Action on Acoustics

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BigLicks67BigLicks67 Frets: 468
How do you measure the action on your acoustic, steel rule or feeler gauge? If you use feeler gauges what model do you use?
Also, how do you like it? I tend to have mine higher than factory specs based on eye with a steel rule.
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  • LewyLewy Frets: 668
    edited April 30
    I use both feeler gauges (just the basic ones you can get from Halfords) and a couple of steel rules (a 30cm for general action checking and a 60cm one for checking neck angle).

    I like my flatpicking acoustics set with 13-56s, 7/64” on low E, 5/64” high E @ 12th fret with .003 - .005 relief. 

    For fingerpicking its 12-52s, 3/32” low E and 2/32” high E. Same relief (ie virtually none). 

    I tend not not to go up the dusty end all that often so mid-neck action is way more important to me than what’s happening at 12th fret, which is why I’m happy for that to be a bit higher in exchange for less relief in the middle.

    Other critical measurement I check - string height off the top right in front of the bridge (looking for no less than 7/16” on 5th string there).
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  • BigLicks67BigLicks67 Frets: 468
    @lewy ; I have just been looking at 45cm steel rules for checking the relief, any reason to get a 60cm one? Is it easier etc?
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  • LewyLewy Frets: 668
    edited April 30
    @lewy ;;; I have just been looking at 45cm steel rules for checking the relief, any reason to get a 60cm one? Is it easier etc?
    I'm not checking relief with the 60cm one, I'm checking neck angle - different things. To check neck angle you want a rule (or any straight edge) that runs the full length of the fretboard and then on to the bridge. Strings off, neck flat - lay the straight edge along the board, it should just clip the top of the bridge. There are a lot of variables but that's the general gist of it. I don't do it often, but it lets you know if your geometry is fundamentally in a good place before starting to dial in all the other bits of a set up.

    http://www.frets.com/FretsPages/Musician/Guitar/Setup/NeckAngle/neckangle.html

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  • BigLicks67BigLicks67 Frets: 468
    Lewy said:
    @lewy ;;; I have just been looking at 45cm steel rules for checking the relief, any reason to get a 60cm one? Is it easier etc?
    I'm not checking relief with the 60cm one, I'm checking neck angle - different things. To check neck angle you want a rule (or any straight edge) that runs the full length of the fretboard and then on to the bridge. Strings off, neck flat - lay the straight edge along the board, it should just clip the top of the bridge. There are a lot of variables but that's the general gist of it. I don't do it often, but it lets you know if your geometry is fundamentally in a good place before starting to dial in all the other bits of a set up.

    http://www.frets.com/FretsPages/Musician/Guitar/Setup/NeckAngle/neckangle.html

    Okay thanks. I will have a read of that link later.

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  • BigLicks67BigLicks67 Frets: 468
    As a follow on from this if I want to sand down the saddle on an acoustic with a LR Baggs Element underneath what do i need to watch for or is this better left to the professionals?

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  • LewyLewy Frets: 668
    edited May 1
    As a follow on from this if I want to sand down the saddle on an acoustic with a LR Baggs Element underneath what do i need to watch for or is this better left to the professionals?

    Well the main pitfall to be concerned about there is that at the end of the process your guitar will be fitted with an undersaddle transducer....
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  • BigLicks67BigLicks67 Frets: 468
    Lewy said:
    As a follow on from this if I want to sand down the saddle on an acoustic with a LR Baggs Element underneath what do i need to watch for or is this better left to the professionals?

    Well the main pitfall to be concerned about there is that at the end of the process your guitar will be fitted with an undersaddle transducer....
    Not my idea, it came courtesy of Mr Gibson. : >
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  • FunkfingersFunkfingers Frets: 3123
    edited May 1
    As a follow on from this if I want to sand down the saddle on an acoustic with a LR Baggs Element underneath what do i need to watch for or is this better left to the professionals?
    The critical detail is a flat and even surface on the underside of the saddle to ensure consistent contact against the Element strip.

    Essentially, if you are happy with the action at present, the modified saddle will need to be its present height MINUS the thickness of the Baggs Element transducer strip. 

    The L.R. Baggs installation instructions will explain exactly how the modified saddle should sit in its slot. 

    The L.R. Baggs instructions will probably also make their usual assertion that the product warranty is voided by home/hobbyist installations.


    Lewy said:
    Well the main pitfall to be concerned about there is that ... your guitar will be fitted with an undersaddle transducer.
    +1

    In recent weeks, I have de-Baggs-ed my 2005 Martin DM dreadnaught. (The Anthem SL system is out. I intend to change to their Lyric system.) I shaped a Graphtech TUSQ saddle to the desired height. My guitar sounds louder and more dynamic without a metallic strip between the wood and the saddle - much as it did when I first acquired it.
    "It's no wonder the Pacific Ocean is blue."
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  • BigLicks67BigLicks67 Frets: 468
    @Funkfingers thanks for the Baggs link.

