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Set-Up Tools---What Do I Need?

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by jazz5757, Feb 9, 2004.

  1. Well, I've been forking over my hard-earned money for some time for basic set-ups. Used to be that I could have it done for about $25 but my tech now gets $45---ouch! I'm tired of paying out for this (as opposed to serious fretwork, etc.). I seem to remember soemone saying that Stew Mac or some company like that sells the feeler guages, etc. needed to do a proper set-up....I'm playing basically all p basses right now, fretted and fretless. What tools do you think i need and where is the best place you've found to get them? Thanks.
  2. everything you need you can find at your local hardware store, as long as you're not filing nuts or doing anything to the frets.

    you'll need an allen key for the truss rod. unfortunately, i can't remember what size it is, but they usually come in sets of 8 or 10 that will have what you need.....anyone know if fender uses metric or standard?

    assuming your p-basses have the stock fender bent bridge, that allen key set will also have the right allen key for adjusting the height of the saddles. the only other thing you need is a phillips screwdriver for adjusting intonation...

    well, you'll also need a tuner.

    as for feeler gauges, you can find them in hardware stores too....maybe in the automotive section? i can't remember where in the store it was where i found them, but it was in a Canadian Tire...

    the most recommended guide seems to be this one.
  3. Necessary Tools

    - Set of automotive feeler gauges (.002 - .025)
    - 6" ruler (with 1/32" and 1/64" increments)
    - Light machine oil ( 3-in-1, toy locomotive, or gun oil)
    - Phillips screwdriver
    - Tuner
    - Wire cutters
    - Peg winder
    - Polish and clothe


    I find this guide for Fender basses to be useful.

    Hope this is what you are looking for.


  4. Hey Treena----thanks for the good advice, it looks like even a mechanically-declined :D person such as myself can do it if I'm patient about it-----so does this mean that YOU are doing all your own setups? :hyper:
  5. jazz5757, Yes, I do my own setups, but believe me, I'm no expert.

    Guys like Harrell S and Hambone know much more about this then I could hope to learn in a lifetime.

    There are many things I feel are beyond me, (refretting is one) and I take my basses to my tech for things like that. Other wise, I prefer to do my own because, I'm the one who knows exactly what I like.

    I hope you have success with this process, you'll definately save money if you get it right.

  6. tplyons


    Apr 6, 2003
    Madison, NJ
    There's nothing I don't do myself, or if I've never done it before, I used to have an old beater bass without electronics which I would with old strings and cheapo tuners just to try stuff out. I was offered to sell it for $40 more than I paid for it so I took the offer needing money, now I'm looking for another such bass.

    Next projects for Tim: custom inlays and refretting.
  7. pkr2


    Apr 28, 2000
    coastal N.C.
    Good suggestions. I consider a couple of straight edges a must.One is 36" and the other is a triangular, smaller one.

    *I don't even use a feeler guage if the customer wants the lowest possible action, as most do. If the customer wants A specific string height, a better alternative to feeler guages is a vernier caliper. Use the slide extension on the end that protrudes as you open the jaws of the caliper.

    Simply fret the point that you wish to check and by holding the end of the caliper on the string, let the extension go by the string and touch the FB. release the string and measure from the FB to the top of the string. The difference in the two measurements is the string height. A feeler guage can easily lift a string enough to make the measurement faulty.

    *The only way that I've found to achieve the lowest possible action is to adjust the truss rod till all of the strings buzz everywhere on the neck . Raise the bridge saddles to clear up the buzz at the bridge end of the FB. Gradually increase the relief untill the buzz clears up at the nut end of th FB. Try it, it works.

    If the nut is cut properly, the action will be as low as possible without buzzing.

