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Do you set up your own guitars?

Kamil Kisiel

Power User
To avoid getting lost I tune my 8 and 7th strings to E and A, it's the same as a regular 6 string guitar except I can play riffs an octave down. I love flat radiuses too... 20" on this one. Also recently got another guitar with an infinite radius.. feels awesome to play. I guess because I played classical guitar for a while I came to prefer it that way.
 

pima1234

Fractal Fanatic
When it's something I can't handle, and I can find a great tech who is reasonably priced, I have no problem letting them work on one of my guitars.

Basic set up, no problem. Have Dan Erlewine's books, and way too much information on the internet. Now I just need more time...
 

Joe Bfstplk

Axe-Master
That can work in a pinch, and a .0009” string is very close as well. Looks a little like Leon Todd’s guitar
Same shape, at least. This one is made in Indonesia, but it plays really well, and has pickups the shop guy called "85-15". They sound great. They have good clarity, punchy mids, and firm but not muddy bottom. He claimed it had some super-special coil tapping thing going on in the tone pot's pull switch. I looked closer at home, with the back cover off to reveal the wiring. It's a standard split arrangement. Sounds pretty good split, but hums in all 3 switch positions on the lever switch. If I can find a 4PDT on a push/pull pot, I will likely rearrange it to be a series-parallel switch for both pickups, rather than split, so it's still humbucking. It should sound pretty close to the split's tone. I might do a 5-way super switch and add some extra goodies there in the 2 and 4 positions. Who knows. I backed the neck pickup off about 4 turns (maybe 3/16") and the bridge pickup about 2 turns (3/32") from where it was when I got it home, and it really balances nice now. Neck and bridge are about perfectly even, and when combined, it gets a wonderfully plucky and punchy tone. It has a 180pF ceramic treble bleed cap. Seems to work nicely. I might have to start using that value. The only minor niggle, which time will tell if a little "Nut Sauce" fixed it, is that a couple strings didn't slide quite smoothly through the nut, and the slots are pretty deep. Might need further attention there, or maybe it's an excuse to go Earvana....
 

Renderman

Inspired
I can, but often find that my OCD gets a bit out of control and I am never content. Sorta like dialing in presets for the AxeFx haha. Gary Brawer is also 20 minutes driving distance from me. So I have him set up my guitars every once in a while.
Gary Brawer plecked and set up my Jackson Soloist. I've bought quite a few guitars since, but none play anything like as well as that one does.

And to contribute to the thread, I didn't do any set up at first - I'm really not a very handy person - but eventually started playing with bridge height. Then adjusting the truss rod. And just recently I've graduated to saddle adjustment to scew up my intonation.
 

Mark-B

Experienced
Can it be done without diamond files? Small repairs yes, but not a 37 year old guitar that’s on it’s 3rd and final fret resurfacing. It takes 16 hours with the right tools.

Try to remove grooves, and reprofile frets that have large flat areas with sandpaper?
even if you can the accuracy will be way off.
Cant imagine going from 320 right to steel wool either.

The goal to me, is to make the guitar as good as new, and set it up as well as any custom shop.

I check the whole neck w a fret rocker, and digital depth caliper first.
I use a diamond Stew Mac Zfile and or center file to re-crown the frets first, otherwise the intonation will be horrible. Ever play a guitar that’s in tune with an open G, but a s soon as you play open D it’s not? That’s what RE-crowning fixes. It’s from all those 2nd fret bends and squeals, but it also happens all over the neck.

After that I calculate how many hundredths, I can remove from all 24 frets to have one even plane, without removing too much fret wire.

Thats when a sharpie and a radius profile block come in. Different radius block for every guitar. I start with self adhesive 220 grit, then 320, then 400, until the frets are one continuous plane.

I reprofile the frets again, lightly, then switch to a special fret end file.

Back to the sharpie, but this time 320, to 400, to 600, to 800, to 1000 grit self adhesive sandpaper.

After that, fret erasers starting with 400 grit, 600, 800, 1200, 2000, 4000, finally 8000 !

One last pass with special fret polish, and the frets look like glass.

