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.

Sketchy Setups available now

Sketchy Setups Launches

I'm massively proud and excited to announce the new series of Sketchy Setups guides is now available. This series contains four guides, each focussed on a particular instrument type. 

  • #1: The Fender Stratocaster
  • #2: The Fender Telecaster
  • #3: The Gibson Les Paul, SG, 335, etc.
  • #4: The Fender Precision and Jazz Bass

Imagine your best friend was a setup guru…

And wrote a book just for you…

Sketchy Setups are friendly and straightforward guides to getting your guitar or bass playing its best. No need to wade through massive books, trying to find the relevant parts for your guitar. No trying to make sense of the manufacturer's vague instructions. No searching for the pearls among millions of forum posts.

Perfect if you want a great playing instrument without having to take a degree in Advanced Guitary Stuff.

Just great guitar and bass setup. Easy-peasy.


Sketchy Setups is a bit different to other setup guides. For a start, you can just get the information you want — just the info for your instrument. Why read about Gibson tailpieces when you're setting up a Jazz Bass?

And Sketchy Setups is completely hand-drawn. Even though these are digital guides, each page began as paper, pencil, and ink. This makes it easier to illustrate things that would be difficult in photographs and keeps everything nice and easy-going. Setups don't have to be chores. 


Sketchy Setups are available to buy right now. Each guide costs $5 or you can buy a bundle of all four for $15. There is a heap more information, some page-samples, and some frequently asked questions on the Sketchy Setups page. Check it out



I don't often ask for shares but it'd be massively fantastic and incredibly helpful if you could tell your friends about Sketchy Setups. 

If you could click the Twitter or Facebook images below to share, I'd really appreciate it.

Or just give a shout-out wherever you hang out. 

Thanks a lot.

Sketchy Setups — Four New Setup Guides

Gather 'round for a story…

When I started my own setups, a looooong time ago, things weren’t always easy. 

Information was thin on the ground. In the pre-internet age, you had to rely on gleaning snippets of advice from musicians you knew or met. Amazing results weren’t guaranteed.

Then the internet came along (yes, I’m that old, you damn kids). That was interesting. At first, you could read the whole thing in a day but gradually, you’d find sites with little nuggets of guitar information. Of course, many of these nuggets were from guys like the ones I’d met locally—now, they just happened to be guys from different places. Similar results. 

The amount of information on the internet grew. Forum sites shared heaps of tips and tricks and you could often find massively usefully stuff there. As is often the way with public forums, though, a lot of their content was parroted myths and half-truths, personal opinion masquerading as fact, or just plain wrong… 

“You should always do X. You should never do Y. If you touch the truss-rod, it will spell the end of existence.”

So what do you do if you want to get reliable, useful, simple information on guitar or bass setup?

Well (ahem), I may be able to help…

New Sketchy Setups Guides Launch Tomorrow

I can't wait. 

I promised more Sketchy Setups and here they are. Available from Tuesday, 19th July you'll now be able to get the setup skinny on four instrument types. 

  • Sketchy Setups #1: The Fender Stratocaster
  • Sketchy Setups #2: The Fender Telecaster
  • Sketchy Setups #3: The Gibson Les Paul, SG, 335, etc.
  • Sketchy Setups #4: The Fender Precision and Jazz Bass

Each of these setup guides is focussed on just one instrument or instrument 'type'. Why would you want to read about a Strat tremolo when you're setting up a Les Paul? Is it useful to learn about a Gibson tailpiece when you're working on your P-Bass? Just the right information for your guitar or bass. 

Hand-drawn setup guides

Every one of these guides started out with paper, pencil, and ink. They are hand-drawn and hand-written. Even the setup information that's common to all instruments was re-drawn each time (so each guide is a unique snowflake). 

Illustrating like this let me show things that would have been impossible or less clear in a photograph. And it has the added benefit of giving a laid-back and friendly feel to the guides. 

More information will follow…

All new Sketchy Setups available from Tuesday, July 19th. More information will follow between now and then.

Upgrade from early versions

Anyone who bought a copy of Sketchy Setups #1: The Fender Stratocaster will get a free upgrade to the new version. If you haven't received an email from me already, you'll get one soon (check your spam folders and contact me if you haven't heard by launch-day on the 19th July). Thank you to all the buyers of version 1 — I really appreciate your trust.



Setting Intonation on a Tele

First, let’s recap the prerequisites.

The rest of your setup must be right for you before you start. Intonation is the last thing to set so get your action, relief, nut and pickups sorted out first. You should have fresh strings (of your usual gauge and brand) installed, properly stretched, and tuned up as normal.

Remember to always check intonation and tuning with the guitar in the playing position (i.e. not lying on a table or counter but upright as if you were playing it).

The basic theory is always this:

  1. Pick the open string and verify it’s in tune.
  2. Fret at the 12th fret and pick this note. Compare it to the open string—is it flat or sharp?
  3. If the 12th fret note is flat, move the saddle forward a little by turning the adjustment screw at the back of the bridge (counter-clockwise) using a flat or philips screwdriver (whatever is appropriate).
  4. If the 12th fret note is sharp, move the saddle back a little by turning the screw clockwise.
  5. Retune the open string and head right back to 1.

