Crawls Backward (When Alarmed)

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Set Me Up

Now we can almost hear the Surfcaster...the chime of "Walk Don't Run"...the gentle bwaaaaah of the trem....

But first, we must do a set up. The nut is finished and installed. I put about a half turn on the truss rod and have just a touch (about .006 or so) of relief in the neck. The geetar is strung up to pitch. So let's set the string height, intonation, pickup height and rock out!

If you do a lot of setups, even just an occasional one, the Stew-Mac string height gauge is, imho, pretty indispensible. I just used to eyeball/use a long ruler, but now that I have this wonderful little tool my life is changed. Seriously.

The pic here of the gauge in action was taken when I adjusted the pickup height, but string height is the same. I set the action pretty much to Fender factory specs for 'vintage' Strats - 5/64 on the bass side and 4/64 on the treble, measured at the 17th fret.

One of the most important factors on a Fender bridge is to compensate for the fretboard curve. It's important for any guitar where string heights can be set individually, but on a fretboard with a 7.25 inch radius, it's critical. Basically we need to "arch" the bridge saddles to follow the fretboard. I'd bet a lot of players set their saddles almost "flat" and wind up with all sorts of problems.

Stew-Mac (they don't pay me for this, honest...) sells a curvature gauge that makes this easy to do. Whatcha do is set the high and low Es, then use the gauge under the strings, adjusting the saddle height for each until they just touch the gauge. The arrow in the picture is pointing to the allen wrench for the saddle height screws. (When you buy a Callham bridge, they throw in an allen wrench. I am now growing a small collection of them.) This whole process takes less time to do than it does to describe. The gauges can be used when you're shaping an acoustic guitar saddle too.

After setting the string height (aka action), we set the intonation. My main tuner these days is a Peterson Strobo-Flip. It's extremely accurate, and is a real aid for accurately setting intonation. There are a lot of resources out there about how to do it; you can find out more if you've never done it.

These days I set the intonation so the open string, the harmonic at the 12th fret, and the fretted note at the 12th fret are right on. With the Strobo-Flip, I find it easy to get it accurate. I used to use one of the tuners with a needle, but I'll never go back. More expensive in the short term, but worth every penny in the long term.


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