesh said is so true about practice. That’s what it takes. I understand fully everything he is saying. Whether or not I’ll ever be able to execute is yet to be determined. Knowing the goal is half the battle though. Maybe more than half.

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PostPosted: Sat Jun 04, 2022 9:39 pm 
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@Durero

The gold mine is the best part of all of this, and the main reason I get so excited about discussions like this. It benefits everyone for as long as it exists online.

@absrec

As for tipping the neck back or forward before leveling: I first came up with the idea of putting the neck into a back bow and full-length leveling *only* on the Low E string side of the frets back in 2019 at the latest, and I can tell you that it does work. My method for that was using the truss rod to induce a slight back bow, then using a full length leveling beam. I personally got similar results no matter whether I used a steel beam with the strings off, or a full length understring leveling beam under full string tension.

I didn't think of the other side of the equation that Hesh has mentioned, the leveling with a forward bow on the High E side of the frets, but I will say this much: Having gotten good results using the truss rod to induce back bow before leveling, I don't see why you couldn't do the same on the other side, loosening the rod to induce a little forward bow.

On my Strat, set up to standard expected specs as described in the last exchange, it works flawlessly, and that was done using the truss rod to induce the bow either way, not hand pressure, before leveling. I'll be clear this isn't what Hesh is recommending, and is more an extension of what I've already been doing for several years. I give full credit to Dave Collins of course for seeing the "whole picture," the treble side, middle, and bass side all contoured as one, which is not something I had considered, and am very grateful to Hesh for sharing. All credit and respect due.

I'm just saying Hesh does not use the truss rod for this and I don't want there to be any confusion about that. This is something only I've experimented with, so don't blame anyone else if you can't get it to work.

The hand pressure and fluid leveling motion across the board sounds brilliant and of course involves a level of artistry, and maybe that really is the best way. I'm just saying from my personal experience that my method of using the truss rod to achieve the same profiling of the entirety of the fret tops appears to have gotten perfectly satisfactory results.

FWIW, I have also achieved similar results countless times in the past on refrets and level and crowns for customers using a combination of traditional dead-flat leveling and understring leveling. It's a big world, and you will find many techs doing fantastic work with PLEKs, neck jigs, understring leveling, traditional methods, and unorthodox methods. At the end of the day all that matters is repeatability and predictability, as Hesh has pointed out.

Standard specs are a good reference for this reason. It ensures we're all speaking the same language. I'm actually feeling a lot more sane now and have remembered that I've been doing guitar work for 17 years and have done many refrets and level and crowns and setups for countless customers, and never had any issues.

My obsession with guitars sometimes overshadows everything else, but I also have actual obsessive compulsive disorder so there is definitely a neurological rut there.

Standard specs, and having a frame of reference, is the key. Again, seeing other professional's standard specs listed here was like snapping me out of a hypnotic trance. The crazy thing is I did several setups and fret levels over the past couple days and completely overlooked the fact that I had no issue with those at all. Customer walks away happy as a clam with a perfectly functioning instrument, and I'm back to obsessing over minutiae with my own guitars to practically no avail, as if I've never done guitar work in my life, and work myself into a lather.

It's just the nature of the disorder. Though mental disorders are also not a death sentence and I'm actually convinced that guitar setups give us good insights into what's possible with working on our own mental and physical problems, but that's a topic for elsewhere.

Anyway:

For you, I'd say remember the basics. The foundations. Getting the neck dead straight and leveling until the beam just touches every fret is a good start. Then add a little fallaway, not too much. I'd say at this point, with the fret tops flat, to string it up, set it up to reasonable specs, and play it. And keep in mind what we've discussed here.

And sit with it before taking the strings off and going further. Let it sink in. It should reassure you to know that buzzing with the Low E at 4/64" or even 5/64" is normal, and it's normal with the action even higher than that if you attack the string hard. Especially if you're not using a particularly heavy Low E string. Thinner and lower tension will make it more prone to flopping around even more, like a loose vs. tight rubber band.

Also notice how if you pluck the string "vertically," it doesn't buzz. Like how slap bassists play. Or even using your thumb, picking the string more 'vertically' instead of horizontally. Or a pick. Plucking the string horizontally, it vibrates in an extremely wide arc, but vertically, a very small arc. Changing your pick attack, you can see in good lighting very clearly how much the vibrational arc shrinks or expands depending on how you play.

