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  #16  
Old 11-02-2014, 08:30 AM
LouieAtienza LouieAtienza is offline
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Originally Posted by BothHands View Post
Hey, Louie. Thanks for weighing in. What leads to stiffness? More break angle or less?
And you're definitely talking about the nut, and not the saddle...right?
My experience is the less break angle, the "slacker" the strings usually feel. Of course this is not a set-in-stone rule, but I find it generally so. And yes, break angle at the nut. There is relatively very little string length behind the saddle for the string to stretch, so I rule that out. And I'm not talking about saddle height. There are guitars that play relatively easily with higher action, and there are guitars that play very stiff even with low action.

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You mean as if the nut slots are too narrow?
Yes, if the strings are impinged at the nut they can make the guitar play stiff because the string is only stretching between the nut and saddle. With a better fitting nut, the string can "stretch" more as a whole, thus feel more "slack."

Take the extreme example of a Fender Strat with a Floyd Rose locking nut. We know the tension is the same as with a non-locking nut since the strings are tuned to pitch. Yet the Floyd equipped guitar always plays stiffer because there's less string to stretch.

Also, many Strat players will remove the E and B strings from the string tee to make them feel "slacker" when bending. This is done along with winding the strings down the post more to add string break angle at the nut, or using graduated post height tuners.

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Exactly the opposite of what I thought! Oh, brother... I dialed the neck relief down to .008" thinking it would result in minimal stiffness because distance from string to fret would be minimized at mid-neck... Where I am going wrong on this?
.008" seems about right to me. But like I said, a lot depends on other factors as well. The straighter the neck, the higher the saddle has to be to accommodate the strings' vibrational path at the lower frets.

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Can you explain briefly?
Top compliance can be analogous to that extra string length behind the nut. This is probably less important than getting the nut fitted right, however.

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Yeah, I've been chasing my tail on the strings issue. I'm trying to find strings that 1) sound good, 2) provide the lowest tension appropriate to the tuning and style of play, and 3) last a reasonably long time. Man, my head is spinning... There are just so many options, and I can't afford the time or money to buy "one of each" just to "test and toss".

I like D'Addario strings in general, and they're cheap and relatively ubiquitous, so I'm considering the following, just as a starting point:

A. I'm setting my dreadnought up for fingerstyle in standard tuning. EJ16
B. I'm setting up it's twin sister (with cutaway) for alternate tunings with more strumming. EJ24
C. I'm setting up my cherished Gurian JR for high-strung / Nashville tuning. EJ38H

The D'Addario tension seems a bit lower than some of the competing brands, and especially the High-Strung set at about 120lbs total vs. 180lbs for a competitor I researched recently. That's a BIG difference...
Round-core strings can feel less stiff than hex core strings. Martin FX has a smaller round core which can help. I'm not a big fan of Silk'N'Steel because I feel they take away a little "shimmer" from a guitar.
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  #17  
Old 11-02-2014, 09:44 AM
BothHands BothHands is offline
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Originally Posted by LouieAtienza View Post
A. My experience is the less break angle, the "slacker" the strings usually feel.

B. If the strings are impinged at the nut they can make the guitar play stiff because the string is only stretching between the nut and saddle. With a better fitting nut, the string can "stretch" more as a whole, thus feel more "slack."

C. The straighter the neck, the higher the saddle has to be to accommodate the strings' vibrational path at the lower frets.

D. Top compliance can be analogous to that extra string length behind the nut. This is probably less important than getting the nut fitted right, however.

E. Round-core strings can feel less stiff than hex core strings. Martin FX has a smaller round core which can help. I'm not a big fan of Silk'N'Steel because I feel they take away a little "shimmer" from a guitar.
Thanks for all of this, Louie. Very interesting and very useful information:

A. String break angle at the nut appears typical, so no worries there.

B. I'll loosen all strings and make sure they move through the nut slots effortlessly.

C. The neck is pretty doggone straight with no buzzing, which is surprising because my TechnoFret FretRocker* finds lots of slightly uneven fret pairs...

D. Top Compliance turns out to be something over which I have zero control, and is something I probably shouldn't ever think about. Speaking as a player rather than a builder, ignorance is bliss. For anyone interested in Top Compliance, here's a neat introduction I Googled up.

E. Thanks for round-core strings tip. I'm already aware of that, but there aren't a lot of choices for round-core.
I'll look into the Martin FX. Thanks for the suggestion.


