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Escribano

Posts: 5862
Joined: Jul. 6 2003
From: England

Adjusting action and intonation? 

I am tinkering quite a bit with electric guitars at the moment. Setting up the action and intonation properly can completely transform a guitar.

Why is it not usual to include a truss rod and fully adjustable bridge into a flamenco guitar? I assume weight is an issue but how accurate is the intonation/action on a decent flamenco, does it not need adjusting over time and how is that done?

I was wondering, because 3D printing technology could allow such a bridge to be made out of lightweight material fairly easily nowadays. Do any luthiers consider these devices useful additions?

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date May 21 2014 15:27:16
 
Joan Maher

 

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RE: Adjusting action and intonation? (in reply to Escribano

Personally I like handmade wood bridges and some classical makers have used truss rods for many years - there's an interesting article on intonation here http://blog.dreamguitars.com/intonation/

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Joan Josep Maher
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date May 21 2014 16:03:11
 
Ruphus

Posts: 3736
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RE: Adjusting action and intonation? (in reply to Escribano

Firts of all, totally agreed on the musical effects of accurate intonation. Makes a world of difference to one and a same instrument!

quote:

ORIGINAL: Escribano

... how accurate is the intonation/action on a decent flamenco, does it not need adjusting over time ...?


Don´t know whether this is being representative, but it appeared remarkable to me who was wondering about the same thing ( - once asked the same thing on the AG forum):

When I had to make a new saddle for a flamenca from 1970 recently, I was surprised to find the intonation with the new saddle perfect on default ( = no need to shift the saddles front edge by any filing). And I mean really perfect intonation at the increments of strobe tuners ( measuring at a tenth of increments from common tuners).

Very likely the tops level will have changed somewhat since the assembly of this guitar in Madrid, its escapades through pretty humid Zürich in Switzerland and who knows where, and after its acclimatisation over here where RH is merely above 30%. ( Probably about half of RH in Madrid).

It makes me assume that the moderate sinking or lifting of a top causes no discrepance in scale length large enough to effect intonation. - And other dimensional changes like eventual overall shrinking might effect the scale length relatively symmetrically, not neccessarily causing perceivable changes to intonation either.

Ruphus
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date May 21 2014 16:05:28
 
Jeff Highland

 

Posts: 401
Joined: Mar. 5 2010
From: Caves Beach Australia

RE: Adjusting action and intonation? (in reply to Escribano

Setting up electrics is a good way to learn the relationships between relief, action, bridge height and intonation.
The most important bits of advice I can offer are
-Measure
- do it in this order (assuming good fretwork) set relief, set nut slot height, adjust bridge height, adjust intonation.

I use Truss rods in nylon string instruments now, others avoid them for concern about weight and tradition.

I predict -truss rods will become more common, and players will misuse them to adjust action rather than set relief.

Height and intonation adjustable bridges (other than by cutting the saddle) have been avoided due to the effect of weight on responsiveness.
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date May 22 2014 1:21:06
 
Escribano

Posts: 5862
Joined: Jul. 6 2003
From: England

RE: Adjusting action and intonation? (in reply to Jeff Highland

Thanks Jeff, I assume that a truss rod is essential in a steel strung guitar to adjust bowing under high tension over time?

Assembling and setting up electrics has certainly given me a lot more insight into the dynamics of intonation and action.

Aethestics and tradition aside for the moment, do you think a fully adjustable bridge would be of interest if it was of insignificant weight and responded well or is just not such a big deal with nylon guitars?

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date May 22 2014 9:33:36
 
Jeff Highland

 

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From: Caves Beach Australia

RE: Adjusting action and intonation? (in reply to Escribano

Well I build my guitars a little differently in that I use a modified Stauffer type tilt neck to take care of the string height adjustment so I never need to adjust height at the bridge.
Intonation stays pretty good unless you change the type or gauge of strings so I am fine with a faceted bone saddle.
I wouldn't say there would be no interest in a fully adjustable bridge/ saddle, just that no one has come up with one yet which is not too heavy like the appalling Gibson bridges of the 60's
If you have a concept......
Yes steel string guitars definitely need an adjustable truss rod IMHO if you want to be able to maintain optimum relief in the neck and to me that is the key to getting a great playing guitar.
In the past, with non adjustable Martins for example they just specified a higher relief than most would use now and if it got excessive you had to compression fret it with fretwire with larger tangs.
Besides string tension there is also the effect of shrinking and swelling of the fretboard.
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date May 22 2014 10:58:31
 
Pgh_flamenco

 

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Joined: Dec. 5 2007
From: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

RE: Adjusting action and intonation? (in reply to Escribano

There are compensated nuts, as well as an inexpensive device that goes directly in front of the nut, that are easy retro-fits. If intonation was a big issue on nylon string guitars these things would be a common upgrade.

