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The Epiphone Inspection


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As a new proud owner of an Ebony Epi LP Standard, what are the key "points of inspection" I need to focus on to ensure that this guitar is acceptable?


This is my first decent guitar - my previous one is a low-quality strat copy. I know the quality control can be inconsistent at times with this company and I want to make sure the one they sent me is a keeper. My experience in evaluating guitars is nil.


Thanks in advance...

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- Check for loose frets, cracked necks, loose nut, damaged finish, etc.

- Change the strings to your favorites

- Tune the guitar

- Do an action adjustment (1.12mm on the high e', 2.0mm on the low E, from the top of the fret wire at Fret 12)

- Do a truss rod adjustment (pin at frets 1 and 17; at Fret 7 you should have .009-.015mm of space between the string and the fret. A playing card is 0.011mm, or you can use a spark gap gauge).

- Tune the guitar again.

- Check that the guitar is in tune at Fret 12; after adjusting the saddles for each string, tune that string, then test again, until it's right.

- Tune the guitar again.

- If it feels bad or sounds bad, send it back

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Truss rod adjustments shouldn't be done except by someone who knows what they're doing!!!!You could break your guitar!!!.

Likewise, setting the intonation by adjusting the bridge can be very tricky if you've never done it.

While bluefoxicey is correct with his information,unless you have experience doing this you can mess up a guitar to the point it is unplayable.


Can you post some photos? That would be helpful or at least fun!!

To post here,get a free photobucket page,upload your pics,copy/paste the img code( the bottom one of the four) into your post on here.

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dane's right. I managed to not kill my guitar at first touch and it was really easy to tell I wasn't doing it wrong, so I tend to forget about the truss rod breaking. Be gentle with it; if it doesn't want to go, don't make it. $20 or so to have a tech touch just the rod.

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Sure, I will post some photos. My wife has my camera at work, I should be able to get it back tomorrow.


So are you all saying that I should or should not have the guitar set up professionally? I have adjusted intonation and action on my strat copy several times, but I have never done truss rod adjustments, nut filing, neck angle, or any of those other tweaks I know they sometimes do.

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Anything involving "Filing" you shouldn't go into confused about. If you're not sure, then learn. Learn on something you WILL destroy. The only people who should be touching any of that on a real guitar should know what they're doing.


Actually, you can replace the nut and frets; it's not too messy AFAIK, though I don't fancy the idea of yanking my frets off. Think about it; string tension doesn't hold them on and they're not meant for you to replace them regularly. A nut changes with string gauge, and is held down by string tension if nothing else. Fretboard'll take mechanical damage from a refret.


Neck angle... uh, my neck's glued in. Set neck.

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Tweaks should only be done if required.

A good pro set up is probably your best bet.

A truss rod adjustment may not be required. Check the relief as bluefoxicy suggested,fret the string at the 1st fret and at the (I use the last fret)17th?

In the middle there should be space betwee the string and the fret about the thickness of the string or a bit less.

Do this on your low E string. Hopefully your guitar is set close to right,and you won't need to adjust it. If you do its to the right (higher tuned string side) to loosen or increase relief,to the left to decrease,which will straighten the neck.

Only go in 1/8 turn increments at a time.

But I would rather not see someone try this without some supervision or experience.

A good set up can make a so so guitar play like a million, a poor set up can make an expensive guitar play like dooky.

Some techs will at least look her over for you for free. Then tell you what needs done.

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Take it in to a good Luthier in your area and let him set it up for you. It's worth every penny spent to have it done right from the start.


Later, spend 20.00 bucks on a good book to learn how to do it yourself later. But the first time around let a pro do it so you know what it feels and sounds like.

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Here's something I posted in another thread which might be useful ;^)


Truss rod adjustment can be a troublesome issue for the inexperienced ...especially with regard to the budget or mid priced guitars which most folks cut their teeth on.

Following all the perfectly correct advice [or the factory specs] can actually get you into all kinds of trouble if you don't understand what's going on with a particular neck or fretboard !

Some necks have a slight twist. Many have a little bit of a ramp [or "rising tongue"] towards the body end.

It's also common for factory fret jobs to leave the first [bottom] fret a gnat's higher than the rest.

