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Hey there - I'm having a major problem that is rendering my first CBG unplayable. I finally got the box glued to the neck, the tuners installed, and all the finishing touches done, and I went to string it up for the first time. I was in for a disappointment, because I put the strings on, and the action was so incredibly high, even without the bolts for the nut and the bridge, that the strings couldn't barely be pressed down. I couldn't even slide the bolt I was going to use as the nut in because it just slid under the strings. It seems like the strings are too high coming straight off the tuners.
Here's some info:
- The strings seem super tight. I'm using .042, .032, and .024 gauge strings tuned to G, D, G.
- The neck is bowing when the strings are tuned up. I don't know if this is normal or not. I'm using a 3' piece of red oak.
- The strings are measuring about a 1/4" away from the neck in the middle of the neck when the strings are tuned up. This is without the the bolts for the nut and bridge being slid in.
-The headstock is not angled downward from the neck. It is thinner than the neck to accommodate the tuners (which are just regular guitar tuning machines) but it isn't angled downward.
If somebody could PLEASE help me with this I would appreciate it so much! I've been working very hard on this guitar for just about two months, and now to get to the very end and have a problem like this is very disappointing. This is my first build.
Here's some pictures. Top one is of the middle of the neck, Middle one is of the the height where the nut would be, and third is the the height where the neck meets the box. This is the height of the strings WITHOUT the bridge and nut. If you'd like to see more pictures there's an album on my FB fan page with more pics of the guitar: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Benjamin-Guitars/254781784640083 or I'm more than willing to take pics if there's something specific you'l like to see!
Here is a video I made that should address some of the issues you are having.
Hi Jemma. It's probably a pretty common challenge with a first build. You think about the action when you come to fit the strings. I did exactly the same and mine looked more like a set of telephone wires than guitar strings. You need string trees to hold the strings down. These needn't be complex. Little brass eyelets work fine (they are prone to snapping in hard wood, so drill a tiny pilot hole for them). Alternately, plain old dome headed screws work well too. I've attached a couple of pics: one shows the eyelets on my first build and the other a brass screw on my latest Fiddlestick (the latter is to get the string routing right, not the height, and it has a decorative sleeve to hide the thread). You just position the screw so that the string goes under the head and screw it down until the string is at the desired height. There are lots of other solutions that you may find if you search for 'string trees'. Good luck.
ETA, if you're pushed for space between the tuner and nut, the eyelets take up less space :-)
in my opinion the easiest fix would be to install a 1/4 inch thick or so fingerboard over the neck. It would fix a few things at the same time:
1. Stiffen the neck so it won't bow (at least not as much)
2. Give more of a break angle of the strings down to the tuners
You might have to make nut and bridge from something other than bolts or at least experiment with various thicknesses to get it right. Especially the bridge might have to be higher than what a bolt alone would give you but you could just add a piece of wood underneath.
If you are still not getting enough break angle over the nut you might have to add something to hold the strings down between nut and tuners, a string tree or screws where the strings run under the head etc. Look at a pic of a Strat to see what I mean.
I think overall you should be able to fix things pretty easily and you will have learned a few things to avoid for the next build.
Flatfish is right that adding a fingerboard would stiffen the neck and probably fix the break angles. However, your strings do seem quite heavy. I just checked mine and I use 32/24/16 gauges. Thinner strings would reduce the load on the neck, alleviating the bowing a bit. Looking at the internet, a medium full set of medium strings exerts a load of about 80kg, a full set of ultralights is under 40kg. XL strings may be worth a try to see if the bowing reduces :-)
I think some form of string tree would do the trick. I have used eye hooks before, but lately I have been using 1" machine screws. The eye hook method should work for you based on your pictures. I generally use .044, .034, and .025 and a poplar neck with not too much bowing, so I am surprised you are having a problem with oak.
By the way, what is your scale length?
There's nothing wrong with the string gauges. This is standard for a low open G. I use .45 .35 .26 tuned BDG. What's the scale length? Perhaps if you have a longer than average scale length you can down-tune? FCF/EBE?
Is the neck bolted to the lid of the box? This can decrease bowing...
Your neck looks to be fairly thin, 1/2-5/8", and I'm guessing there is no truss rod. The headstock also isn't low enough relative to the fingerboard. I will echo the recommendations to scrape the finish off your fingerboard and glue on a 1/4" fretboard for added height and strength. You can then adjust the action by varying the height of the nut and bridge. String trees might help but your neck will still bow and the action near the body may still be too high.
Ditto on adding a fingerboard. I would make sure you have a perfectly straight workbench to clamp the neck to. Then glue on a fingerboard, making sure the whole assembly is as straight as you can get it.
A simple fingerboard could be as easy as a yardstick, or you could get a 1/4 inch thick piece of oak or poplar from your local home improvement store. They are normally about 1.5 inches wide, so you may have to trim it to size.