Handmade Fender style 'casters

Telecaster / Stratocaster setup guide

Basic guitar setup procedure and values.

Set Preliminary intonation

Adjust the first-string bridge saddle to the scale length (25.5 inches on a Fender), measuring from the inside of the nut to the center of the bridge saddle. Now adjust the distance of the second-string saddle back from the first saddle, using the gauge of the second string as a measurement. For example, If the second string is .011″ (0.3 mm), you would move the second-string saddle back .011″ (0.3 mm) from the first saddle. Move the third saddle back from the second saddle using the gauge of the third string as a measurement. The fourth-string saddle should be set parallel with the second-string saddle. Proceed with the fifth and sixth saddles with the same method used for strings two and three.

Adjust Truss Rod


Adjust the truss rod so that the neck is perfectly flat while unstrung, a fretted straightedge just barely meeting the fretboard at the eighth fret. String the guitar and tune to pitch. The Fender specs for the neck relief are:

Neck RadiusRelief
7.25″      .012″ (0.3 mm)
9.5″ to 12″.010″ (0.25 mm)
14″ to 17″.008″ (0.2 mm)

My own preferences is (with neck strung and tuned to pitch) to measure the height of the fifth fret in comparison to the first and twelfth frets. If the fifth is higher the neck has some amount of backbow.


I use this instrument to measure backbow, from Stewmac.

Adjust the Action

Two parts to adjusting the action. First, measure string height at the first fret. Suggested starting values:

E, A  .020″
D, G.018″
B, e.016″

If necessary, cut the nut slots to spec. Now measure string height at the 17th fret.

The Fender specs for string height are:

Neck Radius   String Height Bass SideTreble Side
.7.25″   5/64″ (2 mm) 4/64″ (1.6 mm)
95″ to 12″ 4/64″ (1.6 mm)     4/64″ (1.6 mm)
15″ to 17″ 4/64″ (1.6 mm) 3/64″ (1.2 mm)

Now adjust the middle four saddles so that the string height matches the neck radius at the last fret.

Pickup Height

Depress all the strings at the last fret. Measure the distance from the bottom of the first and sixth strings to the top of the pole pieces. A good rule of thumb is that the distance should be greatest at the sixth-string neck pickup position, and closest at the first-string bridge pickup position.

 Bass SideTreble Side
Texas Specials8/64″ (3.6 mm)6/64″ (2.4 mm)
Vintage style6/64″ (2.4 mm)5/64″ (2 mm)
Noiseless™ Series8/64″ (3.6 mm)6/64″ (2.4 mm)
Standard Single-Coil5/64″ (2 mm)4/64″ (1.6 mm)
Humbuckers4/64″ (1.6 mm)4/64″ (1.6 mm)

Final Intonation

Adjust intonation using saddle intonation adjustment screws.