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DIY Gibson Les Paul Set-Up

9/7/12
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 DIY gibson les paul set up headstock DIY gibson les paul set up stainless steel frets
1. A Gibson Les Paul.  This one is a model H-90 that I refretted with 6105 stainless steel frets.  All guitars need setup work from time to time, especially if they undergo other related repairs such as fretwork. 2. A Good Setup is subjective, a series of well calculated compromises that achieve optimal playability for the individual guitarist.  That said, it’s important to make the adjustments in a specific order as the adjustments are interrelated.
 DIY gibson les paul set up de burr floss tunomatic saddle slots  DIY gibson les paul set up measure neck relief with feeler gauge
3. Flossing the Saddles will reduce friction between the saddles and the strings.  This will help the guitar stay in tune.  If the saddles are badly worn they can be filed with nut slotting files or simply replaced with a new bridge. 4. Checking the Relief in the neck.  I use a straightedge and a set of feeler gauges to measure how concave the neck is.  Lots of Les Paul players like .006” relief at the 6th fret.  Feel free to give your Les Paul more or less relief to suite your personal preferences.
 DIY gibson les paul set up adjust truss rod  DIY gibson les paul set up floss nut slots
5. Adjusting the Truss Rod.  The owner of this guitar prefers an almost perfectly straight neck.  I will turn the truss rod nut clockwise to tighten the neck until there is .002” of relief. 6. Flossing the Nut Slots will reduce friction for improved tuning stability.  Be careful not to accidently lower the fret slots as this can cause fret buzz.  In general, repairs to string-nuts should be left to someone who has lots of experience both repairing and replacing nuts.
 DIY gibson les paul set up lubricate nut slots with graphite  DIY gibson les paul set up adjust action adjust tunomatic bridge
7. Lubricate the Nut Slots.  A pencil works well for this.  Other lubricants such as planet waves’ “lubrikit” and stewmac’s “guitar grease” also work great. 8. Adjust the Action by raising or lowering the Bridge.  This is most easily done with the help of a lever such as stewmac’s “bridge jack”.  The esp “multispanner” is a handy tool to have for adjusting stubborn thumbwheels.  I’ll retune the guitar after each adjustment.  If your tunomatic bridge is sagging, you will have to either replace the bridge or make your action higher to keep the inside strings from buzzing on the frets.
 DIY gibson les paul set up measure action at 12th fret  DIY gibson les paul set up measure and adjust stop tailpiece
9. Measuring the Action from the top of the 12th fret to the TOP of the outside (e) strings is easier on the eyes.  I have adjusted the action to 2.75mm at the 6th string and 1.1mm at the 1st string.  These same measurements taken to the BOTTOM of the strings are 1.58mm (2/32”) and .85mm (1/32”) respectively.  I consider this to be extra-low action.  Feel free to adjust your Les Paul’s action to your personal preferences. 10. Adjusting the Stop-Tailpiece will allow me to dial-in the string tension.  The further the tailpiece is from the body, the slinkier the guitar will feel.  All Les Paul’s have slightly different geometry (neck angles, fret heights, etc…) so I do not measure tailpiece adjustments from the top of the guitar’s body.  I set one end of a straightedge on the 12th fret and the other on the saddle next to the outside strings.  I then measure the distance from the top of the string where it exits the tailpiece to the bottom of the straightedge directly above it.  These measurements are 10/32” at the 1st string and 12/32” at the 6th string.  Feel free to adjust your tailpiece to exert more or less tension on the strings.  Adjusting the tailpiece will typically alter your previous action adjustments.  At this point, I will go back and make any  minor adjustments necessary.
 DIY gibson les paul set up adjust intonation intonate tunomatic  DIY gibson les paul set up adjust pickup height
11. Intonation is adjusted by comparing the 12th fret harmonic to the fretted note at the 12th fret of each string.  If the fretted note is sharp compared to the harmonic, then the string length must be increased for that string.  It is best to use a tuner that is accurate to +/- 1/1000 of a semitone (+/- .1 cent).  I am using a button hook to temporarily remove the string from the saddle as I adjust the string length.  I prefer to adjust the intonation with the pickups further from the strings then I plan to ultimately set them. 12. Adjusting Pickup Height.  I adjust pickups by fretting the e strings at the last fret and measure from the top of the e string pole-pieces to the bottom of the e strings.  I start out by adjusting the pickup to be 2/32” away from the 1st string and 3/32” away from the 6th string.  I then plug the guitar in and raise or lower each side of the pickups for a balanced volume from string to string and pickup to pickup.  If the pickups are too close to the strings, they will have a negative impact on the tone and intonation.
 DIY gibson les paul set up new frets and set up with extra low action without buzzing
13. All Set Up.  Each person has their own set of priorities when it comes to how their guitar is adjusted.  Feel free to deviate from the measurements listed above to suite your own tastes!