I have a return of an Ibanez hollow body electric on which I did a setup previously. The first time I had no problem setting the 6th string to .060 with the first string at .045" or so. Played perfectly with no buzzes with very minimal relief. Now it's come back with 6th string at .100" while the first string is now .060". I did notice that the Tune-O-Matic bridge was bottomed out on the bass side stud when I did the original setup. The owner was very happy with the setup.
Now, a month later, the action is .090" bass, .060" treble. the owner noticed the change from when it was first received back when using it for a gig. The guitar is a hollow body with a block under the neck pickup and two parallel braces from tail to neck block that look to be 1/4" wide x 5/8" deep, using the mark 1 eyeball measurement. The neck block is not very large, appearing to end not far from where the double cutaways join the neck. Online spec says set neck but it's thoroughly embedded in the finish. Used guitar, no warranty, it's a $600 guitar so not much chance of a successful reset.
The environmental factor and possible cause is that the guitar was left in a car in the owner's garage for a couple of days. We're in Arizona so garages get pretty hot and dry without climate control. I'm thinking that heat stress and dryness could have caused the problem.
Normally, I'd just drop the bridge and go on to adjust everything. The owner has an identical model in a different color with plenty of adjustment left to do that, if it were necessary. This one, as I said is already bottomed out.
I've kept the guitar in my work area in my air conditioned and humidity controlled house (40%) for over a week and the action has dropped slightly to .090" bass. The first string remains at about .060".
I'm considering whether I should trim the bottom of the bridge on the bass side to recover an adjustment range that will allow lower action there. or do something else. The alternative would be a lower Tune-O-Matic that does the same thing without trimming.
Strings are .011" light strings. would lower tension from .010" strings help return it to a better geometry?
Have I missed anything? Should I try bagging the guitar with a guitar humidifier to see if it will return closer to original condition?
Culprit identified. the neck has a twist down toward the bass side at the lower end, bottoming out the ability to lower the action.
Is there any economical way to repair a neck that twists?
If you find one please let us know..............
The stinker here is "economical". If it wasn't all that severe and you had the time & inclination, a replaning of the fingerboard would work.
Which means, of course, a refret as well... and all of that's probably not terribly cost-effective since someone else would need to foot that bill.
Yup. it's a $700 guitar. I'm considering milling about .060" from under the bass side of the bridge where it mounts to the top bushing to give enough adjustment to lower the 6th string to something comfortable. Hopefully the twist won't cause odd buzzes when lowered. There's also a slight ramp in the fingerboard over the body... .
The owner is a very experienced electric player with a very light touch which could help with buzzes. She can play clean on a guitar with action low enough to buzz a lot for someone with a heavier hand.
I did that on a guitar that belonged to a friend of my Son. On that one the bottom of the bridge was a bit concave which made sanding it a bit more difficult. I know the pickups are adjustable but make sure you've got enough clearance there when you are done. Then, if the neck keeps twisting, you can figure out what to try next. :))
I hear you on the difficulty of modifying the bridge. This one has a flat pad on each end so it should be fairly easy to mill material just off the pad in order to make it work. I also have a friend who's a machinist and I'm going to ask him to do the mod on his milling machine.
I also hope that the neck has twisted to it's limit. When I set it up the first time it was bottomed out but at maximum drop. I've left a bit more adjustment in my calculation in case it moves again. I've had the guitar for over a week in my humidified work area and it hasn't got any worse--in fact, it got a little better. i think the twist is from environmental conditions that dried it out and it should be stopped now--witness the fret overhang I had to mill when I first set it up, which hasn't returned. Plan B is to get a more compact bridge if this doesn't work out. Stew Mac has one that will fit. I could just throw in the towel and get the new bridge but this one is a challenge and for a friend. I learn a lot from every guitar I touch.
Update: got a Gotoh bridge from Stewmac. Good reviews, has plenty of adjustment and easy to install--drop in. Set action, set intonation and it's good to go. Looks good, to and deletes the big labor cost with milling the original. it appears that the neck twist isn't enough of a deformity to cause buzzes or other issues. Success!
Good job! And probably one of the less expensive ways this could have turned out.
Yup. And it's a first class bridge that doesn't have any tool marks on it. I might have gone the other way if it was my guitar, just to see how my idea would work but the client should be very pleased with this solution. I'l find out tomorrow.
The owner is thrilled with the setup as returned to her. The best result possible.