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Home Entertainment Acoustic Guitar Truss Rods: Correcting an Adjustment Gone Wrong

Acoustic Guitar Truss Rods: Correcting an Adjustment Gone Wrong

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From the March/April 2022 difficulty of Acoustic Guitar | By Martin Keith

Q: I’ve a second-hand 2017 Martin D-16E. After I obtained it, the motion was too excessive. I assumed I might right it myself, however by means of a sequence of missteps I ended up wrecking the truss rod. So I’ll now attempt to exchange it. Is there something quirky in regards to the truss-rod alternative for this mannequin—does it contain neck removing or another can of worms?  —John Lussier

A: I’ll admit, this isn’t a query I area daily! I steadily encourage my shoppers to get conversant in truss rod changes, as they’re a simple and needed adjustment that may make an enormous distinction between an easy-to-play guitar and a tendonitis creator. Nonetheless, even probably the most simple changes can have their pitfalls. I’m sorry to listen to you’ve found that the arduous approach!

Take a look at extra articles from our Ask The Knowledgeable sequence here

The simplest and most typical error is utilizing the mistaken dimension wrench to regulate the truss rod—adjusters range between 1/8-inch and 5mm (and even 6mm on a number of older imported guitars I’ve dealt with), in each metric and imperial (USA fractional) sizes. There are many shut suits in that vary, however I can solely stress: use the proper instrument. A wrench that’s barely undersize could cause the nut to strip out, rendering the rod practically inconceivable to regulate. When you have any doubt in regards to the right dimension wrench, get on-line and perform some research, or name the producer. 

A visit to the ironmongery store to get the precise right-size wrench is faster and cheaper than a truss rod restore. There are specialised instruments and strategies which have been developed by inventive luthiers to take away or extract stripped nuts—my first suggestion can be to convey your guitar to an skilled repairperson, to find out whether or not the rod is certainly wrecked, or whether or not it may be restored to operate by changing the nut. If the nut is barely stripped however nonetheless operable, StewMac’s tapered Truss Rod Rescue wrenches might be lifesavers.

The opposite widespread difficulty with rods is breakage from overadjustment. This happens much less steadily, because the neck normally finally ends up far past the specified place earlier than the rod provides up. Nonetheless, if the neck wooden itself has warped ahead, then the rod generally finally ends up tightened nearly to its restrict simply to straighten the neck with out string rigidity. In these circumstances, generally the rods are usually not in a position to overcome the mixed stress of the neck wooden and the strings, and might break consequently. In my expertise, the commonest breaking level is simply on the rod’s shoulder, the place the plain metal transitions into the threaded portion that engages the nut.

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If you happen to’ve decided that the rod is certainly damaged, then the course is obvious—the fretboard wants to come back off. I take advantage of versatile heaters to heat up the glue joint till I can insert a palette knife, after which patiently open up the joint. This may also be executed with a family iron. I need to stress that there are various dangers right here—any plastic or composite elements close to the warmth (fretboard dots, bindings, nut, and so forth.) might be susceptible to melting or discoloration, as can the end across the fretboard extension. After removing, I rapidly clamp the fretboard to a inflexible flat floor to assist hold it flat sufficient for reinstallation afterward. At this level, the rod might be extracted and changed, the gluing surfaces cleaned up (vinegar works effectively to melt most typical wooden glues), and the fretboard reglued. Care should be taken to maintain the neck straight throughout regluing, particularly with the added weight of the clamps. As soon as it’s again in place, it should want end touchup alongside the perimeters of the joint, and most certainly across the fretboard tongue, and normally some leveling and recrowning on the frets.

This isn’t beginner-level work: given the worth and high quality of the instrument in query, I might completely advocate having it executed by an expert with restore expertise. It’s simple to make a nasty state of affairs worse in circumstances like this. However, when you actually want to cost forward with fixing it by yourself, I’d encourage you to observe movies, learn all the things you possibly can, and even attempt eradicating the fretboard from an affordable yard-sale guitar first, to get a really feel for the method and the pitfalls. Leaping into new territory at all times feels safer when there isn’t as a lot in danger.

This text initially appeared within the March/April 2022 difficulty of Acoustic Guitar journal.

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