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Nov 28, 2022 - 3:48:36 PM
254 posts since 11/2/2009

Hi - I have a 1927 TB4 5-String conversion, no hole arch top, that was restored by Steve Huber. The rim is original. I would like to lower the action, but I am concerned about damaging such an old rim by tightening the lower coordinator rod. Any thoughts? I put lighter strings on, and that seemed to make a difference, but unfortunately, I did not measure the action height before replacing the heavier strings, so I don’t have a measureable. I started to tighten the coordinator rod, but it didn’t seem to make much difference, and then I got scared, and un-tightened it. I would never live down busting the rim or something else on this very nice instrument.

I posted this in this forum, because I thought you all might have more experience with older banjos.

Nov 28, 2022 - 3:58:12 PM

60020 posts since 12/14/2005

Since it's a pre-war Gibson rim, I shall not risk offending the Gibson purists by suggesting the time-honored tradition of loosening the neck mounts, and sliding some sort of veneer between the top of heel and the pot, to change the angle.

Nov 28, 2022 - 4:10:45 PM

5082 posts since 11/20/2004

You did well by stopping. Action should be changed by shims or sanding heel of neck and leave pressure on the rim as neutral as possible for best sound and preventing rim damage.

Nov 28, 2022 - 4:26:11 PM
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1680 posts since 4/13/2009

Shims! But measure first. A thin shim can make a significant difference.

Nov 28, 2022 - 4:45:59 PM
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rcc56

USA

4585 posts since 2/20/2016

Yes, a tapered shim is the easiest solution. A taper of 1/2 to 1 mm. between the top and bottom of the shim will probably be enough.

Nov 28, 2022 - 5:02:04 PM
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ChunoTheDog

Canada

2038 posts since 8/9/2019

Try a lower bridge first.

If you can stand it, back off on the head tension a little, this will make the bridge drop some.

If all else fails, shim the neck heel.

Nov 28, 2022 - 7:36:55 PM

Alex Z

USA

5108 posts since 12/7/2006

"I did not measure the action height before replacing the heavier strings"

What is the action height at the 12th fret right now, and what height do you want it to be?

Also, do you know the amount of neck relief it has at present?  If not, what is the action height at the last fret, 22nd fret?

Nov 29, 2022 - 12:49:50 AM
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103 posts since 11/10/2021

Can you just sand the bottom of your bridge? Probably the quickest and easiest and saves possibly irreversible damage to the banjo? 

Edited by - adamrhowe on 11/29/2022 00:51:24

Nov 29, 2022 - 2:44:18 AM

Bill H

USA

2064 posts since 11/7/2010

You haven't mentioned any of the other steps involved in adjusting a banjo to achieve desired action that should be implemented before considering coordinator rod adjustment.

Nov 29, 2022 - 5:38:18 AM
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beegee

USA

23156 posts since 7/6/2005

I use small pieces of old credit cards, cut to fit the heel profile, as shims.
1. They are free and readily available
2. They are inert, They are either plastic or plastic-coated paper. Not affected by climate.
3. They are not subject to compression as is wood
4.They are easily cut with scissors.
5. They irritate the anal-retentive types who insist on more exotic solutions

i usually cut a shim to fit, punch or drill a hole in it and slide it over the hanger-bolt. I try to avoid over-tightening co-rods as a means of adjusting action.

This is the method used by William of Ockham, I'm told...

Nov 29, 2022 - 7:36:39 AM

Alex Z

USA

5108 posts since 12/7/2006

How to lower the action is one question.  Plenty of ways for that.

How to lower the action by a specific amount while keeping the tone and playability acceptable to the player is a different question.  That's why more information is needed.

Some of the answer might depend on the player's tolerance for change of tone and/or playability.

