Page 1 of 1

Setup Instability

Posted: Sun Sep 16, 2018 7:23 am
by Omsong
I am wondering if anyone has experienced a problem with setup (neck) stability on their Kiesel? After nearly a year it finally seems OK, but it sure was giving me a headache for months! My experience might be of help to you, and I'm wondering if anyone else has experienced this problem.

(Sorry it's such a long winded story...) Last October (2017) I received my new Fatboy. It has the thinner neck profile with a 12" radius, maple fretboard. I also ordered a 5 piece maple neck with two walnut strips. When I first received the guitar it had quite low action with an annoying amount of fret buzz across all 6 strings, up and down the neck. But, since I live in the desert, (yes, it's dry here, but no worse than in a cold climate with indoor heating) I figured it needed a settling-in period before I tweaked anything. So I gave it several weeks, but the fret buzz only got worse.

I figured this isn't rocket science, so I checked the neck relief and it was less than 0.01", which is rather flat (I don't recall what the string relief was). So, I made a slight truss adjustment (no more than 1/4 turn) until the relief was around 0.015" which eliminated most of the buzz. Put the guitar away, got it out a day later and played fine. However, after about an hour the buzzing started creeping back in. Another tweak on the truss rod cleaned it up. Put it away for a day or so. Next time I played it, the action seemed rather high, so I checked the relief and it was around 0.02". So another tweak on the truss to reduce the back bow a touch.

Next time I played it there was more fret buzz, yet the action seemed high, too. So another tweak on the truss rod. Also checked and adjusted intonation which was out slightly. There was still some fret buzz above the 12th fret, so I raised the bridge just a tad and also raised the stop tailpiece to slightly reduce string tension. Action seemed fine, about 0.012" (slightly more than 1 mm) at the 1st string, 12th fret and 0.02" (slightly less than 2mm) at the 6th string, 12th fret. I was a happy camper!

Until the next time I got the Fatboy out if its soft case a day or so later. Now there was buzzing again, plus a new and very annoying additional buzz coming from around the bridge, even when fretted at the 24th fret. Checked to make sure it wasn't string vibrating behind the bridge or behind the nut. So I loosened all the strings and pulled the bridge pickup. No loose springs or other hardware there. Next, I pulled the bridge and re-seated it on it's bearings (several of the individual bridge saddles were quite loose on their adjustment screw threads). Tightened all the strings (a new set) and the secondary buzzing was gone. But I still needed to tweak the truss again to set the relief correctly. It felt as though there was no resistance on the rod when I turned it.

Yet, I still found that every time I played the guitar for a period of time, the action would change by a minute but sufficient amount that I would have to re-tweak the truss rod. I went back and forth with this for months. I swear, I spent more time tweaking the guitar than playing it. Honestly, I was getting fed up! I've owned cheap Squires and MIM Fenders and never had any setup issues like this.

So, I contacted Sales and discussed my ongoing problem with them. They were gracious enough to take the guitar into the shop (at their shipping expense) for an evaluation this past Spring. After several weeks, I gave them a call to get a status report. At first, they indirectly implied that the setup had moved, so they took the guitar into their controlled environment for additional evaluation. After living under those stable conditions, Kiesel reported that it had not changed for them for the past several weeks (I doubt if it was being played, and certainly not as much as I would have, during that time, however). Kudo's to Kiesel for treating me well, but I'm not sure they really did anything to diagnose the problem, other than check it once and a while (What else could they do?).

In early August (after I returned from an extended vacation) I checked and was assured that my Fatboy was stable, so it was shipped back to me (again, at no expense to me). Of course, when I received it, it was back - both the guitar AND the fret buzz. I checked the neck relief and it was again set to less than 0.01" (closer to 0.005"). (I really don't understand why Kiesel would adjust their necks so flat that fret buzz is unavoidable! I can only assume that they figure everyone is shredding with so much distortion and volume that they never hear it!) Anyway, I tweaked the rod slightly (about 1/8 turn), till the relief was around 0.015", and also found it necessary to readjust the bridge height and stop tailpiece as Kiesel had reset them to factory specs (And the annoying secondary 'bridge buzz' was back, too, and had to re-seat it again...). A few days later I had to make one minor additional tweak to the rod (it still feels like it is totally loose). But, it's been several weeks now, and it seems that the guitar has settled down and not needed any further tweaking. One conclusion I have come to is that even a 1/32" rotation of the truss rod on this guitar is significant.

