Suggestions for old-school Fender truss-rod and setup

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by EmaTheMirror, Apr 8, 2020.

  1. EmaTheMirror


    Oct 9, 2009
    London, UK
    My 50s reissue P sounds and feels great. I currently have it setup with a relief which looks around 0.13/0.14 at 7th fret - checking with automotive gauges - and an action around 2.5mm at the 17th fret for the E string. Quite in line with Fender's setup guidelines (the neck has a rounded 7.25" radius) and to me ATM feels just right with standard tuning and my Elixir Nanoweb strings.

    The neck is what you find in 50s P reissues: an old-school large chunky maple neck with a single-action truss rod accessible at the heel. I have managed to get this relief and setup which seems to be stable with the truss rod "fairly" tight - I would not turn it clockwise any further at all, it would seriously force and potentially risk being damaged. As I mentioned, the neck seems to stay fairly stable throughout seasons - if there are minor movements it's not something that's that perceivable or impacting my playing at all.

    My main question is: would you just leave it like that by serendipity or would you rather bother going through the process of gaining some truss-rod action by straightening it on a plank with back-bow and the truss rod loosened?

    I'm mainly referring to the method used in the great Dan Erlewine video on YouTube about straightening a similarly made neck:

    I previously applied some vaseline/petrol oil on the nut as well, so I guess the nut screw is not stuck.

    For all pro or experienced luthiers here: with a rather healthy neck like mine (I guess), how long would you leave the neck under tension on the plank? I can't get from the video if the editing cut a lengthier process or if Dan left the neck under tension just for a few minutes, while reinserting and gradually tightening the rod nut. I read around that some people leave the neck on the plank for days, I guess for seriously bowed necks.
    How much pressure/back-bow would suggest to apply in case?
  2. Turnaround

    Turnaround Commercial User

    May 6, 2004
    Toronto Canada
    Independent Instrument Technician, and Contractor to Club Bass and Guitar - Toronto
    Check you relief measurements. Your string heights are measured in millimeters, so if you are using metric, .14mm is hardly any relief at all. If you mean .14 inches, that's way too much relief.
  3. EmaTheMirror


    Oct 9, 2009
    London, UK
    It translates to around 0.3/0.35 mm - sorry, I meant .014, I can't even imagine having such a bow, not even on a double bass, lol. :laugh:

    What's dreadful is that I've seen some basses around shops whose relief was probably closer to the .14 mark :confused:
    Last edited: Apr 8, 2020
  4. Turnaround

    Turnaround Commercial User

    May 6, 2004
    Toronto Canada
    Independent Instrument Technician, and Contractor to Club Bass and Guitar - Toronto
    In that case it looks like your setup is good. And if it plays well, then it IS good.
    Lownote38 likes this.
  5. RSBBass


    Jun 11, 2011
    If it aint broke, don't fix it.
    EspressoJoe likes this.

  6. This is the best advice. If you are like me you will just keep tinkering and tinkering. If it feels comfortable and plays well it's best to just leave it. If you are having trouble with buzzes and stuff like that then go for it. I agree though that these vintage necks are rock solid and don't go out of wack so much.
    RSBBass likes this.
  7. luciens


    Feb 9, 2020
    If the neck is healthy, meaning no warps or ski-jumps and the truss rod isn't overtightened or bottomed out, AND the amount of adjustment needed is very small, the clamping procedure in the video is overkill, in my opinion (but that's not quite the situation in the video either so..).

    OTOH, it is not a bad idea to:
    - make only very small adjustments to the rod (1/8 turn max)
    - in between, "massage" it as DE shows in the video, by bowing the neck backwards a bit.

    Rinse and repeat until the relief is where you want it.

    The main thing is to NOT give a great big gigantic crank on the truss rod, like a full turn or worse, at a time. The idea is to incrementally increase tension and then letting the rod take a "set" like a clamp by relieving the stress on it with the backwards bend of the neck.

    I've always done this with the instrument strung if the rod isn't very tight. If it is getting up there in tension I'll loosen the strings to give the rod less work to have to do, but I'll still do the little adjustment/wrastle it/repeat procedure even so.

    I never had a problem with a vintage truss rod doing it this way.

    If, OTOH, the relief is huge and you have to make a huge adjustment, it might be worth it to do it the way described in the video.... I've never had one quite that bad, though, so I couldn't really say based on my basses I've had over the years if that;s necessary.

    If it's a valuable vintage bass, of course, all bets are off and you want to be as careful as possible not to break anything....

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