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If you ever wanted to build your own guitar, but didn't know where to begin, this live build along series will show you every step. Episode 4 shows how to dial in the nut and get a perfect setup.

In this 4-part series we'll show you step-by-step how to build, wire, and set up one of our fantastic mini guitar kits. Even if you are a complete beginner, don't worry, we've made this easy—no workshop is required. You can literally build this on your kitchen table with tools you probably already have. This fourth episode shows how to install the strings, string trees, adjust the truss rod, dial in the nut, and set your action and pickup height.

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Video Transcription

[on-screen text reads: Mini Guitar Kit Live Build-Along - Episode 4]

Nick: So welcome back, or if it's your first time, welcome. We're so excited to finish this thing up today. This is going to be a blast. We're going to be doing all the intonation and all the setup. Last episode, we took took care of putting on all the hardware and our electronics, got that all situated. So without further ado, I'm going to send it over to Blake and we're going to get this thing started. So, thanks for joining us again, and let's have some fun.

Install the strings

Blake: Welcome back YouTube land. Here we are, day four. We made it. I'm wearing my fanciest shirt in celebration for episode four. So first things first, we need to go ahead and get the strings back on this guy. And then, we're going to put our string trees on. We're going to adjust the neck. We're going to set our action at the bridge, and do our intonation. And then, I think we're playing and we're done. So as you can see, I went ahead and just put four strings on to save us some time, because we're covering a lot of ground like usual. But I left these last two here so I can show you how I like to do it.

Now, lots of people... I mean, I feel like everybody's got a certain way they like to put on strings. I'm just going to show you how I do it. I think there is a right and a wrong way. Please don't tie these to the peghead. I've seen guitars come into the shop where the strings have been knotted onto the tuner. Don't do that. It's unnecessary and it's not fun to get off. But anyway, I like to pull it tight through. Be careful not to poke yourself, look at who did that on these little ends.

Anyways, I like to pull it tight through the tuner. I like to grab it at the nut. And because we're working on a smaller fingerboard, smaller frets, I'm going to pull it back almost to the second fret, and I'm going to put a kink in it. Just bend it up so I know where that string's going to... How much length I have, right? And then, this gives me all that extra to put around the tuner. So then I'll get my little string winder here. I'll get these tuners out of our way.

I like to put my finger right here behind it so I can get this bend started. We're turning it to the inside and I'm going to go underneath. Some people like to go over than under. I like to put them all under because then I can get it off a little bit quicker. And you're trying to get two to three winds. That makes me feel comfortable. Some people have a certain preference.

Nick: Cool.

Blake: And that's looking to be like my three winds. I'm going to make sure we're still sitting in the saddle. It looks like we are.

Nick: Great.

Blake: And I'm not going to take this all the way up to tension yet because we have to put our string trees on before we tighten everything down. So I'm going to clip it. And normally, if this was on a normal guitar, I wouldn't clip it all the way until I have it up to full tension but I think we're all right. So, clip that down.

Nick: Great. So I guess, it's a good time to ask, what kind of strings come with the kit and what strings would you recommend for any replacements, if need be? Of course, the strings will get old, strings will break.

Blake: Right. I think this kit comes with some generic light strings. There's no brand name on those that come with the kit, but if you needed to get some replacement strings, I'm a big fan of Elixir's personally. I like Elixir strings. I know StewMac sells D'Addario and GHS and that kind of stuff. I mean, I don't know how many string brands we carry, but we carry a lot. I'd also recommend the GHS Boomers. And for this guitar specifically, I'd probably recommend the lights or the extra lights, but you don't have to get those.

Nick: Correct. That's something that is generally left up to preference, like a lot of things, of course but-

Blake: Yeah. I have a friend who lives or dies by Ernie Balls and I'm like the opposite. I live or die by the Elixir Strings. And I use Elixirs on my acoustics and my electrics. They're just good strings. I have friends... A few of my friends who work at Stringjoy in Nashville, and those strings are made in USA so that's pretty great. I like to give them business if I can.

Nick: Cool. Yeah. And for all of our viewers out there, if you've got favorite strings, please let us know. Comment into the feed and you guys can discuss it amongst yourselves.

Install the string trees

Blake: Right. So now we got our strings on our tuners. It means we need to go put the string trees on, right? So in our instructions, it says to use a 5/64" Drill bit and drill 3/8 of an inch deep. And here's our 5/64 from yesterday. It's depth's already at the Depth Stop for 3/8". So that's good. Got that done. And for the D and G string, it's going to be 2 and 7/8 of an inch from the nut.

So basically here's our D and G string, right? So our string tree's going to be in between these two. I already marked it out 2 and 7/8th, which is the front edge of this first orange piece of tape. So I'm going to get right here and I'm going to index off the front of the nut. The instructions just say from the nut. I'm going to use the front of the nut because it gets pretty close to that tuner. And I don't want it sitting on the metal. So I'm going to take my all here, my center punch all. I'm going to try to get it as centered as possible.

Nick: Got you. And that shop rule that he's got is going to be extremely handy throughout this entire process.

Blake: That looks pretty good.

Nick: We'll be using it when we're checking the height above the pickups, checking our string action, all that good stuff. String action gauge as well, but shop rule is definitely handy.