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date May 22 2014 13:02:27
 
Ricardo

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From: Washington DC

RE: Adjusting action and intonation? (in reply to Escribano

quote:

Why is it not usual to include a truss rod and fully adjustable bridge into a flamenco guitar? I assume weight is an issue but how accurate is the intonation/action on a decent flamenco, does it not need adjusting over time and how is that done?


weight sound and tradition. Takamine flamencos have the truss rod. My friend "froze it" in position with glue. The angle is important because we dont' like adjusting the bridge that much as players. We want it low as possible. Old guitars often need the bridge lowered in the future. I find humidity changes affect a guitar suddenly and more noticeably than long term changes (assuming the guitar is cared for properly). I find people complain about intonation more with HIGH action guitars than with low action. In such cases the fingers have a lot to do with it IMO. (People will argue with me here but I stick to it.). IF you are used to electric or steel guitars with ridiculous low action (compared to flamenco or classical guitars) then you probably blame all intonation issues on the guitar build and wish for such mechanic fixes (bridge or truss rod etc). All we really need if the guitar is built proper is good strings and the adjustable saddle based on humidity (lower for dry season, higher for wet seasons).

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date May 22 2014 14:50:19
 
tele

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Joined: Aug. 17 2012
 

RE: Adjusting action and intonation? (in reply to Ricardo

info for perfect intonation:

http://liikanenguitars.com/Guitar-compensation.php

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date May 22 2014 14:54:25

Morante

 

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RE: Adjusting action and intonation? (in reply to Ricardo

quote:

All we really need if the guitar is built proper is good strings and the adjustable saddle based on humidity (lower for dry season, higher for wet seasons).


I have to disagree. I have set up many guitars and repaired many more. Many times a truss rod would have saved an expensive reset, when the mastil had developed an excessive curve, through age or lifting of the tapa etc.

A light weight trussrod would be a godsend to many.
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date May 22 2014 16:52:23
 
Ruphus

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RE: Adjusting action and intonation? (in reply to Morante

quote:

ORIGINAL: Morante

A light weight trussrod would be a godsend to many.


I think the mandoline guys and some builders of classical guitars are already using such. They appear to be getting their material from places like this ( https://goodwinds.com/carbon.html ) which ought to be turning out way less expensive than from LMII.

Ruphus
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date May 22 2014 17:07:04
 
rojarosguitar

Posts: 242
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RE: Adjusting action and intonation? (in reply to Escribano

The Mundo Flamenco 3AF that I got recently has a adjustable truss rod (though not easy to access through the sound hole behind the upper bar - the newer model I saw at Mundo Flamenco has a truss rod that comes straight through the upper bar and is easily accessible).

I don't feel that the neck is too heavy or anything. Most likely it is a good idea. Many luthiers use inlays of some sort in the neck to stabilize it (either visibly or invisibly - Stenzel builds his inlaid bars so that it cannot be seen from outside.) But classical guitars have thicker necks anyway so the danger of bending or twisting is less acute.

The misused truss rod can on the other hand lead to a totally twisted neck ... adjustments should be made with some knowledge about the effects of turning the screw this or that way and how much.

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date May 22 2014 18:25:10
 
estebanana

 

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RE: Adjusting action and intonation? (in reply to Escribano

Steel strings guitars did not have truss rods until quite late in production, the common thing to do is remove the neck and reset it. Even a guitar with a truss rod might at some point need a neck reset. But this is part of that guitar repair culture. The nylon string guitars don't have as much tension, when you set them up to check neck relief, a nylon string neck might take over night to pull forward under tension into full position, while a steel string neck will usually pull up in 30 minutes or less. Two really different structures are working.

Ruphus mentioned carbon fiber rods; many makers are imbedding them under the fingerboard on nylon string guitars. It keeps the neck stiff so the neck itself is not going to bend as much in compression. So then the the issue is neck angle which has to be correct for the string height the player wants. If the carbon fiber is in the neck that pretty much removes the factor of the neck bending forward making excess neck relief, so the relief is planed into the fingerboard.

