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  1. #1

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    Looks like I'm going to have to start doing my own due to the pandemic. The guy I usually use is not responding. He might've shutdown. So...

    I'm looking to set up my Squier Classic Vibe 50's Tele exclusively for jazz. I'd like to put pure nickel 10's on it.

    1. What tools are absolutely necessary? (I know Allen wrenches)

    2. Where should I look for good direction? There are tons of videos on You Tube... Any in particular that you guys would suggest? I'm also not opposed to reading...

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    The Jazz Guitar Chord Dictionary
     
  3. #2

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    I do a basic setup that's usually enough. I don't diverge much from the stock strings, so I don't need much other than allen keys, and/or files/stones to dress fret ends.

    Worst case scenario, if you aren't satisfied, you go to a tech.

    There are loads of videos on youtube. find one that speaks to you. Check out Phil McKnight

    -Paul

  4. #3

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    I think there are generally two categories of guitar setup.

    Basic setup:
    - Truss rod
    - Bridge saddle height (and position for floating bridges)
    - Intonation

    These are no more advanced than just changing strings. Also except for intonation, adjustments are personal just like the string choice. Moreover they need to be adjusted to changing humidity and string gauge. They all should be done by the player. That way you can experiment with different settings find what you like. Only tools you need are screwdrivers and allen keys for Fender guitars.

    More advanced adjustments:
    - Nut height
    - Fret leveling and crowning

    Again not that complicated, but unlike the first category these are not (easily) reversible and require more specialized tooling.

    You can search online for each category. I wouldn't just follow one source but rather read up or watch multiple sources and get a good general understanding of each.

  5. #4

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    I've been doing my own setups for 40 years or more. It ain't rocket science. You just need the ability to understand how things work. A good place to start is at frets.com. Lots of good information there.

  6. #5

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    Set ups are "issue solving" and can be overdone (IMHO) if the instrument is in reasonable shape.

    Has this one been neglected? Out of it's case, no humidifier?

    Also, how "deep" do you want to go; remember TRAIN?
    That's truss-rod, action, intonation...adjustments in that order.

    This business can become overwhelming trust me and take you from practice, which is more important, so keep it simple
    ( sometimes an old credit card will do ).

  7. #6

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    Stew-Mac sells a pocket kit with all the right allen, phillips, and regular bits plus a magnetic driver that I find indispensable. Also wire cutters and band-aids.

    Basic string-change stuff I do myself. For the more tool/time-intensive stuff, I take it to a pro. Also all electrical issues.

  8. #7

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    I won’t do frets, nuts or saddles but I’ve done about everything else. Might try replacing the saddles on my Strat though.

  9. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by TedBPhx
    I won’t do frets, nuts or saddles but I’ve done about everything else. Might try replacing the saddles on my Strat though.
    You'd be very surprised.

    Unstring...then painters tape between frets and lightly polish ( it's just nickel ) with fine 600 paper ( no need to re-crown ).

    Takes out the slight wear; then hit with GorgoMyte cloth: Gorgomyte Fret And Fingerboard Conditioner

  10. #9

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    Neck, bridge height, and intonation adjustment. I am afraid to mess with frets.

  11. #10

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    Thank you guys! This is the info I'm looking for! Definitely wanting to keep it as simple as possible... Truss rod, action, intonation.

  12. #11

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    Get the Dan Erlewine book if you can--Guitar Player repair guide. I learned SO MUCh from that book.

  13. #12

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    I do most everything myself except for fret work and electronics (I'm lousy with a soldering iron.). During covid my guy has set up a Saturday-only 4-hr drop-off/pickup at his door. No in-person contact the rest of the week.

  14. #13

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    I do it all, including fret levelling. None of it is difficult if you are detail-oriented and have the patience to do things deliberately and correctly.

    Any guitar player can do truss rods, bridge height, and intonation as long as the frets and nut are ok. You may want to use measurements to start, but soon you'll be able to do it just by look, touch, and sound.

    Even if you use a skilled guitar repair guy, you may have to do some tweaks to get things the way you like. It's a personal thing!

  15. #14

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    Quote Originally Posted by Gilpy
    I do it all, including fret levelling. None of it is difficult if you are detail-oriented and have the patience to do things deliberately and correctly.