Blake: And then for the being E string, we're going to index off the back of the nuts to get it closer to those tuners, because there's a lot more distance. And we're doing three inches and 3/8ths, which is the front edge of this piece of orange tape, okay? So I'm in between those two strings. I'm trying to get it centered again and it looks like center is this piece of grain right here. Just press down, give myself little dot. All right, I'm just going to take a drill bit, tighten it up. I'm just going to go ahead and loosen these strings up and get them out of my way so I can drill my hole and not worry about hitting the strings.

Nick: And while I'm thinking about it, if you guys have any questions or comments, please feel free to comment them in the feed. Also, if your questions get on the technical side or if you think something after this live stream is over, you can always contact us at service@stewmac.com, that's S-E-R-V-I-C-E@stewmac.com. Get in touch with our customer service representatives and they can get you in touch with the technician if need be or however we need to get your questions answered, we can help you out. So keep that in mind.

Blake: Oops. So there's that one. I'm going to loosen up these two. And our hole is right there, so centered up. Okay, there's that. And then something I didn't have prepped here was the string tree. So I need to go grab one from one of our handy dandy little parts bags real fast. Susan is on that for me.

Nick: Got you.

Blake: This was my fault. I was unprepared.

Nick: So joys of being live.

Blake: Joys of being live, right?

Nick: Right.

Blake: So I can go ahead and get my screwdriver out and throw away these extra string or these string clippings we just used.

Nick: So while we're at it-

Blake: Thank you Susan.

Nick: Yeah. While we're at it, while we're doing this, if you wouldn't mind explain exactly what we're using these string trees for. Why this is a necessary step.

Blake: So these string trees help put a better break angle down the back of the nut. So basically, if you can see how long this headstock is, it's longer than a Gibson because all the tuners are in line. And basically when the string breaks through the nut and then it goes out to these further out tuners, the string just stays flat. There's not a very strong break angle. So when we put these string trees on there, it pulls these strings down closer to the headstock and creates a better break angle across the back. And that'll give you a better point of contact on the front of the nut, can get rid of buzzing issues and that kind of stuff. So that's why we're doing it.

Nick: Got you. Awesome.

Blake: Okay?

Nick: Yes. And Blake, I know you measured the body at one point to get the strap button. Do you know the exact size? That was one of the questions from our users like-

Blake: For the strap button?

Nick: No, it's just the size of the body.

Blake: Oh the thickness of the body?

Nick: Thickness, and I guess the length and width, maybe.

Blake: You know what? I forget it off the top of my head, but I can measure it here in a second. And let you know.

Nick: Great, great. We'll get it. We'll get that question answered for you.

Blake: Yeah. Just let me get these string trees on and then we'll measure it.

Nick: No problem.

Blake: Okay? So this is what the string tree looks like. That's the part that holds the strings down.

Nick: Great. And actually, we got our admin on that too is helping us get those answered.

Blake: Cool. They're answering that form him?

Nick: Yeah.

Blake: Awesome. This little washer-

Nick: Chiming in, we got-

Blake: ... Or this little riser props, the string tree up for these further two out, right? And then, this is the screw that runs through the center. So I'm just going to go ahead. Use my big hands here to get this put together. There's that one fumbling around. 

Nick: Something me and Blake were discussing earlier was that we think that as time goes on that this poly finish is really, really settling in and looking better and better all the time. So if you don't have a beautiful, perfect result right off the bat, give it a little time. And I think the color just gets richer and the streaks disappear. It really, it's looking better and better every day that we come in the shop.

Blake: Yeah. Two days later I'm surprised at how much better it does look. Okay. So there's that. There's that one. We'll go ahead and do our next one. And this one has a little bit of a smaller riser. [Blake is screwing the string tree's into place on the peghead]

Nick: Cool. And while he's in installing this other one, I guess it's worth it to dimension that we're building the Mini T Kit today, but we've got others as well. So if you're just joining us now, this is one of our kits here. This is a Mini S-Style Kit. This is an awesome little guy. He's got all three pickups, just like a normal Strat would. You've got all your tone and volume selectors. This is great little kit.

And of course, as you can see, there's different finishing and tinting options for you there. So this is the Mini S-Style Kit. Also, we've got the Mini LP Kit. I like this little guy, so we've got our humbucker action happening. And also, there's tons of full size kits that we have too. So if you get one of these builds done, like the bug bites tiy, go ahead and try one of the full size kits. We've got tons of 335, we've got our S-Style Kit, our T-Style Kit and full size as well. We've got a full size LP-Style. We got a lot to choose from. So check out the website and whatever tickles you're fancy.

Blake: So now I'm just going to go ahead and get this thing up to string tension. Now that our string trees are on... And remember this whole thing tunes up in octave from our normal E standard. So we're just going to E standard with our little tuner here, except it's going to sound pretty much like a mandolin. It's got that high plingy sound. And as I adjust these strings, because they're new, they're going to stretch a little bit, and this neck's going to pull up. So we're going to have to keep tuning a little bit. Normally, I would probably stretch the strings, but these strings are high tension because of the short scale. And I don't want to break one by pulling on it since they're already really tight. So, I'm just going to go ahead and take my time and just keep tuning up.

Nick: Cool.

Blake: Let them stretch naturally here.

Nick: Cool. Just so you know, we got lots of great feedback coming in, man. Everyone's super excited.

Blake: Cool. Well, we're excited that we get to do this for you guys.

Nick: Yeah. We appreciate it. We're having fun too. This is great.

