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First Truss Rod Adjustment (scary)


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Some of you may remember me recently asking about the LP Gothic Studio model. You were all very helpful in suggesting places that might have one in stock. Well, I wasn't able to find a place that didn't have it on backorder. But it turned out for the best, I think, because I decided that since I had played a Gibson Invader, Melody Maker, and various Les Paul Studios exclusively for all of my guitar-playing life, it was time I branched out a bit. So I changed my order to the Epiphone "Gothic" 1958 Explorer (Hardtail).


So far I'm loving it. It required some setup - the pickup height was almost the reverse of what I prefer, and the intonation was way off, despite Inspector #26 having signed off on Intonation on the cute little checklist (which makes me wonder whether the inspector was tonedeaf, or if the final pre-ship string change was a different gauge than when it was set up). It wouldn't stay in tune at first, but some graphite in the nut fixed that. The Grover tuners are solid as a rock. The bridge pickup screams (at least for a passive pickup). Overall, I'm really pleased. I would recommend it to anyone looking for a guitar within its price range, with only a couple of very minor caveats. For instance, the black finish on the bridge tends to wear off quickly in the places where I palm mute and on the saddle adjustment screws. Also, the fretboard is one of the lightest pieces of rosewood I've ever seen, whereas catalogue pictures show it being very dark (a couple of online catalogues even incorrectly advertise it as ebony!). Mine has darkened some through playing, and I very sparingly applied some block oil, which is a purified lemon oil intended for unfinished wood cutting boards.


But here's my first real problem: The neck relief is a little high: just over 1/64", so probably about 0.020" or so. Now, I have next to no experience adjusting truss rods. I was always afraid to do this on my Gibsons when I had them. So I don't have a good feel for what's normal. I've read several online guides, including the one by Larry Vigneault that gets posted here a lot. So I know not to do more than a small fraction of a turn at a time. But when I try to turn the wrench, no matter which direction I go in, I get a lot of resistance, and a really sickening sound like cracking wood. I haven't actually moved the nut: this sound occurs as soon as I apply pressure, so I backed off immediately and came to ask ya'll. I need to turn clockwise to tighten the nut, but I've also tried to loosen it, just to get the nut moving and make sure it isn't binding (maybe it is?).


Is this normal for a new Epiphone? Should I try lubricating the truss rod nut? Should I detune and try again without string tension? Or is it imperative that I go to a professional? I'd like to avoid this, both monetarily, and because I don't have a tech that I really know and trust, although there is one local guy that seems to know what he's doing. Please, I 'd appreciate any advice or experience that you guys can lend. I'm going to lay off the truss rod for the time being until I hear something, because the neck relief isn't too extreme. Here is a picture of the guitar, if anyone's interested.



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it's really hard to say.. they can make noise and it's a problem, or it's not!


I think what I would do is this. tune. measure..

release some tension via the rod..

twist neck gently.. start at the heel.. twist one way then the other.. move hand up four inches or so..*width of hand* and do again..

all the way to the nut.

Not a lot of pressure.. you're just helping the t rod settle inside..

you may not even feel the neck is really being twisted..


let it set a while. say an hour.. play it a bit, then..

then measure.

any difference?


you've already done this much.. you just didn't measure the effect..

so you need to know if you can loosen the rod and it adds forward bow, as it should...

you don't want to turn it much.


say the wrench is in the rod.. the bent part sticks out..

you look at where the tip of that is.. and turn it 1/2" looser.. no more.


measure where it is.. turn it.. twist neck.. let sit.. play a bit.. measure.

keeping it tuned as you go.


a 1/2" turn 'may' creak or groan.. and that could be the rod turning in the other end of the neck...

if it is. .then you wont have any effect.

if it isn't then there should be some effect.


but this is only step one to test it slowly and carefully.


That's what I'd do.



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a 1/2" turn 'may' creak or groan.. and that could be the rod turning in the other end of the neck...

if it is. .then you wont have any effect.

if it isn't then there should be some effect.


but this is only step one to test it slowly and carefully.




I should have mentioned this earlier, but the sound seems to be coming from around the area of the nut (the "string" nut, as opposed to the truss rot nut). In other words, maybe an inch inwards from the wrench and truss rod nut.


