General Guitar and Ukulele Servicing Work
A Basic ‘Set Up’ on Guitars (Acoustic, Electric, Classical, Bass etc.) is generally started by checking and gradually adjusting the truss rod inside the neck, whilst the instrument is still in tune, until the fingerboard is slightly under straight at the centre of the fingerboards length. This allows the strings, when fretted, to have a slight bias upwards, by very slightly lifting them over the next fret up.
It is quite rare to see a manufacturers guitar neck from new, under load, where the frets are perfectly in line (height) with each other. This is because wood under tension, does move throughout its life. Every piece of wood is as different as people are and do need slightly different adjustments on occasions. Well-seasoned and aged timbers, found on higher grade instruments, tend to be more stable, but even those can move, so it is still recommended to have yearly checks and servicing. When set properly, I recommend the neck should under straight [by about .020″/half mm]. This is the amount of relief needed on a ready to play guitar, but slightly more height will be needed on longer scale Instruments, such as bass guitars etc.
The nut slots will be then lowered to achieve a lower action and also the same done to the Bridge Saddles, until the action (height of strings) can be set to the lowest position without fret rattle, along with the bridge saddles being adjusted for correct intonation, to achieve accurate tuning along the whole length of the neck. According to individual instruments fret accuracies, which vary greatly on all guitars, the overall action will normally be adjusted lower in achievable height for ease of playing, although personal preferences may call for higher actions, as is quite common for many blues style guitarists, or heavy styles of playing.
There is never one rule for everyone as we all know.
Machine tensions will be set on buttons and fixings to headstock.
Fretboard oiled, cleaned, frets polished.
General clean all over and restrung.
Pickup heights adjusted for equal loudness, along with individual pole piece heights.
Electrics will be cleaned and serviced, loose pots and sockets tightened.
Other additional repair work is also available, including Re-fretting on Non- lacquered fingerboards, pickup replacement and wiring.
FULL SERVICE AND FRET DRESS
A full service and fret dress would include the entire work above of the first paragraph, but with far more in depth work carried out on the fingerboard, via our own method of choice, being the use of an accurate straight edge and a .0015″ feeler gauge (.025mm) This is generally commenced by adjusting the truss rod tension, until the neck is as near to perfectly straight as possible,(whilst still fully strung and in tune) with an attempt to share out the worst errors around the whole length of the neck, (not allowing them to all show only at the top end of the fingerboard, which is very common).
(I have always personally felt this to be necessary) Only when the neck is in this true ‘working’ situation, can it be set truthfully. I know that many take the easy way out here by taking off the strings first, giving easy access all over the fingerboard with a sanding block, but after being worked on, some negative changes will still generally re-occur, which will only show after restringing and tuning.
The frets along the entire neck length can be individually checked for height. These will then be filed to make them all equal in height to each other, checking every single fret under each separate string position and doing fine adjustments via the use of a smooth flat 6″ file. Flat areas all over the fingerboard will be created, so by ‘draw filing’ (dragging sideways across the frets) these flat spots can be blended into each other. This makes for a smooth accurate levelling, but then leaves some untouched half round frets and many flattened off frets.
With Fender style small radius fingerboards, it can be useful to create a flatter ‘compound radius’ above the 15th fret, which will help alleviate the top strings ‘fluffing out’ when being pushed across. With flatter contour Gibson style fingerboard Radii, this is less likely to cause a problem.
With the use of a concave half-round fretting contour file, these flat frets can be reshaped back to half round, to match their original shape. These re-worked, but by now, roughly shaped frets are then made smoother with the use of firstly heavy, then finer and finer wet and dry paper, until a final polish is achieved with the use of a “Dremmel Tool” and polishing mop with metal soap.
When this fret dressing finished and restrung, a slight relief is then re-created by adjusting the truss rod and finally, the guitars action can then be lowered due to the accuracies now achieved, without experiencing annoying fret buzz.
The final process would include re-stringing with preferred string choices and gauges, nut and bridge heights and intonation adjustments, before a final clean up and check over.