Blake: This is gone so well. I'm sure we'll probably do some other ones in the future.

Nick: Absolutely. Yeah, please. So, if you've got any feedback on what you'd like to see, any other builds, anything that we could do better, something we could explain more thoroughly or anything like that. Please, please let us know. We really, really want to hear that feedback.

Leave it in the comment section and/or... Again, also email us and comment after.

Blake: Cool. So, that's up to pitch. Throughout this whole process, I'm going to be going back and checking the pitch because during the setup you want to make sure this thing is under the right amount of string tension and up to pitch and that way...

Rachel: Oh.

Blake: There goes one of our strings. Live TV. So, life. See how fast that was to get off the tuner? That's why I put those strings on that way, but looks like the ball end broke. So it's time to get another string. That's why it's good to have extra strings laying around.

Nick: Absolutely. And it's worth it to know that this can happen. This isn't a freak occurrence.

Blake: Yeah.

Nick: It happens sometimes. The string can break at the ball line, which is exactly what happened. It wasn't that it broke in the middle or something like that. It just broke at the point of contact there at the bridge.

Blake: And like I said, a minute ago with the short scale of this, guitars under a lot of tension, but these strings are under a lot of tension. So, I believe with the more tension, the thicker the gauge the better, but I haven't quite figured it out yet. I'm actually waiting for one of my buddies to get back to me about that. So you guys got to watch me put strings on, going to go ahead and clip this before I poke my eye out.

Nick: Yeah. Everyone in the audience saying like, "Yep. Happened to me. Been there, done that."

Blake: So it's D sharp.

Rachel: Whoa.

Blake: Two for two everybody.

Nick: Hmm.

Rachel: You got to stop lifting Blake.

Blake: Lifting? I don't think that's the problem. All right.

Nick: Got you. Absolutely. And we actually had a comment from one of our viewers too, that we have a String Stretcher that works really great. So, I think we're going to try stretching the string out a little bit. So we don't break another one.

Rachel: Why do you stretch strings?

Nick: So the strings will naturally stretch over time. And so, we need to get the string stretched out a little bit so that we just crank it right up to pitch right out of the box. It's just putting too much tension on the string. The shorter scale length is adding to that tension too.

Blake: That's whats going on.

Nick: It's a good reason to stretch the string out beforehand.

Rachel: Is it something you do with all the strings?

Nick: Yeah, absolutely. All of them. Totally, totally. I would go with a... Starting with the high E and then work upwards. I would even... And there's a few ways you can do it too. You can start with tuning it up to close to pitch and leaving it there for a little bit, playing around, bending it around a little bit, just stretching it. Or as one of our viewers said, we have a string stretcher. It's actually a tool made just for that. Cool. As you see Blake, that's what Blake's doing right now, given a little stretch before we get it all the way up to tension.

Blake: Doing my best, trying to help this thing out. Make sure we're in the saddle because a lot of people don't realize the string can get the left or the right of the saddle, even beyond it. And they'll tighten up the full tension, and then they'll head a note and it'll just plank out. So, let's see if we can keep it from breaking this time.

Nick: Got you. Yeah. The people are commenting on different problems they've encountered for the same thing. Maybe the saddle being sharp or something.

Blake: So I tuned the high E string, the one that keeps breaking just up to D sharp, and that's a half step down from E. I'm going to let it sit there just for a second. Let me give it a little bit more of a stretch.

Nick: Sounds good.

Blake: And see if it wants to settle in for me.

Nick: Sweet.

Blake: But it's always a good idea to have some extra strings laying around.

Nick: Yep. Some people saying even swapping in a quality saddle could be worth it. You were always welcome to do that. So full size hardware on this thing, just remember that other than the pots. The pots are mini pots, but you are welcome to upgrade anything. Pickups, saddles, tuners, all that good stuff. If you have any questions about sizes, we can help you out. I can tell you for sure if we're... Now that we're at it, the peg hole diameter for the tuners, this is going to be 10 millimeters or 13/32". And the pots, the knobs on the pots are a six millimeter shaft and those will fit alpha pots. So keep that in mind. Pickups are full size.

Blake: Okay. So, that is holding right now. Let's look at our instructions, see what the next thing to do is. Install the string trees. Strings are on or up to full tension. Now we need to straighten the neck.

Straighten the neck

So, the whole time throughout your process, you want to make sure you have the neck where you want it and you want to have the strings up to tension. So as you're making adjustments, all your adjustments are to the playing capacity, right? So, I like to go for a dead straight neck. Some people might like a little bit of relief. Nobody really wants any back bow because your guitar's going to buzz out. So basically, what relief is is a little bit of up bow in the neck, right? So you get that banana shape, the headstocks coming up. Back bows like where the headstocks going down, and you get that hill shape.

Anyways, personally, the way I like my guitar set up is straight neck. People who want a little bit of resistance in their guitar, blues players or something like that might a little bit of a higher action and a little bit of relief in the neck. But for today's video, we're going for a dead straight neck. So I'm going to be using this little handy, Dandy StewMac 12" Straightedge. And I'm just going to be running it across the top of the frets, trying to look for a gap in between the frets at the top of the fret and the bottom of this straightedge.

