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Stu

Posts: 1926
Joined: Jan. 30 2007
From: London (the South of it), England

low action? 

hey guys,

just had a quick question about flamenco guitar action. whats the average distance from string to fret on a guitar with high action and one with low action. I know very little about this but was thinking recently that my action could be a little lower.?

i guess any answers i get here will lead me on to a further question of how would i lower the action on my guitar? can i do it myself?

cheers

Stu
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Feb. 2 2009 6:32:54
 
Anders Eliasson

Posts: 5780
Joined: Oct. 18 2006
 

RE: low action? (in reply to Stu

Flamenco guitar actions

2,5mm X low (often to low)
2,8: low
3 standard
3,2 high.

Lowering: Take out the saddle bone and sand it on the top using a 120 - 180 grit sandpaper on a level surface

Calculating: If you take of 1mm, you lower the action aprox. 0,5mm It helps to have a normal caliper to meassure the bone.

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Feb. 2 2009 8:34:20
 
Stu

Posts: 1926
Joined: Jan. 30 2007
From: London (the South of it), England

RE: low action? (in reply to Anders Eliasson

Hey thanks Anders,

so on measuring, I think its probably fairly standard. I will have a think about lowering slightly.

I will probably buy a replacement saddle bone and try on that
in case I mess it up.


thanks again
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Feb. 2 2009 13:21:01
 
MarcChrys

 

Posts: 121
Joined: Jan. 11 2009
From: England (West Yorkshire/Lancashire)

RE: low action? (in reply to Anders Eliasson

Stu refers to 'average' distance from fret to string. Are your measurements 'average' (quite hard to work out because the action is much lower at the 1st fret than 12th fret) or specific to a certain fret?

When you say 'sand the top of the saddle-bone' - I guess you *do* mean the top (I'd have gone for sanding the bottom of it)?

I don't know why I'm asking these questions, because although I'm tempted to lower my action a bit, knowing my 'skills' I'd probably end up with a guitar that rattles like a barbed wire fence :(
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Feb. 2 2009 14:29:22
 
Exitao

Posts: 907
Joined: Mar. 13 2006
From: Vancouver, Canada

RE: low action? (in reply to Stu

AGain, you guys are measuring at the 12th fret, yes?

Just in case someone happens to be reading and doesn't know.

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Feb. 2 2009 16:33:09
 
Stu

Posts: 1926
Joined: Jan. 30 2007
From: London (the South of it), England

RE: low action? (in reply to Exitao

sorry perhaps i could have been clearer.

Anders answer was fine I think. I was actually curious about the Standard or middle(??) action that wasn't low or high.. so his measurements seemed to answer me.
perhaps average was wrong word.

...and yes I was measuring at the 12th fret. top of fret to bottom of string.

is that correct??

quote:


When you say 'sand the top of the saddle-bone' - I guess you *do* mean the top (I'd have gone for sanding the bottom of it)?


me too.. surely the top is the curved bit and the bottom the flat part. no??
so we would want to sand the bottom?
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Feb. 2 2009 16:57:09
 
Exitao

Posts: 907
Joined: Mar. 13 2006
From: Vancouver, Canada

RE: low action? (in reply to Stu

quote:

ORIGINAL: Stu

sorry perhaps i could have been clearer.

Anders answer was fine I think. I was actually curious about the Standard or middle(??) action that wasn't low or high.. so his measurements seemed to answer me.
perhaps average was wrong word.

...and yes I was measuring at the 12th fret. top of fret to bottom of string.

is that correct??

quote:


When you say 'sand the top of the saddle-bone' - I guess you *do* mean the top (I'd have gone for sanding the bottom of it)?


me too.. surely the top is the curved bit and the bottom the flat part. no??
so we would want to sand the bottom?


Yeah, it's the bottom. I've seen a luthier do it. You can also look at this site:
http://www.fernandezmusic.com/ClassicalGuitarSet-up.html

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Feb. 2 2009 17:36:59
 
cathulu

Posts: 950
Joined: Dec. 15 2006
From: Vancouver, Canukistan

RE: low action? (in reply to Stu

Well, I tried lowering my action and it is not super easy in all cases. For example, my bone was angled on the bottom for starters, so I had to sand it at an angle, not flat. Also, it was quite thin already and difficult to handle (the guitar was a factory guitar and not a great build to start with).

Thank god I took it to a local luthier and he did it for me in a few minutes, using a belt sander. Exitao was there with me also to watch.