Here's the salient point:

Even on a steel string guitar with a truss rod you still may have to reset the neck to get the right angle, many necks with rods have dove tail joints at the neck block so they can be removed and reset. The rod is to hold the neck relief stable against the compressive force of the tension. It is not to set the neck angle, although there is a certain amount of "slop" in the system which allows for steel string guitars in need of a neck reset to be triaged into playing even with the wrong neck angle. You see them come into a shop with high saddles and the truss rods maxed out and the guitar teeters on the edge of being playable.

When that situation happens to a nylon string guitar there a few courses of action depending on the condition of the structure;

Remove frets and replane neck to regain better neck angle.

Replace fretboard and replane.

Take off the back and reset the neck.

Correct neck relief by removing fingerboard and installing carbon fiber rods. Especially effective on guitars with "whippy" flexible necks which have relief issues.

There are other things to do depending on condition of the structure but those are some ideas.

__________

So truss rods are good, but nylon string guitars typically don't have the same issue that modern steel strings have. They don't have the amount of tension compression generated by heavy gauge steel strings which causes the neck to bend forward and compromise the neck relief. The carbon fiber has proven to work that issue with nylon tension. And the neck angle can be reset.
You can also saw the neck off and reset it with a spline joint or bolt on connection. Those are perfectly good and time test options today.

Even though it might be beneficial in many cases, if you put truss rods in flamenco guitars today as an individual maker you could have trouble selling the guitar. Cordoba and a few other lines mentioned can be had with truss rods. One problem is not the truss rod itself, but selling a guitar with a truss rod in the flamenco market can be difficult. Guitar buyers often have irrational ideas about form and tradition. If truss rod was not used in earlier guitars they will question it.


I hope that helps with some additional information regarding the OP's question.

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date May 23 2014 2:24:23
 
Escribano

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From: England

RE: Adjusting action and intonation? (in reply to estebanana

Thanks for taking the time to respond to my question, Stephen. I appreciate it.

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date May 23 2014 9:25:18
 
estebanana

 

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RE: Adjusting action and intonation? (in reply to Escribano

You're welcome.


Many of those guitars lost that Morante was talking about can be saved with carbon fiber beams under the board.

You have to take the fingerboard off with an iron and wide blade, rout slots in the neck face and then epoxy the carbon fiber spars, one or two, into the neck and relgue the fingerboard on.

When you glue the CF spars in you use a straight rigid device like a level or something to use as a truing up caul to bring the neck perfectly flat. The neck wood without the fingerboard will hold that flatness though changes in RH. The fingerboard may then need to refretted, but sometimes you can just glue it back on frets and all. If the relief is too flat after the CF install you have to pull the frets and plane relief into the ebony board itself.

I've done this repair several times with great success on things like Yamaha classicals that the owners were fond of or that did not want to buy another guitar. You have to figure out how much labor you put into the repair and then charge accordingly. I can do these fast enough to make them affordable and have saved some modest, but still nice guitars.

If the neck needs to be reset on those cheap guitars, cut them off and plant threaded inserts in the heel root and then drill through the block and bolt the neck back on. That is pretty advanced stuff however because you can totally lose the neck with a few wrong moves of the chisel when cutting the heel to set the neck back on or drill the insert holes crooked etc. but the method works.

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date May 23 2014 10:19:14
 
El Burdo

 

Posts: 442
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RE: Adjusting action and intonation? (in reply to estebanana

Bananasan, whenever I have had to take the fingerboard off a neck it always ends up with a convex curve. Is there a way of reflattening the board so as to refit it?
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date May 23 2014 13:07:26
 
estebanana

 

Posts: 7502
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RE: Adjusting action and intonation? (in reply to Escribano

Yes there is. As soon as you take the board off the neck clamp it into a holding caul that you make ahead of time.

You need an absolutely flat stiff piece of something wide enough for the fingerboard, like a piece of thick plywood with a 1x2 glued to it lengthwise. This will serve as a bed to keep the board from warping.

Then make another piece of plywood the same size, it can be a bit thinner if you like, and drill 1/2" holes in it about every 1" - no big deal on accuracy, just give it a bunch of holes.

When the finger board comes off the guitar, carefully remove any cedar neck splinters and save them, scrape any excess glue and lay it on the stiffened caul then clamp the piece with the holes on top of it to flatten it on the caul.

The holes are to let moisture out so it does not trapped. You can keep the board in that fixture until you are ready to put it back on and it should stay flat.

