Minimum tools for setup

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by Soverntear, May 24, 2012.

  1. Soverntear


    Mar 17, 2008
    I've been noticing my musicman seems to be a bit bowed. nothing major but to be expect sinc eit was 2 years since its last setup. I'm thinking about starting my first one this evening and wondering if the following will work as minimum tools needed.

    Buisness card for checking action
    ruler/straight edge to check straightness of neck
    allen keys/ screw driver to adjust with
    (debating on this) radius guages from the dzoid bass setup guide.

    I'm a bit nervous to do my own setup but its about time I learn. I have done simple neck adjustments to the 'ray in the past and was lucky enough to have a tech who let me sit in on setting up my bass. also just wondering if i should take care of the problems im seeing now or should i wait on getting some new strings in? Or do one now and then another post strings. OK one last silly question, how often should i be doing setups (i live in ontario so i get the full range of season including nasty winters) thanks again guys
  2. NicJimBass

    NicJimBass Flossin'? I thought your name was Munson!

    Nov 22, 2004
    Lancaster, OH
    I've been setting up my own basses for a while now, but still, take everything I say with a grain of salt.

    I own a Music Man Stingray 5, which has the neck adjustment at the body-end of the neck (truss wheel). For that, I found hex-head screwdriver I had lying around works flawlessly. I'm sure you can find one at a hardware store or computer store. For other types of truss rods, I find either a 90 degree allen wrench or a straight allen wrench with a handle at the top works well.

    For neck relief, I usually either do it by sight (looking down the fingerboard edge from the headstock) or feel, if the strings feel like they're taking a little more work to play. Never have used a straight edge.

    For action, I normally use a mechanic's ruler, which can be found at a hardware store or car parts store. It shows mm and cm, I believe. I take the action reading at the 12th fret, with the lower, thicker strings being slightly higher off the fretboard than the higher, thinner strings. IIRC, my personal settings are about 2-3mm for a low B, to about 1.5-2mm for the high G. Your tastes may vary. I used a small allen wrench to adjust the saddle height.

    Only other things would be pickup height and intonation, both of which can be adjusted with a standard phillips-head screwdriver.
  3. darkstorm


    Oct 13, 2009
    Screwdriver to remove truss rod cover.
    Truss rod tool.
    Tool for adjusting bridge saddles height and intonation,
    Eyes and hands.
    Ears to listen to plugged in bass.

    As the minimum amount of tools needed. Been doing my own setups this way since the mid 70's. I get lower action then most factory specs quite easy on most basses. If you cant sight down a neck to see its near deadstraight, you may need measuring tools for this. Otherwise not. For bridge saddle adjsutment. Lower them as much as possible with no notes fretting out anywhere on fretbaord. Check intonation. Done.

    For pup adjustment for each side and overall and for pole peices if adjustable, is all by ear, listening. No tools needed other then screwdriver ro raise and lower pups.
  4. Soverntear


    Mar 17, 2008
    Excellent, as always thanks for the advice. Looks like I still need a hex wrench 1/16th (taken form musicman website) and possibly the mechanics ruler, ill look to see if i can find it in small for action and large enough to check straightness. after rereading the stickies and these posts im confident enough to go about it. dont suppose anyone wants to help VIA skype?
  5. Zooberwerx

    Zooberwerx Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 21, 2002
    Virginia Beach, VA
    *Decent set of hex keys...right size for the job, don't improvise.
    *Assorted FH and PH screwdrivers with clean tips...again, right size for the job.
    *Pocket rule, metric or imperial.
    *Feeler gauges! They're $4 at Pep Boys for cryin' out loud! Ditch the business cards.
    *Cheap set of needle files.
    *#0000 steel wool and emery cloth. Great for cleaning up nut slots and such.
    *#2 pencil.

    Most importantly, know when you're in over your head and get some outside help or guidance.

  6. JLS


    Sep 12, 2008
    Albuquerque, NM
    I setup & repair guitars & basses
    (Added emphasis)
  7. 96tbird

    96tbird PLEASE STAND BY

    The only reason I'm gonna go ahead and critique this is the contradiction within. I hope you can see my point Zooberwerx. The OP is wanting to know the minimum and we offer perfectly workable solutions for the self setup set.

  8. Zooberwerx

    Zooberwerx Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 21, 2002
    Virginia Beach, VA
    Still a fan of feeler gauges and, for the price, they are a must IMO. If they were expensive, difficult to use, or of potential detriment to the project, I would omit them from the list.

