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  1. #1

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    I had some trouble knowing what terms to search for, so I decided to make a post. My new archtop guitar (Eastman AR603ce-15) has been keeping me up at night! I’ve had it for about a week now, but in the last two days it has started making an intermittent “knock” that sometimes causes the strings to resonate quietly. It sounds like it’s coming from the tailpiece or pick guard, but it’s hard to tell. When I tuned it up this morning, all of the strings were sharp (some by almost a quarter step).

    The temperature has changed quite a bit this week and it has gotten fairly humid. I currently have the guitar hanging on a wall.

    Could this be a humidity issue? Do archtops have some sort of adjustment period to ‘settle in’? It’s about 6 months old. Any thoughts or advice?
    Last edited by mrventures; 06-25-2020 at 05:53 AM. Reason: Additional info about strings

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  3. #2

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    I can not rule out structural problems with your new guitar, but if that was the case, or if say the tailpiece was giving way to the string tension, I would have expected the guitar to play flat and not sharp.

    Is the fretboard made of ebony? If yes, the rising humidity can cause the fretboard to swell a bit. Ebony is regarded as a hard wood but it can nevertheless absorb humidity and swell - more so than the maple or mahogany neck it is glued onto. That could explain that your guitar plays sharp. Many guitars with ebony fretboards need a truss rod adjustment twice a year in spring and autumn when the wheather changes - not the least if the guitar is kept in a house with central heating which can have quite low humidity in the winter. Check out you neck relief to see if there is now a slight backbow (or less relief) as a result of a possible ebony swelling. Another result of ebony board swelling and shrinking can be protruding fret ends which then have to be filed down flush with the wood and rerounded at the ends. That happened to one of my guitars which was built over the summer and which developed protruding fret ends the first winter. It was easy to fix however and it's a favorite guitar of mine but I do have to adjust the trussrod twice a year.

  4. #3

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    All and especially solid wood guitars tend to absorb moisture towards the summer when relative humidity rises. Tuning may go up by a half step, even more. It's possible that when a roundwound string's winding moves a notch on the bridge, you can hear it at night. But this should not happen continuously. If the fretboard expands more than the rest of the neck, strings should start rattling, starting around the middle of the fretboard. A wild but improbable explanation is that you have a worm somewhere in the woodwork.

  5. #4

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    Can you be more descriptive about the "knocking" sound and when it happens? Nice guitar btw, I'm a 15" guy too. (No lewd comments, please.)

  6. #5
    It does have an ebony fingerboard atop a mahogany neck, but it doesn't seem like the frets are protruding beyond their original position. I am hoping that Gitterbug has the right idea -- it came with roundwounds which I haven't replaced yet (I have a set of TI JS112s awaiting installation). It has not been a continuous sound, nor has it been happening regularly; I've noticed it maybe once every 2-4 hours, though I am not always within earshot during the day and I do eventually fall asleep at night.

    I'll try to figure out if the neck relief has a backbow.

    Thanks!

  7. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by Woody Sound
    Can you be more descriptive about the "knocking" sound and when it happens? Nice guitar btw, I'm a 15" guy too. (No lewd comments, please.)
    This is one thing I have trouble describing, which is perhaps why I struggled to search for the issue if others have had it. I'll see if I can record it somehow, but sounds like a quick 'knock' with a slightly metallic overtone, or like something has expanded 'one notch'.

  8. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by mrventures
    It has not been a continuous sound, nor has it been happening regularly; I've noticed it maybe once every 2-4 hours, though I am not always within earshot during the day and I do eventually fall asleep at night.
    Are you saying it happens when you're not even playing it?

  9. #8
    That's exactly what I'm saying -- I haven't noticed this while actually playing the guitar.

  10. #9

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    Is it similar as when one starts to tune a guitar string which is a bit stuck in the nut and then it makes that knocking sound?

  11. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by mrventures
    That's exactly what I'm saying -- I haven't noticed this while actually playing the guitar.
    Well then that might be serious. Maybe something is stretching or compressing or giving way. Have you changed the strings yet? Or it could just be the humidity, but it still shouldn't be that drastic that it makes a sound.