Also, to clarify, I have not as yet turned the wrench any perceptible amount. When it makes that sound (almost like splintering wood), I just can't bring myself to go any farther.


So I guess I'll do as you say, going counterclockwise, and take it VERY slowly.


Thank you!

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well, I followed TWANG's advice, applying counterclockwise pressure for a few seconds even though the nut didn't seem to be turning, then gently turning the neck, tuning, and measuring relief. There seemed to be a slight effect on relief, but it's hard to tell since my ruler is precise only to 1/64".


After a few repetitions, the nut just kind of "popped" loose and would turn freely in the counterclockwise direction. So I checked relief and saw that it had increased by a good 1/128" or 3/264." So far so good.


I turned the nut back about 1/10th turn clockwise to where it had been before popping loose, and tightened it about another 1/10th. This reduced the relief almost to where I want it. The truss rod nut is still a bit resistant to tightening, so I replaced the cover and called it a day. Apparently the threads were bound up somehow - maybe some wood dust had gotten in the threads? I'll give it time to settle and try again.


Thanks for your help, both of you. I guess it just needed "breaking in." It hasn't made that awful sound again since it became unstuck, so I think all is well.


btw - I've read Gibson's recommended method for lubricating a truss rod nut with wd-40 and a Q-tip, but the Epi's obviously have a different type of truss rod nut. Is it possible to lubricate the threads? If so, how and where would one apply the lubricant?




PS - this guitar is really curing me of my Gibson-snobbitude. Now I see why people like Epi's.

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The truss nut should be fairly easy to turn, as long as you have not reached the upper or lower limit of thread travel. If the nut is seized and it's somewhere in the middle of the thread travel, consider taking the guitar to a luthier to have a look at it. They will only charge you $30 or so, but at least you will find out if this behavior you are seeing is normal. They might even suggest that you return the guitar and get another one.


My guess is that loosening the nut counter-clockwise (adding relief) should never give you a lot of resistance. Tightening clock-wise (removing relief) is more likely to reach a point where there is resistance and you begin to hear crackling if you starting to go too far. I have done adjustments on 4 guitars so far and some have a nut that is very easy to turn with one finger on the hex key, while another one had a nut that was fairly hard to turn, but it would still turn without any wood crackle. Your nut might just be seazed with some rust, or it might be that they used a plastic locking nut of some kind. The luthier will be able to suggest what to do, whether it is safe to put WD-40 on the nut, or whatever. You don't want to add some lubricant and find out it screws up the wood, its finish from underneath. The luthier will use what lubricant he has found to be safe for a guitar, if lubricant is to be used at all.


Why don't you post your string clearance at the 12th fret, then fret both the first fret and the 17th at the same time and let us know the string clearance you see at the 8th fret. With this info, we migth be able to determine if your guitar is already over-adjusted into one direction.

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It sounds very much like a common problem you run into..

the threads are starting to get misaligned.. probably happened during a hastily done set up when the guitar was made..

then it sits like that with tension on it..

you try to go back.. it makes noise, is hard to turn ..


yours broke free of it's 'freeze'..


You know.. when I run into a problem like this I do as I told you.. turning the outside tip of the wrench no more than 1/2 and inch..

a 1/4 turn would be much much more and invite trouble..

but a 1/2" at the wrench tip is barely any.. inviting knowledge.

and, it can still be measureable..


think of it this way.. IF the rod nut was starting to misalign at the threads.. that's even by much much smaller amounts.. thread distances.

and it seems to me, that's where your problem is. and lubricating is a good idea.

I prefer machine oil, though it doesn't penetrate like wd 40.. it's very viscous and light.. clear color..and will penetrate if you let it sit..

and more when you adjust further.


that popping free would make me feel good.. if it's just the threads, 9 times out of 10 all you have to do is be very careful when tightening.

It should turn much more freely once it's lubed.


Honestly, I've done this for fenders galore, and not had to lube even one epi, so I'll go pull my tr cover off and look at the

thing and try to get back to you about lubing it.


