Q: What does "adjusting the action" mean and why would I want to do it? How do I do it?
A: '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.
Q: What is the purpose of a "truss rod" and how do I use it?
A: 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 none-adjustable types, but they offered adjustment in one direction only.
Q: I read that Timberline guitars use a dual-action truss rod. What is the benefit of that?
A: In recent years manufacturers 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 adjustment in both directions.
Q: 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®?
A: 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 be cast like more modern alternatives, the use of bone for nuts and saddles can also significantly increase the cost of a finished instrument due to the higher input cost of hand labor.
Q: What is the best kind of guitar case for the Timberline® guitar?
A: 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® guitar 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.
Q: What is the Timberline® warranty and how do I make a claim?
A: 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 guitar 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 of the components. Also, Timberline® does not warrant guitars against cracks or splits in bodies or necks due to humidity issues. Please read the article “Humidity Matters” which can be found on the “Resource” page on this website. Each new Timberline guitar comes with a warranty registration card in the Timberline guitar case. In order to activate the warranty on your new Timberline guitar, please fill in the warranty card completely and mail to the address pre-printed on the warranty card.
Q: Why doesn't the Timberline warranty cover cracks or splits due to humidity issues?
A: Manufacturers like Timberline go to extraordinary lengths to control humidity and temperature in their manufacturing facilities. In addition they specify strict equilibrium moisture content in the timber they use for all solid-wood guitars to ensure maximum stability in the finished product. Once the instruments leave the hands of the manufacturers and distributors, however, they no longer have control of environments to which their instruments are subjected. The finest, most expensive guitars in the world cannot withstand extraordinary climatic abuse without damage, so it would be unreasonable to expect their builders to repair such damage under warranty. For instance, if a solid wood guitar is left propped in a corner near a burning wood stove or open fireplace for hours with no source of humidification in the area, it is almost certain to be damaged. Such hazards are the responsibility of the owner. Reasonable claims resulting from defects in workmanship or materials should be dealt with promptly and fairly, and at Timberline they are.
Q: How should I prepare my guitar for shipping by truck or by air?
A: Slacken string tension to allow the top of the guitar to relax. That lessens the chance of any damage being done in the event that the case or carton holding your guitar is bumped or squashed in transit. Carefully pad the peghead (headstock) area both above and below in the case. Pegheads are commonly carried away by the weight of their own tuners when cases are stacked on end and fall over in transit. A bit of padding fore and aft will virtually eliminate that problem. If your guitar must be shipped, use only a quality Timberline® hard-shell case or a case of equal quality and, if possible, put that inside a sturdy cardboard carton, liberally stuffed with padding to offer further protection. Plastic bubble wrap is excellent for impact absorption and it also offers some heat/cold insulation. Remember, baggage holds in airplanes are seldom if ever heated and it is COLD at high altitudes. Check your insurance coverage before shipping, and if necessary top it up beforehand in order to ease the pain of damage or loss. Do not just assume that your carrier will cover either. If you are shipping the instrument out of the country you will need complete information about the contents on the outside of the carton for foreign customs inspectors. Bear it in mind that some instruments which contain 'exotic' or endangered materials like Brazilian rosewood may not be legally transported outside the country unless you have the required CITES documentation. Timberline guitars use no such endangered materials.
Q: Timberline® guitars are all made of solid wood. Why is solid wood better than laminated wood, cardboard or galvanized iron?
A: Over the centuries some types of woods have become known to builders as better 'tone woods' than others. These generally have specific characteristics like high strength to weight ratios, durability, and of course an ability to produce a pleasing tone and good volume. Tone character changes from species to species, for instance there are clearly audible differences between the several types of spruce used for tops, and between materials like rosewood, mahogany, maple, etc. which are more commonly used for backs and sides. The best results for fine guitars come from the careful selection of high quality materials, and all-solid timbers are at the heart of the worlds' finest instruments. Many high production instruments are built with laminated tops, backs and sides in an attempt to reduce costs and speed manufacturing. While many of these can be quite handsome and can produce a pleasant tone, they should be thought of as only a 'reasonable facsimile' of a first-class instrument. Laminates are strong, durable, consistent and cheaper than solid woods but they just do not produce the true natural sound of select genuine tone woods. The art of turning solid wood into high quality instruments is more difficult and costly than mass producing guitars with laminates, but it is worth the effort. Well made all-solid guitars have noticeably better response than their imitators. They will also continue to improve with age and use, whereas laminated guitars do not.
Q: Where are Timberline guitars manufactured?
A: Timberline guitars are built by our Indonesian manufacturing partner which has been manufacturing acoustic guitars for over 40 years. This one-time manufacturer for Yamaha acoustic guitars, is still led by the man who started the company in the 1960’s. He is still at his bench every day, and continues to monitor production in close cooperation with Timberline senior staff in the USA and Canada. Two of his sons returned to the business after completing their university degrees and now run our day to day manufacturing operations in Indonesia.
The materials, size, shape, and internal construction specifications originate at the Timberline design center. Finished components are then sent to the factory for reproduction and integration into Timberline guitars.
Timberline’s specifications and the resulting tone and playability are unique to the Timberline R&D team and the Timberline brand. We are constantly pushing the design envelope to provide higher and higher levels of performance for hand crafted guitars at unprecedented prices.