    I do not advocate the use of cheap needle files for cutting or modifying nut slots. I have and use the real thing but nut files are cost-prohibitive and improper use can result in disaster for those inexperienced. Major nut repair is best left with the pros. I do use cheap files for other non-critical applications (removing burrs, enlarging holes, etc.) but this may fall outside the scope of a "normal" set-up so point taken. As listed, I recommend nothing more than fine steel wool and/or emery cloth for "cleaning up" nut slots. I should remove emery cloth as an over-zealous hobbyist can potentially remove too much material as well.

  9. prd004


    Dec 3, 2010
    A set of feeler gauges works much better than business cards, is cheap, and will give you accurate measurements. Business cards will not.
    A tuner (which most of us have already) for adjusting intonation.
    A ruler or straight edge, the length of the fretboard, got mine at Lowes for three bucks and just has to cut off a few inches.
    Make sure you have the correct Allen wrench for your bass. One that's close can strip out your truss rod.

    Any bass player with basic mechanical skills, a few tools, and common sense should know how to do this! I still take my basses in for service occasionally but you never know when/where you might need a tweak here and there on the fly!

    There are lots of great tutorials on YouTube
  10. 96tbird

    96tbird PLEASE STAND BY

    Tip: When you select your desired relief, take the feeler gauge out of the set and put a bend in it so it "hangs" over the edge of the fret board and doesn't move around on you. CUSTOM!:hyper:
  11. Soverntear


    Mar 17, 2008
    So looks like pay day I have a couple things to pick up. I will go get the feeler gauges for only $4 or so it is a worth while investment and if i can eventually get to the point of getting out those thousandths of an inch differences I might as well have the right tool for the job.

    Ruler of course is on the list, why do something by eye when another $3-5 spent takes out the guess work.
    hex wrench in 1/16th for my saddles and possibly a slightly larger one for the truss wheel but the musicman site leaves no information on what sizing.
    "The truss rod wheel design was designed so any musician can easily make minor adjustments to the neck. Any tool such as an allen wrench, nail, small screw driver, etc. that will fit into the wheel hole will work. Turn the wheel a quarter turn at a time then check by playing your bass. Clockwise will raise the fingerboard."
    based on that im assuming the 1/16th will work

    and last tool is the files. I always use 45-105 strings and has my tech file out my nut the night I got my 'ray so i see no need to mess with a perfect job.

    so quick recap
    ruler covering the length of the board
    1/16th hex for saddles and possibly truss wheel
    screw driver that fits all screws
    Feeler guages for correct action OR a mechanics ruler (is there any advantage to ether?)
    Needle files
    steel wool

    one last one for you guys, is it possible to find metal radius guides in other places besides stew mac?
  12. prd004


    Dec 3, 2010
    The advantage of the feeler gauge is that it fits between the string and the fret. You can feel the resistance.......
    With the ruler you have to use your eye, and we are talking thousands of an inch.
    I MUCH prefer the feeler gauges, but I will defer to any actual guitar tech if they say otherwise.
  13. 96tbird

    96tbird PLEASE STAND BY

    Prd, you misunderstand. The ruler is for measuring action at the twelfth fret, around 2mm; not the relief. Too big for a feeler. I am not a luthier.
  14. lowfreq33


    Jan 27, 2010
    Endorsing Artist: Genz Benz Amplification
    I used to keep a nail in my Stingray case for adjusting the truss rod.
  15. I use number and letter size drills for filing graphite bass nuts. This lets me cut a super smooth slot, which is why I go out of my way to get graphite nuts anyway (I make a new nut for every gauge of string I use). These drills also get the slots as close to the actual string gauge as possible, and if there must be an error, I make it on the tight side (but not by much). I don't cut the slots straight as viewed from the side. They curve slightly down on their way to the tuners.
  16. prd004


    Dec 3, 2010
    Got you! I set string height by eye/feel/ear. I set mine as low as possible for ease of play without fret buzz!
  17. Soverntear


    Mar 17, 2008
  18. irishryno


    Jan 22, 2008
    I have a full set of allen wrenches, a no.1 and no.2 phillips screw drivers, and a tuner. I set the neck straight and tune. I then use the appropriate allen wrench rotating from the a string to the d string barely touching to give the right relief in the neck. Retune. Drop the saddles till the strings rest one the fret. I then fret on 2nd fret and raise the saddles until the fret buzz is gone. Then fret on the 12 and repeat raising. This works no matter your attack style. I then fret 1st and 16th fret simultaniously and check the height at the 9th fret. String should not touch but just clear the fret. I then retune and start setting the intonation and retuning until the open and 12 frets are in harmonic unison. I detune and retune to check intonation. No feeler gauges and perfect every time. I then set the height of the pickups using a 3/8 allen wrench as a spacer. Pickups should be slightly slanted but optimum height. Hope this helps.
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