I just restored a 37 year old Carvin DC200, and it plays like new. The action is very low without a single buzz anywhere.

minimum of $800 in tools to do it right, lots of time, a massive mess of filings to clean up at every step, all while protecting the guitar. Re-fretting is A lot more expensive tool wise. A good press, with profiled jigs Just for starters. it’s not fun, and it’s very easy to make critical mistakes. I’ve got plenty of practice, and made all my mistakes 25 years ago on cheap guitars.

A couple of things I learned.. First. Don’t choose stainless steel fretwire for your first full re-fret job ever. :0) LOL! .. Ooooh, Man! ... I’m glad that was a mistake I only had to make once! :0) ...Nickel wire, Evo, SO much easier to work with! ..For a first time, using stainless fretwire adds about a hundred degrees to your learning curve and about thirty new cuss-words to your vocabulary :0)

So there’s that.

... also..I found that re-surfacing the fretboard after pulling all the frets on a full re-fret job saves a ton of work on leveling and crowning.

Hundred-percent agree with you on the radiused sanding blocks, ..actually bought another-one yesterday for a neck I will be working on next, cant really do good work without them (not too easily anyway).

Like you say self-adhesive sandpaper.. yes. Folding sandpaper over a block? No.

..Something else too, The Chemical Guys Optical Polish. Unless they reformulated, it doesn’t leave any discoloring residue on dark wood! So you can carefully use small amounts of that with those small sharpie-like felt rotary pads you use on a dremmel (at low rpms) to bring inlay very-quickly to a mirror-like shine. Because that’s stuff uses ceramic cutting particles, it polishes mother of pearl as well as anything else. Found that to be the fastest, most effective and cleanest way to polish inlay on rosewood/ebony necks.

But resurfacing the fretboard not-only brings that board to better-than-factory new, but it really makes the whole re-fretting process so much easier. I can usually ref-fret in about four-and-a-half - five hours if the old frets aren’t glued in and there isn’t much in the way of chip repair. Used to take substantially longer than that without re-surfacing the fretboard.

If anybody is interested in learning how, pick-up the cheapest guitar-kit you can find, and go to town. You can practice fixing everything on that guitar because those kits need boatloads of work to be in any-way really playable. Imagine the best guitar in the world, and take your time turning that POS kit, into what you can imagine. You don’t have to get it done in a week, or a month; take your time, and do it right.

Need a tool? ...purchase that tool when spare cash affords it. I have spent over a year on some of my restorations. No rush. You accumulate your tools over time, so no massive initial outlay, and those bucks you spend will eventually more than pay for themselves when it comes to working on your own stable of real guitars. :0)

Basic setups? Truss-rod adjustments, saddle and bridge adjustments? ...it doesn’t cost much for those tools, and it’s very easy to learn how to do those jobs yourself, very hard to mess those jobs up, and it saves so much money and inconvenience when you know how.. I’m always adjusting truss-rods on my guitars (for example).

The advanced stuff.. unless you are into restoring old guitars or buying cheaper guitars to fix-up, most people won’t need to learn how to re-fret a neck. But learning how to level and crown your own frets, does wonders for a guitar’s playability. But I would suggest learning that kinda thing on a disposable neck, which you can buy off eBay for not a lot of cash.

Learning how to wire your guitar’s electronics makes it very easy to get the sounds you want out of a guitar you wish sounded different. ... If you are going to get into that, Don’t scrimp on your solder, or iron. Get a good soldering iron. They last your entire life and they do a much better job, much easier, with far less mess, than that six buck chisel-tip wal-mart special.
 

PincoTech

Experienced
To avoid getting lost I tune my 8 and 7th strings to E and A, it's the same as a regular 6 string guitar except I can play riffs an octave down. I love flat radiuses too... 20" on this one. Also recently got another guitar with an infinite radius.. feels awesome to play. I guess because I played classical guitar for a while I came to prefer it that way.
Wow, an octave down? You sure did have fun with the trem then. I can’t imagine what gauge your low E is, to keep from flopping? In the 60’s ?
A couple of things I learned.. First. Don’t choose stainless steel fretwire for your first full re-fret job ever. :0) LOL! .. Ooooh, Man! ... I’m glad that was a mistake I only had to make once! :0) ...Nickel wire, Evo, SO much easier to work with! ..For a first time, using stainless fretwire adds about a hundred degrees to your learning curve and about thirty new cuss-words to your vocabulary :0)

So there’s that.