You'll notice that picking it vertically, you'll very likely have absolutely no buzz anywhere. Physics are to blame above all. 99% of the time you're gonna pick the strings horizontally, and I'm not suggesting some insane change of playstyle or contorting your hand. That's just for your own sanity, to realize that physics and the insanely wide vibrational arc of the string is the problem, not necessarily your fretwork or setup. Go play ANY stock or custom built guitar, and you'll find exactly the same thing on the lowest strings. They all buzz on the Low E if you pick them hard enough and there is simply no getting around this.

The worst I ever saw was on a non-multiscale 7 string. I managed to get it a lot better by carving relief into the frets as well as using other unorthodox methods I'm not going to divulge here for the sake of brevity, but it worked. I also used a heavier string so it would vibrate in less wide of an arc. Customer was very happy with it, especially so since he'd taken it to several other techs and they had all told him it was impossible to get that string buzzing any less than it was.

I'm not aware of individually available pressure wound or half-round strings for electric. I only buy single strings. But if you use regular sets, those could be worth a try. I think D'Addario makes a pressure wound or half round electric guitar set. Flatwounds buzz the least, rounds the most, half rounds are somewhere inbetween. I exclusively use flatwounds on all my basses just because I love the tone, but the non-existent buzzing is another huge plus.

String gauge and type is not something most techs will consider at the level of recommending custom single string sets. I've actually had a lot of success making customers aware that they have options and there is no need to restrict themselves to commercially available sets if they want to really personalize things to their playing style and preferences. Some players really benefit from this, and aren't aware of what's possible unless you tell them. Most of the time these are bass players, for whatever reason. I've had at least 3 in recent memory that really benefited from me recommending odd but extremely appropriate single string gauges to meet their needs.

Anyway, I could keep going all night. But I agree about this being gold. And am so happy to hear a couple other people like me feel that way. Now anyone with inquisitive minds or obsessive hangups like ours can find this and use it as a resource. It's worth a lot more than it might appear. I agree completely.


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PostPosted: Sun Jun 05, 2022 2:41 am 
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SteveSmith wrote:
The lowest I go on electrics is 3/64" treble and 4/64" bass measured at the 12th. This is for a pro player with a jazz background although he mostly plays the Nashville circuit. He uses Ernie Ball 10-46 Slinkys and has a light touch.

Most electrics get a 4/5 action because the players can't play clean with it lower. And then we have what I call the bangers that play so hard they need even more clearance. When I can I like to have new clients play the guitars before they leave the shop so I can tweak the action to suit their style.

Unfortunately, the lower you make the action the more you limit your range of attack with the pick while still playing clean. The nut/fretboard/bridge geometry is the key and, as you know, the type of strings make a big difference. Can't get around that but if you're willing to accept the need for a lighter attack and you can get the fretwork right then go as low as you can get away with. It's all about making music.


This is a very good post and all that Steve generously offers us all is accurate and right in step with our experience too.

The term "bangers" is new to me though and I think it's perfect for describing the heavy hitters. :)

Thanks Steve, very much appreciated man!

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PostPosted: Sun Jun 05, 2022 3:03 am 
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"Gold standard" is a misnomer I'll attribute to my atypical use of vernacular, but I do want to point out that it seems unanimous that 4/64 and 3/64 is the lowest reasonable action anyone should expect, as a general rule. Not a hard and fast number, but being safe to assume that going below those specifications *at all* gets tricky *fast* as far as fretwork and playing attack goes, and going 1/64" below those specs on either side is the "stop sign," and would only ever be used by players with an exceptionally light touch anyway."

These days we seem to value popularity contests and reality shows and it's gotten us in a lot of trouble... but back to Lutherie with the people here there is general consensus about 4/64th and you added 3/64th which I would not, it's too low.

My message has been and remains why go so dang low? An aging string that needs to be replaced, a swing in RH, a less than 5 year old guitar with not fully seasoned wood like my 2012 Strat who's neck moved back and forth for five long years all can take a "marginally buzz free set-up" and stop the show for a gigging musician. So we, my business do not want to go there and although it may play on our bench there is a wild world out there for gigging musicians and others....

