A beautiful, two-year-old Squier blonde Telecaster, and it looked like it had hardly been played. My customer brought it to me for a setup.
He usually does his own setup work, but this one had given him fits, so figuring I could use more gray hair, he brought it to me.
The strings were nearly laying on the frets, yet the saddle screws were standing as tall as California Redwoods!
I think we’re going to need a neck shim, I proclaimed with confidence that would soon be shattered.
Once on the bench, I took my usual measurements. Relief was 0.035″ (should be 0.010″). String heights were 0.025 to 0.040″, though high-e was 0.050″. They should be 0.065″ to 0.055″, low-E to high-e. Nut slots E through b were in the 0.030″ range (at least 0.010″ too high) but high-e was barely off the first fret at just a few thousandths of an inch.
I adjusted the neck relief and the tension was pretty great until I got it tightened and relief set to 0.010″. So that made me wonder if Squier is using bi-flex rods now. Different answers are all over the Net, as usual, so I’ll just keep on wondering.
Next, I tackled the action issue, since relief didn’t bring it down enough. I removed the neck, cleaned the pocket and applied a 0.010″ aluminum shim (aka: a/c tape). Reassembled and measured action again. No change!
I figured I might need two shims, but two times zero is still zero, so my ladder was leaning against the wrong wall!
OK, Sherlock! Can you guess what the problem was? Not really fair since I had the “puzzle” in front of me and you don’t, but I’m good with that!
I figure that, back at the factory, someone broke a drill bit, fished around in the drill bit drawer and found one that was “close enough” – 1/8″ instead of 5/32″.
But the screws bit into the 1/8″ body holes just as well as they bit into the neck holes, and so the neck couldn’t be pulled up tightly against the body. My trusty drill and a 5/32″ bit plus a couple minutes and we were good to go.
That was two problems resolved. Next on our list – those nut slots. I used my neat Music Nomad nut file set and had those E through b slots filed down in no time.
I first cleaned the slot with a 0.010″ nut file then used two tiny pieces of tape to dam both sides of the e-slot, packed in some baking soda then saturated with thin CA glue and gave it a minute to cure before filing the slot down to proper height.
Sure, an expensive guitar, we’d change the nut. But this is a Squier. Not knocking them, but they do have plastic nuts and my baking soda and CA mix is harder and more durable than the plastic, so it’s a good fix.
As if this hadn’t been enough problems for a setup of a nearly-new guitar, the fret ends were sharp enough to make Gillette proud! A one-inch thick, stiff #240 sanding foam block took care of that in about a minute. Sure beats filing each fret end by hand with a triangle file like back in the “good old days”! It’s much easier on the fretboard too.
When checking hardware – strap buttons, tuner key nuts & screws, etc., I found I could spin the 10mm nuts holding the tuner keys with my finger – which was lots of fun, but not a good way to leave the guitar! Once those were snugged up, it was time to polish the frets with my trusty Dremel tool and buffing wheel with a bit of compound.
I followed that up by cleaning the fretboard with Naptha, then coming back with Cabinet makers’ wax with beeswax.
Note: If this were my guitar, I’d have given the fretboard a few coats of Tru-Oil since this looked like nearly bare maple wood that is likely to retain dirt and moisture. Due to the time involved, I’d have to charge another $100 to coat the fretboard with Tru-Oil – probably not something the customer would want to pay for on a $200 guitar – especially since Tru-Oil requires no special skills or knowledge, so can be done by the user.
When it was intonation time, I had the weirdest problem with the high-e string. It open-tuned just fine, but fretted at the twelfth fret, it gave an F#! Needless to say, the intonation screw was not going to be able to move the saddle back two inches or so to tame it down to an e5.
I checked scale length – 25.5″. I checked the twelfth fret – 12.75″. Something wasn’t adding up! So put your Sherlock caps back on and see if you can guess what was going on. My Sherlock cap didn’t help, but my reading glasses did!
The string was using the bridge pickup as a saddle! Once I lowered the bridge pickup (I usually adjust pickup heights after stretching and intonating strings), we left Gary Larson’s Far Side and returned to the world of sanity.
So that wraps up another Setup Adventure. Tune in next week for a Wrestle-Mania with an Epiphone Explorer tuned to Drop-C and a Floyd Rose system.