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JBASHORUN

Posts: 1839
Joined: Jan. 23 2005
 

HOW TO SET UP MY NEW GUITAR 

Hello everyone,
I've just ordered a Yamaha CG171SF guitar... should arrive some time in March. Anyway, the shop has offered a basic set up (to their standards, not mine), but it specializes in Classical guitars, so they might not get it quite right.
I'm pretty much a beginner when it comes to Flamenco, and this is my first guitar... so what should I look for in the setup? Eg. string action, etc.
If the shop doesn't do the setup to my requirements, I may have to do it myself... so any advice on how to do this would be greatly appreciated. Plus, should I buy special Flamenco strings, or do you think the ones that come with the guitar should be good? Thanks.


James


By way, I spoke to Eduardo Niebla (anyone heard of him?). Not quite "Flamenco", but Neuva Flamenca influenced with a bit of jazz in there. Anyway, he recommends Admira guitars... says he plays a 2000F (I think its just a standard Classical). Also, apparently Gerardo Nunez plays a Pedro De Miguel (there's one currently on Ebay for $400). But has anyone heard of Bernd Steidl (see 'Psycho Acoustic Overture')? He's a German acoustic guitarist who uses quite a few Flamenco techniques (although his style isn't 100% Flamenco). If anyone knows what guitar he plays, I'd be interested to hear it.
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jan. 27 2005 15:49:10
 
Patrick

Posts: 1189
Joined: Jul. 7 2003
From: Portland, Oregon

RE: HOW TO SET UP MY NEW GUITAR (in reply to JBASHORUN

James,

Setting up a guitar like the Yamaha is a bit different form a $5,000 concert guitar. Your main issue is going to be string height. Getting into the frets is going to be too big of an issue.

Most, if not all off the work is done at the saddle. What you want to do is measure the distance between the top of the 12th fret to the bottom of the low E and high E strings. Most flamenco players like about 3.0 to 3.5mm at the bass side and 2.0 to 2.5mm at the treble side. Personally I like a low action with a bit off buzz. A lot of players that play very hard will go with a higher action to keep form over buzzing.

The problem with a guitar in the Yamaha price range is the frets are likely not overly level. If you get the action too low, you may wind up getting a lot of unwanted buzzing. The nut varies the string height only when you play “open” without a capo. If the strings are high at the first and second fret positions without a capo you may have to take the nut down a bit.

The best way to reduce the height of the nut and saddle is to lay a piece of course sand paper on a flat surface. A lot of luthiers use a piece of glass. Sand off only the bottom of the nut and saddle, never the top. You will note the saddle is going to be higher on the bass side to reduce buzzing. Go slow and take your time. Take a bit off the saddle and try it. It may take a few times to get it the way you want it. You can always sand more off, but you can’t add it back on.

By the way; trying to buy a guitar that a particular player uses is futile. A lot of top players own dozens of guitars. I read an interview that Paco gave. He was miffed that certain members of the Conde family had been telling people Paco indorsed there guitars. He said, let me make it perfectly clear; just because I play a Conde, I in no way indorse Conde guitars. These guys are also getting the cream of the crop. No builder is going to send a borderline guitar to a top player; it’s just not good business.

The fact that most of us don’t want to accept is what we hear from top guitarist is 90% them and 10% guitar (or less). Personally I own some very fine concert level guitars, but am I a better player because of them? If you heard me play, it would be very apparent the answer is no!
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jan. 27 2005 17:49:35
 
Escribano

Posts: 6273
Joined: Jul. 6 2003
From: England, living in Italy

RE: HOW TO SET UP MY NEW GUITAR (in reply to Patrick

quote:

Take a bit off the saddle and try it. It may take a few times to get it the way you want it


The saddle (and nut?) should just pop out with some gentle encouragement. Another thought is that they may be plastic, in which case order some bone blanks from David Dyke's Luthier's Supplies http://www.luthierssupplies.co.uk/ in Sussex.