All or any of the above can mislead you when following the typical factory requirement for about 10 or 12 thou of relief from end to end under the low E.

You could end up with a "backbow" or hump in the middle of the neck on one or both sides of the fretboard.

So a pro fret level and set up is definitely the best way to go for the nervous beginner.


The above said, there's a safe dodge for getting relief in the right ballpark with most necks.

Firstly, measure relief between the 2nd and 14th frets

[capo or fret lightly just behind the 2nd fret to avoid distorting he string path...too much pressure will cause the string to arc upwards and produce a misleading measurement]

This will remove from the equation any slight case of a ramp at the dusty end or a high first fret at the other.


Secondly, set your relief with reference to the 3rd and 4th strings, not the low E.

This will account for any slight twist in the neck which might otherwise confuse things.


Adjust the rod to give just perceptible relief under those middle strings when measured between frets 2 & 14.

[so that you can just see a gap...maybe about 6 thou or so.


Now check the relief under the outer two strings to establish that there is no gross twist or other distortion in the playing surface. You will often find that [for various reasons] that the neck exhibits a bit more relief under the bass strings than the high strings. [Don't worry about that. It's a good thing...because that's where you most need it.]


Done. Your relief is now safely adjusted within a sensible range and with no odd side effects.


Adjust the action down until you just start to get a bit of fret buzz when playing normally and noodle up and down the fretboard.

If the relief is right for that guitar, the buzzing will be pretty even along the length of the board.

More buzzing in the lower positions indicates that a bit more relief is needed. More buzzing higher up the fretboard may require a bit less relief, with a slight raising of the action at the bridge to compensate.


You should also double check that the nut height is sensibly set.

If the guitar is much harder to play with open strings than with a capo at the first fret...chances are the nut is not cut low enough.

Fret each string at the third fret, so that it also touches the second fret. Now look at any clearence between the string and the first fret.

If anything above a light tap with your finger is required to "ping" the string against the first fret, the nut is probably too high.

The effective nut height as defined by the depth of the slots should be just a tad higher than that of the frets.

[unless you're a slide player...in which case this whole subject is totally irrelevant ! ;^) ]


Finally check and re-adjust the action by raising or lowering the bridge to taste.


If all the above adjustments appear to be in order and you still have issues with the playability [or excessive string rattle/buzzing in certain areas of the fretboard], then chances are that the frets need levelling or that the neck has other issues requiring pro attention.

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Good post, Smoke. My Gibby LP has a high nut that alters tuning slightly if I press to hard on open chords. I have never cut it, but need to. The best tip I have heard on nut height is to fret between 2 and 3 and gauge the clearance on the first with a sheet of copy paper (.001 inch). If it falls out on its own, cut a little until you have light drag when you move it back and forth while fretting between 2 and 3.


I find that a properly fretted axe will allow the truss rod to be set up with almost no neck relief or maybe a few thousandths. If you have to set the truss rod with more than .010 at the 8th when fretted at the first and 15th, you may have warp, twist, or a high fret or two.


My best check for high frets is to start at the first, fretting with the left hand and use a finger on the right hand to press the next fret. Work you way up the neck on each string. There should be a slight clearance between one and the next all the way up the neck. You will develop a sense of what proper clearance is as you fret the ones that don't buzz. Of course, you can sight down the neck from the bridge end and see high frets as "bright" spots and low frets and "dark spots".


Another way to find a high fret is to connect an ohmmeter to the bridge and touch frets in the suspect area with the other probe until you see the meter or display deflect as you fret and pick in the buzzy area. If your ohm meter has an audible mode, you can do this without looking at the display. When it beeps or deflects, you are on the high fret. Most of us can find the high fret by fretting, pressing on the next and looking for clearance.

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The thing with all this stuff is that with experience we tend to stop measuring anything.

It's then all easily done by feel and eyeballing.

The problem is that it takes time to gain experience of those many different guitars with their various errant modes of behaviour.

Until then, a bit of guidance and few useful dodges come in handy for the novice or nervous guitar owner.

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The way I see it, if your Epi has no obvious egregious finish flaws (don't sweat the small stuff, after all, it's an Epiphone) doesn't have any high or low frets that cause it to buzz at normal action settings, you got a good one.


From there, it's all stuff that can be improved.

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