And it looks like we have a gap and that means there's relief in the neck. So what we need to do is we need to tighten the truss rod. The way truss rod works is that it is anchored down here. And there's a thread on this side. And as you turn the thread or you tighten it, turning it towards me, it squeezes the neck together and that forces the center of the neck up. And if you wanted to loosen it, basically what it does is it releases tension on the neck going this way and that lets the string tension, pull the headstock up and force the middle of the neck down, okay?

So, we need to tighten this truss rod. This is the right sized allen key for our truss rod. It comes with the kit, and I'm going to just put it in here.

Nick: Cool.

Blake: Try to get it locked in. Seems to be where we're at. I'm going to tighten it up. Might loosen this D string just a little bit so I can get it on my way, because it holds up my Allen key.

Nick: When I was a young player, I actually had some folks tell me that they didn't call it the truss rod. They had no idea what it was. They just said, "This screw will adjust the action of the guitar." Now, that has some truth to it, but that is not the function of the truss rod. Is that correct?

Blake: Correct. Your truss rod is straightening out the neck. Basically if you have upper or back bow, you can turn it left or right, and get that fixed up. But it can affect the action of the guitar. Some people will come in and say, "My guitar just doesn't feel like it used to." And then, it'll have major up bow and you'll straighten out the neck and that'll drop the action down to where they want it. And then you won't have to adjust the action. It can really depend on the severity of how much the neck is bowed or in back bow.

Nick: Got you, got you.

Blake: So it's situational.

Nick: Right. I was just thinking, just be careful when adjusting your truss rod, because you can run into other problems that may arise.

Blake: Right. People are scared of it. And I was scared of it when I was a young player, but you can mess up your guitar if you take it way too far. So just don't take it way too far, make tiny little adjustments and go back and look, and make another little adjustment and go back and look. And just explore it. It really makes a big difference if you can get comfortable with your instrument. It's just another level of bonding with it. So, we still have a smaller gap because we tighten the truss rod. And usually on newer guitars, truss rod comes fairly loose. Anyway, I'm going to go ahead and get this D string back out of my way, so I can... It's important to say, whenever you go to check the neck straightness, make sure your strings are up to full tension, up to pitch because the smallest amount of tension or no tension can change that. So I'm going to turn it.

Nick: Got you. Just to clarify, as you're in that position, you're pulling the truss rod towards you, correct?

Blake: Yeah.

Nick: You're pulling the-

Blake: I'm turning the nut towards me. So basically righty tighty, lefty loosey. If I was over here, I'd be turning it to the left, turning it to the right to tighten it.

Nick: Correct. So, when you tighten, "Tighten the truss rod, it's lowering the headstock." Yes? Bringing the headstock down.

Blake: Bring the headstock back.

Nick: Okay.

Blake: It's bring the center of the neck up.

Nick: Perfect.

Blake: By squeezing the neck together.

Nick: Right, right.

Blake: So now I'm taking it back up to pitch.

Nick: All right. It's worth it to add having the neck straight as possible is just going to make it easier to play. And you're not going to run into any string buzz, anything like that.

Blake: All right. So now I'm going to check the next straightness again.

Nick: Got you. We had a question about it, from one of our viewers. They said, how much of that relief is due to string tension? And I'm assuming that can vary.

Blake: That can vary, it depends on how tight or how loose your truss rod is because there will always be a small amount of relief. Even though it may look straight, there's probably like this micro amount of relief in the neck.

Nick: Right.

Blake: So, that can vary. That's a hard question for me to give, and it depends on what gauge strings you're using. If you're using 13" on your strat the strings are going to cause a lot of relief. And so your truss rod's going to be really tight to try to bring it back to straight or so you're not playing mile high action. So it can vary. Anyways-

Nick: Cool.

Blake: ... I've seen a lot and I've seen very little. It also depends on how strong the neck is. If the neck made out of a good piece of wood. That time I was able to get it without moving the strings so I just did a little bit of tightness there, and that's looking pretty good to me [Blake placed the straightedge on the fretboard]. Just slightest amount, and I'm going to leave it.

Nick: Cool. We got another question. One of our viewers, Robert was asking, "If the device is going to play any part when you're adjusting the truss rod."

Blake: Well, While adjusting truss rod?

Nick: Right.

Blake: Not really.

Nick: It's not going to... Okay. I didn't think so. Just wanted hear from the man.

Blake: Yeah. We're moving such a small amount. I've never done it. I've always adjusted the neck and the vice and never had an issue with it.

Nick: Cool. Good to know.

Set the action at the nut

Blake: Okay? So, now that our neck is straight where I want it. In the instructions, it says to set the action at the nut. I have just some nut files right here. I'll show you guys what they look like. And I'll show you what I'm looking for, but this feels pretty good so far. So, I don't think we're going to mess with it. But anyways, these are different nut files. These are some of the... I don't want to say lower end, but more affordable nut files. These are Diamond Plated Nut Files and they're my favorite, but they're the most expensive. Anyways, you just use these guys and I'll give you just a slight little example of what I'm looking for, and how to use these guys just real quick. But this one's really good so we're not going to mess with it too much, all right?

So basically what I'm looking for is I'm looking to... I'm going to press down on the first fret or excuse me, the third fret, with my finger. And then, I'm going to take my first finger and push the string down to the first fret. So, I'm looking at the amount of travel between the bottom of the string to the top of the fret. And there are some good measurements and numbers to go by on StewMac's website. We also sell a Digital Indicator that will measure the amount of the string drops and give you an exact number of how tall the slot is in the nut. I've just done this enough. I like to look at it and I have an idea of what I like to see. And that E stringing right there, that's perfect. That's a very small amount of travel, but just enough that I'm not going to get any buzz.

