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Ailsa

Posts: 2277
Joined: Apr. 17 2007
From: South East England

lowering action? 

OK so last night my teacher said the action on my guitar was much too high and I should lower it. Well now I have to admit to you all that despite being in favour of equality for women, when it comes to practical stuff I am just a big girl

Now here's a really thick question - errr... how do I get the bit out that I need to shave some off? Presumably I need to take off the strings, then will it just pull out? I'm terrified of wrecking my guitar. This is my precious, my beauty.

Any advice, no matter how obvious would be appreciated. It will be impossible to patronise me on this subject.
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Sep. 11 2007 17:20:36
 
Georg

Posts: 405
Joined: Feb. 5 2006
From: Germany

RE: lowering action? (in reply to Ailsa

Basically you need hammer and nail, a lighter and some fuel...


Ah wait you can do it in another way.

You just have to loosen the strings so that you can push out the the saddle sidewards (if it is tight, you can use a small screwdriver). Then you can use sandpaper to take away some bits (draw a line with a pencil) and try it again.

My advice would be to give it to a luthier. He knows better than you to which degree you can lower the action. If it is possible watch him and have a chat with him, you'll learn a lot.

If you have some bucks, let him make a bone saddle (provided you don't have one already), it will be worth the money. I did this a week ago and the sound has improved.

Is it a flamenco guitar or a classical guitar and what did you pay for it.
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Sep. 11 2007 17:49:20
 
val

 

Posts: 800
Joined: Apr. 4 2007
 

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Post has been moved to the Recycle Bin at Nov. 8 2010 22:34:06
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Sep. 11 2007 17:53:07

JBASHORUN

Posts: 1839
Joined: Jan. 23 2005
 

RE: lowering action? (in reply to Ailsa

This page might help too.

http://www.frets.com/FRETSPages/Musician/Guitar/Setup/LowerAction/loweraction01.html

Jb

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¡Si esto no está en compas, esto no es el Flamenco!
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Sep. 11 2007 17:53:35
 
Ailsa

Posts: 2277
Joined: Apr. 17 2007
From: South East England

RE: lowering action? (in reply to Georg

Hi Georg

Yes it is a flamenco guitar and I paid £440, which is about 660 euros I think. My guess is that the nearest luthier would be in London. Don't know of any personally but I'm sure I can find one.

Thanks for the link Bash - it makes it look so straightforward!

PS Yes Val I have your form and cheque - you definitely have a place on the course!
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Sep. 11 2007 18:13:14
 
Georg

Posts: 405
Joined: Feb. 5 2006
From: Germany

RE: lowering action? (in reply to Ailsa

quote:

Yes it is a flamenco guitar and I paid £440, which is about 660 euros I think. My guess is that the nearest luthier would be in London. Don't know of any personally but I'm sure I can find one.



Then I would definitely take it to a luthier and buy a bone saddle. To find the nearest one, ask your guitar teacher or in the shop where you bought the guitar. Is it a Prudencio Saez?
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Sep. 11 2007 18:44:28

JBASHORUN

 

Posts: 1839
Joined: Jan. 23 2005
 

[Deleted] 

Post has been moved to the Recycle Bin at Apr. 11 2011 18:24:55
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Sep. 11 2007 19:48:15
 
Ron.M

Posts: 7051
Joined: Jul. 7 2003
From: Scotland

RE: lowering action? (in reply to Ailsa

Ailsa,
For a start...DON'T work on the original!
You can buy huesos, bones, saddles from a music shop in plastic and sometimes bone if you are lucky.
(Soundwise...I'm not sure if they really make all that difference.. to my ear anyway)
Take your original along to get the right thickness and roughly the same height.
Buy two or three...they are cheap.

Working on it is a long job, as it will take shaving stuff off, re-fitting it, tuning up and testing....taking it out again and trying a little more, until it starts to buzz in places.

By that time, you've gone too far, but at least you know what the guitar can take.

OK, using that one as a template, get a new one and file to just above it.

You can also use a sliver of wood, but you can't get that stuff here...when I was in Ramirez's shop in Madrid, you could get all that stuff, huesos, shim wood in various thicknesses etc...but here nobody knows what you are talking about unless it's a complete bridge for a Gibson Electric with a tremelo arm, or a piece of 6mm MDF.

As I said, this is not a 10 min job!

Expect to spend at least all afternoon!