The belt sander is key... and I would sand the bottom and that is what the luthier did, but taking it off the top is an interesting approach if there is no compensation in the bone.
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Feb. 2 2009 17:38:09
 
Anders Eliasson

Posts: 5780
Joined: Oct. 18 2006
 

RE: low action? (in reply to Stu

quote:

The belt sander is key...


To take off to much I also use a belt sander, but I take off the last little bit by hand. The belt sander is not very precise and very easily you end up with a poor fit and a poor sound. Use a piece of straight and flat scrap wood and glue some 180 grit sandpaper on it (called a sanding board). Fix it to a table and sand the bone on that. Works perfectly.

You always meassure 12th fret.

You can sand the bottom or the top as you like, but when a bone has a very good fit in the bridge, I sand the top.
Also, if the fingerboard is flat, why would you want to round the saddle?

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Feb. 2 2009 23:13:52
 
Exitao

Posts: 907
Joined: Mar. 13 2006
From: Vancouver, Canada

RE: low action? (in reply to Anders Eliasson

quote:

ORIGINAL: Anders Eliasson

You always meassure 12th fret.


I just thought it should be mentioned in case someone didn't know.

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Callidus et iracundus.
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Feb. 3 2009 0:50:51
 
Stu

Posts: 1926
Joined: Jan. 30 2007
From: London (the South of it), England

RE: low action? (in reply to Exitao

quote:

Also, if the fingerboard is flat, why would you want to round the saddle?


you tell me man...you're the luthier!!

only joking... I know very little about this and because the saddle is rounded already I assumed it needed to be. but now you mention it I suppose its not necessary.
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Feb. 3 2009 2:14:04
 
at_leo_87

Posts: 3055
Joined: Aug. 30 2008
From: Boston, MA, U.S.A

RE: low action? (in reply to Stu

i made a new bone saddle a few months ago. i used a bench grinder. made things A LOT easier and faster. i used sand paper to fine tune.
warning: bone smells REAL bad.

here's a link showing how to lower action
http://www.frets.com/FRETSPages/Musician/Guitar/Setup/LowerAction/loweraction01.html

this one shows how to make a saddle from scratch
http://www.frets.com/FRETSPages/Musician/Guitar/Setup/MakeNewSaddle/newsaddle01.html
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Feb. 3 2009 3:32:10
 
MarcChrys

 

Posts: 121
Joined: Jan. 11 2009
From: England (West Yorkshire/Lancashire)

RE: low action? (in reply to at_leo_87

Thanks for the links. Makes it seems straightforward even for me :)
My guitar has a lovely tone (made by Jeff Sigurdson in Vancouver), but the action's about 3.2mm and would like to lower it to about 2.8. Just need to calculate how much to sand off...
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Feb. 3 2009 7:07:52
 
Anders Eliasson

Posts: 5780
Joined: Oct. 18 2006
 

RE: low action? (in reply to Stu

Take it down to 3,0mm first and play it. Not all (few) guitars want to go lower. It needs to have a close to perfect neck relief and frets which are perfectly levelled.

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Feb. 3 2009 8:53:28
 
Tom Blackshear

 

Posts: 2304
Joined: Apr. 15 2008
 

RE: low action? (in reply to MarcChrys

quote:

ORIGINAL: MarcChrys

Thanks for the links. Makes it seems straightforward even for me :)
My guitar has a lovely tone (made by Jeff Sigurdson in Vancouver), but the action's about 3.2mm and would like to lower it to about 2.8. Just need to calculate how much to sand off...



It's been said before on the forum; you lower the saddle twice the height of the intended measurement for the 12th fret height. Example: if you want to lower the height 1 mm at the 12th fret then lower the saddle height 2 mm's.

If you have 3.2 mm at the 12th fret and you want 2.8 mm, then subtract 2.8 from 3.2 mm's to get the difference in height, which is .4 mm, then multiply the difference by 2, which is .8 mm and sand this amount off the the bottom of the saddle. This means sand the saddle not quite 1 mm less in height.

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Feb. 3 2009 9:17:41
 
Güiro

Posts: 158
Joined: Aug. 22 2008
From: Colorado

RE: low action? (in reply to Anders Eliasson

What do you use for a shim if you take off too much bone? Also, if you do use a shim does this affect the sound in any way? Would it be better to create a new saddle from scratch?
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Feb. 3 2009 10:47:45
 
srshea

Posts: 833
Joined: Oct. 29 2006
From: Olympia, WA in the Great Pacific Northwest

RE: low action? (in reply to at_leo_87

quote:

warning: bone smells REAL bad.


