SETUP TIPS

Our goal as builders is to provide you with an instrument that plays well, stays in tune, and sounds great.
If an instrument fails to meet our exacting standards in terms of playability and tone, we refuse to sell it.

That being said, guitars do react not only to the rigors of initial shipping, but also to different playing styles and string gauge changes.
Your guitar may need some adjustment after purchase to suit your preference.

SUBJECTS & ISSUES

INTONATION

Standard setup includes intonation here. However, your particular hand pressure and where you position you fingers will have great impact on intonation. If you play “off center”, meaning your fingers naturally fall somewhere other than centered evenly between the frets, you will find a guitar plays slightly sharp or flat. If your touch is especially light or heavy it will have an impact. The heavier your touch, the sharper your fretted strings will sound. The guitars are shipped with 10-46 gauge strings (basses 45-105). If you change your string gauge, the need for setup and intonation may be required.

STRINGS

We use  45-105 Standard Bass sets and 10-46 sets for our guitars. Available at most shops.

Change strings often. Intonation, clarity, sustain and playability are all affected by old, worn or corroded strings.

ACTION

We adjust the action so that you can bend a minor third up on the high E string without fretting out. The low side action is adjusted to match the string height from the high E with a constant radius. If you play aggressively or through a really clean amp, this may need to be raised.

NUTS & INSTALLATION

99% of intonation issues on the first few frets are caused by a top nut that is too high and/or improperly cut. When the nut is too high, the added tension and pressure needed to press the string down causes the first few frets to play sharp. It is especially prevalent on the G string when playing the G# and A, as it is the thickest of the unwound strings and is more reactive to tension. This tendency towards sharpness decreases as you move up the neck. Our approach is to cut the nut to behave as much like a zero fret as possible. You may find that our guitars have a slight amount of fret rattle in the open strings. This is intentional.

We also shape the nut to have fall-off so it is deeper towards the tuner side. This gives the string the most natural travel with the least resistance and really helps with tuning issues caused by “slack storage”. There will be slightly more fret rattle in the open strings, but no more than what you would have on any fretted string. The problem is that virtually all other guitars are made with nuts that are very high so our ears and hands have been trained to hear / feel no fret rattle in the open strings. The fret rattle that I speak of is what you hear acoustically and is virtually non-existent through an amp. If you have recently purchased one of our guitars and think the nut is too low or you have more rattle than seems acceptable, chances are it is not the nut but the truss rod needing adjustment for an over-straight neck. That, or you are not used to our way of setting up a guitar.

TUNING

Tuning issues are by far the most misunderstood area of guitar setup and maintenance. Most tuning issues are caused by an improperly cut top nut. This is especially the case with guitars fitted with tremolos/vibratos. If the string does not move effortlessly through the nut slots, “slack storage” is the result. This is where string tension is not exactly equal from the tuning peg all the way to the bridge. There will be one tension between the tuner and the nut and another tension from the nut to the bridge. Manipulate the tremolo and these tension differences are then evened out, resulting in an out of tune string. We cut our nut slots larger, with a shape that encourages even tension throughout – and we always use lubricant in the slot itself. An easy test to see if the nut is correctly slotted and lubricated is to tune up your guitar, then press the strings behind the nut on the tuner side. If you press and release the string it should come back in tune. If it does not, it needs adjustment. Be sure that your strings are thoroughly stretched out and settled or you may get a false read. For tremolo users, if you dive bomb down and some of the strings come back sharp, this is a sure sign of a nut in need of attention.

Tuning issues are rarely caused by the tuning gears themselves. Heavy duty and/or locking tuners will do nothing towards resolving your tuning issues if your nut is not setup right. It is our opinion (and shared by many others) that lighter tuners sound way better on Fender style guitars. The added mass in the heavy duty and/or locking tuners really changes the resonance and sparkle.

NECK AJUSTMENT

Neck/Truss rod adjustment. A neck should have a slight “relief”. This means that it should have the slightest bit of concave bow. Once again, playing styles do have some impact in the area. A player who is really aggressive may want a bit more relief as increased string vibration can cause more fret rattle or buzz. There are many theories about just how much relief is correct. One way of telling if the neck is set up correctly is to hold the guitar in the normal playing position with standard tuning (gravity will straighten the neck if you lay it on a flat surface). In your playing position, press on the low (thick) E string at the first fret with your fretting hand. With your picking hand, press the last fret on the same string. See if there is just a small amount of clearance in the middle of the neck under the string. Do the same test on the high (thin) E string. If there is no relief, your neck is overly straight and the truss rod needs to be loosened. If there is too much relief then it needs to be tightened. If the sides are radically different, you may need to have a pro look at it to diagnose a possible twist. This last scenario is relatively rare.

NECK SHIFT

This is a common issue with bolt-on necks. Occasionally the neck shifts to the side and the strings move closer to one edge of the fretboard as a result. This does not mean the bridge has been installed off-center. The neck has simply shifted in the neck pocket. Loosen the 4 neck bolts about half a turn and push or pull the neck back into position. Once done, tighten the neck bolts as tight as you can without overdoing it.

POTS & SWITCHES

If you encounter scratchy pots or switches, get some contact/electronic cleaner spray, open the patient up and spray into the little holes near the solder posts on the pots, and the contacts on the switch. Move everything back and forth a couple of times and, if need be, do it again.

FRET EDGES

Sometimes we must allow for a bit of inconvenience to gain a very important feature. Most “component” necks are dipped in a sealing and stabilizing solution. This is done to stop the neck from losing or taking on moisture. The benefit of this practice is that the necks will rarely warp and thus very few necks will need to be taken back and replaced under warranty. This all sounds positive, however, these sealed necks do not sound nearly as resonant as a neck that is left unsealed. Our necks have not been treated with sealant/stabilizer in order to get the optimum neck resonance. This means we will end up with a warped neck once in a while and we are happy to replace it, if it means getting a better sound. Call it a calculated risk. Now, to take this all a step further, we use nitrocellulose finish, most of which is removed during the cosmetic aging process. This does allow the neck to change its moisture content slightly over time. This little bit of change is completely normal. What could happen on some necks, is that the wood shrinks (on a near-microscopic level), while the metal frets are not subject to any change. This means a very small edge of the fret may tart to stick out. The is a simple fix. Just sand the edges of the frets with 600 sandpaper and touch up with 000 steel wool. In a pinch, an emery board will do. This may need to be done 2 or 3 times over the life of the guitar, but once your neck has lost the maximum moisture, it will not happen again. We are happy to perform the sanding and re-buffing to the edges of the neck as a warranty fix in the first year to the original owner. Please contact us for shipping details. Keep in mind that this is not a defect.