Nick: Got you. Do you know right off hand what the measurement is that we generally recommend?

Blake: I don't. Are you looking it up?

Nick: Got you. Yeah, absolutely. I can totally do that.

Blake: Go ahead.

Nick: Oh yeah. Okay, perfect. So as he's doing this, I can let you guys know that for an electric guitar, we recommend about 10 thousandths on treble E. This is action at the nut. 10 thousandths on the treble E string and 24 thousandths of an inch on the base E. Now, that's just our recommendation. It always ends up being player preference. So, I tend to like the action as low as possible, especially on electric guitar, but on my acoustics actually I like it a lot higher. I play pretty rough on my acoustics. I'm a finger picker and I slap and bang notes around. So, I get way too much buzz if I have really low action on my acoustic. Again, personal preference so it's always up to you.

Blake: All right. So I'm just going to give you a very brief little thing. This A string is just a little stiff. So I got my nut file right here. And what you want to do is you want to slightly angle this file back and that's called back filing. And what it does is it takes the material behind the break point, which is at the front of the nut away. So your string's not held up on a big flat, it's indexing off a very small point. That'll take away a lot of buzzing issues and that kind of stuff.

So I'm going to just give it a little brush. Now, I'm just trying... I'm not going to do a whole lot because when you're working on a nut, the smallest amount will make the biggest difference. And so I'm getting a little dust on the front, which means I'm hitting the front. I'm getting a little dust on the back, which means I'm back filing. Get that on my way. Put it back in there, get my tuner out, tighten it back up the pitch. Here we go. You can hear it. It's a solid note. No buzzing, no anything like that. If you get some buzz, I'd recommend checking the nut for any back filing issues, okay?

So that's how you would take care of that if you need to, this one's great now and we're moving on. So the next thing is setting the action at the bridge.

Set the action at the bridge

So, whenever I'm setting up an electric guitar, I have couple measurements I like. First thing's first, we're going to set the action of our two outside E strings. We're going to set the action of our two outside E strings, and then we're going to raise the ones in the middle up so we can walk them back down into our Radius Gauge, which we're going to be using right here. And we also give you some cutouts so you can make your own in the instruction manual. So you don't have to buy the metal ones if you don't want to. But if you do want to, this our awesome to have. You'll be able to do really good setups. So, we're going to go ahead and talk about our two outside Es. I'm going to get the tape off my rule right here.

Nick: Got you.

Blake: And for the high E string, I like to see one and a half 32nds. So I'll be measuring in 32nds. Some people like to measure in 64 because they're finer, but I know what measurements I like, and are in 32nds. So, I'll be one and a half on the high E string. And then on the low E string, I'll be looking at like two, okay? So, I'm looking here and that is almost 3/32nds. So I'm going to lower that side down.

We have a little Allen key that comes with the kit right here. And this is for adjusting the saddles. We're going to lower the saddle. Check it again, that's like two. I'm going to lower the other side. And once you lower or raise these saddles, it's going to change the pitch of the string. So once you do that, go back and tune them back up to pitch, okay? Scary.

Nick: Okay. [inaudible 00:35:45].

Blake: You haven't been hit in the face with a broken guitar string, you haven't lived life. All right, so that's one and a half right there, but I'm going to tune it back up the pitch. Make sure our neck is still straight where we want it. Hear how it's flat now.

Nick: Got you. And just to give you folks out, there are recommended measurements in terms of thousands of an inch when we're looking at action at the 12th fret, lets see here. Yeah. So we're looking at 63 thousandths for the treble E and 78 thousandths at the 12th fret. So that's our general recommendation. Again, player preference, but good place to start. Something to keep in mind.

Blake: And on the base side, I like to set mind for 2/32nds, and I'm almost there. And what I'm looking at is getting the bottom of the string to the line that I'm looking for on my ruler or my shop ruler right here. And so, if I was looking for two 32nds, I would be looking the bottom of the string is right here at the second line, okay? So check it again. And that's pretty much perfect. So I'm going to tune it back up the pitch. I'm one of those crazy people that turns the tuner on and off every time so I don't kill the batteries. Okay. So, that's looking good. Now I'm going to go ahead and take our 16 Inch Radius Gauge. I'm going to bring it to the front of these saddles. I'm going to pull it up and it's buzzing on the B string, and the outside E string. So that means they need to raise the B string so we're only buzzing against our two outside E strings, okay?

Nick: Got you. It's worth it to mention that we have this radius gauge in the form of a cutout in the front of the instructions for this kit. So, if you don't have a set of radius gauges, these Understring Radius Gauges, we've got it set up for you. So you can have something to use and a paper cut out. And if you wouldn't mind explaining to some of our more inexperienced viewers and new folks out there, what is a radius gauge, and why are we doing this? What is a radius? What does that even mean?

