OT:  Guitar setup

Any gurus out there?

OK, let me start by saying that I don’t come to this as a complete novice. In the last 30 years or so I have successfully setup countless numbers of my own, and friend’s, guitars and basses. I’m no stranger to truss rods, allen keys, intonation and fret buzz… But now I have a problem…

Anyway, my son and I have just built one of those entry level Telecaster type kit guitars. Basically you get a box of bits and have to assemble it. Done that, fine. Trouble is the neck has absolutely no relief in it and I’ve got some fret buzz (even with the action quite high). OK, easy, slacken the truss rod a quarter turn and wait… ok another 1/4 turn… ok a whole turn… ok two whole turns. Now about two weeks later I must’ve turned the thing a good 4 or five complete turns and STILL NO RELIEF in the neck.

So, have I got a duff one? Is there a trick I’m missing? Is this common with new necks? Should I keep turning? ? ? ?

Comments welcomed…

Hey Mark,

Bad news…sounds like you’ve got a stripped truss rod. If you’re turning the truss rod and seeing no reaction from the neck it probably means the rod is stripped. If you keep turning it you run the risk of doing serious damage to the fretboard (like maybe popping the whole off or busting a whole in it.) On the other hand, the thing may just be stripped and setting there and spinning, which no amount of turning will affect. Either way, if you’ve turned numerous “whole turns” there’s definatley something wrong.
I’m certainly no luthier, but I’ve done my fair share of set ups. A quarter to a half turn is usually as far as you need to go.
Good luck with this one…



gunner is probably correct, but another possibility is that the frets are not levelled. Just one high fret can make getting rid of buzz impossible.
Take a straight edge (metal ruler) and lay it edge-wise on the frets, you’ll need something long enough to span at least 3 frets at a time. If it rocks you have a high fret.
Check also that the neck is seated correctly in the pocket.
Good luck.


On entry level guitars the truss rods are normally effective only in one direction, namely against string tension to straighten a neck. Slackening probably has no effect. I don’t know if you can return the kit (probably the best solution), if not, try realigning the neck with a shim to give you a better angle. To test this idea, a piece of cardboard in the lower half of the neck-pocket will do. If this works then you may want to fashion a wooden wedge for a permanent fix (although there is nothing wrong with cardboard). If needed the frets can then be leveled by using a long straight wooden block with some very fine emery cloth (sand paper) stuck to it with double sided adhesive tape. They then need dressing though, which needs a special file (I’ve done it by just rubbing steel wool up and down the frets to take the edges off, but it is a bit risky). Try Stewart Macdonald for more info. Another idea could be to loosen the truss rod and increase the string tension above normal while heating the neck under a heat source like a light bulb. I have a similar project at the moment, it is a pain with those cheap truss rods. Sometimes the amount of buzz depends on the weather; wood being a natural product there are a million parameters to take into account. Anyway good luck.

Sorry, put the shim in the upper half of the pocket

Quote (sinbad @ Feb. 26 2006,16:07)
On entry level guitars the truss rods are normally effective only in one direction, namely against string tension to straighten a neck.

I had no idea. Thanks for that bit of info :)

Hi Mark:
What a shame… Have you written some mail or called the supplier and/or the manufactuer to see what their response might be on the issue?

It sounds like a neck replacment is in order…

Is this neck one that has the adjustment on the “Head-stock” end of the neck? Or… is IT one with the adjustment on the “Heal” of the neck?

I’m not sure if that really matters… Cause Zane, over at the Ledgend Shop began building his necks with a “Convex” built into the neck by means of a “Shim-block” near the middle of the truss channel… That made the neck with a stress in IT to begin with… So, the truss rod had something to relieve the stress, that was already in place…

I believe that’s how he corrected that issue…

Is it a Maple frett board? or a Rosewood board? Not that IT matters… But…


Thanks for the input guys. The kit was pretty cheap so I don’t hold out much hope of getting a replacement neck.

I’ve already checked out the frets and they do all seem pretty level so perhaps shimming is the only answer. The neck is off the guitar again at the moment so I’ll give that a try when all is back together.

It’s a Rosewood fingerboard Bill. Not the greatest I’ve seen but adequate.

Ultimately this was really just a fun project to do with my son. Even if we get the neck sorted we’ll still need to spend a little bit more money on it I suspect… the pickups (bridge in particular) are really microphonic. So a replacement or DIY potting is needed.


Hi Mark:
I’ve heard of guys dipping pickups in parafin wax to cure pickups of feedback… I’ve used waxed dental floss as well… gotta be careful you don’t stress the wire… and break it… But you know… A little care and no abuse … It’ll work fine…

Yea… A neck that’s too straight can be bruital…


Mark, how comfortable are you with guitar repairs? If the neck has no relief (is it bowed back when you sight down the fingerboard) then your options drop pretty radically. You could remove the truss rod that is installed (one way) and install a 2 way rod. My guess is that the neck is not worth that kind of trouble or time/expense. You can try removing the neck, loosening the trussrod that is in there (actually remove the truss nut) and then clamp the neck to piece of wood such that the clamps “force” a relief in the direction that you are looking for. Then you can heat the neck to soften the glue so that the fingerboard and neck adjust to a permanent relief in the fingerboard. Then remove the heat, allow the neck to completely cool and then remove the clamps. This can be a risky adjustment, but it sounds like you have crap right now. When you are done, put a little white lithium grease on the truss rod nut and reinstall it to it’s loosest setting.

Lastly, you can just try using much heavier strings and loosen the truss rod completely. this might be enough to pull it forward to get the proper relief. And definitely, level and redress the frets!

If all else fails, just buy another cheap neck.



I recently repaired a guitar (old Harmony Jazz box) that had a similar problem. The only answer in it’s case was to remove the fingerboard, fix the truss rod (in this case it was broken)and reglue the fingerboard properly. The repair was a success (I hate removing fingerboards!) and the guitar plays great. Of course, I also fret leveled and dressed the guitar.

ooops! I had written something here that was totally wrong so I deleted it, my bad.

This is not uncommon when the neck is made from “green,” i.e., unseasoned wood. The wood of the neck shrinks more than the fingerboard causing a backbow which may be too strong for the strings to pull out. This is more common on cheaper guitars where the manufacturer doesn’t want to pay to store the wood for an extra year while it cures. Additionally, these cheaper guitars are likely to only have a single-acting truss rod that cannot compensate for backbow (only a double-acting truss rod can do that). Lastly, since these instruments are relatively cheap, it’s usually not practical to spend money, time or resources to fix them.

But all may not be lost!

A couple of ideas:
1) Since this is a kit building project, add more pieces to the kit. Check your local music stores and pawn shops for a cheap used guitar that you can mix-and-match parts with. Before you go, measure the distance between the nut and 12th fret on your kit guitar and make sure that this is the same on whatever “new(er)” guitar you get (your scale length = 2x this distance).
2) There are some parts places you may be able to get a replacement. Stewart McDonald sells parts and tools for stringed instrument building. Warmoth Guitar Parts sells high quality woodwork such as necks and bodies; they have a “thrift shop” of parts from cancelled orders etc. Some other companies to google are Musicraft (or is it Music Craft?) and Allparts.

Good luck!