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  1. #1

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    I wanted to share but also put this down so perhaps someone googling around/ searching the forums looking for info might find it in the future.

    A number of years ago I tried using .014s. It was on my Eastman, which had what I thought to be very level frets (more on that later). I would put some on for a month, like the tone and then take them off because the made some things harder, barres in particular. I wasn’t measuring string height back then but it was what I would consider to be medium/low action (which some might consider low as I like low action on all guitars). Eventually I gave up and settled on .013s.

    Fast forward a number of years. I, at some point, ended up with .012s as my standard. I ended up changing guitars a few times until getting an L5 about 3 years ago. The frets were good when I got it but I have played it a whole lot and they really needed some work. Luckily I can do my own fret work (back at the beginning of this story I was too afraid to do fret work) so a couple nights ago I got to work. As I was leveling the frets I was thinking to myself - I haven’t tried .014s for a while. Some of my top favorite guitars used them...Wes, Grant Green, George Benson, Peter Bernstein and others...and I haven’t tried .014s on my L5 yet.

    Well fast forward to now and I am so happy with how it worked out. My action is around .7mm at the 12th fret - very low action so far as I consider it but I can still dig in moderately and get good dynamics. I think the biggest issue years ago was that although that Eastman played well, and in comparison to other guitars I had played it had level frets, they were not completely level. Also now I set up my guitar with a very small amount of fall off at the end of the neck and set my neck to be completely flat. It is easier for me to play with these strings than it was to play .012s. Different though, and will take a bit of adjustment to feel as comfortable and familiar as I did having stuck with .012s for so long. Oh and just FYI the set I’m using I just cobbled together from extra strings I had in my string box. .014-.056 (14 18 26 36 46 56) which I believe is comparable to the TI Benson set of .014s (although the bottom strings, of looking at D’Addario gauges would probably be from a set of .013s)

    So, I hope this might be helpful if someone is searching for info on heavy strings in the future and/or wondering why they aren’t working out for them. I’m sure what I’ve done isn’t required to be able to play heavy strings - I am kind of a wimp when it comes to string action. But I wanted to pass on the info that heavy strings do not have to be like lifting weights and can be just as easy to play, if not easier, as medium or light strings.

    Have a great day guys.


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  3. #2

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    The great thing about bigger strings is you can get the action at the first fret to be lower than thinner strings. This then puts in motion the ability to really have the low action you like. It also can make barring at the first fret fine even on big strings. The trade off is that if you ever decide to go with lighter strings you may get some buzzing........but it might be accepable buzzing that you can live with. Scale length also can be a factor in the equation. So a 24 3/4 scale length can give you a nice easy feeling action with big strings in a way the going to a 25.5 might require more muscle.

    I remember the late Bill Barker like the action on the bass side to be a bit higher than what is consider low. He would set his own guitar to 6/64 and given Barker guitars have a 24 27/32 scale length they feel great to play. I play my Barker with a .54 but I do keep the bass side at 5/64 unless I happen to be playing acoustic like a strolling gig. Barker was a fine guitarist so that is why he was able I think to make great guitars in addition to his wood working talents.

    Buzzing is places can actually be something that a guitarist can live with if it does not effect the electric sound, assuming the buzzing is not drug induced.
    specializing in repair and setup, does your guitar play like it should?

  4. #3

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    Rio,

    I think I bought my Eastman 803 in the same place you bought your Eastman, Guitars n' Jazz. I dunno if Lou would be impressed with everything that I did to my Eastman, or if he'd be mad. I still say that Guitars n' Jazz is the best place to buy an archie, even if you don't live in Joisey.

    On to your post. I recently had new frets installed in my Eastman, as well as a fret level, by none other than John Carruthers himself (I didn't know about him until recently, shame on me).

    After reading your initial post about playing with 14s, I tried it out a couple of years ago... and I hated it.

    Fast forward to 6 months ago, and I tried the 14s after my refret. I was scared to do it because my tech had to file my bridge... I have a custom bridge made of bone and ebony, and it didn't want to futz it up (the only thing original on my 803 is the wood).