    Sorry for being so long winded. :)

    Harrell S.
  8. Great suggestions everyone! It's interesting to see how everyone approaches the task in somewhat different ways. My goal, above all, is to de-mystify the whole process, it's certainly not brain surgery. I bought a Squire P to tinker with and I plan on replacing the pickups and pots myself as well...I also just sold the neck to a TB guy and have a '71 Fretless P bass neck on the way from another TB guy, so I'll have plenty of opportunity to experiment and learn without fear of screwing up an expensive instrument. :)
  9. permagrin


    May 1, 2003
    San Pedro, CA
    Well, this is a bit different. I adjust the truss rod 'til buzzing stops at the lower frets, then lower the saddles 'til buzzing just starts on the higher frets. Then if the action is too low, I raise the saddles to where it feels 'right' (for me).

    New procedure to get low action, very cool, thanks!
  10. Giraffe

    Giraffe Supporting Member

    Nov 6, 2003
    San Diego, California
    I have been doing this for a long time. I am not an expert, but I have stolen from experts until my head hurts. I have also practised on many basses, a few of which will never be the same, so in the interest of saving you from some of the disasters I have caused, here is a list. If it seems like a longer path than some of the other contributors, that is because I HAVE MADE MORE MISTAKES THAN THEM!

    1. PATIENCE - If you have no patience, pay a professional to do this work on your bass. Do not go near anything you care about immediately after an argument with your boyfriend or girlfriend. Take your time, and if you are in a rush, save the whole exercise for another time.

    2. KNOWLEDGE - You really should know what you are doing before you start, and this is going to take a little time and cost a little money. This is not manned space travel, but it is complicated enough that I wouldn't recommend you try it until you have reached a point where you don't need to reach out blindly in the net for guidance. Feed your head with "How To Make Your Electric Guitar Play Great" by Dan Erlewine. READ THE WHOLE THING. If you want to become a registered Bassist Who Has A Good Idea How Her/His Instrument Works, chase it with "Guitar Player Repair Guide, 2nd Ed." A lot of this book discusses electric/Spanish guitars, finishing, and other subjects, but most of it is relevant to electric bass as well. If you are going to be a major dude, you must work at it. And if this sounds like an unnecessary investment, consider that those two books will cost you about the same as ONE setup performed by a pro. Go to the Stewart MacDonald website, order up a paper catalog so you can see everything they have, and order those books and a "String Action Gauge #0670," because this is the slickest measuring tool available.

    3. Be aware that you will need a truss rod wrench that fits your bass without messing up the truss rod cavity, and this will probably have to come from the bass manufacturer, StewMac, or Allparts. A set of hardware store allen wrenches, miniature screwdrivers, small and medium sized screwdrivers, and a diagonal cutter should get you cooking with gas. If you want to adjust your intonation properly (and only a slob would not want to), you will need a good tuner. Plan on spending at least $100, and/or get one of your buddies to share the cost with you so maybe you can get a Petersen for about twice that amount. Get some medium and fine grade Scotchgard (a non-metallic abrasive pad like steel wool), orange/lemon oil or something thereabouts for cleaning, linseed oil or a blend, and if you want to get into the control cavity, a contact cleaner and lubricant. A good cleaner/polish, a clean piece of carpet remnant and a set of Stew Mac "Rock'n'Roller" neck rests, and you are too cool for school, ready to assume a new role in the music community as a source of information for uninformed musicians. A set of automotive supply store feeler gauges for some ultra-fine nut relief measurements and a set of nut files and you are prepared to tackle the most delicate element, the nut.

    In closing, I would like to reiterate three points: Learn what you need to learn (and don't expect to learn it from internet sites, which just cannot provide the depth you need to succeed), Don't practice on your prized instrument, and Expect to spend a few dollars, most of it to Stew Mac. Dan Erlewine (a member of the Stew Mac staff) has made an enormous positive impact on the guitar repair/maintenance community, and he is probably the single greatest resource available to stiffs like you and me! Remember, it is not too hard, but it is not easy, either. There might be a few screwed up instruments in your wake. They can be replaced. The heirarcy is:
    I Patience
    II Knowledge
    III, and this is a distant third, a little hardware. Beware of persons on the internet who make this sound simpler than it is!

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