String Action Gauge

How to determine string action with the String Action Gauge.


I-0670

Measure string action (the height of the string above the fret) at any point by placing the gauge behind the string. The string height markings are at increments of .010" (ten thousandths of an inch). When the bottom of a mark aligns with the bottom of the string, that measurement is the string height at that point.

The markings themselves are .005" thick, so referring to the top of a mark instead of the bottom adds .005" to the measurement. In this way the progressive string height scale measures in .005" increments.



String action specs
The suggested measurements listed here refer to the string height at the 1st fret and also at a higher fret. Measured for the outermost bass and treble strings.

Relief
Lay a straightedge across the frets and measure the clearance at the 8th. (Or put a capo at the 1st fret and press a string down at the highest fret — the string becomes the straightedge.)

Suggested action settings

Steel-string acoustic guitar Bass E Treble E
Action at the 1st fret   .023"   .013"  
Action at the 12th fret   .090"   .070"  
Relief: .002" at the 8th fret          
Nylon-string acoustic guitar Bass E Treble E
Action at the 1st fret   .030"   .024"  
Action at the 12th fret   .156"   .125"  
Relief: .002" at the 8th fret          
Electric guitar Bass E Treble E
Action at the 1st fret   .024"   .010"  
Action at the 12th fret   .078"   .063"  
Relief: .001" at the 8th fret          
Bass Bass E Treble G
Action at the 1st fret   .022"   .020"  
Action at the 17th fret   .105"   .094"  
Relief: .014" at the 7th fret          
Mandolin Bass G Treble E
Action at the 1st fret   .030"   .020"  
Action at the 17th fret   .075"   .065"  
Relief: .005" at the 6th fret          
Banjo Bass D Treble D
Action at the 1st fret   .037"   .035"  
Action at the 12th fret   .090"   .090"  
Relief: .008" at the 8th fret          

For more information on setups, including setup preferences of
famous players, see Dan Erlewine's Guitar Player Repair Guide
and How To Make Your Electric Guitar Play Great!