At work there are a good amount of Electric guitars and basses that have the bridge saddles jammed to the bottom with high action. There is some plastic shim stock here. Can I just use this plastic to shim these? Considering what I have at my disposal here, this seems like the only option. I did one on a mediocre bass and it worked. Acceptable? How will this affect tone and sustain? I am more of an acoustic guy so, I am just wondering what you all think and feel about it.


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Shimming is fine. I use maple veneer, but hard plastic is OK.

When I started playing guitar my friend's dad was a respected luthier.  He used playing cards to make laminated, tapered wedges for electric guitars. He'd glue a 1/4" piece onto a 1/2" piece and that on a 1" etc depending on how thick it needed to be.  I don't know if it makes a difference, but the new cards are plastic.  I would think that the paper ones would be more conformable. Tone? I have no idea.

I would think that wood shims would be preferable (tonally)...but have no real evidence that other materials would make a discernable difference! A "bolt on" IS what it IS! Snug 'em up and go...

Sort of reminds me of the hide glue rhetoric. A guitar's attributes are the result of many different things.

Sometimes we get lucky...!

Hope I'm not being 'snippy'...

Doesn't sound "snippy" to me. LOL

Well first make sure that the neck is straight if you haven't already. Shims are fine but beware that if they get too thick they will cause a rise in the heel and cause some choking in the upper frets. I've seen some guitars come from the factory with 1/16" plastic as shims. 

Not being snippy at all. haha Snug em and go is exactly what I am doing. Wood shims would be preferable but I only have hard plastic here at the store. Robbie, the playing cards idea is a great one. Never thought of that but makes sense. Put it in the arsenal. Gary, I am not approaching 1/16", man that is a lot! The most I had to shim one is 1/32". If you made a nice smooth shim that transitioned well would that take care of choking? Thanks for the responses!!!!

I think Gary may be saying that if the wedge is too thick the neck will be overset.

Some folks believe that if you shim a neck at the bridge end of the pocket only, it can bend the neck in that area from the screws attempting to bring the neck into contact with the pocket,

I am not sure if I accept that, I have not seen it, but a stepped or tapered shim extending  to the head end screws would avoid that risk

I use wet/dry sandpaper in stepped layers. Shims can strongly encourage warpage unless they're even and gradual.

I have in my bench a Parker and an Ibanez Jem (Korean-made) and both came with cardboard shims. To improve the tone I buy these cheap aluminum erasing templates and cut them to size:

I can stack them to get the angle I want, and they won't get compressed. Cardboard certainly works, but if you are concerned about tone, a metal shim is better than cardboard.

I use wood veneer shims and secure with a very light wood glue on the bottom after thickness and fitting. Wood on wood.

I tend to agree with what Jeff and Gary said. I usually try to make tapered wood shims that run the length of the neck pocket. Using a shim at the end of the neck pocket leaves a void space between the neck and the body. I have seen older bolt-on neck guitars develop a severe upward bow in this area due to the the force of the screws pulling the neck downward where it is no longer supported. I have noticed this more frequently on Fender guitars that utilized the Micro-tilt neck angle adjustment system. I can't speak to the sonic differences but, at least from a mechanical perspective, anything that detracts from the complete coupling of the neck/body mating surfaces might also have some negative effect on sustain. 


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