30. Determine the string location, then mark a
pilot hole for the screw. 31. Use a stand-off to
set the string tree height. If the slots are cut correctly,
you only need to apply gentle downward
pressure on the strings.
Add String Trees
Once the guitar is strung and the nut is
slotted, it’s time to install the string trees.
- Suspend the string tree over its corresponding
pair of strings to determine
where you want to position it (Photo
30). Typically, it’s midway between the
tuner post and the nut.
- With a sharp-tipped tool, mark a pilot
hole, countersink it, and drill the screw
hole. Follow the procedures you used
for drilling holes for the tuner mounting
screws. Remember to measure
screw depth and mark your drill bit so
you don’t go too far into the headstock.
- Set string tree height. String trees only
need to apply enough downward pressure
to keep the high strings firmly in
their slots as they stretch back toward
the tuners. Stand-offs—washer-like
cylinders that fit between the tree and
the headstock—of different heights
allow you to precisely adjust a tree’s
downward pressure. To get the height
I wanted, I clipped a brass ball-end
from a bass string in half and use this
as a stand-off (Photo 31).
Tip: Some necks require a pair of string
trees—one on strings 1 and 2, and a
second on strings 3 and 4—to keep
the strings from buzzing in their slots.
Other necks only need a tree on the top
two strings. A sitar-like buzz or lack of
sustain when you play an open string
can indicate the need for a string tree.
32. Adjust pickup height to maintain a good balance between the neck, middle, and bridge settings.
Because a baritone has thicker bass strings than a regular guitar, you may wind up with a larger gap between
lower strings and the pickups than you’re used to. 33. When adjusting intonation, always slacken
a string before moving its saddle forward or backward. You don’t want to fight string tension with your
screwdriver—it’s bad for the hardware and you risk slipping off the screw and nicking your guitar’s finish.
With the neck, tuners, nut, and string trees
installed, it’s time to make the final adjustments
and fine-tune the guitar’s playability.
Here’s the correct order for a setup:
- Tune to pitch. In this case, the owner’s
preferred baritone tuning is B–E–A–
D–F#–B, low to high.
- Adjust the truss rod, if necessary. After
the strings have been tuned to pitch
for a while, a truss rod may require
one more adjustment.
- Adjust the height of the bridge
saddles. Set the action based on the
guitar’s original measurements, while
taking into account the new, heavier
baritone strings. The saddles should
curve in an arc that mirrors the fretboard
- Adjust the action at the string nut.
You may have gotten it just right when
you cut the nut slots, but it’s worth
checking again. Sometimes a stroke or
two with the nut file can settle a string
in a perfect arc with its neighbors.
- Adjust pickup height (Photo 32). It’s
imperative that the pickups are set to
the correct height. Well-adjusted pickups
deliver a consistent volume as you
switch between pickup positions.
Tip: When you raise pickups too close
to the strings—especially Fender-style
single-coils with barrel-magnet pole
pieces—the magnetic pull can interfere
with a string’s vibrations and cause tuning
problems. For vintage-style Tele pickups,
Fender recommends a 6/64" space
between the 6th string and its pole piece,
and a 5/64" gap for the 1st string. Use
this as a starting point, and then finetune
the distance by ear.
- Adjust intonation (Photo 33).
This final part of the setup process
involves moving the saddles either
toward or away from the neck. With
an electronic tuner, bring each string
to pitch. Starting with the 1st string,
play the 12th-fret harmonic and then
fret the same note. If the fretted note
is sharp, move the saddle away from
the neck. Conversely, if the fretted
note is flat, move the saddle toward
the neck. Make small adjustments
and retune each time you do. Repeat
this process until the 12th-fret harmonics
and fretted notes match on
all six strings.
Tip: Many Tele fanatics insist that,
although a vintage 3-saddle bridge doesn’t
intonate as well as a fully adjustable
6-saddle version, the vintage design offers
more volume and sonic girth. To intonate
a 3-saddle bridge, the trick is to find the
saddle location that offers the best compromise
for each pair of strings. For even better results, you can buy pre-compensated
brass saddles that make it much easier
to intonate a 3-saddle Tele bridge.
Out the Door
Compared to other baritone conversions I’ve done in the past, this one was hassle-free.
Kudos to Warmoth—they built an excellent neck for this conversion and made my
job easy. I was able to avoid any dreaded irreversible modifications, and the owner was
thrilled with his new, deep-twanging baritone Tele.