*(Murray, your Ebay store has gone CRAZY in terms of its GBP-to-USD conversions. Time for a tune-up...)
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  #18  
Old 11-02-2014, 10:00 AM
BothHands BothHands is offline
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Originally Posted by charles Tauber View Post
Keep in mind the relationship of a change in string height at the saddle being twice the change at the 12th fret.
Thanks for reasserting that. Actually, I'm well aware of the relationship and am glad it's not the other way around.

Quote:
Originally Posted by charles Tauber View Post
For measuring string height at the 12th fret, I use a ruler marked in 1/32" [...] Others use calipers. Doing so certainly works but [...] in my opinion and experience, it is an unnecessary level of accuracy for saddle height.

The "sand a bit", restring, "sand a bit more"... isn't really necessary once one correlates string heights with playability and "feel".
I agree that it really is all about "the feel", and currently I feel like the strings need to be a bit lower, BUT...I have no experience in making these adjustments, so I don't know whether I can get the feel I want and still avoid buzzing. The point of this thread.

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Originally Posted by charles Tauber View Post

THE MOTHER LOAD

The "test" that I use for strings being as low as possible: For a particular player and their "style", the strings should just begin to buzz when played just harder than they would normally play. [...] pluck them just harder than the maximum a player is going to. If they just begin to buzz, that's as low as it's going to go with the current fret leveling and settings. This works for open strings (i.e. nut height) and fretted strings: check each fret, each string.
I'll be testing and thinking about this a lot. Thanks for such useful, helpful insights!
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  #19  
Old 11-02-2014, 10:18 AM
BothHands BothHands is offline
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Originally Posted by Frank Ford View Post
My favorite shims are sticky labels and they are dead easy to make and use - read this:

http://www.frets.com/FretsPages/Luth...m/nutshim.html
Another extremely helpful 'demystification'. Too good, as usual.

Thanks, and I'm very glad to read your instruction about gluing only the front of the nut to the hidden edge of the fretboard.

I have a question about loosening/removing the existing nut:
I've seen people set a block of wood against the nut (the fretboard side) and give it a sharp whack with a mallet. But the guitar I'm working on has a heavy decorative faceplate (about 1/8" thick) that forms a dado in which the nut is captive. How do you suggest I remove this one? See image below.

And when I reglue, just a single small dab of cyanoacrylate glue at the center of the nut, right?



All those little flecks must be from the new case (see the pale gray case lining in the background).
Looks like I need to vacuum the interior. Guitar Dandruff...how embarrassing.

Last edited by BothHands; 11-03-2014 at 09:17 AM.
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  #20  
Old 11-02-2014, 10:28 AM
BothHands BothHands is offline
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Originally Posted by clinchriver View Post
I've used steel shims on target rifle sights, and other gunsmithing endeavors, and by the time you fiddle around cutting, grinding, shaping etc you could have had strings on the guitar and been playing in a new nut and saddle. I'd like to see a video of someone shaping a .032 shim to fit in a saddle slot, when you cut shim stock with sheet metal cutters the edges are serrated and curl, what now, files, sandpaper, stones? Good luck.
Good points, all. And I've had those same experiences. If I had wood shims, I would use them - especially now that the combined comments by John Arnold and Ned Milburn has clued me into gluing an over-sized bridge wood shim to the bottom of the existing saddle, and then adjusting the combined height of that saddle 'assembly'.

My problem is I NO GOTS those wood shims, but I DO have the steel shim stock. I'm cogitating on methods of cutting metal shim stock other than using sheet metal shears...
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  #21  
Old 11-02-2014, 11:03 AM
arie arie is offline
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Originally Posted by BothHands View Post
G
My problem is I NO GOTS those wood shims, but I DO have the steel shim stock. I'm cogitating on methods of cutting metal shim stock other than using sheet metal shears...
it certainly wouldn't be my choice, but if you absolutely need to use steel shim stock instead of using binding/purfling stock, shim stock (up to .015 or so) is best cut with surgical scissors. you'll need to use a stone to remove the burrs on a good flat surface like a piece of glass or your granite counter top and a rubber mallet to work out any wrinkles. anything thicker try aviation tin snips. shears are used on sheet metal.
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  #22  
Old 11-02-2014, 11:04 AM
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Frank Ford Frank Ford is offline
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Originally Posted by BothHands View Post
My problem is I NO GOTS those wood shims
Nobody I know HAS shims. We MAKE 'em. Maybe you gots a tongue depressor, Popsicle stick, ANY little piece of hardwood. Knife, razor blade, sandpaper - whatever tools work for you.