If you have to keep a finger board with frets, you can make a slotted caul with a router or saw and chisel to make slots for the fret. Then the flat surface of the board indexes only on the wood and not the frets.

It sounds like a lot of work, and it is. Repair work is usually more that 50% of your time making fixtures to glue and hold things while they glue, or dry, or do some process that involves holding something in place. When you do that same repair over an over on different guitars and have sets of fixtures for the situation you actually start to make money.

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date May 23 2014 22:38:01
 
jshelton5040

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RE: Adjusting action and intonation? (in reply to estebanana

quote:

ORIGINAL: estebanana
You have to take the fingerboard off with an iron and wide blade, rout slots in the neck face and then epoxy the carbon fiber spars, one or two, into the neck and relgue the fingerboard on.


Well, as someone more intelligent than I once said, "there are more ways than one to skin a cat". For me the simplest and easiest solution to removing a fingerboard is to rout it off and simply replace it. I've also routed a slot through the fingerboard to install the carbon fiber rod and made a shim of ebony to fill the void...this is not a method that I prefer. Normally what I do with warped necks is rout most of the fingerboard away and laminate a new piece over the top which can be pre-tapered to create a proper neck angle. Put strings on to check for warpage...if it is still warping, put it in a jig to pull a warp in the neck and sand it flat. When you release it from the jig it has an arch but the string tension pulls it back to flat. It takes some fiddling around to get the relief just right but this method works without fail and I've had the opportunity to see necks done this way years later which were just fine.

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date May 24 2014 1:14:08
 
estebanana

 

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RE: Adjusting action and intonation? (in reply to Escribano

Geezus! Now I have to make a neck routing fixture....

I would overlay a finger board too, but when you do have to take a fingerboard off and replace it it is good to keep it flat.

There are many situations I would like to keep the original fingerboard, but I hear you about the overlay method. Sometimes I have to take off a section of fingerboard between the 11th fret and the sound hole and you don't want it to warp if you want to reuse it. When you do neck resets on Martins and other vintage steel or mandolins you have to keep the original stuff if you can. So I had to learn lots of ways of keeping parts conditioned to go back on the instrument.

There's a judgement call when you can remove a replace components and when you work with what is already there.

One guy I know who is a top flight restorer can get quite invasive and he tends to replace things that don't work just because he has amazing technical facility and some ego about it. I saw him remove a craked piece of back in the upper right bout on manuel de la Chica and replace it. He excised a 3" wide swatch and replaced it with an un cracked piece of matching wood by fitting in with a files until it slipped in. He excised the piece and left the binding in place then dropped the new piece in fitting it to the curve of the binding. Exquisite work of the caliber needed to work on high end violins.

Then he made the call to replace the top on a Spanish guitar for the early 1960's because it have been left in trunk a it warped around the soundhole pretty radically. I suggested a few things like removing the back and warm sandbagging the top back into place over a number of weeks. Long story short, he replaced the top and it turned out to be a fantastic job. The client saw me a few years later and said "Well that guitar is ok but it was a great guitar with the warped sound hole. I wish I had given the job to you do the sandbag treatment and kept the original top." He admitted that even the the work was good, the guitar was never the same.

So I've l always tried to keep my chops ready for zero loss of original parts. But for cheap guitars a practical work I agree you can do many creative things to get them working. Right now I'm replacing the top on a guitar I built last year, and I just routed the top clean off in a few minutes.

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date May 24 2014 4:55:34
 
El Burdo

 

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RE: Adjusting action and intonation? (in reply to estebanana

That makes sense, though any moisture would come from ...somewhere else as I haven't used any water in removing the neck. Thanks.

But now!! I want to remove the top of a guitar I have just made - too many irritating issues. I assume the fingerboard would have to come off there for sure? Otherwise I can see a snafu littered hacking job fubar-ing off into the distance? Or I guess you could saw through the 12th fret and replace that bit etc..
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date May 24 2014 10:15:01
 
estebanana

 

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RE: Adjusting action and intonation? (in reply to Escribano

Cut at the 11th. It gives you a ledge of neck to shoot for elevation then you replace the top.

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date May 24 2014 11:56:28
 
El Burdo

 

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RE: Adjusting action and intonation? (in reply to estebanana

Great thanks.
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date May 24 2014 12:22:39
 
estebanana

 

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RE: Adjusting action and intonation? (in reply to Escribano

Press it in a caul like the one I explained. Remove that the fingerboard extension, rout off the top.

