Setting up the guitar to play


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With the guitar strung, I have begun the setting up--establishing the proper action for playing the guitar. This essentially is the process of setting the string heights above the frets so that the distance between fret and string is as small as possible, which improves playability. At the same time, the distance between string and fret must be large enough to avoid the string buzzing, or hitting the fret as it vibrates when struck.
The first setting is to determine the neck relief (or camber). I did this by placing a capo on the first and twelfth frets and adjusted until there was a small gap of about .01" between string and fret at the 6th fret. I used feeler gauges to establish the gaps.
Once the neck relief was established, I worked on the establishing the proper string height at the nut. I held each string down in succession just beyond the second fret and ensured that there was a slight gap between the first fret and the string. I generally kept the gap at about .008".
Once the nut heights were established, I shaped each string slot to fit the width of the string and to ensure that the strings would pull smoothly through the slots when tuning.
With the neck relief and nut slots tuned, I began work on the saddle. First. I marked the location of each string on the top of the saddle, and then I measured the gap between the string and the twelfth fret (which is located at exactly one-half the distance between the nut and the bridge). I developed a table that told me how high each string was, assuming a target gap for the low 'E' string should be .125" and for the high 'E' string should be .09" and should vary proportionately in between.
The difference between my target and the actual gap told me how low I must lower the string at the twelfth fret. Double this amount is what need to be removed from the bridge. I marked the amount to be removed at each string, and filed the bridge down. The result is as shown here. The guitar plays very well now.
Even though the guitar is now playable, some final details need to be attended to to fully complete the guitar--touching up finish flaws, putting in a label, improving on the polish, covering the neck truss rod hole, and installing a scratch plate. Here, I have masked off the guitar around the neck to allow me to hand brush some lacquer onto the side of the fingerboard, where the lacquer broke after I removed the tape that protected the fingerboard when I sprayed the guitar.
I purchased a plastic pickguard (scratch plate), and I'll use that plastic plate temporarily. However, I decided to try my hand at making a wooden scratch plate. I resawed a piece of Black Walnut to about 1/16" thick, and established and cut a pickguard shape out of the resawn piece.
I began finishing the plate by first using a vinyl sealer and then three coats of epoxy filler to fill pore holes.
Then, I sprayed lacquer on the pick guard and the truss rod hole cover. To avoid getting out all of the large spray equipment, I chose to just use aerosol cans of Deft Clear Lacquer. I sprayed six layers of lacquer on each, let those layer dry overnight, sanded the pieces flat, and repeated the process.
While the lacquer was drying, I unstrung the guitar and repolished it. This time, instead of hand polishing, I used polishing wheels and Menzerna compounds (very fine and finest). The polish that resulted was far superior to the polish I had acheived by hand. Here's a front view demonstrating the final polish. Note the temporary pick guard.
...and heres a back view of the polished guitar. Well, it's now time to take a break for Christmas. After I return from my Christmas trip to Colorado, I'll polish up the truss rod hole cover and pick guard and install them on the guitar. My goal was to complete the guitar before Christmas, and I feel that I've done exactly that. The few minor pieces that are left don't spoil the wonderful feel and tone that come from this instrument.
Elapsed time for these steps: 5 hours... See the main page for the cumulative time.  

This is the final step in completing the guitar !!!!!

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