I'd say forget this sandpaper technique...the uneven pressure from your hand will produce all sorts of lumps and bumps, unless you've done it before a few times...and you'll end up sanding your fingernails down as a bonus.

You will need to borrow a small vice and a fine to standard hand-file (from a friendly male, since women don't usually have those items readily to hand)

File to the line in even, light strokes, holding the file firmly in the right hand and supporting the end with your left and keeping the action light and horizontal.
Remember, file strokes are only ever forward, never back.

Of course, the easiest way is to give the work to a pro Luthier....but he ain't gonna spend all day on it for £30 or so and you are always gonna wonder if it could be taken down just a shade further!

That's the satisfaction of doing it yourself.

Good Luck,

cheers,

Ron

_____________________________

A good guitar might be a good guitar
But it takes a woman to break your heart
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Sep. 11 2007 21:59:26

Tomás Jiménez

 

Posts: 235
Joined: Feb. 24 2006
 

RE: lowering action? (in reply to Ailsa

My

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Sep. 11 2007 23:29:16
 
Ailsa

Posts: 2277
Joined: Apr. 17 2007
From: South East England

RE: lowering action? (in reply to Tomás Jiménez

Thanks everyone for your advice - much appreciated.
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Sep. 12 2007 8:23:53

stephen hill

 

Posts: 300
Joined: Feb. 16 2004
From: La Herradura, Granada, Spain

RE: lowering action? (in reply to Ailsa

Pablo is your man Ailsa. 01273 487919. He's in spain right now till monday.

_____________________________

stephen hill - granada spain
http://www.spanishguitars.co.uk
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Sep. 12 2007 12:39:47
 
Ailsa

Posts: 2277
Joined: Apr. 17 2007
From: South East England

RE: lowering action? (in reply to stephen hill

Thanks Stephen - I'm not going to ignore your advice! I'll contact Tomas about his offer to take it down to Pablo.

Ailsa
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Sep. 12 2007 13:46:03
 
Jenny

 

Posts: 97
Joined: Mar. 13 2007
From: Oxford, UK

RE: lowering action? (in reply to Ailsa

Hi Ailsa,

I did mine for the first time and found it just very boring but not too hard - I guess it's probably wise to give to someone experienced to do it but I found it quite simple. I got it out as described above and then got some sandpaper and sanded the underneath part, so the shape on top wasn't changed. With a block of wood it was pretty level but just took a while! Then put it in, see if more needed to come off, and so on... It sounds more complicated, what others on here have recommended, so I hope I didn't mess up the guitar but I'm pretty sure I didn't as it's just been a joy to play ever since. And free to do (except for the price of sandpaper!).

(Am sending my form today or tomorrow - sorry about delay! Have spread the word about it round Oxford too),

Jenny
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Sep. 13 2007 9:30:49
 
wiseguy493

 

Posts: 73
Joined: May 9 2007
 

RE: lowering action? (in reply to Ailsa

For the "sandpaper technique", if you use a sanding block or wrap the sandpaper around a flat hard object (maybe a heavy ruler?) you can use it and not worry about it being uneven. You can also hold the sandpaper flat on a table and rub the saddle across it to sand evenly but it will be a little more difficult to do evenly, be sure not to slant the saddle. I lower the saddles on guitars using my disc sander, it takes between 3 and 5 seconds, just gotta be careful not to take too much off or I'll be cutting a new saddle!

Another thing to consider, and I'm surprised nobody has brought it up, is the nut. You can't always get your action right with only just adjusting the saddle. It mostly likely won't be the best action it can be without adjusting the nut as well, and if it seems that your nut is too high after you adjust the saddle (you'll have incredibly stiff and high action at the first few frets, but VERY light action when you move toward the bridge) then you might need to have the nut slots filed deeper. This requires special files and they must be used at the correct angles, so take it to a luthier. It should be cheap to have it done.
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Sep. 13 2007 18:46:50
 
mrMagenta

Posts: 942
Joined: Oct. 25 2006
From: Sweden

RE: lowering action? (in reply to Ailsa

nut slots? do you mean the grooves on the top of the bone where the strings set? i spoke to a luthier before making a new nut bone, he stressed that the grooves should be very shallow, perhaps a fourth of the thickness of the string. he said that if the groove hugs the string it will affect the tone negatively.

ailsa, i made a saddle bone. it's easy because you file/sand very little at a time.. but it smells! and takes a few hours. you also need calipers, so you can measure the piece you're working on, and compare it to the original. there are excellent threads about how to do it if you search this section, with diagrams and all.
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Sep. 13 2007 19:52:16

JBASHORUN

Posts: 1839
Joined: Jan. 23 2005
 

RE: lowering action? (in reply to mrMagenta

quote:

but it smells!