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date May 24 2014 13:39:39
 
Cloth Ears

 

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RE: Adjusting action and intonation? (in reply to Escribano

Enlightening information from Stephen.

I have just been back to Vicente Carrillo's taller to try some new classical guitars. His top model classical 'Herencia' model have a truss rod while his top model 'Pasion' flamenco guitars do not. He showed me how with a heavy straight steel bar, you use the truss rod to get the frets all in straight line. As Stephen says, the neck is set at the angle it is already by the Luthier. I did not ask him why his Pasion flamenco guitars did not have the truss rod. I am guessing that as Stephen points out, flamencos expect a nice light blanca which is traditional. I will ask him when he is in London in July.

Both of these guitars have a very open cross bracing giving even better sustain than his earlier models (like the 'Paco' signature guitar for example), but otherwise have the same brilliant touch. I wish I did not have to sell my Carrillo blanca to afford this new guitar, but high ho.

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date May 24 2014 14:16:17
 
jshelton5040

Posts: 1500
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RE: Adjusting action and intonation? (in reply to estebanana

quote:

ORIGINAL: estebanana

Geezus! Now I have to make a neck routing fixture....

So I've l always tried to keep my chops ready for zero loss of original parts. But for cheap guitars a practical work I agree you can do many creative things to get them working. Right now I'm replacing the top on a guitar I built last year, and I just routed the top clean off in a few minutes.

Stephen,
You can never have too many jigs and fixtures .

I hear you on restorations of antiques. I once restored an 1856 Panormo which had been stomped on during a drug raid. The back and sides were Macassar ebony and I had to try to match the grain then bend and fit pieces to replace those that were lost. There was no way I could have charged enough to cover the labor. It was donated to a museum after it was completed. During the hippy days I once replaced a Martin top that had been burned in an oven. The customer thought it would be a good way to dry the decorative flowers painted all over the top.

I don't have the patience or the inclination for that kind of work anymore. Maybe after 72 years I've finally learned something.

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date May 24 2014 15:31:14
 
estebanana

 

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RE: Adjusting action and intonation? (in reply to Escribano

John did you see my neck joint spline jig?

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date May 25 2014 0:19:04
 
Ricardo

Posts: 11057
Joined: Dec. 14 2004
From: Washington DC

RE: Adjusting action and intonation? (in reply to Morante

quote:

ORIGINAL: Morante

quote:

All we really need if the guitar is built proper is good strings and the adjustable saddle based on humidity (lower for dry season, higher for wet seasons).


I have to disagree. I have set up many guitars and repaired many more. Many times a truss rod would have saved an expensive reset, when the mastil had developed an excessive curve, through age or lifting of the tapa etc.

A light weight trussrod would be a godsend to many.


had developed an excessive curve??? sounds like not well cared for. truss rod? sorry man, never played such a guitar that really felt "flamenco".



quote:

laminate a new piece over the top which can be pre-tapered to create a proper neck angle.

Now that sounds awesome. Some new built "flamenco" guitars could use the same right off the chopping block, that I have encountered anyway.

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date May 25 2014 8:26:53
 
Jeff Highland

 

Posts: 401
Joined: Mar. 5 2010
From: Caves Beach Australia

RE: Adjusting action and intonation? (in reply to Escribano

Bear in mind that this sort of work(replacing fretboard, adding CF bars etc) is expensive.
Around here a quality refret by itself is $300 and board replacement is on top of that.
It's a valid rescue of a valuable guitar, but is well outside the scope of routine adjustment.
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date May 25 2014 11:08:48
 
jshelton5040

Posts: 1500
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RE: Adjusting action and intonation? (in reply to Jeff Highland

quote:

ORIGINAL: Jeff Highland
Around here a quality refret by itself is $300 and board replacement is on top of that.


I must be living in the past. I charge $80-100 for a fret job. Board replacement could run $300 but probably less.

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date May 25 2014 14:51:56
 
estebanana

 

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RE: Adjusting action and intonation? (in reply to jshelton5040

quote:

I must be living in the past. I charge $80-100 for a fret job. Board replacement could run $300 but probably less.


At the Martin shop in Oakland we charged 60 to 80 for a fret dressing and 260 plus for a refret. 175 to 250 for dealers and starting at 300 retail. But a fret dressing came with a new saddle, because it works together. Other shops charged much more.

You are charging way too little for work John as the Oakland shop was behind the times and price in 2010 when I last worked there. He raised his prices for dealers since then.

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date May 25 2014 15:05:12
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