Quick Tip: Tele Truss Rod Adjustment

Quick Tip: Tele Truss Rod Adjustment

Removing a neck to adjust the truss rod is a bit of a pain. 

Some Telecasters, however have a channel cut between the neck pocket and the front pickup cavity. Because the neck pickup is often mounted direct to the body, removing the pickguard on those Teles is easy. And, if you're lucky, you'll have a little notched channel to get at the truss rod.

Rickenbacker Truss Rod Adjustment

Adjusting neck relief on a Rickenbacker built before September 1984 can be a source of stress.

The truss rods used before that date have some quirks and can cause a little confusion. Let's take a look at how they work and how they can be adjusted safely. 

Early Rickenbacker Truss Rod Operation

Early Ricky truss rods were made from a single metal bar folded in two, back along its length. At the ‘open’ end, one rod was left just a little longer than the other. This longer bar was threaded for an adjustment nut.

How a Rickenbacker truss rod works

When the adjustment nut is tightened, it forces a metal ‘spacer block’ to push against the shorter bar. The shorter bar, in turn, is forced into a bow. When installed in the neck, that bowing bar can correct for the neck-bow caused by string tension.

Pre-1984 Rickenbacker truss rods

Rickenbacker generally installs two of these rods in each guitar neck. Adjustment is at the headstock end, under that big truss rod cover. You can often identify these rods: Behind the aluminium spacer block, you can see two channels cut in the neck wood. In the gap between the spacer and the start of the fingerboard, you’ll generally see the end of the shorter bar (the one that gets forced out).

Adjusting A Rickenbacker Truss Rod

These rods aren’t the strongest in the world. Don’t try to adjust your Ricky neck like you would a modern instrument. Just tightening those truss rods against string tension is a good way to ruin them or cause the fingerboard to separate from the neck (which, to be fair, it can occasionally do anyway).

You’ve got to ‘help’ your neck into position before you tighten the adjustment nuts on the rods. While not strong enough to actually move the neck into position, the rods can usually hold it there once you do the hard work for them.

To safely adjust your Rickenbacker neck:

  • Place a towel on a sturdy table or worktop and lie your guitar or bass on this with its neck extending off the edge. Obviously, be careful that it doesn’t topple off.
  • Have a friend hold the body firmly to the table while you pull down (carefully) on the headstock. What you’re doing is manually pulling the neck into a slight back-bow. Watch the strings move towards the frets as you pull down. Don’t go crazy—you don’t want a broken neck.
  • Keeping the pressure on the headstock, use your other hand to tighten the truss rod nuts. Just snug them up—don’t over tighten.
  • Check your tuning and see how your neck looks and plays. It might be necessary to repeat these steps if you haven’t gotten all the way to where you want it. That’s ok—taking it slowly is best.

Dual Truss Rods

Yep, most Rickenbackers will have two rods in the neck. Each rod can be adjusted individually. The claim is that you can set a slightly different relief for the bass and treble sides (to give a little more relief for the wound strings, for instance). If you can make this work reliably and repeatably, good for you. I'd advise you to equalise the tension and set the rods so bass and treble relief is the same.

Newer Rickenbackers

Truss rods in a POST-1984 Rickenbacker

After ’84, Rickys have come with a more traditional truss rod installed. These are more sturdy and can generally be adjusted under tension the same as most modern instruments. These rods can usually be identified by a thinner, steel spacer—more akin to a long ’washer’—in place of the aluminium block of old, and by the fact that the rod ‘channel’, and therefore the rod itself, isn’t visible in the neck wood.

Truss Rods Made Easy Launches Tuesday

Free Download from July 1st

My brand new book, Truss Rods Made Easy, will launch on Tuesday (1st of July—two days away). It will be available for FREE download from then.

Sample page from Truss Rods Made Easy describing Fender's Bi-Flex truss rod

Sample page from Truss Rods Made Easy describing Fender's Bi-Flex truss rod

This downloadable guide contains all the information you need to understand how truss rods work, how to measure neck relief, how to safely adjust your truss rod, and tons more.