Bone dust IS CARCINOGENIC if I remember rightly, so please do use a dust mask if you do it yourself!!!

Jb

_____________________________

¡Si esto no está en compas, esto no es el Flamenco!
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Sep. 13 2007 20:29:35
 
Georg

Posts: 405
Joined: Feb. 5 2006
From: Germany

RE: lowering action? (in reply to Ailsa

quote:

Bone dust IS CARCINOGENIC if I remember rightly, so please do use a dust mask if you do it yourself!!!



Too late...

Well I guess I had worse things.
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Sep. 13 2007 20:42:34
 
Ron.M

Posts: 7051
Joined: Jul. 7 2003
From: Scotland

RE: lowering action? (in reply to JBASHORUN

Hey Bash,
If Health and Safety had to get involved with guitar playing, I bet Guitar Teachers would have to make their pupils wear eye protectors, in case a string should snap and cause a serious eye injury!

Also, ideally, they should think about taking out Liability Insurance in case a former pupil claims that he now suffers from serious back problems through taking their expert advice.

Repetetive Strain Injury too..

Need I go on?


cheers,

Ron

_____________________________

A good guitar might be a good guitar
But it takes a woman to break your heart
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Sep. 13 2007 21:06:56
 
jshelton5040

Posts: 1500
Joined: Jan. 17 2005
 

RE: lowering action? (in reply to mrMagenta

quote:

ORIGINAL: mrMagenta
i spoke to a luthier before making a new nut bone, he stressed that the grooves should be very shallow, perhaps a fourth of the thickness of the string. he said that if the groove hugs the string it will affect the tone negatively.


The luthier you spoke to was exactly right although I've always used no more than 1/2 the diameter of the string as a guideline for depth of the nut slot. One should lower the nut the same way you lower the saddle by taking material off the bottom.

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Sep. 13 2007 23:01:11
 
jshelton5040

Posts: 1500
Joined: Jan. 17 2005
 

RE: lowering action? (in reply to mrMagenta

quote:

ORIGINAL: mrMagenta

but it smells!


No, you smell, it stinks (I think that's from Ben Johnson..."no madam, you smell, I stink"). If you think bone has a pervasive aroma try working ivory.

Re: carcinogens
I long ago quit worrying about whether things I work with every day might make me sick or kill me. I've breathed every kind of wood dust, bone and ivory dust and vapors from innumerable solvents, lacquers, thinners, glues etc. on top of smoking cigarettes for almost 40 years and I'm still going strong at 65. I did however quit smoking a few years ago, just got tired of paying the taxes.

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John Shelton - www.sheltonfarrettaguitars.com
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Sep. 14 2007 0:18:11

JBASHORUN

Posts: 1839
Joined: Jan. 23 2005
 

RE: lowering action? (in reply to jshelton5040

quote:

I long ago quit worrying about whether things I work with every day might make me sick or kill me. I've breathed every kind of wood dust, bone and ivory dust and vapors from innumerable solvents, lacquers, thinners, glues etc.


My respiratory system is too sensitive for that approach. It just takes the inhalation of a small amount of Rosewood dust and my nose burns and I'm sneezing like mad. Since being in a luthiery workshop for the past 2 years, I have also become more sensitive to other allergens. I thought dust-masks looked silly and were uncomfortable, but I guess they do have a purpose.

Jb

_____________________________

¡Si esto no está en compas, esto no es el Flamenco!
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Sep. 14 2007 1:35:44

stephen hill

 

Posts: 300
Joined: Feb. 16 2004
From: La Herradura, Granada, Spain

RE: lowering action? (in reply to JBASHORUN

I had trouble with wood dust too, I use homeopathy so gathered up small fine dust samples of all the wood I used and sent it to a homeopathic clinic, and they 'potentised' it for me. It worked!
but I still use a dusk mask and an air filter.
yes, bone dust smells funny, it sort of smells like some .... ehmm , bodily fluid...

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stephen hill - granada spain
http://www.spanishguitars.co.uk
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Sep. 14 2007 11:22:39
 
Ailsa

Posts: 2277
Joined: Apr. 17 2007
From: South East England

RE: lowering action? (in reply to stephen hill

quote:

ORIGINAL: stephen hill

yes, bone dust smells funny, it sort of smells like some .... ehmm , bodily fluid...