Another factor might be the tuners. Cheap guitars can have cheap tuners and they suck. If so, try some Schallers from the same source. About £50 but best to make the trip to Dyke's to compare lengths, lyre ornament or hauser etc. screw holes are not important issue unless they abut the old ones. But do drill small pilot holes

Destring your guitar, unscrew one tuner and take the guitar down with you. Made a huge difference to my Bernal, both in use and aethestics.

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jan. 27 2005 18:04:07

JBASHORUN

Posts: 1839
Joined: Jan. 23 2005
 

RE: HOW TO SET UP MY NEW GUITAR (in reply to Patrick

Thanks dude- that seems like sound advice. I've just checked my classical guitar and the action is generally around 5mm or so. I assume the guy in the shop will make the Yamaha action pretty similar. Thanks for those measurements, I'll try and get the strings as close as I can, whilst bearing in mind that I don't want too much buzz. I guess I won't know for sure until I play it.
I think I may need to adjust the nut too, as I don't currently have a capo (although I will at some point). Speaking of which, I'm familiar with the concept of sanding down the saddle (and nut). But I once heard that if you take off too much by mistake (or need to raise them again at a later date) you can build them up again with thin layers of paper (or something like that)... is that true?
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jan. 27 2005 19:58:17

JBASHORUN

Posts: 1839
Joined: Jan. 23 2005
 

RE: HOW TO SET UP MY NEW GUITAR (in reply to Escribano

Thanks for the advice... the website certainly seems useful. Although what difference did the "bone" fittings make to the sound of your guitar (if any), and aren't nuts specific to each guitar (so you have to buy one that fits exactly)? Or, when you say "blanks" does that mean they have to be cut or adjusted in some way to make them fit? That might be tricky if they do as, like I said, I am only a beginner when it comes to luthiery.
The replacing of the tuners... I know what you mean, and have seen some pretty cool tuners and machine heads available. But again... drilling holes? That sounds like a job for a professional luthier after all, I don't wanna wreck my new guitar! Do you think if I just bought the bone blanks and tuners I could take them along to the shop where I bought the guitar (just a standard acoustic guitar shop), or even some place else and get them to do the fitting for me?
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jan. 27 2005 20:11:30
 
Patrick

Posts: 1189
Joined: Jul. 7 2003
From: Portland, Oregon

RE: HOW TO SET UP MY NEW GUITAR (in reply to JBASHORUN

quote:

But I once heard that if you take off too much by mistake (or need to raise them again at a later date) you can build them up again with thin layers of paper (or something like that)... is that true?



Yes you can, but very few luthiers will recommend it. Anything placed under the saddle will act like a gasket that may reduce some of the vibration reaching the bridge. What I have done with good success is to use thin strips of very hard, clear plastic. I have heard good results with a thin hardwood shim as well.


Yes.."blanks" are squared off, rough bone that need to be worked. It's really not a big deal if you take your time with them. Lot's of sandpaper on a flat surface and lots of elbow grease. I don't know if Yamaha uses bone or plastic. A lot of the new synthetic stuff is said to be as good as bone.
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jan. 27 2005 20:54:18

JBASHORUN

Posts: 1839
Joined: Jan. 23 2005
 

RE: HOW TO SET UP MY NEW GUITAR (in reply to Escribano

Quote: "The saddle (and nut?) should just pop out with some gentle encouragement..."



Actually I think I could probably replace the saddle easily by myself. The nut too *IF* it isn't glued in (I'd have to check on the new guitar). Although, I checked the luthiers website you provided a link to, and the bone bridges and saddles (listed as "classical") are different sizes to the ones on my classical guitar (for example, the saddle is 10mm high compared to mine which is 5mm high, and the nut is 55mm long as opposed to mine which is only 50mm). Obviously some sanding/sawing might be required. Not a problem with the saddle, but I'm concerned about getting a good fit with the nut, and are the string grooves in nuts standarly spaced (ie. all nuts have the same spacing between grooves)? Otherwise the strings might not run parallel. Still think the tuner replacement also sounds a bit complex. By the way, anyone ever seen any wooden machine heads (the bits you actually turn to tune the strings) available anywhere?
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jan. 27 2005 20:58:32
 
Patrick

Posts: 1189
Joined: Jul. 7 2003
From: Portland, Oregon

RE: HOW TO SET UP MY NEW GUITAR (in reply to JBASHORUN

James,

I don't see any reason you should have to replace the nut and maybe not even the saddle. They are oversized to allow you to cut them to fit.