It's not rocket surgery.
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  #23  
Old 11-02-2014, 11:08 AM
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Frank Ford Frank Ford is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BothHands View Post

I have a question about loosening/removing the existing nut:
I've seen people set a block of wood against the nut (the fretboard side) and give it a sharp whack with a mallet. But the guitar I'm working on has a heavy decorative faceplate (about 1/8" thick) that forms a dado in which the nut is captive. How do you suggest I remove this one?
I cut through the face veneer all the way to the bottom of the nut, using a .010" kerf X-Acto saw:



Then the conventional whack with a hardwood block against the front edge of the nut pops it out safely.

Do the cut neatly and nobody will notice the kerf when the nut is put back in place.
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  #24  
Old 11-02-2014, 11:54 AM
BothHands BothHands is offline
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Originally Posted by Frank Ford View Post
Nobody I know HAS shims. We MAKE 'em. Maybe you gots a tongue depressor, Popsicle stick, ANY little piece of hardwood. Knife, razor blade, sandpaper - whatever tools work for you.
Popsicle sticks and tongue depressors?

See. I'm just "too respectful" of these methods and materials. I assumed a mahogany neck would require a mahogany shim under the nut, and an ebony bridge would need an ebony shim under the saddle. WHODATHUNKIT? You guys are really expanding my thinking here, and I appreciate it.

The sticky-backed mailing labels for under-nut shims is an amazing realization, and seems to fly in the face of the "harder shim material is better" rule-of-thumb I thought I had come to understand... Of course, I'm sure I wouldn't want a thick shim made of paper, but I guess one or two of those labels is no problem. UDAMAN Frank, so I'm just amazed...

You know those Formica counter top sample chips you find in the kitchen-remodel section of any home improvement store? What if I glued the wood side (the back) to the bottom of my saddle, and then adjusted the saddle height by sanding the plastic laminate side? They measure about .032" in thickness, which translates to about .016" at Fret 12. Based on my new "raw acceptance" of Luthiery Realities, I'll bet that'd work pretty well. Those sample chips are a combination of hard materials...a lot harder than Popsicle sticks and tongue depressors...

These conversations are very interesting for us Neophytes. Thank you.

Last edited by BothHands; 11-02-2014 at 01:31 PM.
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  #25  
Old 11-02-2014, 11:59 AM
BothHands BothHands is offline
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Originally Posted by Frank Ford View Post
I cut through the face veneer all the way to the bottom of the nut, using a .010" kerf X-Acto saw:
Then the conventional whack with a hardwood block against the front edge of the nut pops it out safely.
Do the cut neatly and nobody will notice the kerf when the nut is put back in place.
So it appears the saw kerf creates enough space (.010") for the nut to rock backward in response to the loosening blow.
Yep, I'm buying one of those saws from Amazon. Thanks, Frank.
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  #26  
Old 11-02-2014, 12:06 PM
BothHands BothHands is offline
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Originally Posted by arie View Post
it certainly wouldn't be my choice, but if you absolutely need to use steel shim stock instead of using binding/purfling stock, shim stock (up to .015 or so) is best cut with surgical scissors. you'll need to use a stone to remove the burrs on a good flat surface like a piece of glass or your granite counter top and a rubber mallet to work out any wrinkles. anything thicker try aviation tin snips. shears are used on sheet metal.
Thanks, arie. Yes, I have a big honkin' pair of shop scissors I think might work on some of the thinnest sheets of shim stock - and I don't think they'd curl the edge much at all.

The OUTSTANDING advice I'm receiving in this thread is steering me away from the steel shim material and toward 'unconventional wood-like options', but if I go with the steel, I think I can probably flatten any shim with a curled-up edge by placing it on a steel 1-2-3 machinist block and then rub/press/drag the edge of another 1-2-3 block along the length of that shim to flatten any curling of its cut edge. Maybe...
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  #27  
Old 11-03-2014, 12:27 AM
gpj1136 gpj1136 is offline
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If you can not find a piece of hardwood that you can carve a shim from than Franks idea of a popsicle would be the next place to go from there.