  12. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by vinlander
    Is it similar as when one starts to tune a guitar string which is a bit stuck in the nut and then it makes that knocking sound?
    Yes - this.

  13. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by Woody Sound
    Well then that might be serious. Maybe something is stretching or compressing or giving way. Have you changed the strings yet? Or it could just be the humidity, but it still shouldn't be that drastic that it makes a sound.
    Has the original roundwound strings that it came with.

  14. #13

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    Beatles

  15. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by mrventures

    I'll try to figure out if the neck relief has a backbow.
    Luckily, I had a set of feeler gauges. Using a few different sources on YouTube, I think I measured the relief correctly. It came out to just somewhere between .006" and .007" (closer to .007"). I read that 0.010" is typically the starting point, but I'm not sure if archtops tend to keep a shallower relief or if this indicates swelling. I can't seem to find Eastman's recommendation for neck relief -- I'll try to reach out to them. On the positive side, there is no buzzing.
    Last edited by mrventures; 06-25-2020 at 08:37 AM. Reason: deleted extra bracket in quote

  16. #15
    For additional info, I just tuned up my Fender Jazz bass (same room) and all strings were also sharp. No worrisome sounds coming out of it, though the strings haven’t been changed in over a year.

  17. #16

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    Deathwatch beetle.

    Archtop Wood “Knocking” Sound-60bc6b5d-583e-47dd-b6b3-a3f302c58ad6-jpg

  18. #17

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    Eastman's suggestion for neck relief is irrelevant, your preference and technique are the only factors to consider. That being if you prefer zero relief or very close to it, and you dig in hard when you play, you'll get buzzing. Find the relief that is comfortable to you and allows you to play as you wish with best results. .006 - .007 sounds pretty reasonable. I know some folks have had issues with Eastman tailpieces failing (as did some Jimmy D'Aquisto's) so I would look into that. Eastman USA customer support is as good as you'll ever experience so if there is a problem they will take care of you.
    I don't think neck relief could possibly be the source or factor of your knock.

  19. #18

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    JMO: I never measure any relief. I eyeball it down the line and adjust the tr, nut slots, and bridge to where I like it. Which is pretty flat and little relief, with low action. As they say, TEHO.

  20. #19

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    sounds like 2 distinct issues

    the tuning problem is common..temp and humidity changes moved the neck...straightening it, so that the strings went sharp...happens all the time, but most just retune their guitars and move on..wrong thing to do...as overtime the situation worsens...trussrod needs an adjustment..take care of it..and keep your guitar in its case

    as for the pinging...slight chance it could be the loose trussrod moving within the channel...but more likely the ball end of the string moving in the tailpiece end slot...sometimes the ball ends are not secure in the notch..check to see they are all seated...sometimes some slight filing is needed..another thing to check is that the screws holding the tailpiece on the rim of the guitar are secure and tight

    hopefully that will take care of it


    cheers

    ps- are you a big ventures fan?? nokie edwards!!

  21. #20

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    Put a little graphite in the nut slots ( #2 pencil ). If it still happens then it is something else.

    I always put a little graphite in the nut slots and a tiny drop of clock oil on every moving part of the tuners.

  22. #21

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    ^ in general, totally agree about some graphite in the slots ...nut and bridge...(tho i don't think slots are ops problem)...but i use a much softer pencil..a 9B...much better/easier graphite transfer...art supply store stock..give it a shot

    cheers

  23. #22

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    If you tape it and slow it down, you'll hear a voice saying "Your mother plays Strats in Hell!"

    If I had to guess, I'd say that the strings are binding at the nut while, at the same time, the neck is flexing due to a combination of the wood not being fully cured and/or increased summer humidity. The "knocking", however, does suggest something from another realm/dimension trying to break thru to our universe and pave the way for Great Cthulhu. So there's that to consider.

  24. #23

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    ..........I remember one of my acoustic L-7's doing that / making that noise......But, it was years ago and only when the wood was drying - -the start or middle of the really cold winter here when the furnace was going full blast, and the wood was going from humid to dry, but not the other way around - -meaning as the wood was being hydrated...............
    Last edited by Dennis D; 06-26-2020 at 10:07 AM.

