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Adjusting the truss- who to listen to?

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by animus.terry005, Nov 30, 2018.

  1. Question for the luthiers.
    Depending on where one reads, there seems to be a couple schools of thought:
    First, I have read to adjust the truss a very small amount and then let the neck "settle" for up to 24 hours.. less break the neck or something
    Second, I've read that no settling is required.. just play the dang instrument.. it isn't going to break if you're not stupid about it.

    I have been making my own adjustments for nearly 20 years and I have always leaned more towards adjusting my neck and playing, then, should it need a little more adjustment later, do it.

    Now, the reason I'm asking after all this time is that I recently acquired a bass that had NEVER been adjusted as far as I can tell. In fact, the truss was completely loose and the neck was seemingly ready for deer season in New Hampshire.
    What I ended up doing was took the strings off and let the neck relax. When it relaxed, it actually had a near-perfect relief to it, so I snugged the truss nut and restrung the bass. Once I had string tension, I continued tightening the truss a little at a time until the relief seemed correct for the tuning- applying pressure to the neck so that the truss nut wasn't doing all the work. The bass sat overnight and has been fine.

    My theory being where the neck wood isn't forced beyond the point it was when it had 0 pressure, all I've done is tighten the truss to secure it in place and shouldn't need to worry about it exploding on me. Does this sound reasonable?

    I could see if the neck had a permanent bow in it and I caused strain by trying to counter it, but this wasn't the case.

    nbsipics, 96tbird and Scottgun like this.
  2. You did just fine. Especially by “helping” the neck into the proper position and not expecting the truss rod to do all the work.
    JLS, Teacher, lz4005 and 3 others like this.
  3. Slidlow

    Slidlow Supporting Member

    Apr 15, 2009
    Oshawa, Canada
    Ditto. Job well done.
    Teacher, animus.terry005 and Scottgun like this.
  4. Paulabass

    Paulabass Supporting Member

    Sep 18, 2017
    No need to wait.
    Teacher, animus.terry005 and Scottgun like this.
  5. Hopkins

    Hopkins Supporting Member Commercial User

    Nov 17, 2010
    Houston Tx
    Owner/Builder @Hopkins Guitars
    I don't know who came up with the "quarter turn and let the neck settle for a day" nonsense. But if that were really the case, I would have had some basses sitting in my shop for over a week just for a basic setup. It's simple, adjust the neck until the relief is correct, if it needs another adjustment in the future, adjust it then. There is absolutely ZERO reason to ever let your neck settle, there is no reason to take the strings off, you may need to loosen the A and D string to be able to make the adjustment, but that's it. Forcing the neck into place before tightening the truss rod is a good practice and completely necessary for some instruments, but not necessary at all for modern truss rods.
    JLS, Marko 1, Teacher and 4 others like this.
  6. Scottgun


    Jan 24, 2004
    South Carolina
    Good stuff guys.
  7. sissy kathy

    sissy kathy Back to Bass-ics Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2014
    Arbutus, MD
    You have raised my curiosity. Fender truss rods have been threaded 10-32 since forever. So what's the difference between them and 'modern' truss rods?
    EDIT: Nevermind, a little research disclosed that Fender rods were once 8-32 vice the 10-32 used now.
    Last edited: Nov 30, 2018
  8. Thanks everyone for the replies. As of this afternoon, bass is still fine!
    Glad to hear my practices in neck adjustment aren't wrong/bad after all these years Haha.
  9. 96tbird

    96tbird PLEASE STAND BY

    Trees don't explode
    nbsipics likes this.
  10. mdogs

    mdogs Supporting Member

    Apr 13, 2010
    Constant state of flux
    Can we please sticky this, I am sick and tired of hearing about having to "let it settle."
    Microbass, RSBBass and 96tbird like this.
  11. Paulabass

    Paulabass Supporting Member

    Sep 18, 2017
    The same (many) people who say you have to loosen strings completely to go on an airplane, because the extra tension at altitude will rip the neck right off your instrument. Wha? Why would metal strings change?
  12. lz4005


    Oct 22, 2013
    I wouldn't go quite so far as zero. I've had necks take as much as 10 minutes to fully respond to a truss rod adjustment. Not the majority, but I've run across a few.

