What does "adjusting the action" mean and why would I want to do it? How do I do it?

'Action' is the commonly accepted term for the ease with which a guitar plays. Several things like height of the strings over the frets, length of the strings, straightness of the neck, height of the nut slots etc. all work together to determine the playability of each instrument. Competent technicians can make adjustments to these factors in order to customize the action to the individual needs of each player. Production guitars come from the manufacturer set up in such a manner as to satisfy as many potential buyers as possible, which means that stock set-ups are always a matter of compromise. For instance, a player who leans toward fingerstyle music and who uses a light touch is likely to prefer light strings and may not play as vigorously as say a bluegrass fan. The fingerstylist may want his action quite low, but if an instrument is set up to satisfy his needs then it would probably buzz in the hands of a player who is a heavy flat-picker. As a result most manufacturers use fairly 'middle of the road' set-ups and players who have more exacting needs often have those instruments set up precisely for them by trained technicians. While it is possible for owner/players to make some adjustments on their own, it is advisable to seek professional advice and to make sure you understand the process beforehand. It is much easier to remove material from things like nuts and saddles than it is to add it, so bear than in mind before filing or sanding components.

What is the purpose of a "truss rod" and how do I use it?

Truss rods are used to stiffen necks and to offer some degree of adjustment. The basic terms used to describe the condition of necks are 'warp' which indicates that the middle of the neck is lower than the ends, and 'bow which is the opposite condition. If a neck has too much warp, then the strings have to be pushed further down in order to fret cleanly, and they may buzz on the frets at the upper end of the board. If there is too much "bow"  strings fretted at the lower end of the neck (near the nut) are likely to buzz on frets near the middle of the board. Ideally a neck should be very nearly straight, with only approximately three one-thousandths of an inch of warp between the nut and 12th fret. That can be achieved by careful adjustment of a good truss rod and by careful attention to the dressing and crowning of frets. In the early days necks had no rods at all, then builders started adding strips of harder wood like ebony to the middle of the necks in order to try to maintain their set-ups. Eventually makers turned to metal bars of various shapes imbedded into the necks, and then to simple truss rods. These generally were long threaded rods or bolts anchored in the heel of the neck and laid into a narrow channel under the fingerboard. In order for them to be able to adjust out the most common problem with those necks (excess warp), they were put into the channel with some degree of downward curvature in the middle, then covered with a plug of the same curvature.  Once the fingerboard was installed and fretted, any warp caused by string tension could be adjusted out by carefully tightening the nut at the head end of the rod. In practice that tried to shorten the bolt or rod, thereby raising the middle of the fingerboard. These rods were a big improvement over non-adjustable tunes but they offered adjustment in one direction only.

I read that Timberline guitars use a dual-action truss rod. What is the benefit of that?

In recent years manuractures like Timberline® have turned to dual-action rods which enable techs and players to correct both excess warp and bow conditions in necks through positive adiustment in both directions.

I see that Timberline® uses Tusq® nut and saddle components. What is Tusq® and what other options would one choose for nuts and saddles? Do other guitar makers use Tusq®?

'Tusq is the registered trademark of one of the latest and best synthetic materials for instrument nuts and saddles. It offers similar qualities of density and hardness to natural materials like bone and ivory, but unlike those alternatives it also offers total consistency from piece to piece. It also enables manufacturers to quickly and economically produce many exactly identical nuts and saddles. This consistency and predictability greatly aids the production of high-quality instruments. While elephant ivory has been the material of choice for high-end guitar nuts and saddles for many years, very few builders or players would condone the trade in ivory, especially since good, viable alternatives like Tusq and Nu-Bone are easily available. Another 'traditional' material, bone, can be very good but problems with inconsistent porosity can impair both sound results and appearance. Since it cannot he cast like more modern alternatives the use of hone for nuts and saddles can also sinnificantly increase the cost of a finished instrument due to the higher input cost of hand labor.

What is the best kind of guitar case for the Timberline® guitar?

Timberline® provides, with each guitar purchased, a quality, custom fit Timberline® guitar case. Timberline® guitar cases are specifically sized to provide a snug, well-padded fit for each Timberline® guitar body shape. Our cases have extra padding in several areas where generic cases do not. Notice when you inspect your Timberline@ quitar case that there is generous padding on the sides and bottom bout areas. Also note that there is added padding at the back where the neck joins the body and also on top of the fret board. The U-shaped neck cradle is also doubly padded to ensure long term security for your Timberline® guitar

What is the Timberline® warranty and how do I make a claim?