Blake: So radius is the curve this way of the fingerboard [Blake curves his hand palm down to imitate the radius of a fingerboard]. And we need to match the saddles to the radius of the fingerboard for maximum playability, right? So basically, they come in all different sizes. There's 7.25”, there's 9.5”, there's a 10” radius. There's a 12", there's a 14", there's 16, there's a 20". And then there can be a compound radius, which means that there is multiple radiuses like all across different points on the neck. Luckily, this Mini T-Style kit is just a 16 inch radius. So, it's fairly flat, you almost can't see the curve there, but it's there. And this will make a big difference in the playability of the guitar. A lot of people don't even realize that your saddles should follow the radius of the guitar. So a lot of people will bring their guitars in say, "I want this setup." And all the saddles will be flat across same height. And then, it's just not comfortable. They're getting buzzes in certain places. And this will ensure that there's an equal amount of distance between the bottom of the string and the fret all the way across, okay?

Nick: Sounds good.

Blake: So, bring it back through or raise the B string a little bit. I'm checking it out. Now we're buzzing against the E string, buzzing against the B string, G string is not buzzing. D is buzzing.

Nick: Got you.

Blake: A is buzzing, E is buzzing. So it looks like we only have to bring down our G string, which is cool. So I'll just bring that down just a hair. That should be enough. Once again, I'm going to check our tuning. Make sure we're at pitch, and I'll check it again.

Nick: Let's see. I have a question from Max. I think you may be asking when we're adjusting intonation. When we're adjusting intonation at the saddles, we're checking from the 12th fret. So I hope that answers the question. If it didn't please, please clarify. And definitely we'll get you an answer.

Blake: What was the question?

Nick: Let's see what exactly how he worded it. What fret do you measure the saddle from? I was thinking he was meaning intonation.

Blake: Yeah. That's not a very clear question.

Nick: You're right.

Blake: You could be talking about scaling, you could be talking about intonation. I'm not positive, but if you could clarify a little bit, we could probably answer it.

Nick: Absolutely. And I think our admin upstairs is helping them out as well.

Blake: Taking care of it? Who's our admin upstairs, because I want to give them a shout out.

Nick: It is Brock, I believe.

Blake: Brock. Shout out to Brock our VP, our fearless leader.

Nick: That's right.

Blake: All right. So now I have the radius set across, this is a good 16" inch radius, the same thing as the fingerboard and we're moving on. So next thing is adjusting the pickup height.

Adjust the pickup height

So we're looking at... This says, "Hold down the low E string and the high string of the 22nd fret. Adjust the base side of the pickups to 5/64 and the treble sides to 1/16. So we'll go ahead and do the base side first and looks like it's a nice big Phillips head.

Nick: Cool.

Blake: So I'm going to be switching over.

Nick: And just out of curiosity, what's the reason behind setting our pickups to that position? And could you do something different?

Blake: Yeah.

Nick: Would you want to do something different?

Blake: Yeah. So we're setting the pickup height. So you get the optimal amount of volume out of your pickups, because if they're further away the quieter they're going to be. Now, and if they're not somewhere in the same range, like the bridge pickup or... Excuse me, the neck pickup in my opinion more times than not is hotter than the bridge pickup. Also, that depends on what kind of pickups you're buying, who they're made by, how hot or how they've been wound. My experience rhythm pickup's a little bit hotter than the bridge pickup.

So your bridge pickup's always a little bit closer to the strings than the neck is, neck pickup is. And that way you have a good balance between the volume. So when you switch pickups, you don't have a huge boost of volume. Somebody might use that to their advantage though. If somebody wanted to have a boost on their bridge pickup and have the neck pickup be quiet for rhythm, they might be a really big difference apart. So, it's a personal preference, but in the instructions here, we give you some general numbers to start at, and then you can go from there. Okay.

So I'm holding down the low E string at 22nd fret, and then I'm taking my shop rule and I'm looking for 5/64" from the top of the pickup. So, the 64" is on this side right here, 64. And it's a lot smaller measurements. So I'm looking to go to five, which is right there. So I can raise it up [Blake is tightening the height screw with a screwdriver].

Nick: Okay. And just to make sure that we're all in the same level here as you tighten the height screw, it raises the pickup. Is that correct?

Blake: Correct.

Nick: Cool.

Blake: This just takes a second. And it can make the biggest difference. Something I'm just now starting to get into is messing around with the pole pieces like on a humbucker, which I've never done. But I have a friend. My friend who I told you about who brings me Les Pauls all the time to put drivers on, he started getting me to do it and I got to tell you what, it makes a huge difference.

Nick: Cool. And just so you guys are aware of, this as well we have a YouTube video about intonating guitars. And it's just simply called, "How to Intonate a Guitar." One of our colleagues, Aaron Smiley does it. It's great. He works on... At least he goes over a few different types of bridges. So if you're looking to intonate your own guitars that you're working on at home, it's a great resource to check out.

Blake: With that being said, I am off to doing the treble side of these pickups and I'm taking it to 1/16". And that is the first little mark on the bottom edge here. Show you that or I can show this one. It doesn't matter.

Rachel: No, that's fine.

Blake: The bottom edge of this mark of this one. And it's the first little mark because it measures in 16ths. Got it? Cool. Then moving on. That's a little tall so I'm going to lower it down. That's about good. I'll check the treble side of the bridge pickup.

Nick: Let's see here. We've got a question from Max or no, I believe it's... No it is. It's Andy here, he's wanting to know what the conversion is to millimeters for those in the UK. Let me see. I'll pull up a conversion chart here.

Blake: Yeah. I don't know my metric.

Nick: Got you. Yeah. I've got the conversions here on the site.

