Guitar and bass strings can exert hundreds of pounds of tension on a guitar neck. So, it makes sense to slacken off the strings when you're not using the instrument, right?
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.
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.
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.
January is over and the Ridiculously Mental January Setup Sale is at an end. And it was fairly mental. January passed in a whirring blur of setups. It was a bit like one of the training montages from Rocky IV, just with guitars instead of logs. Oh, and less cheesey music. My setup muscles are looking pretty good though.
I still have a bit of a backlog of January instruments to get through but the next week should see the last of the half-pricers back with their owners. Thanks to everybody that's allowed me to work on their instruments this month – I hope you're happy with how your babies are playing.
Of course, the sale may be over but I think even the non-crazy setup cost is pretty reasonable. If I can help you out with your guitar woes, feel free to drop me a line.
So, hopefully you'll have heard about my Insane, Clearly-Mental January Setup Sale. I've done a lot of setups in the last couple of weeks. This has meant some long hours, fitting them in with the usual repair work and nail-hammering but I'm certainly not complaining. Many guitars were setup and much tea was consumed (Lyons Tea are going to put a plaque on my wall). We're a little over halfway through January now and as I appear to be some sort of setup masochist, I'm just reminding you that there's still time to contribute to my breakdown. If half-price guitar and bass setups sound like your thing, or if you simply want to see a grown man weep, drop me a line and we'll see what we can arrange on both counts.
Remember though, the offer is only until the end of January or whenever I collapse in a gibbering heap muttering the word 'intonation' over and over. This could be any day now so get your skates on.
A little more information on the Amazing Super January Guitar & Bass SETUP SALE. First off the costs:
For the month of January, a guitar setup will cost €22.50. This crazy, half-price bonanza includes fresh strings.
A bass setup, during the same period, will cost €30 including fresh strings (a mega-bargain).
As mentioned, these costs include new strings (which is why there's a disparity between the bass and guitar setup costs).
If you if you prefer to provide your own brand of string (for instance, if you use some sort of long-life, coated, platinum-plated, strings made from the hair of virgin goats or something), you are welcome to do so. In this case, the cost for both guitar and bass setups will be €20.
Then the timing:
This offer applies to instruments booked-in and dropped-off at my workshop during the month of January, 2011.
Officially, Haze Guitars opens for business again on the 4th but I'll take emails and calls now and I'll be happy to take drop-offs on the Bank Holiday Monday (if you want to do so before you have to go back to work). Just give me a call to arrange a time.
That's it. Easy-peasy. I think this is a pretty good offer so feel free to take advantage of my Harvey-Norman-style madness. Drop me a line and get your instrument sorted.
Half-price or 2 for 1 on guitar setups. We know that January can sometimes be a slow month for gigging musicians. Why not make the most of that downtime to have your instruments professionally set-up?
And, we also know that for some, January can be the first month with a spanking new Christmas guitar or bass (you lucky people, you). Well, a good setup can help get the most from your new pride and joy.
So then, for the month of January, Haze Guitars is offering:
The Amazing Super January SETUP SALE.
Any guitar or bass setups booked and dropped in January will be charged at half-price. If you've more than one guitar, this means it's two for one.
You can get yourself two guitars setup for the, non-princely, sum of €45. Halve that for one.
Make the most of a slow month. Make the most of your guitar. Drop us a line and get set up.
You'd be mad not to.