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Discussion: How can I measure and adjust the action of my guitar?



The gap between the strings and the frets is referred to as ‘the action’. Note that this is not the distance between the strings and fret board. Also, in determining the action, the gauge of the strings is not relevant. Essentially, it is the clear gap between the strings and the frets which is generally measured at the 12th fret for the e-1 and E-6 strings.

The action plays a role as to the playability of the guitar, but also influences playing dynamics. For this reason, generally applicable parameters are not mandatory – one size does not fit all; action is a personal choice.

At Lakewood we endeavour to set up our guitars so as to suit the preferences of the majority of Players.

Measuring the action

Important: before altering the action, check the neck with regard to the truss rod which may require adjustment.
See more on this at How to adjust the truss rod?

For measurement of the action, you will need a short ruler - but a 20 and 50 Eurocent coin will do the trick too!

As mentioned, the action is measured as the clear gap between string and fret at the 12th fret. For average playing dynamics and light gauge strings (.012-.053 inch) the generally accepted values are 2,0mm for the e-1 string und 2,5mm for the E-6 string. These gaps can either be determined by way of a ruler

or very simply by means of suitable coins.

For the e-1 and an action of 2,0mm the 20 Eurocent coin is perfect and for the E-6 string with an action of 2,5mm, the 50 Eurocent coin does the job. If you can just slide the relevant coin into the gap, you will have achieved a 2,0 – 2,5mm action.

Adjusting the Action

Should you want a lower or higher action, this will be subject to certain limits.
The strings require room for unimpeded oscillation and this will restrict your desire for a very low action. This may be depicted graphically as follows:

So, to adjust the action, the saddle height will need to be altered. This is achieved by adding to or subtracting from the bottom of the saddle insert. This difference is calculated at twice the value to be added to or subtracted from the gap at the 12th fret.
Adding to the saddle height can be achieved by means of a suitable shim to be placed on the pickup element.
Lowering the saddle is done by carefully removing material from the bottom of the saddle insert. In doing so, great care must be taken to retain the absolute evenness of the bottom surface. Failure to do so will impact on the acoustic qualities of the guitar and/or its performance via the pickup. Take the advice of a technician if you are unsure about this procedure.

Should a materially higher action be required, this may impact the bridge, depending on type and geometry. The saddle insert should not protrude by more than 6mm over the surface of the bridge. A higher saddle insert would result in too acute an angle for the strings.

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