    Massive overstatement of course. There is a kernel of truth, though. Airplanes generally suck all the humidity out of the passenger compartment, which can make wood shrink a bit and change neck relief. Like going from summer to winter over the course of an hour.
    Last edited: Nov 30, 2018
  13. Turnaround

    Turnaround Commercial User

    May 6, 2004
    Toronto Canada
    Independent Instrument Technician, and Contractor to Club Bass and Guitar - Toronto
    A customer recently brought me an acoustic guitar with the headstock broken off. He said he should have listened to his friend who told him to loosen the strings before his flight because in the unheated baggage compartment the humidity and temperature would drop during the flight, causing the wood to shrink and the added tension could break the neck.

    Well there are some problems with this idea. First, loosening the strings without also loosening the truss rood would put the neck in an unbalanced state - probably not a good idea when you are exposing it to the additional stresses of temperature drop.nnSecond, as the temperature drops in the baggage compartment, the relative humidity will actually increase, at least until all of the moisture escapes the compartment. Thirdly, a loss of humidity would cause the wood to shrink. that would actually lessen the tension on the strings albeit only a tiny amount. That's because wood doesn't change dimensionally with temperature change, and it's dimensional change through humidity is across the grain, not along it. So the shrinkage wouldn't be affecting the string tension anyway. There may be some contraction in the steel strings related to the temperature drop, but it would be the equivalent of tuning the guitar up less than a quarter tone. That wouldn't cause the headstock to break off.

    So what was the cause of the headstock damage? An abrasion on the back of the guitar case was an indicator that the case had fallen onto its back. A shock like that will snap a headstock quite handily. Of course it wouldn't be the fault of a baggage handler - the case had a visible "Fragile" sticker on it.o_O
    JLS, Fun Size Nick and 96tbird like this.
  14. 96tbird

    96tbird PLEASE STAND BY

    Thankfully !most! bass necks are made of tougher wood than typical woods used in acoustics such as mahogany: mahogany is horrible when it comes to the shock of a small drop, as so many broken Gibson headstocks can demonstrate. As you say it was shock stress, not strings and trussrod that was the culprit.

    As for the “settle in” bit, yes any one instrument may change over a day after a tweak, and another may not “settle”. The issue is that you don’t have to wait for it to “settle”. It’s perfectly safe to adjust it where you need it TODAY; if it “settles”,you simply readjust it tomorrow. Repeat as needed.

    Adjusting a neck as needed doesn’t damage a neck. Period.
  15. Beautifully stated.

    Although going back on TB 15-16 years ago, there are plenty of posts about only doing a 1/4-1/2 turn per week!!
  16. Paulabass

    Paulabass Supporting Member

    Sep 18, 2017
    ^ If you axe needs a 1/2 turn, see a pro, something is WAY wrong.
  17. Hopkins

    Hopkins Supporting Member Commercial User

    Nov 17, 2010
    Houston Tx
    Owner/Builder @Hopkins Guitars
    Not if you live in Houston. It can be 95 degrees with 80% humidity one day and 45 degrees and dry as a bone the next. A half turn isn't uncommon at all around here.
    96tbird likes this.
  18. Turnaround

    Turnaround Commercial User

    May 6, 2004
    Toronto Canada
    Independent Instrument Technician, and Contractor to Club Bass and Guitar - Toronto
    The question asked is not wether to turn a bit and wait, it's who to listen to. The ones I would pay attention to are those with many years of experience that are recognized throughout the industry as experts. Dan Erlewine is one, as is Frank Ford. Both are expert repair men. Or check out the noted luthiers. I would put Roger Sadowsky and Mike Tobias in that camp along with a host of others. In the end, pick the expert whose opinion you feel most comfortable with, and don't look back. There are a million armchair critics that will argue with you.
    nbsipics likes this.
  19. mrb327


    Mar 6, 2013
    Nobody Knows
    I sneak up on mine a little if they have been shipped. But that is due to the extremely low humidity and it takes a few days for the instrument to fully acclimate.
    Past that, only had a few that were slow responders
  20. delta7fred


    Jul 3, 2007
    I've been doing setups for over 50 years and only heard this 1/4 turn nonsense when I joined TB.

    I set to the required relief in one go and re-check the following day, very occasionally one will need a slight adjustment. The last neck that needed it was new.
    JLS likes this.

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