Edited by - Alex Z on 11/29/2022 07:38:28

Nov 29, 2022 - 8:52:35 AM

10286 posts since 8/28/2013

I agree with Alex. More information is needed. What is the current distance of strings from fret 12, what are you shooting for? What is current bridge height, what is neck relief? Is the head tensioned properly? How have lighter strings worked in terms of playability, but also in terms of tone as compared with earlier strings?

Nov 29, 2022 - 8:59:35 AM

ChunoTheDog

Canada

2038 posts since 8/9/2019

A more important question would be why are you trying to use neck relief to set action?

Nov 29, 2022 - 9:10:04 AM
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Alex Z

USA

5108 posts since 12/7/2006

You don't use the neck relief to set action, but rather set the neck relief suitably first and then see what the action height is.  If the neck relief is way off, then don't get a true measurement of the string height.  So there is a sequence of adjustments to get a banjo into reasonable playing shape.  

If the neck relief is OK, then can go on to assess the string height.

Nov 30, 2022 - 11:32:01 AM

2924 posts since 4/16/2003

How high are the strings now?
Do you need to lower the action a little?
Or... a lot?

As mentioned above, easiest way is to use a lower bridge.
Of course, this may not work if the bridge is already "low".

Also... as mentioned above... make sure your neck relief is where it should be. Perhaps not "ramrod straight", but a very, very small amount.
Put a capo on the FIRST fret.
Lay the banjo flat in your lap.
With your right hand hold down the 3rd string so that it touches the highest fret.
Now... observe the FIFTH fret.
The string should not be touching the fret, but have a very little "play".
About the thickness of a sheet of paper is good.
That's where I'd say the neck "relief" should be set.

Be aware that while some truss rods are "dual" (can adjust the neck either way), many others are "single action" (can only remove forward bow).

Once you get that set, free up the strings and take a good look at where the strings are above the 12th fret.

Too high for your preference? Then touch a string by the bridge and "push it down" until the string height at the 12th fret looks better to you. You want to estimate just "how much lower" you need to be at the bridge to get the results you want at the 12th fret.

Some folks will say 1/8", I like it even a little lower.

What to do next:
You need to know just how high your current bridge is.
Don't try measuring it while still on the banjo.
Take it off to get a more accurate measurement.

I know that in years past, Arthur Hatfield could custom-carve a bridge to whatever height you requested, all at his regular (and very reasonable) prices. Not sure if he still does that today. Might be worth asking. His compensated bridges are very nice.
 

Dec 6, 2022 - 9:07:35 PM

254 posts since 11/2/2009

Hi all. Sorry for late responses. I apparently shut off notifications due to an issue some months back.

I had already done the neck test, and that not an issue.

The Gibson action at the 12th and 22nd frets is 5/32. I have a Bishline with the action at 3/32 at the 12th, which is sweet.

The existing bridge is 5/8ths. I ordered a 9/16 and a 1/2 in bridge.

If it needs shimming, I would ship it to Steve Huber’s.

Thank you all for helping me think through the issue.

Dec 6, 2022 - 9:11:39 PM

254 posts since 11/2/2009

I see there was a question about head tension - I tuned it to 89 with a Drum Dial before I started fuddling with the coordinator rod.

Dec 10, 2022 - 12:16:49 PM

254 posts since 11/2/2009

I ordered a 9/16 bridge and a 1/2. The 9/16th arrived, and it got me just a hair below 1/8th in at the 12th fret. The 1/2 should be perfect, but we’ll see if there is any fret buzz.

Dec 10, 2022 - 8:45:55 PM
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12 posts since 1/17/2022

Take the banjo to Steve Huber and have him lower the action. He can do it really fast and cheap and you will not need to change to a shorter bridge. Put the bridge on it that sounds the best and he will refit the neck to the pot to give you the results you want.

Edited by - eubankss on 12/10/2022 20:47:22

Dec 11, 2022 - 6:20:29 AM

254 posts since 11/2/2009

quote:
Originally posted by eubankss

Take the banjo to Steve Huber and have him lower the action. He can do it really fast and cheap and you will not need to change to a shorter bridge. Put the bridge on it that sounds the best and he will refit the neck to the pot to give you the results you want.


