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Old 07-07-2014, 08:46 PM
NEGuy NEGuy is offline
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Default Action Height at First Fret

Does anyone have an action height for the first fret that they know by experience works well?

StewMac seems to recommend a clearance of 0.23” for the low E string:

http://www.stewmac.com/How-To/Online...ge_I-0670.html

My action was excessively high, and I brought it down to ~ 0.032” during the last string change (by removing the nut, of course).

I plan to lower it a bit more during the next string change, but I am wary of getting it too low!

I fingerpick with only the fleshy portion of my fingertips, so I often “dig in” a bit to get the volume and the effect that I want; thus, I’m wondering if my action needs to be somewhat higher than any recommended setting.

(Fretting at the 3rd fret and having the string “just clear” the first fret is not precise enough for me. I would like an actual value if someone has one that he or she knows by experience works well for my playing style.)

Thanks in advance for any responses.

(Also posted on the UMGF.)
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Old 07-07-2014, 08:53 PM
donh donh is offline
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Anchor the string on the first fret, then measure the clearance betweent he string and the second fret. Write it down.

That is the clearance for the unfretted first fret.

Some people feel that one should have a bit more clearance to allow for nut wear as one tunes. If you wish to subscribe to this opinion, so be it, but don't add much (a thousandth or two). The frets wear as well . . . .
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Old 07-07-2014, 09:17 PM
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No measuring or tools needed for checking action at the nut:

http://www.frets.com/FretsPages/Musi...nutaction.html
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Old 07-07-2014, 09:44 PM
NEGuy NEGuy is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by donh View Post
Anchor the string on the first fret, then measure the clearance betweent he string and the second fret. Write it down.

That is the clearance for the unfretted first fret.
Why didn't I think of that -- makes perfect sense.

I just checked, and, sure enough, the clearance seems to be right at 0.23".

Many thanks!
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Old 07-07-2014, 09:46 PM
NEGuy NEGuy is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Frank Ford View Post
No measuring or tools needed for checking action at the nut:

http://www.frets.com/FretsPages/Musi...nutaction.html
Frank,

I had actually read that post of yours, and I'm sure it works well for an accomplished luthier like you -- but I seem to need an actual measurement!

Thanks for the reply.
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Old 07-07-2014, 10:14 PM
dhalbert dhalbert is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NEGuy View Post
(Fretting at the 3rd fret and having the string “just clear” the first fret is not precise enough for me. I would like an actual value if someone has one that he or she knows by experience works well for my playing style.)
When I got down to what I would call "very comfortable" action at the at the first fret, the measurement I got at the first fret when holding down at the 3rd fret was about .004"-.005" .

I used a feeler gauge, but .004" is about the thickness of a piece of 20lb bond paper. 24lb is about .005". So you can see if you can slide paper under the string and if it catches or not.
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Old 07-07-2014, 11:05 PM
NEGuy NEGuy is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dhalbert View Post
When I got down to what I would call "very comfortable" action at the at the first fret, the measurement I got at the first fret when holding down at the 3rd fret was about .004"-.005" .

I used a feeler gauge, but .004" is about the thickness of a piece of 20lb bond paper. 24lb is about .005". So you can see if you can slide paper under the string and if it catches or not.
Thanks for this measurement as it provides another quantifiable check.

I checked the clearance at the 1st fret while fretting at the 3rd (also with a feeler guage), and it seems to be .010".

So another confirmation that my action is too high at the nut.

Thanks again.
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Old 07-08-2014, 12:31 AM
charles Tauber charles Tauber is offline
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In my opinion and experience, measuring the clearance above the first fret is the hard way to do this. I'll tell you why.

The physical thing that is responsible for the height of the strings at the nut is the depth of the nut slot as measured from the top of the fingerboard to the bottom of each slot in the nut. (This assumes no zero fret.) The distance that the string is above the first fret is a derived consequence and cannot be adjusted directly. That is, an adjustment of the depth of the nut slot produces some result a distance away at the first fret. It is an indirect consequence of the depth of the nut slots.

In my opinion, the easier way to set the string height at the nut is to measure the height of the first fret and then cut the nut slots until they are that distance above the reference surface - the fingerboard. Theoretically, that will put the depth of the slots at exactly the height of the first fret. Practically, I find that adding .006 to .008, usually graduated from bass to treble strings, avoids buzzing at the first fret. I have no idea - nor is it relevant - what the actual measurement is between the top of the first fret and the bottom of the string.

Using the same feeler gage(s) used to measure the height of the first fret, laid on the same reference surface - top of fingerboard - simply file until you just touch the top of the feeler gage that is placed adjacent to the nut. You're done. Very simple.
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Old 07-08-2014, 06:44 AM
Brhibler1 Brhibler1 is offline
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I do it this same way, but add .01 to my height.

Quote:
Originally Posted by charles Tauber View Post
In my opinion and experience, measuring the clearance above the first fret is the hard way to do this. I'll tell you why.

The physical thing that is responsible for the height of the strings at the nut is the depth of the nut slot as measured from the top of the fingerboard to the bottom of each slot in the nut. (This assumes no zero fret.) The distance that the string is above the first fret is a derived consequence and cannot be adjusted directly. That is, an adjustment of the depth of the nut slot produces some result a distance away at the first fret. It is an indirect consequence of the depth of the nut slots.