... also..I found that re-surfacing the fretboard after pulling all the frets on a full re-fret job saves a ton of work on leveling and crowning.

Hundred-percent agree with you on the radiused sanding blocks, ..actually bought another-one yesterday for a neck I will be working on next, cant really do good work without them (not too easily anyway).

Like you say self-adhesive sandpaper.. yes. Folding sandpaper over a block? No.

..Something else too, The Chemical Guys Optical Polish. Unless they reformulated, it doesn’t leave any discoloring residue on dark wood! So you can carefully use small amounts of that with those small sharpie-like felt rotary pads you use on a dremmel (at low rpms) to bring inlay very-quickly to a mirror-like shine. Because that’s stuff uses ceramic cutting particles, it polishes mother of pearl as well as anything else. Found that to be the fastest, most effective and cleanest way to polish inlay on rosewood/ebony necks.

But resurfacing the fretboard not-only brings that board to better-than-factory new, but it really makes the whole re-fretting process so much easier. I can usually ref-fret in about four-and-a-half - five hours if the old frets aren’t glued in and there isn’t much in the way of chip repair. Used to take substantially longer than that without re-surfacing the fretboard.

If anybody is interested in learning how, pick-up the cheapest guitar-kit you can find, and go to town. You can practice fixing everything on that guitar because those kits need boatloads of work to be in any-way really playable. Imagine the best guitar in the world, and take your time turning that POS kit, into what you can imagine. You don’t have to get it done in a week, or a month; take your time, and do it right.

Need a tool? ...purchase that tool when spare cash affords it. I have spent over a year on some of my restorations. No rush. You accumulate your tools over time, so no massive initial outlay, and those bucks you spend will eventually more than pay for themselves when it comes to working on your own stable of real guitars. :0)

Basic setups? Truss-rod adjustments, saddle and bridge adjustments? ...it doesn’t cost much for those tools, and it’s very easy to learn how to do those jobs yourself, very hard to mess those jobs up, and it saves so much money and inconvenience when you know how.. I’m always adjusting truss-rods on my guitars (for example).

The advanced stuff.. unless you are into restoring old guitars or buying cheaper guitars to fix-up, most people won’t need to learn how to re-fret a neck. But learning how to level and crown your own frets, does wonders for a guitar’s playability. But I would suggest learning that kinda thing on a disposable neck, which you can buy off eBay for not a lot of cash.

Learning how to wire your guitar’s electronics makes it very easy to get the sounds you want out of a guitar you wish sounded different. ... If you are going to get into that, Don’t scrimp on your solder, or iron. Get a good soldering iron. They last your entire life and they do a much better job, much easier, with far less mess, than that six buck chisel-tip wal-mart special.
very well said! You summed it up better than I could. I firmly believe in a good soldering iron, and even a solder sucker, for soldering where there’s no room for the slightest pool of excess.
 
ONE
OF
THE
BEST
QUESTIONS-

The answer is , if I need a guitar , like an OFR , setup right , I go to my guy ($40 bucks)

A hard tail, I usually do myself , as they are much easier to adjust and also have less issues when setting up , or does anyone disagree ?

what do you guys pay for a setup if you give the string set
 

symphx

Fractal Fanatic
Yes, forever, too much time, cost and variability with stores. Plus every weather, temp. change can change a setup instantly. I spent hours with a local guy who told me how great he was, how he sets up Neil Schon's guitars etc etc. and I truly believe he does nice work. Then I get mine and the action is insanely high.
 

Kamil Kisiel

Power User
Wow, an octave down? You sure did have fun with the trem then. I can’t imagine what gauge your low E is, to keep from flopping? In the 60’s ?
On this guitar it shipped with a 65, which I'm finding is enough. My other 8-string, an Ibanez RG2228, I put an 80 there because the scale is a bit shorter... but once you go up to 80 it starts sounding more like a bass and not quite as much midrange. I think I prefer the 65.
 