Blake: All right. So, our pickup height is set and then we're up to set the intonation. So this is the fun part. This is our last step and then we're going to plug this thing in. What's our time at?

Set the intonation

Nick: Let see here. I think we're looking pretty good right now. We're at 46 minutes.

Blake: Oh perfect. We're just cruising.

Nick: We are doing good. And I'm working on that conversion for you right now, Andy.

Blake: Where's everybody from? We have any more newcomers today from all across the world?

Nick: Definitely, someone from Indonesia for sure was here this morning.

Blake: Cool.

Nick: Or this afternoon rather.

Blake: All right, so intonating. This is a really big part of guitars and it's a lot easier to intonate electric guitar than it is an acoustic guitar. Intonating an acoustic guitar can be some witchcraft. So, I don't know if we have a video on how to intonate an acoustic guitar, but if we don't, we should probably make one sometime. Anyways, I'm going to show you how to intonate the electric guitar. Depending on what kind of bridge you have on your guitar, the saddles either adjust individually or you're adjusting two at a time like we are right here. Either way is fine so we're going to get started.

Intonating is basically making sure that your Octave note, which is at the 12th fret is the same as your open note. So, it can either be sharp or flat depending on how far or forward or backward the saddle is. If it's sharp, we're going to move the saddle backwards, making the string longer and that's going to be flattening our open note. We're going to tune it back up and that will make our octave flatter so we can get them to be the same. Or if it's sharp, we're going to move it forward, shortening the length, right? So this is like fine tuning the scale length to have perfect octave notes.

So I'm going to go ahead and start with our high E or I'm going to start with our low E, why not? It's perfect. A little sharp, a little sharp. So I flattened it. There we go. So I'm going to press down on the 12th fret here and that's really sharp. I don't know if you can hear that on my little microphone. All right. So since it's so sharp, we're going to be moving the saddle backwards and it's going to be moving the A string with it because the A string and the E string both share this one. So I'm going to loosen tension just a little bit because these strings are really thick. And then I'm going to pull it back a substantial amount because that was pretty sharp. And then, I'm just going to check again. I'm just using Phillip's head in the back of this.

Nick: Cool.

Blake: You just tighten the screw and this... It just runs the thread through the saddle. And so, now I'm going to tune it back up to pitch.

Nick: Awesome. Just so you were asking Blake, we got folks from England, the Philippines, Rhode Island, East Texas, New York, San Diego, India.

Blake: Cool. Welcome, welcome, welcome.

Nick: Representing the world once again.

Blake: Welcome to our little slice of America.

Nick: And actually, I do have an answer on those conversions for you there.

Blake: Okay.

Nick: So checking the... This is for the pickup height. Let's see here. From the base side, it was 5/64" and that's basically two millimeters, 1.98. And the treble side was 1/16th. And that's basically 1.6 millimeters, 1.58mm.

Blake: There you go. You can thank my man, Nick, over here for hooking you up.

Nick: And just so you all are aware, you can find conversions at the bottom of any of our webpages on our site.

Blake: All right. So that is almost a perfect octave right there. I'm going to ahead and moved it back just another couple times. And we started out up here and now we're back here, and that is being our octave. So I'm going to check our A string. That sounds good to me. And our tuner is recommending the same.

Nick: Oh, I see. He's asking us to get some body measurements.

Blake: Oh, body measurements. I forgot. Let's go ahead and do that real quick just for the... We'll do that after this. I'm going to keep putting it off until I forget again. Don't let me forget, Nick.

Nick: You got it.

Blake: So our D string is in tune. We're here at the 12th. Super sharp, so the saddle's got to come back. D strings are a little bit lighter, a little bit thinner. So I think if my handy dandy screwdriver here, I can just go ahead and pull them back real fast. I'm going to get them somewhat close to the other ones. Maybe just a little ahead of them. Now that notes flat, because we made the length longer. Tighten it up.

Check it again. And that's less sharp, but we still got more to go. And the farther you pull this back, the harder it is because that strings or this spring's pushing against it, creating more tension. Keep just checking my tuning so I'm consistent. Very slightly sharp. You can see this takes a little bit of time, but we haven't come all this way to be slacking now, right?

Nick: Absolutely. It's worth it to mention again.

Nick: Tiny bit of sharp. Huh?

Nick: Sorry. I was just going to say, it's worth it to mention again. You're always welcome to throw some questions into the live feed or in case after this is done, or maybe we didn't quite get to your question. It got maybe buried in the feed or something like that. You're always welcome to email us at service@stewmac.com. We have our customer service folks take care of you, answer your questions or get an answer from a tech if need be. But we'll do everything in our power to help you out and get your questions answered.

Blake: Wait, did our tech not get that guy body measurements?

Nick: No, he doesn't have a mini kit up there.

Blake: Got you. Okay. So that's an octave, check our B string and our E string. Make sure they're in tune. B's just a little flat, E just a little flat. You can hear, that's pretty sharp. So we're going to move those back. And it looks like that saddle's bumping up against the other one. So I'm going to just loosen our string tension here so I can move that saddle left or right. Because it's getting caught on the other saddle, not wanting to move back. So I'll push it to the side there. There we go. We're just going to move it back since we don't have the string tension off fairly good amount.

Nick: Cool. And actually I've got a couple of questions coming in here.

Blake: Lay them on me.