    Any guitar player can do truss rods, bridge height, and intonation as long as the frets and nut are ok. You may want to use measurements to start, but soon you'll be able to do it just by look, touch, and sound.

    Even if you use a skilled guitar repair guy, you may have to do some tweaks to get things the way you like. It's a personal thing!
    This is particularly important because even the best set up person in the world is not you playing the guitar. In fact I remember Howard Roberts mentioning how he actually change the action on a regular basis depending on how he felt. Some days you have more power and strength and like resistance and other days not so much. I find myself that if I play fingerstyle a lot then my touch is just softer and I like less resistance. However when I get the pick out, and I use a thick one, then I sometimes like a pretty stiff attack. I recently bought a guitar that I that was set up by one of the finest fellows in the business, of course I do all my own work but this came perfect. Then I notice after a hours of playing the action was just a hair too low. I played fine and no buzzing but I just moved it up a tad hardly noticeable even to measure but my hands knew.

  16. #15

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    agree with mr.b, any of the dan erlewine (stew macs man) books out there..and also his vids...

    way before there were really many guitar tech books and internet, i used to read erlewines column in guitar player magazine...he was the beginning..nearin' 50 years later and i'm still a fan of his methods

    for a string change you really just need the tools supplied with the guitar..the bridge allen wrench and the trussrod wrench...add a good wire clipper, a good metal straightedge ruler and a plastic tuning peg winder & you're on your way

    luck

    cheers

    ps-taking pics before you start is also a good idea should you get thrown off

  17. #16

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    The Fender website has good setup instructions. The tools needed are very simple and available from any hardware store.

  18. #17

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    I was afraid to do fret jobs, but started dressing fret ends, leveling and crowning on cheap Asian guitars and the results are sooo satisfying. It's not difficult at all, you don't need a lot of expensive tools (although you can spend as much as you want on fret files) and it can make a cheap guitar compete with the expensive ones!

    Same for nuts: I invested in some nut slot files (those can be very expensive, but deals can be found) and a feeler gauge and made many of my guitars play so much better that I feel sorry for not trying this many years ago......

    I have now put together several wirings for different guitars and getting better (and neater) at it every time.

  19. #18

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    Quote Originally Posted by deacon Mark
    This is particularly important because even the best set up person in the world is not you playing the guitar. In fact I remember Howard Roberts mentioning how he actually change the action on a regular basis depending on how he felt. Some days you have more power and strength and like resistance and other days not so much. I find myself that if I play fingerstyle a lot then my touch is just softer and I like less resistance. However when I get the pick out, and I use a thick one, then I sometimes like a pretty stiff attack. I recently bought a guitar that I that was set up by one of the finest fellows in the business, of course I do all my own work but this came perfect. Then I notice after a hours of playing the action was just a hair too low. I played fine and no buzzing but I just moved it up a tad hardly noticeable even to measure but my hands knew.
    Great advice. My guy is the most respected in western NYS, but every time I get a guitar back I have to adjust it for ME.

  20. #19

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    Quote Originally Posted by mr. beaumont
    Get the Dan Erlewine book if you can--Guitar Player repair guide. I learned SO MUCh from that book.
    This and Erlewine’s HOW TO MAKE YOUR ELECTRIC GUITAR PLAY GREAT. This one even includes cheapie radius templates which are very handy. With those two books, you can do almost anything.

    The only thing I do not do myself is refrets.

  21. #20

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    Can I be the only guitar owner here watching this guy?


  22. #21

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    Quote Originally Posted by WILSON 1
    Set ups are "issue solving" and can be overdone (IMHO) if the instrument is in reasonable shape.

    Has this one been neglected? Out of it's case, no humidifier?

    Also, how "deep" do you want to go; remember TRAIN?
    That's truss-rod, action, intonation...adjustments in that order.

    This business can become overwhelming trust me and take you from practice, which is more important, so keep it simple
    ( sometimes an old credit card will do ).
    I've heard the N is for Noodle.
    You Noodle to evaluate the new setup and and then repeat the process if needed.


    Fender has this nice information on set-up on their website:
    https://support.fender.com/hc/en-us/...itar-properly-

  23. #22

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    You've got that right!

