Almost final assembly – guitar #2

Last time I wrote in this journal, I was trying to decide whether I liked the neck I had chosen for the guitar. I ran an experiment, comparing two different necks, one of them being the original neck and one being a maple neck. I asked two different sets of folks what they thought of both necks. I posed the question on a Telecaster forum and I asked friends and work colleagues who are not particularly into guitars what they thought. Interestingly, the answers ran 2:1 from tdpri that the dark neck didn’t look good because of the maple headstock and a couple suggested a maple neck while non-guitar folks overwhelmingly (like 100% of them) thought the dark neck looked good. So I went with the dark neck. Also, the maple neck is for another guitar project 😉

First thing to do is to set up neck relief such that the neck is flat. Then the guitar is strung to pitch and the fret-to-string distance at the eight fret is measured with a capo on the first fret and an assistant pressing the last fret. Based on this measurement, the fine neck relief is adjusted using the side adjuster.

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Once the neck relief is correct, I tuned the guitar.

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Don’t worry, I didn’t really tune the guitar with a capo on it. I just thought the picture above was a cool picture. Having tuned it, it is time to set the action. My intention was to set the high and low E strings to 3/64 of an inch off the 17th fret (no capo) but I could not do it! I am using a Gotoh modern Tele bridge and for reasons I am still trying to determine, I find that with the saddles set as low as they can be set, my action is still too high. I have adjusted the neck relief to typical Fender specs (0.01″ at the eighth fret). I am trying to get the high and low E strings to 3/64 ” and there is just no way. They are currently sitting between 4/64 and 5/64″.

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The Gotoh bridge plate seems very thick and the saddles also seem thicker than another set I have lying around. Could it really be that the combination is just too thick for a decent action height? I find that hard to believe but what other explanations are there? Or is it because I need to shim the neck? That seems more likely. Anyway, I set the action as best I could, set the intonation, and though the action is too high, the guitar is playable.
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I am going to need to do a little research on what to do next. Stay tuned. I have never shimmed a neck. But if you are wondering what it means to “shim a neck”, there are two basic approaches and they are well described by this diagram.
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I will try this out later this weekend.