So pre covid when someone wanted uber low action we ask them about alternative tunings, we take note of the guitar (some makers have much better fret work than others with surprisingly Ibanez being excellent for low, shredder action) and I would have them play for me so I can see what they are doing. Then we have the conversation, no guarantee, we will provide but we made it clear and then some it may be problematic.

There is also the issue of a busy business and we do not want anyone to have to return for any reason beyond to bring us another guitar with their appointment, we are appointment only now so we can handle some of this volume of business. It's also the days of reviews on Google and others and we want a five star review, next. It's poor business to provide anything that may be problematic for the client and that of course and justifiably becomes poor business for the business as well increasing opportunity costs and potentially harming relationships.

I know you Matt are looking for your own set-up so this diatribe from me is for the OLF largely I want to discourage people from thinking that uber low action is the holy grail, it's far from the holy grail and there is no holy grail. In fact there are as many holy grails as there are players..... it's an individual thing with a plethora of variables, always.

I can't remember if I mentioned this but I raised action on an ugly Gibson custom shop last week because the player wanted to be heard in church.... Not everyone wants uber low action.

Nuff said about this but I will not let a client walk off a cliff. They want what they want and have read some charlatan on the Internet making unqualified claims about this or that. We educate but we only negotiate when someone knows what they are talking about.

With all this said I'm making the case for finding what's possible and then back off some for some insurance. That's how we remain so busy when we are having around ten instruments picked up a day and our minimum is a full, comprehensive set-up for about $100.

When I am done with a set-up or fret work I play every note, try bends two full steps in some of the more common places and then and only then if there is zero, zero buzzing, sitar sounds and choking she gets buttoned up, the invoice prepared, client called, next. Even still the possibility exists that they will go back to their dorm room, place the ax near a heat register and be back to see me with hands in pockets claiming to be clueless why their set-up changed in a week.... :)

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PostPosted: Sun Jun 05, 2022 3:11 am 
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"As far as your method of fretwork goes, and where you induce fallaway, I'm curious if there are any adaptations based on whether the fretboard radius is singular or compounded. You seem solid on 12 to the end being separate from the rest of the board, and I'm assuming this applies equally to all boards, but am curious if there are ever any changes in this depending on the particular guitar."

Good question and the answer is we have not seen a need to do this. If we do a fret dress we are going to convert to compound and that is all we offer is an outcome that is a compound radius. It's all we want to offer and we see no reason why a non-compound radius would be desirable to anyone.

99% of players if we asked them if they want a compound radius would reply idunno but it doesn't matter that's what they get form us.

I sense that you are referring in your own mind's eye to the low e buzzing on your personal guitar. If hand strength is a core issue and I am not sure that it is I'm trying to help here why not reduce the gage of the low e string? There will be a bit more lash because of less inertia but the fretting hand will have an easier job of it.

It's common for us to introduce flat picking players specifically males who used 13's all their lives and now have arthritis to 12's or even 11's and that keeps them playing, easy solution for some not all.

Regarding fall-away elsewhere perhaps starting at the 14th or even the 10th I can't think of a reason why the meeting point of the two different fret planes could not be somewhere else but I also think it's important to recognize the PRIMARY reason for fall-away, to get the extension frets the hell out of the way. It's often the case on Fender bolt on necks that the neck "ski ramp" over the body and it's the single most common reason why prior to a fret dress very low action is not possible.

We want the extension frets out of the way but still very usable and playable. So sure it can be done, I just don't see why you or anyone would want to and again I'm commercial in my view and not academic in my desired view with no insult intended. I have enough on my plate that I tend to keep blinders on to the single mission in front of me and then launch into action.

What I have described here is a method that everyone else can do, I'm sure of it. We are not keen to add complexity because the results at best would be diminishing returns. With this said realistically what I have described as described will thrill 99% of players, likely more and we have never had anyone not pleased with our fret work, never.

Nothing stops you from going here and seeing what it buy you, Matt.