    What does perfect intonation open and at the 12th fret mean when you voice x5766x and get gots or worse, eau-gots?

  24. #23

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    Guys- Thanks so much! Great advice all!

  25. #24

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    What made me start doing my own setups - and refretting- and electronics - was the cost of luthier work. Here, it's serious money. (And I understand why; a reasonable fret job is several hours of work. hammering the frets in is ony 5% of it) Plus, it's enjoyable- but only with the right tools. So, I do nuts, bridges, pickups and wiring looms, and ( unavoidably) truss rods. I've refetted at least 12 guitars, starting on a £200 Ebay beater which turned out reasonably well. It's surprising how you can get 1 mm action on almost any guitar after a refret. BUT the key is, you have to invest in the tools; it;s impossible to do a refret without specialist nut and crowning files, radius block, stick-on abrasive, fret nipper, de-fretting tools, slot files etc, etc etc.

    So...I'd say - if you just have a couple of guitars you play, it might not be worth it. If, like me, you have been a serial buyer and seller of guitars, and you want them all to play well, it might be. Of all the things I have learnt the hard way over many years, I'd say the 2 most important factors in a good set-up are:
    -get the nut down to the right height. Nearly all factory guitars are set far too high. Gibson, especially
    -get the truss rod set correctly. Every other player I know is afraid to adjust it. It's safe enough if you read up on how to do it. And it's hard to play on a bowed neck...

  26. #25

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    Quote Originally Posted by WILSON 1
    ( sometimes an old credit card will do ).
    ....My guy likes cash better ! : )

    ( Sorry but good luck ! )

  27. #26

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    I do my own, just because there is no one in my area who I think does a great job, especially with archtops. A 6" machinist ruler with 1/64" measurements is the most basic tool. The string action gauge, like this one from Stew Mac is great: String Action Gauge | stewmac.com
    A set of nut files is cool too if you really want to get into it. You can't do a great setup without making the guitar play well at the nut.

    The aforementioned frets.com is a great resource. I like the succinct article from SF Guitarworks here: Anatomy of a Setup – SF Guitarworks

  28. #27

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    As time goes on you can add more tools. I did minimal fret work until recently when I saw this video about a tool that makes leveling, crowning, and polishing very easy. I decided to take a chance and buy it for about US$40-50. I was very pleasantly surprised to find it works just like the video and I have now done several guitars. Works great for minor setups.
    jobs.

  29. #28

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    Quote Originally Posted by Chazmo
    As time goes on you can add more tools. I did minimal fret work until recently when I saw this video about a tool that makes leveling, crowning, and polishing very easy. I decided to take a chance and buy it for about US$40-50. I was very pleasantly surprised to find it works just like the video and I have now done several guitars. Works great for minor setups.
    Wow, those demos look persuasive and there are lots of good reviews. As quickly as he works, it seems like it would be easy to make a mess of things, but he claims it’s not. I’m tempted to try it, starting with a couple of beater guitars.

  30. #29

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    I do truss-rod adjustments, action and intonation set-up, fret polishing. It's easy and not risky if you are a little handy.
    I started to adjust nut height also, because my ES-339 was not OK (despite it came "set-up" by the store I bought it from), but I practiced on an old korean ES-335 copy before !
    I started with fret levelling on my son's guitar (it was the 20th one, or so, so it was not so dangerous) and it went OK
    I plan to make my own bone nut soon, but I will test my ability on the korean first !
    All this because I have not been able to find a tech I can trust in my neighborhood.
    It's fun, so try it. The best is if you can practice on a cheap guitar that you have no special connection with.

  31. #30

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    Quote Originally Posted by Chazmo
    As time goes on you can add more tools. I did minimal fret work until recently when I saw this video about a tool that makes leveling, crowning, and polishing very easy. I decided to take a chance and buy it for about US$40-50. I was very pleasantly surprised to find it works just like the video and I have now done several guitars. Works great for minor setups.
    jobs.
    Nice tip.

    Filling is very time consuming and perfection only comes with the time you can put into the work.

    This product looks well thought out and I ordered one.

