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14 messages

12-String Setup

08 Oct 01 - 06:58 PM (#567758)
Subject: 12-String Setup
From: Finn McCool

Dear Catters,

I am considering taking my Fender DG-16 12-string guitar to a luthier to be set up. The action has become quite high due to downward bowing of the neck that was not remedied at all by tuning the strings to a lower pitch.

Should I request anything more than an adjustment of the truss rod? (Not really accessible on my guitar and I don't want to fool with it myself.) What other adjustments are made in setting up a guitar for maximum playability? Also, are there any differences between 12-string and 6-string setup procedures?


08 Oct 01 - 07:02 PM (#567763)
Subject: RE: 12-String Setup
From: catspaw49

Gawd, I don't even know where to start with this one, but if I were you, and I am not being sarcastic here, I'd start with a new Twelve.


08 Oct 01 - 07:16 PM (#567774)
Subject: RE: 12-String Setup
From: zac

sounds to me like a neck re-set may be in order. Truss rod adjustment won't help-- zac

08 Oct 01 - 07:16 PM (#567775)
Subject: RE: 12-String Setup
From: GUEST,MudWeasel

If the neck is badly bowed, that's nasty...

How high is the saddle? I hear you can lower your string action quite a bit with minor saddle adjustments. 'Twixt that and the truss rod you may get your instrument playable again.

(Myself, I just realized how worn the frets are on my 9-string; anyone know what it generally costs to replace 3 or 4 frets?)

As for a quick clarification, I make no claims of any expertise; I only recently found out that the white thingy on the bridge is called the saddle.



08 Oct 01 - 07:29 PM (#567782)
Subject: RE: 12-String Setup
From: Finn McCool


I really like the axe; just want the action a bit lower. Why do you suggest replacing it altogether? I thought setups weren't that pricey.


08 Oct 01 - 07:46 PM (#567800)
Subject: RE: 12-String Setup
From: Gary T

Some good general info can be found at Go to the index page and read the articles under the "Instrument Setup" heading.

I think it would be unwise to simply request a truss rod adjustment. It may or may not need that, and it may or may not need other adjustments or repairs. Go to a competent luthier and tell him the symptoms you're observing and the results you'd like to achieve. Rely on his expertise to advise you as to what needs to be done.

You should find answers to your specific questions at the frets website and/or from the luthier you deal with. Here, however, are some quick answers as I understand them:

Should I request anything more than an adjustment of the truss rod?...What other adjustments are made in setting up a guitar for maximum playability?
Yes, as mentioned above. Even if it only needs adjustment (and not, say, a neck set), it is usually necessary to deal with all three of the adjustments that comprise a setup. These are relief, the proper amount of neck bow, which is controlled by the truss rod; nut slot height, the proper height of the strings coming out of the nut, controlled by the depth of the grooves in the nut; and action, the the height of the strings off the fretboard, controlled by the saddle. It is necessary to adjust relief first, as it affects the other two. The action, and to a lesser extent the relief, need to be matched to your particular needs and playing style. If the frets themselves are significantly worn, that will have to be addressed in order to get good results from the adjustments.

Also, are there any differences between 12-string and 6-string setup procedures?
As far as I know, the procedures are essentially the same. It is important to be mindful of the different stresses involved with a 12-string, and in some cases make accomodations for them.

08 Oct 01 - 07:56 PM (#567813)
Subject: RE: 12-String Setup
From: bigchuck

Setups usually are not that pricey. If the truss rod will bring the neck level (or nearly so), and there's room to shave some height off the saddle, then you'll probably be ok, bearing in mind that you can't run as low a saddle on a 12 as you can on a 6 (because of the greater distance from the saddle to the pins for 6 of the strings). That being said, Fender acoustics are not generally known for their durability, especially the 12s. If you can get the neck straight, set the edge of a yardstick alongside the fingerboard from the nut to the bridge. The end of the yardstick should be about level with the top of the bridge. If it hits the bridge much below the top, probably no amount of adjustment will restore playability short of resetting the neck, which would likely cost more than the guitar is really worth. Hope thsi info helps.

08 Oct 01 - 08:14 PM (#567831)
Subject: RE: 12-String Setup
From: rangeroger

You didn't say anything about the face of the guitar. If it is starting to pull up, nothing you do to the neck is going to work.

This is where a Bridge Doctor system really shines.We've had a couple of discussions about the system, which can be found by entering Bridge Doctor into the filter for a Forum search.They really work.