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PostPosted: Sun Jun 05, 2022 3:17 am 
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Durero wrote:
I don't have anything substantial to add to this discussion but I want to say that the level of detail being discussed here and the specifications listed are like gold to me.

The action specs match well with what I have been taught but your emphasis, Hesh, on the detailed attention to the nut slots is really sinking in for me and has improved my setups substantially.

I'm very grateful for all of the info being shared here.

Also wishing you the best of health Hesh!


Thank You Leo AND I appreciate that you reminded me that I need to stress again that action to us is a function or nut slots first.... in our sequential approach to set-ups. Low, properly cut nut slots are immediately noticeable to players and often how they initially tell that their guitar has indeed changed and is now substantially different.

It's also perhaps one of the biggest opportunities that Luthiers have in our task to dial in what a factory can't and won't. And as I always stress here it's the user interface to the instrument, the set-up and as such WAY more important to me that likely any other single thing about a guitar.

I'm thrilled to hear this Leo thanks for letting me know, whew I don't feel like I am spinning my wheels here when I read this, thank you!!!

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PostPosted: Sun Jun 05, 2022 3:21 am 
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absrec wrote:
The whole time I’m reading this, I keep dreading the point where Hesh gets tired of posting. Amazing Information!

slightreturn, I am going through something similar to what you are experiencing. I’m not going for super low action but knowing that a little bit of buzzing is normal with the set up at 4/64” on the low E is encouraging for me. I used to fear fretwork because putting forth that much effort only to find that you can’t get the setup you want is frustrating. I’ve made up my mind to learn and get better. I have necks that I’ve fretted and refretted 3-4 times before I could tolerate them. Some I’ve just throw away. If a fret doesn’t go in right, I rip it straight out and figure out why. Nothing is so sacred that you have to “work around” it. This thread has been a wealth of info that I will probably refer back to for a while as I’m sure I’ve missed some things. Keep in mind that Hesh clearly has some muscle memory after executing this method on the daily for years. Holding the beam with one hand so the other one is free to manipulate the headstock? Come on…. That is something that takes practice. I can’t do it. I can barely keep the thing aligned with 2 hands. I have to stand behind the neck with a radius block (when I use one) and keep my hands symmetrical while staring at the centerline to have a hope of not inducing a twist in my fretboards. Some people can use one hand and stand off to the side and probably hold their phone to their ear and get a perfect result. I can’t.

My point is, what Hesh said is so true about practice. That’s what it takes. I understand fully everything he is saying. Whether or not I’ll ever be able to execute is yet to be determined. Knowing the goal is half the battle though. Maybe more than half.


Aaron thanks to you too you also made my day and keep with it, it took lots of practice for me too. Dave is fond of saying that when he taught at Galloup they would say you have to make about 100 nuts before you really understand what makes a great nut.

Wish I could get you into our classes that we no longer offer. Many of our students return home "getting it" and some use what they learned commercially as well and Steve Smith is one of them who is likely as good at this as I am not he's done a bunch.

If I can ever help you feel free to PM me that's why I'm here not the aggravation :)

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PostPosted: Sun Jun 05, 2022 3:56 am 
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For everyone else lurking here there is more to our method too that we went over in our classes, you got some of the basics here.

Dave does a discussion on rubber, wood and steel and takes you into the concerns of a machinist and how our materials interact with us. This is key with being consistent in how much pressure we use and more. Many of the things I only briefly mentioned are pretty important too and he takes folks though that too.

We have no plans to offer the classes again sadly and I enjoyed them too getting to meet about two dozen of you as we did. We also have people who are well know names in the Lutherie community with 500 successful guitars under their belts looking to up their game and find one, consistent method that always produces predictable and superb results and that's what our method does for us and now many others too.

And lastly there is a "touch" here that you develop with practice and it need not take a lot of practice. In my experience most people get most of this their first time if, if they are guided closely though the process. We had one instructor for no more than two students so we saw and were a part of most of what students were doing.

Imagine starting on the treble side with a leveling beam precision milled and checked on a calibrated surface plate milling the treble side only with a fulcrum such as a leg vice under the 7 - 9th fret area. Your left hand (if right handed) is gently tugging the headstock upward. As we trace the string paths with the leveling beam and we move to the middle strings, D and G that tug is eliminate and as we move under where the A and low E would be our tug is now a slight push. We repeat this being informed by our bluing (magic marker) and when you get better no bluing necessary in the middle of the process just in the beginning to see what we have and at the end to see what we accomplished.