As for tuners, they are ultra easy. The important thing is to get them with the same roller spacing. Just pull the old ones and slip in the new. I use an ice pick to make a pilot hole in the headstock. Run the new screws in and your done.
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jan. 27 2005 21:34:44
 
Escribano

Posts: 6273
Joined: Jul. 6 2003
From: England, living in Italy

RE: HOW TO SET UP MY NEW GUITAR (in reply to JBASHORUN

The bones are blanks, you saw and file them to fit, that is why they are oversized. You also have to file in the grooves for the strings against a template (or measure them out) and you would need some round needle files (not tapered ) to do this.

Wooden machine heads? Do you mean wooden buttons? Schaller do ebony buttons, I have them on mine. Nice but I don't think Dyke's do them, I ordered mine from http://www.stewmac.com

Watch out for Hauser versus Lyre designs, your headstock may not take the lyre. As long as the rollers are the standard distance (35mm?) it's peasy to replace the tuners.

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jan. 27 2005 22:17:34
 
Escribano

Posts: 6273
Joined: Jul. 6 2003
From: England, living in Italy

RE: HOW TO SET UP MY NEW GUITAR (in reply to Patrick

quote:

I don't see any reason you should have to replace the nut and maybe not even the saddle


I was talking about replacing plastic with bone.

_____________________________

Foro Flamenco founder and Admin
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jan. 27 2005 22:21:53

JBASHORUN

Posts: 1839
Joined: Jan. 23 2005
 

RE: HOW TO SET UP MY NEW GUITAR (in reply to Escribano

Hi,
Yeah, the nut replacement still sounds tricky... filing down the string grooves with a needle file... I am quite skilled with my hands, but if you get that wrong, you'll have crooked strings. I supose a template of some sort would be useful... thats if I do have to change the nut.
The Schaller Lyra and Hauser tuners are quite conservative... appropriate for a Flamenco guitar I suppose. The electric styled ones ( http://www.schaller-guitarparts.de/1125.htm ) are interesting! But only on the right guitar. If you wanna see some *OUTSTANDING* tuners and buttons, check out the R Rodgers homepage... http://homepage.ntlworld.com/r.rodgers/RTM/Index.htm He does the wooden buttons I was talking about... http://homepage.ntlworld.com/r.rodgers/RTM/Buttons.htm but only as part of the tuning set (not sold individually, but included with the side plates, etc.).
Needless to say, he makes some great side plates in various styles... http://homepage.ntlworld.com/r.rodgers/RTM/Gallery.htm
Unfortunately, though, his prices start at £298... and thats just for a standard basic tuner set (more for any of the fancy stuff). He's also fully booked up until 2006, and even then only accepts a few private orders. Which is a shame. Still... if you're rich and don't mind waiting...
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jan. 27 2005 22:46:54

JBASHORUN

Posts: 1839
Joined: Jan. 23 2005
 

RE: HOW TO SET UP MY NEW GUITAR (in reply to Patrick

Patrick,
Thanks for the advice... I'll certainly bear it in mind. I wouldn't mind customising the guitar with new tuners, etc. But I'm reluctant to mess with the saddle and nut (in particular the nut) when I don't know what I'm doing. Plus, if the guitar sounds good with plastic ones, then I'd be happy with that.
By the way, check out the links to the custom tuner dude over here in the UK... the sort of thing you might wanna look into if you've got a *real special* guitar.