    Thanks

  32. #31

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    I'll add something about truss rod adjusting, based on my experience ( which is far from complete). I've owned many Gibsons, a couple of Heritages, several Guilds, many fenders, a couple of Slaman guitars, a few japanese copies, a levin, a Gretsch and other guitars I've forgotten now. I've adjusted friends' guitars for them. I've found that USA Guild guitars adjust easily with string tension in place; the same with most USA fenders, although not all. It's the same for my Slamans- easy adjustment- and all the japanese copies that I can remember.

    I've found that most Gibson and Heritages are more problematic and often are quite hard to adjust. The truss rods on these guitars adjust more easily and safely if you put some back pressure on the neck ( NOT the head..) with the left forearm before turning the nut. Putting 2 + 2 together, I've come to the conclusion over time that the "historic truss rod" set-up that gibson proudly features is quite a bad design, that weakens the head unduly at the truss rod cavity and often requires a lot of pressure on the rod to straighten the neck. Back pressure on the neck from the forearm really helps in these situations. By contrast, USA Guild truss rods, with a smaller nut and cavity, and modern dual action truss rods adjust far more easily. Fortunately, many modern luthiers use small dual action truss rods which need less pressure from the truss rod nut - I don't know of any who use the Gibson design, altho; there may well be some.

    YMMV of course; and I have an exception to this rule myself, my '58 L4C adjusts easily, and very rarely requires adjustment anyway..

    So why do Gibson/ Heritage persist with this 'historic' design, when improved designs are available ? I guess the answer lies in the name...

  33. #32

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    It would appear that I will actually have to learn to do it myself. I just got a guitar back from a guy who is actually a renowned builder and has worked closely with some ridiculously well-known people.

    The guitar in question had (edit: has) a buzz at the 6th fret, which I (a humble guitarist) was unable to resolve myself. Well, I got the guitar back with a jacked up bridge (I had aleady tried that) and a slightly flatter neck (which I has also tried). Buzz still there, so when I mentioned this, I was told that it would need "more extensive investigation".

    I asked in passing what the charge would be for a fret job on another guitar and the fee he quoted could easily buy me a whole new neck (it's a Strat), so fearing how much the "further investigation" would potentially cost, I've been reading up on whether a fret can become loose/unseated without actually appearing to be so.....

    If only I'd taken up cello as a kid.

  34. #33

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    Quote Originally Posted by Peter C
    I've been reading up on whether a fret can become loose/unseated without actually appearing to be so.....
    As I think you will have surmised, it can. And they do. It's a quick fix with a dead-flat surface with sticky abrasive attached, and then a "crowning file", and then polishing to a shine.
    Fiddly, but < 30 min even on first try. An alternative is to stick the fret down again with CA glue ( although can be messy and definitely not for the un-dextrous or slow-moving).
    Stewmac trade secrets is a good resource for this kind of thing. And although techs have a vested interest in talking things up, it's not hi-tech stuff. It's simply
    patient, obvious and time-consuming stuff. I find patience the hardest part...

  35. #34

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    I do my own action, intonation, and truss rod adjustments, and have also started doing some spot fret leveling/crowning to deal with high frets (but have not graduated to full fret-leveling). I don't do electronics.

    John

  36. #35

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    Quote Originally Posted by Franz 1997
    As I think you will have surmised, it can. And they do. It's a quick fix with a dead-flat surface with sticky abrasive attached, and then a "crowning file", and then polishing to a shine.
    Fiddly, but < 30 min even on first try. An alternative is to stick the fret down again with CA glue ( although can be messy and definitely not for the un-dextrous or slow-moving).
    Stewmac trade secrets is a good resource for this kind of thing. And although techs have a vested interest in talking things up, it's not hi-tech stuff. It's simply
    patient, obvious and time-consuming stuff. I find patience the hardest part...
    Hi Franz, in London? Haven't been back there for yonks. I'm not sure if you're recommending re-crowning the offending fret; the tech said the frets were level. Your other suggestion is to remove the fret then re-glue it?

  37. #36

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    Quote Originally Posted by Peter C
    Hi Franz, in London? Haven't been back there for yonks. I'm not sure if you're recommending re-crowning the offending fret; the tech said the frets were level. Your other suggestion is to remove the fret then re-glue it?
    Hi Peter- yes, in lockdown London. It's changed a bit....