In my opinion, the easier way to set the string height at the nut is to measure the height of the first fret and then cut the nut slots until they are that distance above the reference surface - the fingerboard. Theoretically, that will put the depth of the slots at exactly the height of the first fret. Practically, I find that adding .006 to .008, usually graduated from bass to treble strings, avoids buzzing at the first fret. I have no idea - nor is it relevant - what the actual measurement is between the top of the first fret and the bottom of the string.

Using the same feeler gage(s) used to measure the height of the first fret, laid on the same reference surface - top of fingerboard - simply file until you just touch the top of the feeler gage that is placed adjacent to the nut. You're done. Very simple.
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Old 07-08-2014, 08:52 AM
Tom West Tom West is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Frank Ford View Post
No measuring or tools needed for checking action at the nut:

http://www.frets.com/FretsPages/Musi...nutaction.html
The only way I have ever done it. I do use feelers but only at the 12th fret for action height. In my opinion the way Frank shows is the easiest and also the most accurate. But each to his own.
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  #11  
Old 07-08-2014, 10:09 AM
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It is very EASY to see a gap of .001 between two closely spaced things, if there's strong light coming from behind. So, without any real effort at all, you can bend over and peer at the gap between the string and the first fret when the string is depressed between the second and third.

I think that's the key to the whole business of setting nut action. Now, if you look really closely as you work, and lift the string out of the nut slot, file a little, replace the string and look again, you can judge your progress as you go.

The difference between that little gap at the lowest possible action at the nut and the highest usable action is easy to judge visually - usually it's the difference between a gap of .001" and about .004, or a 4-to-one differential. Hard to miss if you're looking closely!

We do generally set the action at the nut so the gap is on the order of .002 for "normal use" but it's not uncommon to set it higher for a number of reasons - playing style is one. Bottleneck blues guys typically need it kinda high. . .
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Old 07-08-2014, 10:52 AM
LouieAtienza LouieAtienza is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by charles Tauber View Post
In my opinion and experience, measuring the clearance above the first fret is the hard way to do this. I'll tell you why.

The physical thing that is responsible for the height of the strings at the nut is the depth of the nut slot as measured from the top of the fingerboard to the bottom of each slot in the nut. (This assumes no zero fret.) The distance that the string is above the first fret is a derived consequence and cannot be adjusted directly. That is, an adjustment of the depth of the nut slot produces some result a distance away at the first fret. It is an indirect consequence of the depth of the nut slots.

In my opinion, the easier way to set the string height at the nut is to measure the height of the first fret and then cut the nut slots until they are that distance above the reference surface - the fingerboard. Theoretically, that will put the depth of the slots at exactly the height of the first fret. Practically, I find that adding .006 to .008, usually graduated from bass to treble strings, avoids buzzing at the first fret. I have no idea - nor is it relevant - what the actual measurement is between the top of the first fret and the bottom of the string.

Using the same feeler gage(s) used to measure the height of the first fret, laid on the same reference surface - top of fingerboard - simply file until you just touch the top of the feeler gage that is placed adjacent to the nut. You're done. Very simple.
Provided that you've checked the fretboard for "straightness". When I first started I worked off the fretboard surface, but found I sometimes got a false reading. So now I capo the 3rd fret, then set the action at the 12th fret, then set the nut height. I do also set the nut height by feel.

Also some guitars just play tighter or looser than others, and I try to adjust accordingly....
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Old 07-08-2014, 12:21 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NEGuy View Post
Why didn't I think of that -- makes perfect sense.

I just checked, and, sure enough, the clearance seems to be right at 0.23".

Many thanks!
If you need an actual measurement, you should get one in the right ballpark.
0.23" is nearly 1/4", not even close for any action measurements.
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Old 07-08-2014, 02:10 PM
arie arie is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NEGuy View Post
Does anyone have an action height for the first fret that they know by experience works well?

StewMac seems to recommend a clearance of 0.23” for the low E string:

http://www.stewmac.com/How-To/Online...ge_I-0670.html

My action was excessively high, and I brought it down to ~ 0.032” during the last string change (by removing the nut, of course).

I plan to lower it a bit more during the next string change, but I am wary of getting it too low!

I fingerpick with only the fleshy portion of my fingertips, so I often “dig in” a bit to get the volume and the effect that I want; thus, I’m wondering if my action needs to be somewhat higher than any recommended setting.

(Fretting at the 3rd fret and having the string “just clear” the first fret is not precise enough for me. I would like an actual value if someone has one that he or she knows by experience works well for my playing style.)

Thanks in advance for any responses.

(Also posted on the UMGF.)
there is no standard -only what the player wants and what the guitar can handle.

but if you are looking for ballpark though, i usually go with .020, .020, & .025, .025 & .030, .030

measurement is easy. a drop indicator mounted into a slotted block. each slot clears a string and the indicator measures the top of the string to the top of the first fret. subtract true string diameter and there you are. stew mac sells one but they are real easy to make yourself if you have a mill and a indicator.

Last edited by arie; 07-08-2014 at 02:19 PM.
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  #15  
Old 07-08-2014, 09:56 PM
NEGuy NEGuy is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rodger Knox View Post
If you need an actual measurement, you should get one in the right ballpark.
0.23" is nearly 1/4", not even close for any action measurements.
Sorry, I meant to type 0.023”.

(The link shows the correct value, and this is the obvious value range that I am seeing on on the StecMac String Action Gauge.)
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