I'm not sure I understand where unconventional wood like options came in.

There are any number of places on ebay where you can by a bone saddle or a pack of ten bone saddles for very cheap. Like the cost of gas for a trip to hardware store cheap. Even from china it takes only a couple of days to recieve so I would recommend purchasing some saddles leaving the one you have untouched and sand to you hearts content until you achieve one that pleases you. Same for the nut.

Sawing the near nut is far more invasive then sanding a little off of a saddle. Here you could actually do some permanent damage so if you are having this much reservation sanding a saddle I suggest leaving the nut until you are more comfortable making adjustments. After you modify the saddle you may be happy with the results not needing to work on the nut at all.

I believe shaping a saddle is far easier than you may think, and lowering it is even more so.

Last edited by gpj1136; 11-03-2014 at 12:35 AM.
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  #28  
Old 11-03-2014, 12:44 AM
gpj1136 gpj1136 is offline
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http://www.ebay.com/itm/2PCS-Pro-Qua...item4d25425cfc

http://www.ebay.com/itm/10-PCS-GUITA...item2597a0ba49

Even some pretty ones

http://www.ebay.com/itm/5pcs-Africa-...item2a236f6d4f
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  #29  
Old 11-03-2014, 08:14 AM
redir redir is offline
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I have rolls of various wood vaneers sold as edge band or edge tapes like this: http://www.wisewoodveneer.com/store/...gebanding.html

I use mahogany on mahogany neck guitars and it helps to hide it better. It's real easy to just glue to the nut with CA, trim and then sand it to the desired height. I'm not sure why you would want to use steel because imho it would look funny and be much more difficult to work with.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with shimming a nut. In fact it's wasteful to buy a new one when you simply have one string out that needs a boost. It won't affect the tone at all unless perhaps like mentioned you stack it up to some ridiculous height.
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  #30  
Old 11-03-2014, 09:06 AM
BothHands BothHands is offline
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Originally Posted by gpj1136 View Post
If you can not find a piece of hardwood that you can carve a shim from then Franks idea of a Popsicle stick would be the next place to go from there.

There are any number of places on ebay where you can by a bone saddle or a pack of ten bone saddles for very cheap. Like the cost of gas for a trip to hardware store cheap.

http://www.ebay.com/itm/2PCS-Pro-Qua...item4d25425cfc
http://www.ebay.com/itm/10-PCS-GUITA...item2597a0ba49
Even some pretty ones
http://www.ebay.com/itm/5pcs-Africa-...item2a236f6d4f
WW. I had no idea... Thanks.

I paid about $9 for one TUSQ saddle blank and had to wait a week for it. I like how the TUSQ reduced the 'brittle' timbre of this particular guitar (original saddle was bone). Now it sounds richer or smoother, or fuller, or less harsh... So I'm not sure bone is what I need, but at $12 for 10 blanks, experimentation is certainly not a problem, and Frank Ford's excellent advice will not have been in vain.

Quote:
Originally Posted by gpj1136 View Post
Sawing the near nut is far more invasive then sanding a little off of a saddle. Here you could actually do some permanent damage so if you are having this much reservation sanding a saddle I suggest leaving the nut until you are more comfortable making adjustments.
Good point, but that saw that Frank and John Arnold and Charles Tauber suggest looks very controllable and makes a fine cut, and Frank's explanations/demonstrations always shake the fear off whatever procedures he covers, so I'm confident in making that narrow kerf behind the nut. The nut's coming off sooner or later anyway, because I want to make (or have made) a new nut with even spacing between the strings, and maybe push the Lo-E string slightly toward the fretboard edge.

And for the record, I don't have reservations about sanding a saddle bottom. I've already sanded my brains out. I have reservations about having to buy another $9 blank, accurately transfer the "mystery radius" onto two saddle blanks (yeah, it's a split saddle and I can't seem to accurately determine the fretboard radius...), then shape those two TINY LITTLE SLIVER saddles that are too small to hold while sanding...and THEN maybe make them too short again. THAT's why I'm cautious and why I want to know the best way to shim up.

Quote:
Originally Posted by gpj1136 View Post
After you modify the saddle you may be happy with the results not needing to work on the nut at all.
The string heights for this nut are slightly higher than the string heights for its 'twin dreadnaught' (I have two), and the twin plays less stiffly, so sanding the nut bottom on this one seems like a reasonable 'next step'...no?
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