It's indeed artful and always results in predictable results that get the job done and there is often a little more capability in the fret plane than we even want to use, head room if you will.

When Dave or I work on a 335 or L5 for Glenn D and we both have done his low action specials our method does not change, we don't have to know it's for him, one size of what we do is fitting all in our experience and that's notable....

Most of all it's a sequential process like a computer program from beginning to end.

We also recommend pressing over hammering especially for new Luthiers who have not hammered lots of frets. We find pressing more consistent and that's why we worked with our Ukrainian Pal Andy Birko to help develop his fret press set. We generally press all frets and our students also saw some things I won't show here as to how to press any and all frets and not have to hammer any. It can be done and we do it every week.

Back to the process Dave spent a lot of time on our method and it was the pinocle of a person's search for a reliable, tested method that he took 30 years to develop. It was also developed with an association with others well known in the field including Dan E. who visits and used to work at the store that was in our building. Or, in other words it's been vetted by pros and more and more folks are using the parts of it that they can pick up from big mouth Hesh here. :)

Dan E. and his brother who we showed this to wanted to do a Stew Mac Trade Secret of Dave's methods but sadly Dan has retired now and it didn't happen, yet. ;) If you don't know this already Dan E. has been considered the expert's expert on fret work for many years deservedly so.

So I say again, as I sometimes do, in all sincerity, I hope this helps! Have a great Sunday everyone I get to go jam with a client who invited me over. We both just bought a couple of new Teles so it's Tele day in Heshtone land. :). I love jamming almost as much as I love working on guitars.

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PostPosted: Sun Jun 05, 2022 11:25 am 
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@ Hesh

All good points, and I also *always* do a compound radius. They just work better. Complete agreement. Even if they don't ask for it, they're getting a compound radius, and no one has ever said anything. All they know is it isn't buzzing or choking out when they get it back.

I am curious how you implement them. I've been using individual small radius blocks and then blending everything together with a full length beam. Never had an issue with this, but am always curious how other people do it. I only recently became aware that there's a formula for calculating compound radii -- not sure if this is necessary, and again, I've never used it and never had any issues, but always striving to improve.

I do want to be clear that for customers, I've never had a refret, level and crown, or setup go back that customers were not absolutely thrilled with. I feel a lot better after this discussion, especially reflecting back on my past customer experiences and the quality of my fretwork over the years, which by all standards (bending as much as possible anywhere, no buzzy notes, no choking out, no sitar, everything clear) has been top of the line.

I'm always seeking to improve and take things to the next level. Not saying that I can't improve my fretwork. But this discussion has convinced me that I've only failed to deliver results that I now know are not physically possible.

And I had an epiphany now that perhaps my OCD manifesting with needing to do "holy grail" fretwork to get the lowest action possible, is the same "holy grail" mindset that has kept me short-changing myself, because no matter how good the work I do is, no matter how much people rave about it and keep coming back, no matter how many referrals I get, I keep thinking that it isn't good enough, and I can only charge more money once I've attained this imaginary state of perfection.

I won't belabor you with the prices I've charged but you would absolutely not believe me. It is completely insane, and somewhat recently I did several refrets for the lead guitarist from Autograph, which he was absolutely thrilled with, before going on tour. Not that hobbyist or professional matters, as a refret is a refret. But again, I'm having an epiphany that the same obsessiveness making me fixate on achieving impossible action, may be the same obsessiveness that's making me devalue my own skills and the value of my services, which in reality is very high, but in my mind are very small.

This has also led to me getting severely taken advantage of by some customers. I won't get into that here but again: grateful for this discussion. A lot of revelations for me.

I'm excited to take my fretwork to the next level, but perhaps the most pertinent issue for me and my business is realizing that they're already at an extremely high level right now, and while I can refine my methods and strive to learn more, I should be charging what my work is worth.