James
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jan. 27 2005 23:02:23
Guest

RE: HOW TO SET UP MY NEW GUITAR (in reply to JBASHORUN

If I were you, I would just ask the shop to setup the guitar with around 3,2 - 3,3 12th fret on the bass side and 2,8 on the treble. That should do it, and if the guy in the shop knows how to setup a classical, he'll know how to do this.

BTW, you said your classical was 5mm... Thats very high!!!!! Standard is around 3,8 -4mm
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jan. 28 2005 8:38:12

JBASHORUN

Posts: 1839
Joined: Jan. 23 2005
 

RE: HOW TO SET UP MY NEW GUITAR (in reply to Guest

Anders,
Thanks for the advice. Your recommended action hights are slightly higher than those recommended in one of the other messages. But as I am a beginner, I suppose I might not want the strings too low, so you're advice is probably right.
The dude at the shop definately knows how to lower the action on ANY guitar. But when I told him it was a Flamenco guitar, so the action needs to be quite low, he said he'd have a look at it when it comes in and use his own judgement, but not make the excessively low. However, I think I'll phone him today with your measurements and try and get him to use those as a guide.
As for the action on my Classical guitar being high... well, yes, it is. It is also high on my electric guitar (Fender Stratocaster). This is because I started of learning to play guitar by taking lessons in Metal Lead guitar, and needed to do lots of two fret (and one fret) bends. This technique is obviously easier on a guitar when the action is higher, as you can get your fingers under the strings (to push them up) more easily. However, I'm not sure if Flamenco technique uses many bends. If it does, the lower the string action, the harder I will find it to get my fingers under the strings to do bends.


James
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jan. 28 2005 10:10:30
 
Miguel de Maria

Posts: 3524
Joined: Oct. 20 2003
From: Phoenix, AZ

RE: HOW TO SET UP MY NEW GUITAR (in reply to JBASHORUN

James,
flamenco doesn't use bends (well I have heard Tomatito do a bend once or twice, but that's it!)

These guys have given you a lot of good advice. Personally, I would just ask the setup guy to lower the action to "high flamenco" range. You will probably find that most comfortable. And you can always take it down yourself a little like the guys said.

I also would not mess with new tuners at this point. Maybe they will work fine for you... Patrick told me that once you get good tuners, you never go back! But he's talking about tuners that cost more than the guitar you are buying :) They are easy to swap out if you feel, later on, you need to make a switch.
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jan. 28 2005 19:44:56
 
Escribano

Posts: 6273
Joined: Jul. 6 2003
From: England, living in Italy

RE: HOW TO SET UP MY NEW GUITAR (in reply to Miguel de Maria

quote:

well I have heard Tomatito do a bend once or twice


Yeah, he does occasionally. PDL slides up and down the frets, I believe.

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jan. 28 2005 19:50:17

JBASHORUN

Posts: 1839
Joined: Jan. 23 2005
 

RE: HOW TO SET UP MY NEW GUITAR (in reply to Miguel de Maria

Miguel,
Yeah, I know tuners can be expensive... but I got the Yamaha for a very good price, so I've got a little left to spend on the extras. I'm sort of interested in Gilbert tuners... http://www.gilberttuners.com/images.html and in particular the 18 carat gold plated traditional plates with the snakewood buttons... http://www.gilberttuners.com/images/gold3.jpg Those cost about $200 (or so), and I've heard that they're some of the best tuners available. Only problem is that some people think they're not best suited to Flamenco guitars (aesthetically)... but I like them, and they're a lot cheaper than the R. Rodgers ones I posted a link to in my last message. Let me know if you think the Gilberts might be a waste of time... perhaps you are right... maybe the tuners on my Yamaha will be good. In fact I'm sure they'll be more than adequate for my needs. But it's always nice to customise your guitar. Anyway, I'll wait and see what they're like before I go spending large sums of money (that I could probably spend better on some decent guitar lessons).
As for the bends... I'm sort of into the Nueva Flamenca influenced scene, which tends to mix styles, so there may be the odd bend involved. But, as you say, these will be in the minority, so the lower action shouldn't be too much of a problem. I phoned the guitar shop and told them to set the bass string at between 3.0-3.3mm and the treble to 2.5-2.8mm. He said he can't provide a professional setup, but will do his best. I'll give it a play when I get there and see how it sounds. If need be, I can adjust the setup myself as told by the other guys.