I'd like to comment, but can't think of anything that's fit to put into print!

  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Sep. 14 2007 12:07:02
 
jshelton5040

Posts: 1500
Joined: Jan. 17 2005
 

RE: lowering action? (in reply to JBASHORUN

quote:

ORIGINAL: JBASHORUN


My respiratory system is too sensitive for that approach. It just takes the inhalation of a small amount of Rosewood dust and my nose burns and I'm sneezing like mad. Since being in a luthiery workshop for the past 2 years, I have also become more sensitive to other allergens. I thought dust-masks looked silly and were uncomfortable, but I guess they do have a purpose.



I didn't mean to imply that you should eschew the use of dust masks or air filters. I was referring to the risk of getting cancer or other diseases from the exposure to the dust. We use masks and respirators and have vacuum systems for sanding and sawing and have a large air filter but if you're in the shop for hours every day there's no way to avoid frequent exposure. Of course reaction to allergens varies from one person to another but I wouldn't be worried about the dust from sanding a little bone.

_____________________________

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Sep. 14 2007 15:45:56
 
wiseguy493

 

Posts: 73
Joined: May 9 2007
 

RE: lowering action? (in reply to Ailsa

The idea that cutting the nut slots deeper will adversely affect the tone of the instrument is based on the idea of the nut contributing to the tone. Some luthiers will say it does, others will say it does not. This is not a topic I care to debate but I subscribe to the "does not affect tone" way of thinking for many reasons. If affecting tone is a great concern so you don't want to file your nut slots lower, you can sand the bottom of the nut to lower the action without increasing the depth of the slots.

Keep in mind many luthiers subscribe to theoretical knowledge that has existed for 500+ years in tradition and is not entirely accurate because it was based on concepts from other instruments... like the violin which is bowed and works very different from a guitar, which is plucked and has very short sustain. Although it's worth noting that most violin makers have come to accept that the nut has little noteworthy influence on tone

There are some topics that 2 different very qualified luthiers will completely disagree on. The contribution of the nut to tone is one of the least meaningful debates =) Choose to believe what you want to believe though, and in a flamenco forum where both players and luthiers alike are very fond of traditional time-honored knowledge, I'm sure many people will say that I'm wrong.
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Sep. 14 2007 18:01:18
 
Ricardo

Posts: 14912
Joined: Dec. 14 2004
From: Washington DC

RE: lowering action? (in reply to wiseguy493

quote:

Another thing to consider, and I'm surprised nobody has brought it up, is the nut.


The nut only affects the action at the first fret. So if your barre chord F at first position is comfortable, don't mess with the nut.

Ricardo
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Sep. 14 2007 21:17:34
 
Ron.M

Posts: 7051
Joined: Jul. 7 2003
From: Scotland

RE: lowering action? (in reply to Ricardo

quote:

don't mess with the nut


Brian Wilson (Beach Boys) was on the radio this week and he said exactly the same thing.

cheers,

Ron

_____________________________

A good guitar might be a good guitar
But it takes a woman to break your heart
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Sep. 14 2007 21:20:50
 
jshelton5040

Posts: 1500
Joined: Jan. 17 2005
 

RE: lowering action? (in reply to wiseguy493

quote:

ORIGINAL: wiseguy493

The idea that cutting the nut slots deeper will adversely affect the tone of the instrument is based on the idea of the nut contributing to the tone. Some luthiers will say it does, others will say it does not.

Wiseguy, you may be right. I don't have any reason to believe that the slots should not be deep except my one basic rule in guitar making. If it looks ugly it probably is not a good idea and deep slots in the nut look ugly. It's still a good idea to only remove material from the bottom so you don't change the break angle. I do believe that the angle on the top of the nut can impact the sound (of course only on open strings).

_____________________________

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Sep. 15 2007 0:19:41
 
guitardode

 

Posts: 114
Joined: Jun. 29 2007
 

RE: lowering action? (in reply to Ailsa

HI
Agree with all the sound advice- here are the principle ideas
1) never try to fix your broken gas central heating system yourself
2)never try to fix your cars broken electrical systems yourself
3)never tile a bathroom in record time yourself
4)never take b and q tools to your favourite guitar yourself
key words yourself = never
solution = take yourself to a luthier
end topic !

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GUITARDODE
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Sep. 17 2007 15:10:48
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