  25. #24
    Great suggestions, everyone.

    Quote Originally Posted by whiskey02
    Eastman's suggestion for neck relief is irrelevant, your preference and technique are the only factors to consider.

    Just to square this circle, when I asked Eastman what the suggested amount of relief is, this is what they replied:
    We recommend setting up this guitar to the specs below:

    • 1st Fret String Height:.022"
    • 12th Fret String Height:Bass .078" & Treble .062"


    Quote Originally Posted by BBGuitar
    I always put a little graphite in the nut slots and a tiny drop of clock oil on every moving part of the tuners.

    I'll try these out. Shouldn't be too hard finding pencil graphite as a math teacher, and clock oil should be equally as easy to find in Switzerland (though I'm sure it will cost double what it would in most other places!).

    Quote Originally Posted by neatomic
    the tuning problem is common..temp and humidity changes moved the neck...straightening it, so that the strings went sharp...happens all the time, but most just retune their guitars and move on..wrong thing to do...as overtime the situation worsens...trussrod needs an adjustment..take care of it..and keep your guitar in its case
    as for the pinging...slight chance it could be the loose trussrod moving within the channel...but more likely the ball end of the string moving in the tailpiece end slot...sometimes the ball ends are not secure in the notch..check to see they are all seated...sometimes some slight filing is needed..another thing to check is that the screws holding the tailpiece on the rim of the guitar are secure and tight

    Will look into these. TBH, I'm not seasoned enough to know how much relief I like, especially when we are talking about thousandths of an inch. However, I'll adjust it for a touch more relief and see if that helps. Will also take a look at the tailpiece and ball ends.

    Quote Originally Posted by neatomic
    ps- are you a big ventures fan?? nokie edwards!!

    I do enjoy The Ventures, but that's not what my u/n refers to. It's a mispronunciation of my surname by a former student of mine; I thought it sounded cool so I adopted it.


    BTW, I have not heard the knocking for the past two days. It has also rained each night, so it's been fairly cool throughout the day. I have a Shelly Humidity and Temperature sensor on the way to get an idea of what's going on humidity-wise in the room.

    Is keeping the guitar in a case a good general recommendation?

  26. #25

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    As to staying in the case... I have a very fine classical that stays in the case, of course with a digital temp/humidity monitor that’s been calibrated. (I sure do not wish to open the case to find 12,000US$ of toothpicks)))
    You know through summer and winter I’ve rarely - if ever - found a significant difference from room to case humidity. I don’t know if others find the same, but the two readings stay very close in my room.
    Easily tested and proved/disproved. YMMV.
    take care
    d

    VENTURES!!! Loved their stuff played along with all of it. It’s why my first good guitar was a Jaguar. Me and Joe Pass! But the Comparison ends there.

  27. #26

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    It's certainly possible that Grahambop is correct, and that there are deathwatch beetles living in the guitar. If so, they need to be killed as soon as possible. Using a phone through the soundhole, or an actual camera on a flexible extension, could help. Look for small holes, ~3 or 4 mm in diameter. These insects normally grow slowly, and take a couple of years or more to start doing their damage. It's far from certain, but IMO worth checking. The clicks are an indication, and I've never heard them coming from any guitar I've ever owned in my 70+ years on the earth.

  28. #27
    Quote Originally Posted by sgosnell
    It's certainly possible that Grahambop is correct, and that there are deathwatch beetles living in the guitar. If so, they need to be killed as soon as possible.

    It's tough getting my phone into the F-hole at the right angle, and I don't have a flexible extension, so I'm not sure if I'll be able to check for that. Interestingly, when I was trying this out, I pressed down gently on the outside of the F-hole and heard a similar sound to the knocking. I tried pressing around both F-holes while recording with my phone to see if I could replicate it, but no luck there.

    Quote Originally Posted by jazzkritter
    You know through summer and winter I’ve rarely - if ever - found a significant difference from room to case humidity. I don’t know if others find the same, but the two readings stay very close in my room.