My cats don’t think so! I made a new saddle this summer, out on the front steps. After several minutes of shaving, the cats started slowly creeping around, wide-eyed, sniffing the air. They couldn’t figure out what was going on, but they knew something was up! I imagine some kind of bone product is a standard ingredient in all pet foods…..

I took a very lazy-man’s approach to this: pretty much just eyeballed the whole thing; didn’t really measure; just held a board on my lap with a piece of sandpaper on it and patiently and slowly grinded away for an hour or so. I used all the above mentioned links as a guide. In the end I think I did go just a hair shorter than I should have, but it still works fine. One of these days I’ll do it again and try to get a more precise fit.

So long as you take an if-it-aint-broke/don’t-fix-it approach to the original saddle there’s really nothing that can go too terribly wrong. The only thing that was tricky for me was that, as I did this, I sanded and sanded, and every time I would check the new saddle against the original there would still be a long ways to. So I would get back to the sanding, keep checking, and keep having to get back to the sanding. Then, next thing I knew, I had suddenly gone lower than I wanted. So, just be careful and very attentive when you start nearing the finish line, I guess……

Regarding measuring the action, there’s one thing I’ve never really understood, which is how to properly and ACCURATELY use a ruler.



Do you measure to the beginning of the line? The middle? The end? I’m guessing that you measure to the middle, but since we’re dealing in the merest fractions of millimeters here, I just don’t see how you go about getting a truly accurate measurement using a standard ruler….

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Feb. 3 2009 13:17:36
 
jshelton5040

Posts: 1500
Joined: Jan. 17 2005
 

RE: low action? (in reply to srshea

quote:

ORIGINAL: srshea

[Regarding measuring the action, there’s one thing I’ve never really understood, which is how to properly and ACCURATELY use a ruler.

Do you measure to the beginning of the line? The middle? The end? I’m guessing that you measure to the middle, but since we’re dealing in the merest fractions of millimeters here, I just don’t see how you go about getting a truly accurate measurement using a standard ruler….


To get an accurate measurement you use an accurate ruler. I use Starrett and Mitutoyo rules which have extremely fine lines. At my advanced age a bright light and magnifier help a lot too.

The best way to set the action is by trial and error. You keep removing material until the guitar becomes buzzy then put a shim under the saddle to give the perfect action. Guitars vary dramatically due to neck and fret variations and the stiffness or limberness of the strings. A limber guitar in the hands of a heavy handed player may need to be set higher than 3mm to play correctly. The height of the strings at the 12th fret is not the only indicator of how a guitar feels and plays. On some guitars higher action is easier to play.

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Feb. 3 2009 15:07:20
 
Jim Opfer

Posts: 1876
Joined: Jul. 19 2003
From: Glasgow, Scotland.

RE: low action? (in reply to srshea

quote:

Do you measure to the beginning of the line? The middle? The end?


I doesn't matter, 1mm is the distance between two same points on each line. So, end to end = 1mm. mid to mid = 1mm. etc...

If you sat that ruler in your picture on to the 12th fret, 1mm would be to the start of the next line.
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Feb. 3 2009 15:21:12
 
srshea

Posts: 833
Joined: Oct. 29 2006
From: Olympia, WA in the Great Pacific Northwest

RE: low action? (in reply to Jim Opfer

Thanks, John and Jim.

The ruler in the pic is just something I grabbed off the internet. My own ruler is just an all-purpose metal job, which doesn’t actually have a mark at the edge, so I guess my concern over the potential lack of accuracy in using it for this kind of measuring is that I just don’t trust that the space between the edge of the ruler and the first mark is truly equivalent to the spaces between marks on the rest of the rule, and I can’t determine whether the edge of the rule is supposed to represent the beginning, middle, or end of a mark. (I actually just pulled the ruler out made some marks on a piece of paper, and it appears that the edge is equivalent to the middle of a mark. Give or take. It’s still hard to get really accurate here, and when you’re talking about a difference between 3mm and 2.8mm…..)

Anyway, this was partly just abstract curiosity on my part, but I do appreciate y’all’s help. Oh, you luthiers and architects, with your super-precise, specialized tools….
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Feb. 3 2009 16:28:56
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