Hi - thanks, that was my first thought, and my preference, but shipping from south Florida to Steve's shop and back is costly. Right now, going from the 5/8th bridge to the 9/16th bridge is almost perfect. If a further lowering to 1/2 is too much, I'll go back to the 9/16, and tweak the lower rod just the tiniest bit. FWIW I did email Steve about this a couple of weeks back (through the "Contact" portal on his site), but he might not gotten it, and also I'm sure its a busy time of year. The work he did restoring this one is really awesome, and I hope it stays in the family, and gets played, when I'm gone.

Dec 26, 2022 - 10:21:11 PM

Alex Z

USA

5108 posts since 12/7/2006

quote:
Originally posted by gcpicken

Hi all. Sorry for late responses. I apparently shut off notifications due to an issue some months back.

I had already done the neck test, and that not an issue.

The Gibson action at the 12th and 22nd frets is 5/32. I have a Bishline with the action at 3/32 at the 12th, which is sweet.

The existing bridge is 5/8ths. I ordered a 9/16 and a 1/2 in bridge.

If it needs shimming, I would ship it to Steve Huber’s.

Thank you all for helping me think through the issue.


This is useful information. Since the action is the same 5/32" at the 12th and 22nd frets, that's a sign that there is too much relief in the neck. 
 

Are you able to measure the neck relief?

Dec 27, 2022 - 5:29:19 AM

Wobba

USA

58 posts since 4/15/2020

Since you've mentioned the height of the bridge and they you have shorter ones on order, I suggest you do not bother with shims but wait for the bridges to arrive. Then try out both to see which gives you the action you prefer. You might want to leave each on for a couple of days. If the lowest bridge feels too low, try the next taller bridge. Action is subjective to the player. What action feels right for one person may not for another.

If even with the shortest bridge it still feels like the action is too high, then explore some type of shim. I like beegee suggestion about using a piece of an old credit card because plastic will not compress or expand with humidity/temperature changes as would a shim.
Be careful when lowering action that you don't go so low as to cause buzzing of the strings against the frets when you fret notes in first position.

Dec 27, 2022 - 5:32:12 AM

254 posts since 11/2/2009

Hi - Thank you for your response. I do have a set of gushes that I bought for that purpose, and I know I have a link to a video that takes me through the process - it was pretty straight forward. If we are talking about the same thing, it involved a capo at the first fret, then holding down the the string at the 22nd fret (this from the Deering website), and then check at the 7th fret.
What would I be wanting for relief? (I like my action at 3/32 at the 12th.)

Dec 27, 2022 - 6:41:42 AM
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beegee

USA

23156 posts since 7/6/2005

Keep in mind that merely replacing a taller bridge with a shorter one can affect tone, hand and wrist position and intonation.

Dec 27, 2022 - 7:07:36 AM

5082 posts since 11/20/2004

I use 3/32 at 12th fret and usually look for. 005" ( to .007") relief

Dec 27, 2022 - 9:17:12 AM

Alex Z

USA

5108 posts since 12/7/2006

Banjo strings are light compared to guitar.  Banjo relief more often might be in the .015-.020 range.  

To measure, fret the first fret and fret the 22nd fret at the tailpiece side of the fret, and measure the relief at the 7th fret.

 

Just a guess, if the action is 5/32" at both the 12th and 22nd fret, the relief now might be in the .030 range.

Somebody's going to say that you don't adjust relief to change the action.  This is not what we're doing.  We are setting the relief to a reasonable range first, before setting the action -- this is the proper sequence of adjustment.  

It is quite possible that if the relief is too high, and then reset in a reasonable range, then the action won't need to be changed as much.  Don't want to adjust the action height without checking relief first.

Hope this helps.

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