    I would love to hear from others if they have similar or dissimilar experiences to jazzkritter. Living in a small apartment, my partner would not be pleased if I had to keep it in the case (since that would also have to be kept in the bedroom...); the wall hangers are great space-savers and I can put the case into our storage area. I also don't want to damage the guitar...

    Quote Originally Posted by neatomic
    ...but more likely the ball end of the string moving in the tailpiece end slot...sometimes the ball ends are not secure in the notch..check to see they are all seated...sometimes some slight filing is needed..another thing to check is that the screws holding the tailpiece on the rim of the guitar are secure and tight

    Ball ends seem to be seated properly (now...) and the screws needed no tightening.

    I'm starting to settle on this being caused by humidity.
    Last edited by mrventures; 06-27-2020 at 03:11 AM. Reason: fixed an incomplete sentence

  29. #28

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    Just to square this circle, when I asked Eastman what the suggested amount of relief is, this is what they replied:
    We recommend setting up this guitar to the specs below:


    • 1st Fret String Height:.022"
    • 12th Fret String Height:Bass .078" & Treble .062"


    That is suggestions for string height, unrelated to relief. Again, your technique and preference are the final determining factors. I play with a fairly light touch and my guitar is set up accordingly, many people could play my guitar and get more buzzing than they would find acceptable. I don't get any, you have to find your own "perfect". I had a fantastic tech, when he died a different (very respected guy, you may well know his name) did some work for me. When I got my guitar back it just didn't feel right and the tone was different. I couldn't put words to it but it was different. I checked the relief to a similar guitar that had been set up by my tech of 10 years and noticed there was less relief. I fiddle with it till I matched the relief and the right "feel" came back and what ever was different in the tone changed back. I still can't name or describe the tonal aspect but it was there. FWIW the new tech spends most of his time building and working on Fender style guitars rather than Les Pauls. I have very limited experience with Tele's and Strats and don't know if that is a factor, or if it just that Allan would listen and watch you play when you brought a guitar to him so he knew what you were doing and how you did it, and applied that knowledge into the set up, so that's just what became normal to me.

  30. #29

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    Quote Originally Posted by mrventures

    I'm starting to settle on this being caused by humidity.

    .......I agree, and mostly caused by changes in humidity, meaning loss of it - guitars drying out and / or suddenly going from a humid environment to heated home in winter......

  31. #30
    Hmm...but this happened while heading into summer, with a probably spike in humidity....

  32. #31

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    Drying beatles.

  33. #32

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    Quote Originally Posted by mrventures
    Hmm...but this happened while heading into summer, with a probably spike in humidity....

    ...Your post said you've had it for a week and it's been going through a temperature change - - do you know where it had been ? I don't think the humidity spike for a week would do that.....the hydration part I'd bet would take longer than a week.........The poor man's hydration here in the US Midwest is to leave the instruments in the basement for a few weeks.....

    Anyway good luck !

  34. #33

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    doesnt matter if temps and humidity go up or down...if there are large fluctuations, the neck can move and you can spend lots of time adjusting your trussrod...also don't hang the guitar on an outside wall..more prone to fluctuations

    why a case keeps it more secure...

    cheers

  35. #34

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    Quote Originally Posted by neatomic

    why a case keeps it more secure...
    Until the binding starts to rot and out-gas ...

    (although that might dispose of the woodworm).

  36. #35

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    haha...i didn't mean burying it under the bed for a decade!

    use the guitar, but if you have temp/humidity fluctuations better to store overnite in case, then to hang on wall


    unless you are prepared to adjust trussrod..not a problem for me, but...

    cheers

  37. #36
    Quote Originally Posted by Dennis D
    do you know where it had been ?
    Yes! It was in the Seattle, Washington area. I bought from Michael at Django Books. I’ve only read great things about DB, so I imagine it was stored properly. It took a few weeks to ship, however (I’m guessing COVID caused a delay).

    I will definitely be storing it in its case in our cool cantina when we go away for trips in the summertime.

  38. #37

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    And where is it now ?