Nick: Let's see here. Well, one of them actually is, "Do all the employees here at StewMac play guitar?" Most of us do, but it depends. We've got all kinds of employees all over the building. So it's not just guitar techs. And we've got folks work in the warehouse. We've got janitorial staff. We have our marketing team. We've got everyone here. So not necessarily, but however... I mean, some of our it guys are shredders, man. They're amazing. We've got some folks on in the marketing team that... I'm not going to drop any names, but... I mean, it's tons of people, tons of people. Rachel, of course, can shred like crazy.

Blake: Right. So many here requested eruption.

Nick: It all depends, it all depends. I'm much more of a cellist rather than a guitarist. And I also play standup bass, but I do play guitar. Definitely not professionally, but I play. Let's see here.

Blake: I just fix toys and eat pizza.

Nick: [Nick laughs] But that's the fun part. That's the spice of life. Well, let's see. I'm going to see if I can go out there and [inaudible 00:55:12].

Blake: Very slightly still sharp, but we're so close to plugging this thing in.

Nick: Oh yeah. That's right. One of our viewers is talking about adjusting intonation in the playing position.

Blake: Yeah.

Nick: That's definitely something I've heard of too.

Blake: Yeah.

Nick: What's your thoughts on that, if you have any?

Blake: I adjust them laying down and it works for me, even when I go to playing.

Nick: Got you.

Blake: I like to do the fret work in the playing position with the Erlewine Neck Jig. That's great. Sometimes if I'm in my own shop and I have my little foot tuner, I'm adjusting it in the playing position. Right now, I'm adjusting it here and it's going to work. I don't have terribly strong feelings about it, but there you go. Nick's getting us some body measurements here.

Nick: Absolutely.

Blake: I can measure the thickness for you if you'd like.

Nick: Sweet.

Blake: Just got my little Digital Readout Caliper here.

Nick: So overall length, we've got 12 and a quarter, okay? And here we go. And at this position its nine and three quarters.

Blake: The thickness we're looking at almost like an inch and 600 thousandths, like 590. And it really depends on how much you sand. If you wanted to-

Nick: Oh, there you go.

Blake: ... You could sand this thing to be half an inch thick, but you're going to be doing that for a long time. Unless you want it through a plane or a joint or a sander or something like that. All right. Well, that's it. We've reached the end. This is the moment.

Rachel: That's great.

Blake: This is the moment we've been waiting for, right?

Nick: Oh man.

Blake: We're done.

Nick: We are done.

Blake: Give yourself a power in the back. This has been a long week. I'm going to go ahead and turn this thing on because somebody asked us to.

Nick: That's right.

Blake: Now I'm not going to kill everybody here. So I'm not going to turn it up to like 10 thousandth. But somebody asked for a Marshall. This is our Brit-800 Amp Kit. And it's pretty awesome. I like it. I'll start with volume down.

Let's tune it real fast. Listen to that, that beautiful hiss.

Rachel: Don't break the string now.

Blake: Yeah, if I break a string, I'm sorry guys, but you saw me play it in the first video.

Nick: That's right.

[Blake plays the mini electric guitar]

Blake: Change it up just a little bit. The strings are still settling in just a little. Cool. So, I would probably use that to make some little guitar mandolin sounding parts on one of my buddies songs. I love it.

Rachel: Let's hear more.

Blake: You want to hear more?

Rachel: Can you play us a blues lick or something?

Blake: Can I?

Nick: Can I?

Blake: Still not used to it, it's so small. Cool.

Nick: Whoa.

Blake: There it is. Everybody, it has been a pleasure. What a good week hanging out with my pals.

Rachel: Yeah. Great.

Nick: Yeah.

Blake: Thank you guys for tuning in. Here's your guitar.

Nick: Yes.

Blake: Anyways, Nick, you want to take us home?

Nick: Absolutely, absolutely. Let's do it. Well, everybody we've arrived. We did this thing. It's awesome. Then just to clarify, this is the guitar we started from at the beginning. We had a couple of little props in the beginning so that we could show you some things, but this is the guitar that we took from day one until now. So, we did this in four days. We recommend taking your time a little bit longer with the finishes and things like that. But otherwise this is it, this is the finished product. This was the Mini T Kit. Just as a reminder, we have a couple of others of these mini guitar kits. We got the Mini S-Style, we got the Mini LP. So whatever your preference is, get at it. We've got full size kits as well. So if you're feeling ambitious and you want to go for a larger kit or you want to go for an acoustic kit.

Even if you're really feeling like doing some woodworking, we've got plenty of resources here to help you out. And hopefully we're going to be doing a lot more of these series and doing a lot more of these builds. So thanks so much for joining us. We had a blast. This was great. I want to thank everybody again. You guys first, and then I want to thank Blake for doing this build for us.

I want to thank Rachel for her awesome camera work. I want to thank Susan for driving us here. She's really been the one that's kept it all together here and helped us out. So thank you guys so much for being with us and watching us do this and good luck. Show us your work. We really want to see it. And again, I'd like to drive at home that if you have any other questions or comments after the fact, once this is over, please direct them to service@stewmac.com. We will get you guys helped out. Also, I should note, these will stay online. All four of these episodes are going to be online after these over. They're not going anywhere so that you can reference them at any time, and that's it. Good luck everybody. Please enjoy your builds and have a good rest of the day. Thanks for being with us.




Guitar Builder and Tech