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Any Truss Rod Nut/Allen Wrench Tricks of the Trade?

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by jasper383, Feb 2, 2013.

  1. jasper383


    Dec 5, 2004
    Durham NC
    Several times in my bass and guitar owning history, I have gone to adjust a truss rod with an allen wrench, thought I had a good "bite" on the head of the nut, only to have the wrench slip a bit.

    Is there any advice/tricks of the trade in always getting a good bite on the nut so that there is no slipping or rounding off of the nut?

    I have a bass with a truss rod nut that is way down in the hole at the end of the neck, and I am really almost afraid to go down there with a wrench for fear of slipping and rounding it off.

    Am I developing truss rod nut phobia? :)

    Any advice?
  2. Slowgypsy

    Slowgypsy 4 Fretless Strings

    Dec 12, 2006
    NY & MA
    Some preventive maintenance can help. Check the wrench you're using... if it shows signs of wear, or rounded edges, just go and get a new one. Using a worn wrench will only add the to wear and tear of the nut.

    Inspect the truss rod nut. Undo it, remove it, inspect it, and if it's showing signs of wear... get a new one. Single acting only.

    Better to fix something before it goes critical.
  3. zortation


    Dec 26, 2011
    Toronto, ON
    Get a better allen wrench, preferably Bondhus. They are precision machined and heat treated. I swear by them.

    Take your time when engaging the nut..you should feel it "lock in". Then test the engagement by wiggling the wrench to feel if it's in there.
  4. Bruce Johnson

    Bruce Johnson Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 4, 2011
    Fillmore, CA
    Professional Luthier
    Like zortation said, the important thing is to buy a good quality wrench. The majority of problems people have with stripping out the heads of truss rod nuts and bridge hardware are caused by using cheapo Allen wrenches. When you get down to the smaller sizes, the tolerances are really tight. The wrench needs to be the correct size and the correct hardness. Cheap sets of Allen wrenches are often undersized, or oversized, or over-plated, or made from soft metal.

    Be especially cautious of the cheap ones which are shiny zinc plated. They are often oversized, which is the worst thing. You try the correct size wrench, and it doesn't go in because it's too tight. So you try the next smaller size......and immediately strip out the head.

    Individual high-quality Allen wrenches only cost $1 to $10, depending on the size and type. Allen, Bondhaus, and Holochrome are all good brands. Don't get the ball-end ones unless you really need them for angular clearance. The plain-end L-shape wrenches are fine, and compact for carrying in your case. The long T-handled ones are nicer for bench use.
  5. walterw

    walterw Supportive Fender Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 20, 2009

    the only "trick" i can think of is that when a wrench isn't quite biting like you want due to some wear in the hole, you can hit the end of the wrench square on a belt-sander or grinder to create sharp corners, or even a little bit of a burr, at the edges. sometimes that will be just enough to get the grip you need.

    the wrench may not be long for the world afterwords, but if it gets the job done it might be worth the sacrifice.
  6. JoeWPgh


    Dec 21, 2012
    Certain sizes will have a very close size in the other standard, SAE or Metric. That's something to be careful of. Make sure you're using the right one.
  7. pbagley


    Jun 2, 2008
    Ham Lake, MN
    I have a G&L bass that was purchased used and about 12 years old. Finally decided to adjust the neck and non of my allen wrenches had a good fit. I took it to someone I trust and watched him use a little hammer to tap an allen wrench into the nut. There was a bit of rust/gunk in there, and the correct size wrench seemed to be too large. In the end I had a well adjusted neck for a very reasonable sum.
  8. walterw

    walterw Supportive Fender Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 20, 2009

    that happens with some fender american standard guitars; finish or glue gets in the little 1/8" hex hole at the headstock when built, to where the nut seems stripped when it's actually just clogged.
  9. +1
    A European 6mm is just less than Imperial 1/4" (6.35mm). Perfect for making a mess.

    ps, and slightly bending the topic. The OLP 5-string had one of those circular adjusters with periodic holes in it. I've only come across it on one other bass. I ended up fashioning something out of a steel rod exactly the right diameter and slid on a grip but is there a common tool?
  10. zortation


    Dec 26, 2011
    Toronto, ON
    EB used to ship their basses with one.
  11. Seen this happen a lot...9 times out of 10 it's the wrong hex wrench size. Always best to be ABSOLUTELY sure you know the correct size.

    *experience is a great teacher...not that i've ever been wrong :crying:
  12. bassbully

    bassbully Endorsed by The PHALEX CORN BASS..mmm...corn!

    Sep 7, 2006
    Blimp City USA
    One trick is to put some pressure on the neck when adjusting it to take the stress off the trussrod.