Timberline® Guitars warrants all of their guitars for the lifetime of the original purchaser against defects in materials or workmanship. This warranty is not transferable to secondary or later buyers. The warranty covers the quality of materials (woods, glues in joints, bridges, fret boards and other points
of wood-to-wood contact) and the fit and finish of secondary components to the quitar body, neck and headstock assemblies. Sub-components such as machine heads, strings, bridge pins and electronic assemblies are not covered by the Timberline warranty and may be covered by the suppliers.  You can read the warranty statement and submit a registration for the warranty at www.timberlineguitars.com/SUPPORT/RESOURCES/Warranty and Registration Card

Why doesn't the Timberline warranty cover cracks or splits due to humidity issues?

If the humidity in the area where you keep a fine instrument drops below about 35% you may notice strings starting to buzz on frets.  That is because the normally slightly arched top gives up enough moisture to shrink slightly across its width, lowering the bridge and action.  If the level continues to fall to say 30% a close examination of the top may show a slight 'corduroy' effect.  You may be able to see and to feel slight ridges as you run your fingers across the top.  These are caused by the difference in nature between the darker 'grain' lines and the wider, lighter colored 'summer growth' in between the harder lines.  Actually those lines running vertically down the top are not 'grain' at all, although they have been called that mistakenly for years.  They are in fact the annular growth rings of the tree, showing up as straight lines because a good top is always quarter-sawn.  An excellent explanation of quarter-sawing timbers can be found in Bruce Hoadleys' book ' Understanding Wood', which we highly recommend to anyone curious about the topic.

The dark lines are thinner, harder and more dense than the wider 'summer growth', so the wider material gives up moisture faster, shrinking slightly in between the harder lines to cause the appearance and feel of corduroy.  If your guitar starts to exhibit that effect, it's time to get some moisture into the atmosphere.  This can be done easily and economically by use of a wide range of humidifiers from cheap drugstore vaporizers to complex automatic units.  The secret to good humidity control is to own and use a hygrometer, so you never have to guess about moisture content in the air.

If you allow the humidity to continue to fall, at about 25% you may be able to feel fret ends sticking out of the sides of the fingerboard as the fingerboard shrinks across it's width.  Under 25% you can expect to start seeing cracks develop, usually showing up first in the top next to the fingerboard, in the board itself, and/or in the bridge.  Of course that is to be avoided, even though such damage may be able to be repaired.

In areas of the country with wide ranges of temperature from season to season, instrument owners need to be aware of humidity fluctuations to a greater extent than those living in areas with little difference between seasons.  In places where winters bring very cold temps.,  various forms of heating dry interior air out quite quickly and positive steps must be taken to ensure stable humidity levels for your instruments.  Incidentally, very low humidity is not good for humans either, not just instruments.  At low humidity levels many people find they are prone to nosebleeds, dry flaking skin, etc., and fine furniture tends to loosen its joints and generally misbehave.

All the above notwithstanding, all you really need to know is the following:

  • Buy a reasonably good dial or digital hygrometer.  Put it near to where you keep you instruments, and CHECK IT DAILY.  If the relative humidity starts to drop below 40% take steps to introduce moisture into the air until the level rises to about 45%.  If the room is small, that's easy to do with a very cheap vaporizer from the local drugstore.  If the room is larger you may want to invest in a larger drum type humidifier, ranging from around $100 to $250 or so.  All these devices need human supervision, which means you must check them every 10 to 24 hours and make sure they have a good supply of water in them.
  • Houses with furnaces or other means of central heating usually have a central humidifier on that device.  Many of those are fed automatically from the waterlines, and all are adjustable so you can determine the humidity level best for your instruments, furniture, pets and yourself.  Do not leave your guitar next to a fireplace, heat radiator or heat vent.
  • There are a number of small humidifying devices which are meant to fit inside the soundhole of the guitar, or inside the case.  Those may help, but only if you check them on a very regular basis and make sure they are filled as required.  Stop using them as soon as the humidity stabilizes at 40 to 45%.  They are better than nothing, but are not as reliable as room humidification.

If you follow the simple rules of humidification you will protect your guitar, ensure it always plays as well as it should, and you will probably reap the benefits of higher resale values when it comes time for you to move up to an even better model in the Timberline family of fine guitars.

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