Anyone that's already subscribed to the newsletter will have seen a little sneak preview. Sign up below and I'll keep you in the loop as this guide launches; share some tips and tricks; pass on news; and give you the skinny on the next Haze Guitars Guide.

Truss Rods Made Easy

Haze Guitars Guides - Gerry Writes A Book

If you've hung around here for a while, you know I'm a big old guitar-geek. I love this stuff and I love writing about it. For ages, I've been playing around with the idea of writing guitar-related books and I've finally done it. 

Truss Rods Made Easy

This is the first in, what I hope will be, a series of Haze Guitars Guides. I aim to cram them full of useful information while still keeping them easy to read (and even fun). 

The following are (likely to be) Frequently Asked Questions

Why Truss Rods? Because they're scary. Of all of the parts of a guitar, truss rods are the one that fill players with uncertainty. There are too many horror stories and far too much misinformation. Let's clear that up. Truss rods don't need to be intimidating.

A whole book? Well, it's not a very long book and it's got a lot of pictures. ;-)  Seriously, though, it's got pretty much everything you could need to know about how truss rods work and how to safely adjust them. I think this is a great start to the Haze Guitars Guides.

So there'll be more guides? Definitely. Enter your email below and I'll let you know as things develop. 

How can I read this? This book will be available as a digital download in iBooks format (for the iPad people) and PDF (for every other device). 

When will it be available? July 1st, 2014. Sign up below and I'll email you when it launches and will keep you in the loop about other Haze news (and there are interesting times ahead)

How much will it cost? Truss Rods Made Easy will be completely free. Yep, it won't cost you a bean.

Brilliant. How can I learn more? Check out the Truss Rods Made Easy page. 

Truss Rods Made Easy launches on July 1st. There'll be some more interesting news hot on its heels. It's shaping up to be an exciting year here at Haze Guitars.

Neck Correction: Back-Bow Baby

It's certainly been mentioned a few times around here that the strings on your guitar exert quite a bit of tension on the neck. Enough, usually, to pull the neck into a 'bow' shape (with the middle being farthest from the strings). Our trusty truss-rod can generally be called on to counteract that tension and to control the bow or even straighten the neck completely against the string pull. Sometimes, however, we get what's referred to as 'back-bow'. With a back-bowed neck, that bow shape is effectively reversed and the middle has ended up closest to the strings. This means that a note fretted in the lower end of the neck can't sound clearly as it hits off the 'uphill' frets all the way to the middle of the bow.

There are dual-action truss-rods available and these are able to correct for back-bow as well as, the more normal, forward bow. They're becoming more common but lots of guitars still have the usual single-action rods that can only correct forward bow to counteract string tension. As this is what it needs to do in 99 out of 100 cases, that's generally fine.

But sometimes it's not.

guitar neck relief correction

Setting up this guitar, I found it was back-bowed beyond the point where string-tension would have corrected it. Open notes and those as far as the eight fret or so all choked or buzzed. Even with the truss-rod slackened off completely, the neck wouldn't pull straight or into relief (a very slight bow).

There are a number of things that could be done to try to address this, some of them relatively involved jobs. Before getting into those discussions regarding what isn't really a super-expensive guitar, I had a punt at a quick-fix. This doesn't always work and isn't always suitable but it's certainly worth a go in this case.

In the first photo, I've got my heating blanket sitting on the neck, weighted down by a heavy fret-leveller. I don't want to go nuts with the heat here. Too much will just cause hassle in this case but I'm applying sufficient heat to slowly heat the glue holding the fingerboard to the neck. I don't want it to completely let go; just to soften slightly.

correct back bow on guitar neck

When I think it's where I need it to be, I clamp the neck into a bit of a forward bow and leave it to cool. If things go to plan, the glue will re-harden and help the neck to hold some of the shape I've forced it into.

And, luckily, things went to plan. Unstrung, the neck now has just the slightest of back-bows and, under string-tension, that pulls into a little relief—enough to get it playing nicely again.

Incidentally, a workplace safety tip: Even if you are fully aware that this procedure will leave your steel fret-leveller in a very hot condition and, even if you wear heavy gloves to move it, you shouldn't put it over to the side of your workbench, right where your elbow will touch it when you're checking clamping pressure. That would be stupid.