Will report back later, still going through the details of your latest posts. Appreciate it as always. Hope you and the rest of everyone here enjoys your Sunday! And say hello to your mother for me if you end up stopping by. Glad she's doing well. I'm going to go out and enjoy the weather now myself :)


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PostPosted: Sun Jun 05, 2022 2:01 pm 
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slightreturn wrote:
@ Hesh

All good points, and I also *always* do a compound radius. They just work better. Complete agreement. Even if they don't ask for it, they're getting a compound radius, and no one has ever said anything. All they know is it isn't buzzing or choking out when they get it back.

I am curious how you implement them. I've been using individual small radius blocks and then blending everything together with a full length beam. Never had an issue with this, but am always curious how other people do it. I only recently became aware that there's a formula for calculating compound radii -- not sure if this is necessary, and again, I've never used it and never had any issues, but always striving to improve.

I do want to be clear that for customers, I've never had a refret, level and crown, or setup go back that customers were not absolutely thrilled with. I feel a lot better after this discussion, especially reflecting back on my past customer experiences and the quality of my fretwork over the years, which by all standards (bending as much as possible anywhere, no buzzy notes, no choking out, no sitar, everything clear) has been top of the line.

I'm always seeking to improve and take things to the next level. Not saying that I can't improve my fretwork. But this discussion has convinced me that I've only failed to deliver results that I now know are not physically possible.

And I had an epiphany now that perhaps my OCD manifesting with needing to do "holy grail" fretwork to get the lowest action possible, is the same "holy grail" mindset that has kept me short-changing myself, because no matter how good the work I do is, no matter how much people rave about it and keep coming back, no matter how many referrals I get, I keep thinking that it isn't good enough, and I can only charge more money once I've attained this imaginary state of perfection.

I won't belabor you with the prices I've charged but you would absolutely not believe me. It is completely insane, and somewhat recently I did several refrets for the lead guitarist from Autograph, which he was absolutely thrilled with, before going on tour. Not that hobbyist or professional matters, as a refret is a refret. But again, I'm having an epiphany that the same obsessiveness making me fixate on achieving impossible action, may be the same obsessiveness that's making me devalue my own skills and the value of my services, which in reality is very high, but in my mind are very small.

This has also led to me getting severely taken advantage of by some customers. I won't get into that here but again: grateful for this discussion. A lot of revelations for me.

I'm excited to take my fretwork to the next level, but perhaps the most pertinent issue for me and my business is realizing that they're already at an extremely high level right now, and while I can refine my methods and strive to learn more, I should be charging what my work is worth.

Will report back later, still going through the details of your latest posts. Appreciate it as always. Hope you and the rest of everyone here enjoys your Sunday! And say hello to your mother for me if you end up stopping by. Glad she's doing well. I'm going to go out and enjoy the weather now myself :)


Exactly on the compound radius I see no reason why anyone would object to a better playing guitar with one exception rare guitars that retain value by remaining unchanged even if its a change for the better. When they bring it to us repair folks there is an expectation (and hope) that we will make things better so we do.

We implement by simply following string paths and it need not be any more complicated than this. The original radius is pretty much retained near the nut and then things progressively flatten out. We do not attempt nor would we ever want to to actives a specific radius simply a conversion to what results from tracing string paths. With this said every guitar is as different as the radius it came in when when we are through so some get more some get less but they all play fantastic with realistic setting and we can usually go a bit lower if need be OR and this is what I like too heavy hitters can hit harder with less buzz all things being equal and they rarely are.

You said "I'm always seeking to improve and take things to the next level. Not saying that I can't improve my fretwork. But this discussion has convinced me that I've only failed to deliver results that I now know are not physically possible."

Good to hear and that what was I hoped you would arrive at at some point from our interaction here. In my experience some of the things you are or were stressing over and that was kind of stressing me too, I can feel it.... were not anything that in our experience is even possible or reliably possible with all the things moving, wood and such in a guitar.

Perfection in Lutherie is very subjective and ultimately and get this Matt because it's my North Star, ultimately guitars are tools for musicians not platforms for us to reach a level of perfection that basically does nothing for anyone but our own obsessions and egos. I have more work than I have time so I don't rush but I am very efficient and in my thinking I would rather give someone close to 100% of what thrills them and avoid the diminishing returns of a level of what you call perfection that won't even be noticed or useful by most. The same reasons that they don't even notice or object when both of us just do our thing and they end up with a compound radius are also why what you spend two hours on trying to nail that last couple percent is not noticed by them either. So why go there. That last 5% of precision will cost you every time and it may cost you the time that you could have made three clients thrilled and not just one.

