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Final setup question

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Total Posts: 273
So I just strung up my rosewood dread kit and I've got an extremely rough setup on there. I've got my saddle height roughly 3/16 of an inch if not a hair less. Nut is not notched too deeply for some leeway. And my action is way to high.

I believe my truss rod is loose because I have never done anything to it, and to be honest I don't know how to distinguish when it is and isn't called for adjustment.

Other than that I honestly don't really know the proper way to going about setup, this is the first guitar I've ever had to set up.

What is the correct spacing between the slot in the nut and the fretboard? Also where can I find reliable information on general set up? Maybe it's just met but I felt the stewmac kit was sort of lacking some information, but I can always refer back to that.


Jul 12, 09 | 12:46 am

Total Topics: 29
Total Posts: 242
Here's a great resource

Jul 12, 09 | 4:54 am
Ken Cierp

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Total Posts: 2262
I have had countless numbers of customers use these procedures to set up there newly completed kits --- also some very favorable comments regarding these methods and can be found posted on this forum


Kenneth Michael Guitars est. 1978

Jul 12, 09 | 6:52 am

Total Topics: 50
Total Posts: 272
Thanks alot guys,

I'll be sure to give those a shot when I get a chance to work on my guitar again. If I can get the playability level all set, then I'll have the best guitar I've ever owned, haha, got to love kits.


Jul 12, 09 | 7:13 am
Bill Cory

Total Topics: 158
Total Posts: 3584
Dan -- In addition to Ken's, you can find some excellent information on these two websites as well:


Jul 12, 09 | 7:37 am

Total Topics: 57
Total Posts: 350
Dan, have you watched the section of the Stewmac video where Dan Erliwine goes through the setup basics ?

Jul 12, 09 | 11:24 pm

Total Topics: 27
Total Posts: 212
I'll second Andy's recommendation. The Erlewine video's are good. I rented his DVD's from Netflix too.

Kent Everett's DVD's also break down a nice practical approach to doing setups.

Jul 13, 09 | 12:29 pm

Total Topics: 50
Total Posts: 272
I did watch the stewmac setup section, I felt there was something missing, but maybe something just didn't click for me. But he also didn't mention anything about the truss rod from what I can remember.

I'll have to watch it again and see if I catch anything different.


Jul 13, 09 | 1:06 pm

Total Topics: 27
Total Posts: 668
When Kimsey did the neck resets on my two Martins they came back with the sweetest action I have ever experienced in a guitar (considering they are 30-35 years old and do not have adjustable truss rods that is saying quite a lot). I follow his measurements whenever I do my own work (Bill gave you the link but here is the page you want)

I also happen to believe this is one of the best articles ever written on the interaction between neck relief (what your truss rod does for you) and action.

I work at it in stages - shape the saddle and nut well enough to get the strings to stay put, adjust the truss rod to give 10 thou or so relief, bring the nut slots down to 0.014 to 0.020, bring bring the action down a bit above 5/64 to 6/64, then keep finessing it until you are happy with the playability. Intonation goes along with final action setting, again, as you go down it will get better. I try to end up with 0.004 to 0.006 relief but I am very sensitive to buzzing. And, FWIW, everything I build from short scale parlor to long scale C tuned 12 string ends up with approximately the same setup - all based on Bryan's recommendations.

Jul 13, 09 | 2:45 pm

Total Topics: 50
Total Posts: 272
I just checked out some of the websites regarding setup. It is 100% my truss rod/nut. I've adjusted my truss rod and now if I capo my second fret the playability level is amazing with great intonation. I haven't done anything with the nut, but I just remember that I had put a shim in there because of how the nut sat in the slot therefore it's taller than it should be.

I'll fine tune the nut when I get a chance and it should be like a factory martin ;).

When I play with capo'd second fret the sound better and cleaner than I could have possibly expected out of my first guitar. Thanks to everyone that posted links to help out.


Jul 14, 09 | 2:55 pm

Total Topics: 10
Total Posts: 46
When I cut my nut slots, I just checked to make sure the strings barely had a gap over the 1st fret when pressing down between the 2nd and 3rd. It played decent. Yesterday afternoon I set it up to Kimsey's recommended specs, and the playability is vastly improved. All the guitars I've owned to date haven't had such a low action at the nut. I tell ya Dan, it won't be like a factory Martin, it'll be better. =)

Jul 15, 09 | 5:01 am
Bill Cory

Total Topics: 158
Total Posts: 3584
A general caution for setups not aimed at anyone in particular:

When you are lowering the nut slots to provide good intonation at the 1,2, and 3rd frets, and measuring the clearance of strings at the 7th and 12th frets, and lowering the saddle, etc., ... BEFORE doing these operations, be sure that you have completely leveled and polished your frets. When the action is low and easy, a fret buzz in the middle of the fretboard can be a real pain in the neck to identify and to correct without creating additional buzzes down the board from the correction.


Jul 15, 09 | 5:12 am

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