    However, to clarify the Baggs Element was factory fitted, so it's already in the guitar. What I'm looking at is an action in excess of 3mm which I want to lower without damaging the piezo strip or ruining the contact.

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  • FunkfingersFunkfingers Frets: 3123
    BigLicks67 said:
    What I'm looking at is an action in excess of 3mm which I want to lower without damaging the piezo strip or ruining the contact.
    To be honest, on the low E string, 3mm at the twelfth fret is nie on the 7/64ths of an inch that @Lewy mentioned earlier. 

    The action measurement by itself means little. Neck relief (or the absence of it) must also be taken into consideration. 



    To alter the height of the bridge saddle, extract it from the slot. Leave the Baggs Element strip exactly where it is. Take note of how far across the slot the end of the strip sits.

    Having determined by how much your saddle is too tall, mark that distance along the sides of the saddle. Use abrasives to remove the surplus bridge material. Attach the abrasive paper(s) to something flat and firm. Hold the saddle perpendicular to the surface of the abrasive.

    Arrive at the correct height by trial and error. You can always cut more off. You cannot put any back.
    "It's no wonder the Pacific Ocean is blue."
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  • BigLicks67BigLicks67 Frets: 468
    So, basically treat it the same as a standard acoustic saddle? I've done it on other acoustics I was probably just being over cautious.
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  • LewyLewy Frets: 668
    BigLicks67 said:
    What I'm looking at is an action in excess of 3mm which I want to lower without damaging the piezo strip or ruining the contact.
    To be honest, on the low E string, 3mm at the twelfth fret is nie on the 7/64ths of an inch that @Lewy mentioned earlier. 

    The action measurement by itself means little. Neck relief (or the absence of it) must also be taken into consideration. 

    Absolutely. Relief is critical.

    7/64" at the 12th would be considered on the high side by many, so I can see why one would seek to lower it. I have mine there because I don't do much past the 9th fret (no money up there, as Norman Blake would say) so what I want it is a near flat neck for a comfortable and consistent mid-neck action. This required a higher action at the 12th to achieve, but I don;t care. Actually, there's a big benefit because it facilitates a higher string height above the soundboard which generally translates into more torque and thus more power.

    I know it's a bit of a digression but I think it's something that gets overlooked a lot, and that is in no small part because lots of repairers/set up people just don't have a handle on it. They romp straight for sticking an arbitrary .008" - .010" relief into a neck because they think that's how you stop buzz - even more sometimes - and then start thinking about bringing the action down at the saddle for playability, before checking whether action at the 12th is in any way relevant to the player. Most of the time, it really isn't.
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  • BigLicks67BigLicks67 Frets: 468
    I hear what you are saying and agree in principle, as I have never liked really low action, but I have checked the nut height and neck relief, but with action at close to 9/64 at the 12th fret I think shaving a little off will be worth while.
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  • LewyLewy Frets: 668
    I hear what you are saying and agree in principle, as I have never liked really low action, but I have checked the nut height and neck relief, but with action at close to 9/64 at the 12th fret I think shaving a little off will be worth while.
    Agree wholeheartedly. That’s a high action.
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  • BigLicks67BigLicks67 Frets: 468
    Action on the Gibbo is now a smidge under 3mm with fortunately no loss of tone or issues with the element pickup.
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  • LewyLewy Frets: 668
    Result!
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  • tralfamadantralfamadan Frets: 13
    edited May 4
    In recent weeks, I have de-Baggs-ed my 2005 Martin DM dreadnaught. (The Anthem SL system is out. I intend to change to their Lyric system.) I shaped a Graphtech TUSQ saddle to the desired height. My guitar sounds louder and more dynamic without a metallic strip between the wood and the saddle - much as it did when I first acquired it.
    Interesting. I have an undersaddle Baggs in my acoustic and I hate the thing. Maybe i'll rip it out - especially if it grants more volume.
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  • BigLicks67BigLicks67 Frets: 468
    In recent weeks, I have de-Baggs-ed my 2005 Martin DM dreadnaught. (The Anthem SL system is out. I intend to change to their Lyric system.) I shaped a Graphtech TUSQ saddle to the desired height. My guitar sounds louder and more dynamic without a metallic strip between the wood and the saddle - much as it did when I first acquired it.
    Interesting. I have an undersaddle Baggs in my acoustic and I hate the thing. Maybe i'll rip it out - especially if it grants more volume.
    You may need to factor in a new saddle if you do so, and take it out carefully other wise you are throwing away £70 in used value. : >
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