Squier Mini Setup
I don’t believe I’ve ever been asked to setup a Squier Mini guitar before, so I thought this might be a good one to begin my series of guitar setup blogs.
I first gave it a good look-over and noticed that the action was extremely high. Sure enough, measurements came out like this –
1st: Fret: 03/02
17th Fret: 12/09
Guitar Setup Overview
All numbers are in decimal fractions of an inch. First number is low-E and second number is hi-e.
Note that the nut seems ok-ish, relief is a bit high, especially for a short scale and string height at 17th fret is, well..”Way up there!”
Before I go any further, I know that some of you are thinking, “Why is he measuring at the 17th fret? I’ve been told to measure string height at the 12th (or whatever) fret.”
Well, the 12th fret is in the approximate center of the fretboard. If you have any neck relief, measuring there for string height (i.e.: saddle adjustment) is mixing the two measurements and IMHO is a bit irrelevant. The point of the measurement is to set saddle height. We’ve first checked/set nut slots; then relief, and now we’re concerned with adjusting the saddles, right? So the 12th fret doesn’t give you the information you need. You need to measure at a point that is beyond the effects of relief.
A few of you may be thinking, “No, that nut is not ‘OK’, Fender specs call for 0.0125 (or whatever – depending on your source). So long as you’re under .03, you should be able to intonate just fine on a full-size guitar – I’ll soon find out how it works on a mini! A perfectionist might prefer .02 max and I won’t argue with that. But this is a short scale that is to be tuned to Standard tuning (EADGBe), which means we’re going to have to work with looser strings to attain the same notes that longer strings would give. Therefore, we don’t want to flirt with that first fret!
The reason for the high action is likely due to using standard tuning with #9 strings. In order to have tighter strings and get the same notes, we’ll need to use a heavier guage.
I’ll admit I was surprised to see that Squier took the trouble to shield the pickup and control cavities with conductive paint. I’ll also admit to being a bit delighted to see this after having to post to a Reddit forum and contradict a local guitar tech who claims he’s been in business over 15 years and has never seen a manufacturer shield a control cavity. He went on to assert that shielding does no good, etc., etc.
I can’t imagine how someone could be in this business for 15 days and not know that many guitars have sheilded cavities (from the factory) and that shielding is necessary and effective.
I can take issue with Squier relying on a tiny bit of conductive paint to mate with the foil on the underside of the pickguard as the ground contact, but I give them a big “E” for effort!
My solution was to take round toothpicks, stick into each hole to measure, then remove and cut to size and glue into each hole. This will give the bridge screws something to anchor into and prevent tuning creep.
I cleaned the bridge and saddles with an ultrasonic jewelry cleaner machine and tossed the knobs in for good measure. While that was working, I polished the body, getting rid of grime that builds up around the pickguard and bridge edges and ensuring that everything will properly seat when reassembled.
I cleaned the pots and switch with contact cleaner, checked all solder joints and ensured good grounding with my ohm meter.
The knobs, saddles and bridge all came out looking brand-new and it was time to reassemble then begin work on the fretboard and frets.
Frets were all level and since there wasn’t any fretwear, no need for recrowning, etc. But those fret edges – Ouch! So I dressed them with my trusty Stew-Mac triangle file with the rounded edges. I wiped plenty of lemon oil on the edge of the fretboard to help the file glide over the board as I rounded the fret edges. A final touch with 220 sandpaper and a bit of polishing and frets were good to go.
String, Tune & Intonate
I decided on #13 strings to compensate for the shorter scale. The heavy strings will let us use standard tuning without having too much slack (lack of tension) in the strings. I did the setup based on standard Fender specs, but I probably could have dropped heights a tad more due to the short scale.
I was pleasantly surprised that she intonated without difficulty and played nicely.
Until now, I’d relied on what I’d read on forums, etc. about how short scale guitars can’t intonate properly or how they should use alternate tunings, etc. But this experience has shown me that by using heavier strings, you can have a “normal experience” with a “mini” guitar.
So if you have a youngster who’s been hankerin’ for a guitar – I recommend an electric guitar because they’re easier on the fingers and because an amp with a headphone jack will be easier on the parents! Don’t be afraid of the mini’s, but do change out those #9 stock strings for heaver ones; do a good setup and intonation.