Thanks again for all your advice everyone!


James
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jan. 28 2005 21:24:48
 
Escribano

Posts: 6273
Joined: Jul. 6 2003
From: England, living in Italy

RE: HOW TO SET UP MY NEW GUITAR (in reply to JBASHORUN

quote:

Let me know if you think the Gilberts might be a waste of time


Are you taking the piss ? You are on the wrong track. Get the best guitar you can for your money. I was talking about $70 tuners to compensate for cheap ones that might go out of tune with a little aesthetics thrown in. Gold will not make any difference to your playing or the sound, what else is more important?

Spend the $200 on a better guitar, or a flight and hotel to Jerez for the festival in a few weeks.

quote:

But it's always nice to customise your guitar

The flamenco version of customising your guitar is to have one built for you.

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jan. 28 2005 21:54:12

JBASHORUN

Posts: 1839
Joined: Jan. 23 2005
 

RE: HOW TO SET UP MY NEW GUITAR (in reply to Escribano

Escribano,
Point taken! I see what you mean... the flashy tuners won't make me a better player. But some lessons lessons might, so I'll look into those with the left over cash. As for getting one built for me, I'm not sure I could quite afford that just yet, which is why I wanted to make the Yamaha as good as I can (aesthetically aswell as technically). I'll see if the Yamaha tuners suck first, then decide whether to get some slightly better ones. I'll save the expensive ones for some day in the future when I've got a top of the range guitar. Thanks for your advice... I almost wasted quite a bit of cash there!


James
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jan. 28 2005 22:57:43
 
Escribano

Posts: 6273
Joined: Jul. 6 2003
From: England, living in Italy

RE: HOW TO SET UP MY NEW GUITAR (in reply to JBASHORUN

quote:

I'll see if the Yamaha tuners suck first


I think you'll find they're OK. I have heard good things about this guitar and may buy one myself as a "beach guitar" as Kate calls them. Where is the shop in London?

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jan. 29 2005 10:59:55

JBASHORUN

Posts: 1839
Joined: Jan. 23 2005
 

RE: HOW TO SET UP MY NEW GUITAR (in reply to Escribano

Escribano,
Yeah, Yamaha have a pretty good reputation, so hopefully the tuners will be fine. The shop is called "Unplugged" and it's in Hanwell W7 (west London). The good thing is that you don't have to pay for the guitar until it arrives (unlike in many London guitar shops).
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jan. 29 2005 12:47:32

JBASHORUN

Posts: 1839
Joined: Jan. 23 2005
 

RE: HOW TO SET UP MY NEW GUITAR (in reply to JBASHORUN

...although the Yamaha isn't a guitar they usually stock, so you'd have to put in an advance order for it, and that may mean waiting a few weeks.
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jan. 29 2005 12:51:07
Guest

RE: HOW TO SET UP MY NEW GUITAR (in reply to JBASHORUN

Miguel Wrote:

quote:

Personally, I would just ask the setup guy to lower the action to "high flamenco" range.


Thats exactly what I said, the only difference being that I did put the numbers on, in order to help the buyer and the seller. (and avoid discussions).
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jan. 30 2005 8:19:08
Guest

RE: HOW TO SET UP MY NEW GUITAR (in reply to Escribano

Simon.

Get one and bring it down here. I want to se one of those Yamaha things that everyone rave about. I 'll set it up for you if you want.
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jan. 30 2005 8:21:18
 
Escribano

Posts: 6273
Joined: Jul. 6 2003
From: England, living in Italy

RE: HOW TO SET UP MY NEW GUITAR (in reply to Guest

quote:

Get one and bring it down here


I'll think about it.

