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Is it OK for strings to rub the tailpiece openings?


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Hi all.  I see all kinds of online discussion about tailpiece height, and how the strings should not rub against the edge of the bridge.  But I don't find anything about whether it's OK for the strings to rub against the holes in the tail piece.  Here's a picture of mine below.  You can see that the strings are making contact with the top of the holes on the tailpiece.  Is that OK?  Or does it affect things negatively, or weaken them?  


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8 hours ago, Jerbear114 said:

I think I would be more concerned that all the saddles are slammed down or bottomed out ....


Thanks @Jerbear114.   I got this guitar about 20 years ago, then stopped playing, so it hasn't been played much but it has had strings on it all that time. I don't think it was set up well (if at all) from the factory since it always had buzzing frets and poor intonation.  I recently got it out and tried to set it up on my own  and now the action is great but intonation is still off.  Half of the strings intonate correctly, and half are still sharp.  And yes, as you can see, even the ones that sound correct have the saddles all the way down, which indicates that something isn't right.

I have already done the following:

  • Put on new strings (9-42's)
  • Lower the action. With the 1st fret pressed and measured at the 15th fret:
    • the height of the 6th string 1.93mm (thickness of an EU 10 cent coin),
    • the height of the 1st string is about 1mm (thickness of a 42 gauge string)
  • Adjusted the truss rod so that, with the 1st and 15th frets down, the height of the string over the 7th fret is between 0.009" and 0.011" (I used guitar strings to measure, the 9 gauge can pass between the fret and string but the 11 gauge can not.)
  • Ensured that the bridge doesn't appear to be leaning forward
  • Raised the tail piece in an attempt to lower tension on the strings
  • Adjusted pickup heights:
    • Bridge to both E strings: 2.4mm (thickness of an EU 50 cent coin)
    • Neck to both E strings: 3.2mm (thickness of an EU 1 cent coin stacked on a US penny) 

The next things I'm going to try:

  • Put on heavier strings, maybe 10-46's
  • Turn around all the saddles so I can move them back a bit more. (It seems like that wouldn't really be fixing the problem though, right?)
  • Double-check the nut measurements (I really hope this isn't the problem since I can't fix that)
  • Ask for help here 😀
  • Buy a wider bridge so I can slide the saddles back even further

If you or anyone else has some advice now at this time, I'm all ears!

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That looks like a Nashville bridge.  You should have plenty of room for intonation with it.  Your saddles are not all facing the optimal direction, that's one thing.  Guitars with ABR bridges intonate just fine so I doubt that's it.

The other thing is, at least for me, intonation is a tricky thing.   You have to tune the open string, then check the intonation, then adjust it, then tune it open again, then check intonation again, etc.  That's because when you moved your saddle, you just changed the overall tuning of the open string too.  So now you have it right at the 12th but it's off for the open string.   Then, when you re-tune the open string and check the intonation it may be off again.  Sometimes it takes a few tries before you get it just right.

Also, you're correct that string gauge can have some impact as well.  9-42 is on the thin side.

It sounds like you have some fundamental understanding and skills for setup.  But, there is a certain sequence you should follow too.  I have an old Gibson setup guide that I'll try to upload.  It's not available online anymore. 

Another thing is that if your saddles or nut aren't dressed properly that can have tuning/intonation effects that are weird.  Usually though, there'll be a weird kind of sitar sound if you have that.

A twisted neck can cause intonation problems too but that's a fairly rare thing that you can check for.

Anyway, what I'm saying is that your problems are most likely related to the overall setup, not a defect in the guitar or some component of the guitar.


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1 hour ago, Black Dog said:

It sounds like you have some fundamental understanding and skills for setup.  But, there is a certain sequence you should follow too.  I have an old Gibson setup guide that I'll try to upload.  It's not available online anymore. 


Thanks, that would be awesome to take a look at that setup guide!

And yeah, I'm kind of dreading trying to turn the saddles around, because from what I read the only way to get at the retainer wire on a Nashville bridge is to take off the strings and take the bridge off.  What a pain!  Oh well.  Fingers crossed!

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The proper way to set the intonation is to measure from the face of the nut to the middle of the 12th fret at the high E.  Then you set the the high E string saddle to that length from the middle of the 12th fret.  Then, the B string should be about 1-2 mm further back (longer) than that, and the G 1-2 mm longer than the B.  The D should be about where the B is and then the A and low E also each about 1-2 mm longer then the string before.  I hope that makes sense.  That should get you close for a start.