If you have intonation problems after all is said and done, a compensated saddle or nut will cure those.

A good luthier should be familiar with all the tricks.

I was having intonation problems with my 12-string, which is built like a brick shit-house,but Michael Lewis of Grass Valley, Calif.carved a beautiful compensated saddle for it.


09 Oct 01 - 04:12 AM (#568019)
Subject: RE: 12-String Setup
From: BlueJay

Finn- I have to agree with Spaw. I know you like yor guitar, but I have never met a Fender acoustic I like. IMO, Fender has always made fairly crappy acoustics with especially bad necks, compared to to other builders. The twelve strings I've played were all problematic, especially the necks. And I've never known anyone who owned one that hasn't had continual set-up problems. And the twelve strings magnify those problems.

I know youlike your guitar, and maybe you've gotten one of the few twelve strings Fender got right. If so, it is possible that a total set up including neck adjust, saddle and nut adjustment may may help the guitar at a reasonable cost. Take it to a good luthier. If it turns out you need a neck reset, consider the cost of repairing it versus buying a new guitar.

I've seen some classic old Guilds on Ebay, for under a grand, which I've salivated over, and will totally blow away anything Fender ever made, both tonally and structurally. Thanks, BlueJay

09 Oct 01 - 11:39 AM (#568226)
Subject: RE: 12-String Setup
From: Finn McCool


I've ben scoping out some of the better 12 stings on E-bay also. My big reservation about bidding on them is that it seems a lot like buying a pig in a poke. I am leery about dropping nearly a grand on something that I have not had the opportunity to actually play.

BTW, thanks for the heads-up on Fender acoustic products. If you have never met *anyone* whose Fender didn't eventually develop setup problems, that's saying a lot.


09 Oct 01 - 12:46 PM (#568260)
Subject: RE: 12-String Setup
From: GUEST,Ned Ludd

Find a good Luthier and ask him what can be done. If He is any good (personal reccomendation is the best guide.)he will tell you straight. If in doubt get another opinion. From your description, it sounds like a structural problem and can be helped but not cured.A good man will know and advise. Don't give up yet though! Ned(retired luthier)Ludd.

09 Oct 01 - 12:58 PM (#568274)
Subject: RE: 12-String Setup
From: Wesley S

I was just looking at the Mandolin Bros website - They had several Martin and Guild 12 strings in the $700.00 to $1100.00 range. They will ship to your location and you have 2 or 3 days to try it out. There are several other retailers that offer similar service. Buffalo Bros in California offers a great trade in policy if you eventually decide to trade up. I've only suggested Mandolin Bros because I've had good luck with them. I hope you find what you're looking for.

09 Oct 01 - 01:12 PM (#568288)
Subject: RE: 12-String Setup
From: catspaw49

Sorry I didn't comeback and I really did sound flippant, and I apologize. However, you have some great advice and all here. In truth, from what you are initially describing and knowing Fender acoustics, my first thoughts were truly that you probably have a problem here that will cost more than the guitar is worth. But who can put a value on a guitar you like? Best just to find a good luthier who can actually SEE the instrument and evaluate the costs to repair. Perhaps it is not as bad as I somehow imagine it may be. Good Luck!


13 May 15 - 03:03 AM (#3708575)
Subject: RE: 12-String Setup
From: GUEST,Marty C.

Been playing 12 string, professionally for over 45 years. Have owned
most of them, and almost gave up playing. The 12 string evolution has been a very painful, and longtime coming. I've played Martin's, Guild's, Gibson's, German Hoyer's, Japanese Yamaha's. They all sounded great, but were horrible playing instruments. Not until the production of lighter gauge, custom designed strings; and the complete re-engineering of the guitar's neck, did I rediscover the joy of playing a 12 String Guitar. 10 years ago, while waiting for the yearly checkup of my 1966 Martin 0018, I pulled a top end, Norman 12 String, off the rack and gave it a run. To my dumbfounded suprise, it had the smoothest action of any guitar I'd ever played. After talking to my Lutier, Mark, I rushed home to get my checkbook, and literally, changed my life.   As far as I'm concerned, the Canadian guitar maker, Godin,
his son's Simon and Patrick, the high-end Norman and Seagull guitar's, are the best thing's going. Selling my 50 year old Martin; (need's to be played). Can't put down my 12 String.