    Anyway the replies here about temperature and humidity changes are correct. My experiences had been that going from Midwest high humidity summers to dry non-humidified winter furnace heat would do it. And storing guitars during winter in a humid basement - -while a little cooler than living areas, worked. I have even gotten used to the idea of keeping guitars down there I don't play as often.

    Good luck !

  39. #38
    Just north of the Italian border in Switzerland. We have palm trees outside our apartment Archtop Wood “Knocking” Sound

  40. #39

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    Quote Originally Posted by mrventures
    Just north of the Italian border in Switzerland. We have palm trees outside our apartment Archtop Wood “Knocking” Sound
    ...Sounds fantastic !

    Go ahead - -post a photo !

  41. #40
    Quote Originally Posted by Dennis D
    ...Sounds fantastic !

    Go ahead - -post a photo !
    We are very lucky to have landed here

    Archtop Wood “Knocking” Sound-img_9914-jpg
    This is just outside our current apartment; not much to look at, but proof of palm trees in Switzerland!


    Archtop Wood “Knocking” Sound-26440472583_40c37354f2_k-jpg
    This one is from our old apartment just up the road from where we are now. One of my favorite vistas on the planet!

  42. #41
    I wrote to Eastman to see if they had any advice for this issue, and this was their response:

    Thank you for the clarification. It does seem like humidity is affecting your guitar and causing string slippage at the nut. We recommend storing your guitar in the case with humidity control inside. This will prevent the wood from contacting and expanding which will preserve your guitar from lacquer checking and other issues. If a case is not available, we recommend having the room you store your guitar is be humidity controlled. Another solution we would offer is having your guitar looked at by a luthier, as they can expand the nut slots so they are not as tight on the strings and add a lubricate to prevent the sound of the string slippage.

  43. #42

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    Wow - - thank you for posting those. Either of those would make a great postcard !

    Thank you again.

  44. #43

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    What town is that? I was in Ticino for vacation many years ago (Ascona), and loved it.

    John

  45. #44

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    Is that Lake Como?

  46. #45
    Quote Originally Posted by John A.
    What town is that? I was in Ticino for vacation many years ago (Ascona), and loved it.
    Quote Originally Posted by Greentone
    Is that Lake Como?
    That's Lake Lugano; the view is from Montagnola (above Lugano). THE George Harrison owned a house near the center of Montagnola; it's very secluded, so you can't really see much of it from the road.

  47. #46
    Quote Originally Posted by mrventures
    I have a Shelly Humidity and Temperature sensor on the way to get an idea of what's going on humidity-wise in the room.
    I finally got the battery for this Shelly H&T sensor and set it up today. I read here that it was fairly accurate compared to "sophisticated test equipment that can give me an accurate humidity reading". IF that is indeed true, humidity may indeed be the culprit. Today feels similar to the day I heard the infamous knocking sound, and the sensor reads 68% humidity!

    I have a fan running now and it knocked it down to 62%, but it's looking like I will not be able to keep my guitar hanging up during the summer (my partner was told to keep a somewhat humid environment to help improve a vocal injury from teaching, so a room dehumidifier is out..). So now I'm looking at keeping it in a case with some sort of humidity control system.

    Suggestions for an in-case humidity control system? Is the Planet Waves PW-HPK-01 any good? Would I need to pair that with a hygrometer made for that purpose (as opposed to the Shelly)?

    Thanks everyone!
    Last edited by mrventures; 06-30-2020 at 02:06 PM. Reason: clarified reason for humidity

  48. #47

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    My advice would be to remove the strings for a night, or really reduce tension. If there’s still a knocking sound, then it may actually be bugs, as one person suggested. I really doubt that, though. Then try it with tension, but pull the strings out of the nut slots and bridge slots for a night and see if you hear it. If not, then you know it might be one or the other of those things and you should test them individually. If it’s not them, on to the bridge, tailpiece and possibly a tuner!
    Last edited by uburoibob; 07-05-2020 at 06:13 PM.

  49. #48

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    Uburoibob's advice is very analytical and sensible. I would do precisely as he suggests.

  50. #49
    Will try this out when I get back to town (guitar is currently in cool storage area)