Edited by Black Dog
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Here it is below.

archive.gibson.com/backstage/tech002printable.htm 1/2

Gibson Custom Shop
Setup Tips

It’s your guitar; don’t be afraid to work on it.
The Gibson Custom Shop builds the finest electric guitars ever made. Whether painstakingly recreating the sought-after
classics of the late 50s and early 60s with the incredible VINTAGE ORIGINAL SPEC series, or enhancing time-honored
traditions to an artist's wishes with the INSPIRED BY models, the luthiers of Gibson Custom have elevated guitar building to
both a science and an art. It is a labor-intensive, hands-on process from start to finish, and each guitar brings with it special
requirements and demands. They all have something in common, though: Before a guitar can leave the Custom Shop, it is
meticulously set up to play beautifully.
Here, for the first time, is an intensive breakdown of a Gibson Custom Shop setup process. Many players don't realize that a
guitar is a precision instrument. Change in season, temperature, humidity, and even playing style can radically change a
guitar's playability. While a guitar store or guitar repairman can set up your guitar for you, this will cost you anywhere from $25
to over $100. Also, much of a setup is based on your own personal preferences. Nobody can know your guitar like you do,
and doing your own setups will allow you to know your guitar even better. The luthiers of the Gibson Custom Shop
recommend setting up your guitar at least twice a year, more if you live somewhere with strong climate changes.
A setup is a simple process once you get the hang of it. Work slowly and consult the pictures. Note that extreme care must be
taken when tightening the truss rod. This is one of the few things you can do during a setup that can actually ruin your guitar.
Remember, your guitar is a precision instrument. All the steps of the setup are designed to be performed slowly and gently.
The results will be improved sound and playability, and a closer relationship with your instrument.
1. Wire cutters for strings
2. String winder
3. WD40 to oil truss rod nut
4. Small thin-walled 7/16" nut driver to adjust truss rod
5. Small phillips-head screwdriver to remove truss rod cover and small flat-head screwdriver to adjust
6. 0000 steel wool
7. Fine, soft paintbrush
8. Linseed oil
9. 6" ruler, with measurements in 64ths
10. Tuner
11. Dry rag

Remove strings.
Gently clean frets and fretboard with 0000 steel wool. Place a little tape over the neck pickup to prevent steel wool from
getting into the coils. With a soft paintbrush, thoroughly clean dust and dirt off neck after steel wooling.
Note: If you are steel wooling the frets on a maple board, cover the fretboard with masking tape to protect it from scratches.
Apply a light layer of linseed oil to the fretboard to bring out the deep richness of the rosewood. Immediately clean oil off
fretboard with a dry rag. Be sure to remove all oil. Use linseed sparingly. An average-sized can of linseed oil should last years.
Restring, tune to pitch.
To check neck straightness and relief, hold the low E string down directly on top of the 2nd fret and directly on top of the last
fret at the body (the 16th). Using the low E string as a straight edge, check the distance around the 7th and 9th frets. The
string should just be clearing the frets by a hair.
If your neck needs to be adjusted, gently loosen the truss rod, by turning counter-clockwise. If it is tough to turn, remove truss
rod nut and place a small drop of oil on truss rod thread. WD40 or machine oil will work fine, but do not spray it directly on the
thread. Spray a little into a cup and dab on a couple drops with a Q-Tip. Apply just enough oil to lightly coat the thread. Gently
adjust clockwise until the truss rod nut is just snug, turning in quarter turns, until the fretboard is straight and flat. When neck is
straight, the low E string will run flat against the top of the frets. Then back off 1/8 of a turn counter-clockwise for slight relief.
Adjust action by turning the wheels on the ABR or Tune-O-Matic bridge. From the top of the first fret to the bottom of the
string, from high E to low E, the approximate measurements will be: high E: 1/64”, B: 1/64”, G: 1.5/64”, D: 1.5/64”, A: 2/64”,
low E: 2/64”. At the 12th fret, the approximate measurements will be 3/64” for the high E string, and 5/64” for the low E string.
Tailpiece should be flush to the body when using an ABR-1, and slightly higher for a Tune-O-Matic (just enough for the strings
to clear the back of the bridge).
Set intonation screws on the bridge. To rough in the intonation, center the low E and high E saddles to the post holes in the
bridge. The A string will be 2/32” closer to the nut than the low E and the D string will be 2/32” closer to the nut than the A. The
B string will be 2/32” closer to the bridge than the high E and the G string will be 2/32” closer to the bride than the B string.
These measurements will get you in the ball park. Intonation will vary with instruments and string gauges.
Final intonation. Adjust in playing position! Plugged into a tuner, sound the string open and then fret the string at the 12th fret.
The note should be exactly one octave higher when fretted. If the note is sharp at the 12th fret, adjust the saddle so it is closer
to the tailpiece. If it is flat, adjust the saddle to be closer to the nut.
Set pickup height. Fret on the last fret of the guitar. Pole pieces should be 3/64” from the bottom of the string.
Plug in, play, enjoy

Edited by Black Dog
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