We want something in there to help us not play into what could be a thread spot that's .. sort of chipped or stressed.. leading the screw threads

to misalign further.


man, this is hard to do in words when you're so used to feeling stuff. !


If it's where you want it, or just about.. then still lube it a bit.. for sure. no sense taking a second chance six months from now..

what I would do is finish the job.. I'd lube it.. then I'd loosen it. check relief.. then tighten it a bit.. then loosen it..

then tighten it to where I wanted..

in other words.. I'd work that lube in pretty good before I went all the way.. that way you'd have the 'frozen' spot lubed up.


But it sounds like you're good to go except for a very small amount of adjustment? I mean, you're fairly happy. but not completely?

So.. I think why not be all the way happy,and have the insureance of some lube in there, too.



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Yeah. I'm actually recommending less..

a 1/2" at the wrench tip is not nearly as much as a 1/2 turn at the rod socket.


sometimes it really takes very very little.. and when there's a noise or a catch.. best to be gentle.

I can't help it, I baby 'em. *G*



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Why don't you post your string clearance at the 12th fret' date=' then fret both the first fret and the 17th at the same time and let us know the string clearance you see at the 8th fret. With this info, we migth be able to determine if your guitar is already over-adjusted into one direction.[/quote']


The action at the first fret is about 2/64" for low and high E. At fret 12, low E is just shy of 6/64", and high E is 5/64".


With a capo on fret 1, and fretting at 17, low E clearance at the 8th fret is slightly below the line at 1/64" (I'd guess around .012"). Before I made the adjustment, it was noticeably higher, but not quite to 2/64": perhaps roughly .025" (bear with me please, I'm using a ruler that only goes down to 64th's of an inch).


This is close to what I was shooting for. I'll probably open the cover again in a day or two and give it another 1/10th turn or so, partly just to make sure it's still moving freely. I may have some Tri-flow around the house somewhere, although all I found just now was 1-Lube, which seems a little more viscous. Let me know if anyone has any suggestions for how to apply the lubricant so that it will reach the threads effectively (maybe with a Q-tip or a toothpick?). If I do lubricate, I'll apply it very sparingly.


Again, thank you all for your help.

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From the measurement you did on the 1st and 17th fret with the capo, it looks like your neck is almost straight, it has a little relief, but not much. Most people here agree, you do not want to go into negative-relief, you are close to zero already and there is not much tweak room at the truss left that can help you lower your action anymore, well, there is a little more left until you get to zero-relief, but not much. It is usually good to leave a little relief on the neck anyways.


I would move on to the bridge and try to lower that. It is a lot easier to adjust the bridge than it is to adjust the truss rod. My guitar has 12th fret specs of 6/64 at low-E and 4/64 at high-e, your guitar might be different, so please look up the specs from the factory fro your guitar. My guess is that your high-e is too high still, you reduced the relief (which should have lowered the action) and yet that remains too high (for my taste, yours may be different).


Having said that, even the specs from the factory are to high for my liking anyways, I like around 4/64 and 4/64 for my taste, but your taste might be different. You already told us that your action is too high for your taste, so you should keep trying to lower it until you hit that "sweet spot" that will feel just right. What will work against you in when lowering the action, is that fret buzz will begin to appear, sometimes only there if the strings are strummed to strongly and you might not even notice it playing through an amp, but sometimes buzz is there in huge amounts and it begins to make your guitar have poor sustain and make notes sound bad.


Sorry for the long response. In summary, I would leave the truss rod alone for now and move on to the bridge and adjust it to get the action you want. You are also probably worried about the truss rod nut being seized, so I guess that you will be playing with it to satisfy yourself that all is well, I can't blame you for that. But I think that the action you seek lies with adjusting the bridge, and this is easy!


For truss rod adjustments, if you must do it, just remember that it takes 1/2 hour or more before the neck settles down after a truss rod adjustment, so if you adjust the truss rod, leave it and come back later to see the results. Results are not immediate.

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MMMMmmmmmm, TriFlow ..... been using this stuff for decades around the house, but mostly on my mountainbikes.

Never thought about using it on the guitar....... would give it that wonderful "synthetic banana flavor" scent (yeah, I like the smell of TriFlow .... could be worse, right ???)

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