TG3K

Power User
I used to teach at a store in the late '70s/early '80s, and I spent a lot of time hanging out with the repair guy in between lessons. Learned a lot just watching and listening. He didn't do re-frets, but did a lot of fret dressing and quite a bit of everything else. Then the repair guy got pissed at the boss and quit, and suddenly I became the repair guy. My first fret dressing was on a mid-'60s Les Paul Custom, and I was sweating bullets the whole time. It ended up coming out great, though, and the owner was very happy with the work. I worked at that shop for a couple of years (until the repair guy came back and I started touring), but have done my own setups and maintenance ever since. I'm old school and don't think you need $800 worth of tools and measuring devices to make a guitar play great. (Granted, my definition of "great" might not match that of other people.)

A couple of years ago I wanted to replace the pickups and switch in my PRS SE 24 Custom and was too lazy to do it myself, so I took it to a local guy who I'd heard good things about. The guitar works, but I could have done cleaner work than his if I was drunk and wearing dark sunglasses. I'll stick with doing my own work in the future.
 
On this guitar it shipped with a 65, which I'm finding is enough. My other 8-string, an Ibanez RG2228, I put an 80 there because the scale is a bit shorter... but once you go up to 80 it starts sounding more like a bass and not quite as much midrange. I think I prefer the 65.
Hey do you mind me asking what you use for the rest of the 7 strings? I try to use “balanced sets “ but like you said , using my usual 9 set leaves the 8th string very thin....over 76 is too bassy as you said and under 70 almost flimsy
Now the 2228 is a mean axe, built for tension with KTS reinforced rods , but does the balance affect the neck over time if it isnt?
Like if you did 9-54 and then 74 on the 8th string ?? Would it warp over time
 

Mark-B

Experienced
.... I firmly believe in a good soldering iron, and even a solder sucker, for soldering where there’s no room for the slightest pool of excess.

Yup! .. A solder sucker, desoldering wicks. Definitely on a list of must-haves.

Even if you are the cleanest worker that ever-there-was, you can reclaim components - saving a small fortune by cleaning old solder of previously used, fully viable pots and switches. Equipment to remove solder is dirt-cheap and more than pays for itself...and when you goof a little, ...and need a wick or sucker... you will Definitely be happy you have them :0)
 

OrganicZed

Experienced
I just did my first setup about three months ago. It did not turn out how I wanted the first time, but my second attempt was much better (a few days later on the same guitar). It wasn't that difficult to do. My main mistake the first time around was putting too much relief in the neck.
 

J-C

Inspired
I have this one Schecter Banshee FR-6 that I am going to upgrade and tinker with - not too worried about messing this one up. I may experiment with pickups on it too - maybe from Bare Knuckle's offerings. Put wiring and soldering to the test. It currently has the Nazgul/Sentient pickups. I have not played this guitar much, yet. Getting a basic tool kit together mostly from tools out in my shop.
 

paranoid

Fractal Fanatic
Take it slow and easy, make notes(take photos) of how things are wired before you start so you can back up if it does not work as expected. You will enjoy the fruits of your labor when finished.
 

dr bonkers

Fractal Fanatic
Vendor
What wire do you recommend for rewiring a control cavity of a guitar?

I'm thinking of replacing the ineffective tone control in one of my guitars with a kill switch.
 
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Dpoirier

Power User
...
I found a "special edition" of Musician magazine called "The Whole Guitar Book" (found it by chance on a magazine newsstand, and I still have that magazine in my office). It had a very detailed article on how to set up a guitar. I read it about twenty times, then after steeling myself to experiment on my guitar, I systematically applied the magazine's information...
I wonder if it would be possible to find that article somewhere, perhaps online? Or (since it's probably out of print and therefore ethically acceptable), would you consider scanning it and sharing?

I do basic setups on my main guitar, but I could always learn more
 

Bluestreak

Member
The only date I could find on the magazine said it was printed in 1990. I don't think the author's going to mind if I post this.
 

Attachments

  • setup.pdf
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sluice

Inspired
I do everything on my guitars, except fretwork.
I like to bring my new guitar for a plek and full initial setup (included in the plek), if fretwork is needed.

Before my last pickup swap, I didn't really touch electronics either, but after doing it once, I regret not doing it sooner.
The tool needed for a pickup swap was a bit cheaper than the cost of a pickup swap by a tech...
 
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