    I only know of two possible reasons for an isolated buzzing fret; either it's slightly too high ( it happens over time, never sure why) or else just possibly, it's vibrating somehow and needs re-seating ( fret hammer) or re-glueing. If that is the case, no need to remove it; you can wax the fingerboard around the fret and then quickly inject some CA glue under it, and press it down, afterwards quickly removing any excess glue ( there will be some).

    I have read about the glueing technique, but I personally have never come across any buzzing fret that wasn't just slightly too high.

    Before reglueing any fret I'd make certain to check that it was perfectly level myself, with a metal straight-edge. I have great respect for expert techs, but they are not all expert, and work under time pressure. If slightly high, not too hard to level, recrown and polish, as described. it's called 'spot levelling" ; I think stewmac even sell a tool specifically designed for that purpose that is designed to stop one taking too much off. You mark the tops of the adjacent frets with a marker, and when the marker ink starts rubbing off the adjacent frets, you have levelled the offending fret. As I said earlier, not rocket science, just patient and thorough work.

  38. #37

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    Quote Originally Posted by Peter C
    It would appear that I will actually have to learn to do it myself.
    Not a bad idea.


    Quote Originally Posted by Peter C
    guitar in question had (edit: has) a buzz at the 6th fret, which I (a humble guitarist) was unable to resolve myself.
    CAPO @ 6 buzz where?


    Quote Originally Posted by Peter C
    I got the guitar back with a jacked up bridge
    Without a neck shim no doubt.


    Quote Originally Posted by Peter C
    I asked in passing what the charge would be for a fret job on another guitar and the fee he quoted could easily buy me a whole new neck (it's a Strat),
    Replace maybe...redress no way.

    Quote Originally Posted by Peter C
    so fearing how much the "further investigation" would potentially cost, I've been reading up on whether a fret can become loose/unseated without actually appearing to be so.....

    If only I'd taken up cello as a kid.
    Now you're on your way to saving money. Start on the ironing board...end up with a small shop and everybody bringing over their instruments.
    Not rock science and can be fun!

  39. #38

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    Quote Originally Posted by Franz 1997
    Hi Peter- yes, in lockdown London. It's changed a bit....

    I only know of two possible reasons for an isolated buzzing fret; either it's slightly too high ( it happens over time, never sure why) or else just possibly, it's vibrating somehow and needs re-seating ( fret hammer) or re-glueing. If that is the case, no need to remove it; you can wax the fingerboard around the fret and then quickly inject some CA glue under it, and press it down, afterwards quickly removing any excess glue ( there will be some).

    I have read about the glueing technique, but I personally have never come across any buzzing fret that wasn't just slightly too high.

    Before reglueing any fret I'd make certain to check that it was perfectly level myself, with a metal straight-edge. I have great respect for expert techs, but they are not all expert, and work under time pressure. If slightly high, not too hard to level, recrown and polish, as described. it's called 'spot levelling" ; I think stewmac even sell a tool specifically designed for that purpose that is designed to stop one taking too much off. You mark the tops of the adjacent frets with a marker, and when the marker ink starts rubbing off the adjacent frets, you have levelled the offending fret. As I said earlier, not rocket science, just patient and thorough work.
    The weird thing is that it only seems to affect the B and G strings and the sound is somewhat akin to a makeshift comb & paper kazoo, with very fast note decay. So not yer typical, raspy, fly-in-a-bottle string buzz caused by a high fret.

    Thanks for all the info, which I will duly study!

  40. #39

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    Quote Originally Posted by WILSON 1
    Not a bad idea.




    CAPO @ 6 buzz where?




    Without a neck shim no doubt.




    Replace maybe...redress no way.



    Now you're on your way to saving money. Start on the ironing board...end up with a small shop and everybody bringing over their instruments.
    Not rock science and can be fun!
    Hi. 6th fret, strings 2 & 3, as mentioned above. No neck shim because the guitar in question is an Artcore archtop; my Strat needs some love and care, so I just asked about that while I was there.

    Ha, no plans to start up a shop, though I'm open to learning to do my own stuff, maybe order some toys from Stew-Mac!

    PS I actually should start because my newer, main guitar is gonna need some work one day or another....