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jan. 30 2005 9:44:53
 
Jon Boyes

Posts: 1377
Joined: Jul. 10 2003
 

RE: HOW TO SET UP MY NEW GUITAR (in reply to Miguel de Maria

quote:

ORIGINAL: Miguel de Maria
James,
flamenco doesn't use bends (well I have heard Tomatito do a bend once or twice, but that's it!)


Lots of modern solo players use bends, albeit not full tone 'blues' bends. Microtonal bends can help give the flamenco guitar a very 'eastern', arabic sort of flavour, especially when mixed in with the appropriate scales (such as the phrygian/phrygian dominant). Makes sense really, when you consider flamenco roots, and the fact that indian music is not limited to the western 12 note system.

Jon
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jan. 31 2005 8:15:15
 
Thomas Whiteley

 

Posts: 786
Joined: Jul. 8 2003
From: San Francisco Bay Area

RE: HOW TO SET UP MY NEW GUITAR (in reply to Jon Boyes

Jon;

Juan Serrano has used bends for many years, and knows how to make good use of them. He uses La Bella medium tension strings by the way. When I tried doing bends with Extra High Tension strings it was like HE*L! Juan convinced me to try medium tension strings and bending is so much easier! However, I like D'Addario strings, and gave up on La Bella long ago.

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Tom
http://home.comcast.net/~flamencoguitar/flamenco.html
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Feb. 2 2005 4:27:56
 
Thomas Whiteley

 

Posts: 786
Joined: Jul. 8 2003
From: San Francisco Bay Area

RE: HOW TO SET UP MY NEW GUITAR (in reply to JBASHORUN

There is nothing like free advice and it is worth every penny it costs!

My advice about lowering a guitar saddle is simple! Rules:

1. ALWAYS SAVE THE ORIGINAL SADDLE!

2. Using a new saddle, have it trimmed down to a point just before it buzzes!

3. When possible have a professional shave the saddle. It will save your fingers and you will not use as many four letter words to express yourself!

Number 2 is the hard part as each guitar is different. I have guitars with less than 2 mm clearance at the 12th fret and they have no buzz. Having a stable instrument is important.

Old timers would file the saddle (always from the bottom and not the top) and if it was filed too much they would place a match under the saddle. The guys I am talking about played for singers and dancers and had to be ready for anything. They did not care about stability. This was during the early 1960's when a top of the line Ramirez flamenco was $200.

In engineering I learned that brass shims work very well and come in different thicknesses.

Recently I brought one of my guitars in to a good luither and asked to have a saddle that would allow me to have about 2 mm clearance and it cost me $30, and 20 minutes of my time. The luither did a wonderful job and I am more than happy with the result.

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Tom
http://home.comcast.net/~flamencoguitar/flamenco.html
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Feb. 2 2005 4:38:53

JBASHORUN

Posts: 1839
Joined: Jan. 23 2005
 

RE: HOW TO SET UP MY NEW GUITAR (in reply to Thomas Whiteley

Thanks Tom,
That sounds like good advice, and I'll bear it in mind. If I can, I'll get someone else to do the saddle for me... I'm new to lowering saddles, so that is preferred anyway. I assume you suggest to save the original saddle in case you take off too much from the new one, or you decide to raise the action again at some point.
However, I've never heard of "brass shims" so you might like to clarify what they are and where you can buy them. Thanks again.


James
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Feb. 2 2005 10:18:28
 
Thomas Whiteley

 

Posts: 786
Joined: Jul. 8 2003
From: San Francisco Bay Area

RE: HOW TO SET UP MY NEW GUITAR (in reply to JBASHORUN

James;

Brass shims are used in the mechanical world where a mechanical engineer friend taught me about them. You can purchase brass sheets from a hobby shop, cut and file them to size and they work well! The brass stock comes in many thicknesses. You cut a piece a bit narrower than your saddle so it will fit without being too tight in the channel.

Tom

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Feb. 3 2005 1:05:23
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