Now, if you have a Tele with a six-saddle bridge, just follow these guidelines for each string and you’re good to go.

The traditional, vintage-style Tele warrants some more discussion, though.

Three saddle Tele bridge


The three-saddle bridge is great. It’s a big part of that vintage Tele vibe. Don’t expect perfect intonation in every case, though.

Because each saddle intonates a pair of strings at the same time, these bridges can be a bit of a compromise.

The best approach is usually to balance out the differences.

For instance, you might end up with your 1st string slightly sharp while your 2nd string is slightly flat. Each may be out just a little but getting one perfect might actually pull the other one further out.

Setting a three-saddle bridge involves some experimentation to determine where the balance lies for each string pair. Give yourself some time to play around and get it right. It's a balancing act. 


Depending on what you play most often, you might find the compromise above doesn’t quite suit. For instance, perhaps most of your chord work means a slightly sharp G string sounds bad for you. It might be possible that setting the G perfectly but pulling the D farther out is a good place for you.

Like I say, there’s some experimentation involved. Set things the way you think minimises any intonation issues on each string and then play it for a while. Don’t be afraid to tweak things if you need to.


There’s always the option of installing a more ‘modern’ six-saddle bridge. Then you can set the intonation for each string individually the same as you would for, say, a Strat.

Of course, you might not want to take from the look and vibe of your three-saddle bridge. In which case…


You can replace your regular old, straight saddles with pre-compensated saddles.

There are a number of different aftermarket saddles available that are either ‘angled’ or ‘notched’ to better match the compensation most players will need.

Your usual guitar-bits supplier should be able to help out or you can actually get a good selection from Amazon too.

Compensated saddles are still one-saddle-per-two-strings but they’ll usually give you better intonation than regular, straight saddles. They can’t be quite as accurate as a six-saddle bridge would be but, for keeping your Tele feeling Tele-ish, they’re a good solution.


As the saddles of three-saddle bridges move closer to the back of the bridge, the angle of the adjustment screw gets steeper. This can make it really awkward to turn the screw (because the slot’s beginning to point down towards the face of the guitar). If this happens, be careful—it’s easy to ruin the screw slots or scrape the guitar finish. If you have to, slacken off the strings to make the saddle easier to move. It’s a pain, but it’s better than damaging your guitar.

Access to a Tele intonation screw can sometimes be difficult

As with six-saddle bridges, a lot of back or forwards saddle movement can also do odd things to the action of each string. Before you start, make a note of each string’s action and re-check if you have to move the saddles by much. 

A heavier gauge string (if you can handle it) might well get you better Tele intonation too. Bear it in mind and start strengthening those fingers. 

QuickTip: Tele String Ferrules

If you've a guitar or bass with through-body stringing, take care if you're doing any work on it with the strings removed. It's not that uncommon for one or more of the string ferrules (those little metal cups where the string anchors) to be loose. After crawling around, searching my workshop floor for the hundreth time, I began to stick a strip of masking tape over the ferrules as soon as the strings are removed. 

Save yourself some hands-and-knees searching. Tape 'em up.  

If you've got an older instrument be careful of the finish. Stick the tape on your jeans a few times to remove some of the tackiness and don't leave it on the guitar too long.   


This can affect any instrument with string ferrules but Telecasters do seem most prone to disappearing ferrule syndrome.

Wobbly Jack Syndrome

If you've had a Telecaster for any length of time, there's a reasonable chance you've experienced Wobbly Jack Syndrome. It's an annoying condition that afflicts Teles from time to time. You know it… That little recessed metal dish or cup that holds the output jack starts to get a little loose. After a while, it's very loose and—sometimes—even causes nasty signal cracks and output loss.

Inside the hole in the side of the guitar, the output jack is mounted through a metal 'retainer clip' and the metal cup. The retainer clip (photo on the right below) should hold it all tightly in the wall of the hole but sometimes works its way loose.

wobbly telecaster output jack
telecaster jack retainer clip

The clip works on a really simple principle: it goes into the hole with its sides bent (as shown above) and is forced to straighten. This causes the sides to dig into the hole-wall and holds it all in place.

Easy. And it's an easy fix if you have the right tool. If you don't—despite the easy principle—it's almost impossible to do properly.

telecaster jack repair

And that ugly looking hunk of metal in the photo on the left is the right tool. Leo Fender may have given it a proper name but, for me, it's just the Tele Jack Clip Installation Thing. It makes it easy to remove an existing clip or to properly install a new one. Without it, you end up hacking aimlessly and hoping for the best.

If you're fed up with wobbly Tele jacks, a device called an Electrosocket can be screwed in to replace the, rather fiddly, clip and cup arrangement. It's not something you'd really do with a nice vintage Tele, though. In that case, occasional wobbly jacks are just part of the magic.