    I took the plunge and... I love it. I might even bump up the "b" string a gauge. I use a 14 for the "high e" a set of 13s (D"addario ProSteel) for the "b" and "g" and then a set of 12s (John Pearse) for the rest--ALL ROUND WOUND.

    I ride the action on the medium to high end, because I love the dynamic range it affords me.

    The taller frets and the fret level made a huge difference.

    My next purchase has to be a better recording setup. I keep telling people how much I love the sound of my guitar acoustically, but no one can hear it on the interwebs. The Blue Snowball ain't working out as good as I'd hoped.

  5. #4

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    ....Thanks DM for mentioning scale length.......my luthier once pointed that out to me, as well as mentioning headstock angle.......my guitar with the longer scale and different h/s angle didn't allow for the same playability with 13/56's, as my short scale w/different h/s angle did.......
    .......and then adding to the confusion, were those skinny Gibson frets on one of them......
    ........I did settle on 13 & 20 on strings one and two, and then a standard set of 12's on the remaining strings.....( for now anyway )

  6. #5

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    Lrez87 - yup, I like Lou. It’s so rare to have a store filled with archtops (even if that store is a room in a pharmacy, which really gave me a chuckle the first time I went there but it’s great). He did a very good job with the Eastmans he had in stock - this was quite a long time ago now, I think it was 2007 when I got my Eastman there but all of them played really well. I still use that guitar as an acoustic now.

    Regarding scale length, that is a good point to make. I don’t think I could go as low with the action if it was on a 175 or other shorter scale length. In fact, I’m sure the Eastman being a 25” scale also played into me not being able to get the action as low as I can get it with the L5, being 25.5” regardless of fret leveling.


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  7. #6

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    .7mm is very low, less than 2/64". I'm very surprised that it's possible to play at that height without buzzing.

  8. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by sgosnell View Post
    .7mm is very low, less than 2/64". I'm very surprised that it's possible to play at that height without buzzing.
    I was honestly shocked that it got that low. I went to jam with some friends and when I got home I raised it a little to around .75-.8mm because it felt strange being so low even though it was technically easier. I think I like it here more since it is still very easy to play but now rather than my max being moderate pick attack (which was basically what I was dealing with playing with low action and .012s) I can really dig in given the strings tension while still having the action lower than I’ve had before. Guess I’m having my cake and eating it too this way. The number does seem very low so I’m doubting my string height gauge but using a pick, putting it between the first string and twelfth fret it is definitely under 1mm and seems like the measurement might be correct. The strings are extremely tight. I also suspect it would be highly dependent on who is playing. When I change picks, which I did just out of curiosity since I am a one pick guy, some did get fret buzz and I am not very heavy handed while I play. I also wonder how much the straight neck has to do with it. However after raising it to where it is now I can’t get any buzz out of it I less I hit the much harder than I normally would while playing.



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  9. #8

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    Edit: sorry, was trying to edit and double posted by accident.

  10. #9

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    I also prefer a straight neck, because I tend to play more in the middle of the neck than on the ends, and relief puts the greatest string height there, around the 6th or 7th fret. I can accept slightly higher action on the higher frets, which is what happens with a straight neck. But I've never been able to get my action that low an any guitar with any strings. I generally use .012 sets as an acceptable compromise, but I might try something heavier just because.

  11. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by sgosnell View Post
    I also prefer a straight neck, because I tend to play more in the middle of the neck than on the ends, and relief puts the greatest string height there, around the 6th or 7th fret. I can accept slightly higher action on the higher frets, which is what happens with a straight neck. But I've never been able to get my action that low an any guitar with any strings. I generally use .012 sets as an acceptable compromise, but I might try something heavier just because.
    Same here - I play high on the neck but it’s not as much of a priority as the middle of the neck and lower action there is more important for me. Also it doesn’t make sense since the relief is presumably to let the string vibrate in the middle but I’m not just hanging out in open position and on top of that I’m not picking so hard that the string needs that much room. The smaller distance of string vibration with heavier strings negates that too.

    With .012s I wanted around 1.2-1.3mm but usually couldn’t get that low and was probably more often around 1.4-1.5mm.


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