  41. #40

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    Quote Originally Posted by Peter C
    The weird thing is that it only seems to affect the B and G strings and the sound is somewhat akin to a makeshift comb & paper kazoo, with very fast note decay. So not yer typical, raspy, fly-in-a-bottle string buzz caused by a high fret.

    Thanks for all the info, which I will duly study!
    Ok, that's different. check bridge saddles, old corroded strings, bridge pickup height, rattling pickups springs, retaining wire if tom bridge. That should cover it.
    If not, get new guitar.

  42. #41

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    I do everything mechanical on my own guitars. That includes nut slotting, fret dressing, etc. Except for the basics, I don't do electronic work and I don't do finish work. 20+ years ago when lived in Savannah GA, I took two of my guitars to an esteemed repair man/builder (not Benedetto) who was an authorized Martin and Gibson repair person and builder of mandolins and guitars. The absolutely worst guitar experience of my life, late, costly and his help stole parts off my 1960 ES 345 not to mention he replaced my factory installed Grover tuners with Kluson copies without my approval. I probably owned the only 1960 Gibson where the Grovers were replaced with Klusons. After that sh!tty experience I decided to learn how do this myself.

    I'm mechanically inclined so it wasn't too difficult with the right tools. I invested in nut files, straight edges, etc and bought Erlewine's first book. If one has a modicum of mechanical ability, one can and should be able to work on their own instrument. I now happen to live very near a friend who builds and repairs guitars so if I have electronic work, finish work etc. I take them to him. But when it comes to my preferred setup, I do it myself.

  43. #42

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    I do my own setups. The things I can't do are fretwork and cutting slots for nuts or bridges. The latter is something I've thought about investing some tools to do myself, but I really only need to upgrade the nut on one of my guitar so it might just be worth it to pay someone to do it. I'd like to learn how to do fretwork, but I can only imagine that if I were to make a living or side gig off of it, it would do a number on my arms and hands.

  44. #43

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    Quote Originally Posted by jjang1993 View Post
    It, it would do a number on my arms and hands.
    It doesn't.

  45. #44

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    When doing fretwork, you do not want to use your arms and hands to apply a lot of pressure. The weight of the tool is enough, and all you do is move it.

  46. #45

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    I also do setups myself, it's not that difficult to learn, especially today with all the video tutorials.

    Would love to learn to do fretwork, but unlike setups, the results are permanent and difficult to fix, you need a lot of tools, so not at the moment probably. The whole point would be to get good at it, not to just destroy a guitar..

  47. #46

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    I myself set up truss rod, bridge height and position. I also can check the nut is OK or not, but I do not allow myself to touch the nut :-).

    All above is a usual case if the stringset type or tension is changing.

    To get an appropriate intonation I recommend a phone based or online browser based tuner, because it is a great benefit if this one time setting up scenario you can check not only the octaves but any position, like 11th or 6th and 8th just to make the optimum compromises what sometimes necessary and allows you do cross checks accross the whole neck.

  48. #47

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    Guitar electronics is only a little more electronics than plugging a device into a socket. You just connect pickups to pots and the jack in obvious ways. Except instead plugging you'll need to soldier. But then there are even solderless pickups.

  49. #48

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    I do my own set ups, including fret level-crown-polish when needed. I also do pickup changes and wiring harness stuff.

  50. #49

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    So, other than Allen wrenches, what else would I need? Straight edge? Radius gauges? Would a set like this be a good place to start, or overkill?

    Basic Setup Kit | stewmac.com

    Or this one?

    Action Adjustment Set for Electric Guitar | stewmac.com

  51. #50

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    Quote Originally Posted by rsh
    So, other than Allen wrenches, what else would I need? Straight edge? Radius gauges? Would a set like this be a good place to start, or overkill?

    Basic Setup Kit | stewmac.com

    Or this one?

    Action Adjustment Set for Electric Guitar | stewmac.com
    I would say overkill. Just two allen keys I think needed for the basic setup of Fender Strats. Tele saddles I think depends on whether you have 3 or 6 saddles. But either case just a small allen key or a screwdriver.

    Action and pickup height can be measured with a ruler. For Truss rod adjustment measurement some use D'addario string packaging paper (for string height where the give is max).