A fret dress for me and then a complete set-up is a two hour or less thing generally and I'm a crabby old man :) We charge $240 for it and it's important to me to keep an eye on time so I can get more work done for more people. With this said the commercial nature of our work has us avoiding academic pursuits mostly because we have too much to do.

I'm glad to see that you are starting to consider that where you wanted to go may not be always possible and now I am adding the idea of economically feasible as well. repair shops nation wide are booked like never before. More people picked up guitar of the first time last year than ever before. We are in the right spot to help lots of folks if we work efficiently to meet the market.

You likely work out of your home, correct? We have overhead of $30K annually and we are only a dedicated guitar repair shop. So I have to be efficient without the luxury of spending extra time here and there. We are located in the center of Ann Arbor where rent is $25 - $35 a square foot and the fools that run the city have their hands out every second for more money. Small, artisan business fail here all of the time so we have to be sharp, efficient and productive. You can now see, maybe that where you stressed over a level of perfection I stress over staying alive in business.

I just left an amazing house. This is a customer of ours that I became friends with, that happens frequently and was invited over. He has six Martins that I set them all up and did other jobs on some. He has electrics too but what amazed me is he collects 70's high end stereo gear AR, Pioneer, Marantz etc and he has all the stuff I coveted as a kid. Listened to J Giles on KLF 7's on 9 on the Sansui and I was back in my heavy metal vomit days of my youth :). We ended up being good friends and he's coming over here next Sunday to see and play my collection including 3 and soon to be 4 hand wired, point to point vintage iconic amps such as the 5e3 that I built and is famous for many folks using it including Neil Young.

So this is an example of there is more to Lutherie for me than trying to milk a spec out of a guitar that others can't. This is fun for me. I formally retired from the corporate job at 50 15 years ago and have been trying to find my way to have fun ever since. So what we do is fun for me and often leads to new people, places and things including collectors who contract me at times to do fleet work at their place or mine.

We have famous clients as mentioned but I am a stickler to protect their privacy and won't name them on the Internet. It's not uncommon for us to have an appointment made with an A-list player and then shut the business down so then can come in with dark glasses and hat on and plop the 58 original Les Paul on my bench.

One time we received a text message from pedestrians asking if that was so and so that they saw climb our stairs but our doors are not locked. I answered that text message three hours later after we arranged for our client to leave by the back door and my answer was "Yes it was, have a great day." :)

If you don't mind me saying so please give yourself a break (and me too :) ) and yes are on track now in the realization that you do very good work now and it's likely more than good enough from what you have described to me.

I was an audiophile all of my life and into high end stereo as mentioned. Speakers are not unlike a quality fret dress. $600 will buy you an OK speaker that is Ok for most of the people. To get 10% more tone I have to spend twice the money or $1,200. to get sound that only 2% would find acceptable I'm now into $10K and to get to one percent I'm at $30 EACH for speakers....

Fret work is like that with time to complete and I'm committed to doing the most great work that I can for the most people and that also helps us pay our $30K in overhead and still be able to buy what's important in life, weed, guitars and scotch :). Kidding of course, kind of. :).

With Dave's methods we can always satisfy anyone if they are reasonable in their expectations and that's good enough, next.

Thanks for asking about my Mom too VERY much appreciated!!! She struggles and she is blind as well and I am her only family now and she is mine as well.

Talk soon.

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These users thanked the author Hesh for the post (total 2): slightreturn (Mon Jun 06, 2022 1:50 am) • absrec (Sun Jun 05, 2022 10:25 pm)
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PostPosted: Sun Jun 05, 2022 2:03 pm 
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Oh yeah I read what you said about some problematic clients.

I'm a master at making them go away :) if you want any pointers :) I could post a tutorial on how to be an a-hole :)

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These users thanked the author Hesh for the post: slightreturn (Mon Jun 06, 2022 1:50 am)
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