Here is a walkthrough on most of the steps I take on doing a standard setup of a guitar. The guitar here is a customers Ltd EX-260 Explorer. He was complaining of high action and tuning problems.
As you can see from the image below it's pretty dirty and in need a good clean.
Let's start by removing those crusty old strings. They were quite bad and had old skin building up underneath like stalactites. I usually wear latex gloves because of all the dirt but I've run out!
On this guitar in particular I'll remove anything that can fall off when turning over like the bridge and stop bar. This also gives me a better hand when it comes to cleaning the body and hardware. I'll use an old electric toothbrush with a soft head to get into nooks and crannys. I'll give the body a clean with a dry cloth to remove loose debris then I'll go over again with kitchen towel and naptha.
I'll give the neck and frets the same naptha treament making sure I get all the grime. This can sometimes leave the wood a bit dry so the next step would be for me to condition the neck. Which I'll do after the next step.
This is the boring bit but I can't stress how important it is to do. Protect, be careful, remember this is someones pride and joy! Tape off the fretboard so I can then go in an polish the frets and bring them up to a high shine. Some people use steel wool which is very quick but it's also very messy and I hate the stuff. I use steel cleaner. Just a tiny dab and do about 5 frets at a time before moving on to the next 5.
Remember when I said the owner was complaining about tuning problems? Here's what I found. The machine head hex nuts were all loose. That's not good. Also one of the tailpiece stud mounts was lifting. I glued it in and it seemed to do the trick. This should fix the tuning issues. While I was at it I gave the pots a quick squirt with contact cleaner.
So now all that is done it's time to string her up and see where we are. First thing I noticed was the action was super high. This was because I removed the bridge and posts to clean them and roughly stuck them back on. Also the truss rod is too loose and has a huge amount of relief. I'll sort these out next, but first I like to check the nut is doing what it's supposed to before tuning up to pitch and having to detune again.
The nut looked good. From then I got my notched straight edge out, tuned to pitch (standard E) and adjusted the truss rod so the neck was straight.I'll set the action to where it's comfortable, re-tune, check the neck again. I'll do this a few times until it's where I like it. It's a balancing act. I use Crimson Guitars notched edges and Peterson Strobo Plus HD tuners for high accuracy.
The last step is the intonation. This was out a fair bit on 4 strings and almost there on 2. Not too much work, 15 mins of being picky and it was there.
A final wipe to remove my fingerprints and she's ready for action! If you'd like your guitar setup please get in touch with me here. For more info on some of the help I offer please email me firstname.lastname@example.org or FAQ for other bit's.
Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed this insight to how I treat guitars. Don't forget to stalk me on social media where I upload lots of before/during/after pictures.