I think this Fatboy is a beautiful instrument, and I love it's tone, but there was more than one occasion where I was so frustrated that I felt like smashing it (well, not literally) against the floor and replacing it with a MIM Strat! I am still at a loss to understand what the problem was. Perhaps it was some amount of drying required or extra stress that was exasperated by our dry climate. We are talking about tiny amounts of change, but enough on a good instrument to be significant. Guess, I'll never know. As long as it hangs in there, I'm happy. (I know there might be small seasonal adjustments required, which is normal.) I've had four previous Carvin guitars and never has a single problem with fret buzz on any of them (I lived on the East Coast at the time) so this situation seems like, and I hope it's an anomaly.

Re: Setup Instability

Posted: Sun Sep 16, 2018 10:45 am
by Doctor Doug
Maybe it just needed to adjust to your climate for a while? Mine showed up perfect but needed a few tweakes here and there for a few months. Now they're stable and don't move.

Re: Setup Instability

Posted: Sun Sep 16, 2018 3:28 pm
by Omsong
Doctor Doug wrote:Maybe it just needed to adjust to your climate for a while? Mine showed up perfect but needed a few tweakes here and there for a few months. Now they're stable and don't move.

Guess that has to be the case. It's odd, though, as I once shipped a guitar cross country in a moving van. After it arrived (and checking to insure it was still in one piece), I left it sit in it's case for maybe 6 months before I gave it a serious play. Amazingly, it was still in tune and the setup was perfect (and it cost a fraction of my Fatboy). Go figure. :think:

Re: Setup Instability

Posted: Wed Sep 19, 2018 9:02 am
by UnexplodedCow
I had a minor adjustment on my V6 about a month after it arrived, but it's been set since (about 3 years now). It has the 5 piece maple/mahogany neck in standard thickness. Maybe the extra bit of wood contributes to stability.

My old DC135T I had to adjust seasonally, and recently gave it away to someone in need, and they had to adjust the truss a quarter turn (just live a couple hundred miles north of me, but near a great lake). After that, totally satisfied. It had a one-piece maple neck (graphite rod reinforced).

All my other Carvins have needed a small adjustment after getting them (usually from across the country), and then are fine.

One was so dry that it had a mild crack in the fretboard from the 24th to the 15th or so fret. It took about a week to get it moisturized/oiled and then it closed up on its own. Frets never lifted, so I'm not worried. Ebony boards do that sometimes.

I'm rambling....

Re: Setup Instability

Posted: Fri Oct 12, 2018 7:29 am
by Koshchei
My buckeye VM8 needed a bit of time to settle as well. This was a first for me on a Kiesel, but it's rock-solid now and hasn't required adjustments even across the seasonal variation we get up here (-40C to 40C and crazy humidity swings).

Re: Setup Instability

Posted: Fri Oct 12, 2018 9:49 am
by Omsong
Koshchei, glad your's has settled down. Mine seems to be more stable, too, after a year. About a week ago, however, the humidity jumped here and my neck relief "exploded" by almost 0.01" to close to 0.025". A very minor tweak to the truss brought it back down to to the 0.015" range.

Although it is much more stable now than it was a few months ago I still don't get it, considering it's a dense maple/walnut five piece neck WITH those two embedded graphite strips, no less. Maybe it's an inherent weakness of (its) birdseye maple fretboards ... if I set up the guitar to 'shred specs' (like the way it came from the factory), it fret buzzes all over the neck with anything more then feather light picking (rhythm strumming, forget it - it rattles like coins in a tin can). So, I set up the action as low as I can with no buzzing, but would prefer it a bit lower. It does seem that its generally possible to get lower action on a 24 3/4" scale than on a 25 1/2" scale.

EDITED: OK, so I'm going to eat a little crow here. I just spent some time playing a few guitars at the Kiesel showroom, and must say they were all knockouts. Yes, their action is set quite low and there was some fret buzz on all of them. But maybe I'm just being a wee bit anal and overly obsessive about minor buzzing!