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Shims just say no!


Twincam

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Thought i would just say this.

As a bit sick of seeing shims of various materials in neck pockets that really don't need them. And taking them out and finding the bass or guitar sets up better for it. Most of the time shims are thrown in without good reason. 

 

A neck shim is only needed for 2 reasons. To correct a neck pocket that has been cut wrong. To shallow or wrong angle. Which is rare these days.

Or if the bridge saddles are on the bridge deck and can't be lowered anymore. And even then in my opinion it's better to shave the saddles. If the neck is at the correct angle. 

 

Shims will not help with the following. A ski jump at the end of the neck. Un level frets. String height, unless as stated above the bridge saddles can not be lowered further. Or any sort of buzzing from the strings.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I had a Wal mkI custom a few years back that required a neck shim in order to increase the string break angle, as strings used to regularly/easily jump out of the saddle grooves. So even the alleged “best” makers can produce basses that still require a shim. 

Edited by Deedee
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5 minutes ago, neepheid said:

Seeing as we're offering opinions here, In my opinion I think you're daft to "shave" the saddles instead of using a shim - non-destructive always trumps destructive as far as I'm concerned.

 

 

Well yes and no. It depends on the saddle type. Because often your just taking material off the underside. Of course certain bridges you can't do that, it would be a no no on a classic fender type. 

Shims alter the neck angle and despite raising the saddle heights, something changes, in relation to the string to neck angle. Even though simple science suggests it doesn't. It must do something. In 10 years of setting up guitars and 6 of those people paying me I've seen this time and time again. I can't explain it though. 

 

Another thing is the increased distance from strings to body could effect someone's playing ergonomics. That's an extreme case I suppose. 

 

 

 

 

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3 minutes ago, Deedee said:

I had a Wal mkI custom a few years back that required a neck shim in order to increase the string break angle, as strings used to regularly/easily jump out of the saddle grooves. So there 😂

 

Surely the saddle groves should of been slightly deepened and polished. Seems like a bad design.

 

But yeah fair enough haha 😄 

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5 minutes ago, Twincam said:

 

Surely the saddle groves should of been slightly deepened and polished. Seems like a bad design.

 

But yeah fair enough haha 😄 


That’s my point. Shims are simply another tool in the vast armoury of methods to overcome setup/manufacturing issues,

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I prefer to file down the groove in the saddle normally. I like an action so low that often it’s too high on the G with the saddle on the floor (especially on neck thru basses with ‘high mass’ bridges). Shims aren’t an option on those and with bolt on basses I don’t like the look of the fretboard not being parallel with the body along the section where it’s level with the body. On modern basses saddles are easy to replace and on a vintage one I buy new saddles to file. Although 99% of the time it’s an invisible mod. Also it’s more accurate as you can file slightly more than you need using abrasive cord and then use the saddles to perfect the action. 

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I have a Vigier Excess that had a shim inserted in 2016 for the same reason. I got the bass in 2004 and while I really liked it, I always like something with it wasn't quite right. The neck was either installed or had been adjusted (or had moved in transit) at a very slightly 'wrong' angle, so the action was a bit 'spongy' in the upper frets even when the bridge saddles were at the lowest setting. Owing to the lack of truss rod, I couldn't adjust a truss rod to compensate as the neck is almost dead straight. My tech installed a shim and it made a massive positive difference and much easier than having to try and file bridge saddles. I just wish I had done it sooner. 

That is the only instrument I have ever had to shim. 

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I've got a CS p bass that was transformed by a shim , it worked fine but just felt it was a bit lacking somehow ,the shim allowed the saddles to come up increasing the break angle over the bridge and POW it now sounds killer

As predominantly a double bass player I think that break angle is often overlooked on bass guitars

Edited by spencer.b
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There are some basses - Fender Precision Lyte immediately springs to mind - that have a grub screw in the neck plate that gives an adjustable tilt angle feature built in.  Always struck me as a nice idea.  Certainly with my clumsy hands, agricultural playing style and knackered ears I have never noticed any issues with shimmed necks, and I've had a few.:D

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I've been setting up instruments for more than 35 years including a decade as a professional, so it means thousands of instruments, and sometimes a shim is needed for two main reasons :

- The neck tilting, as there must be one to allow some dynamic.

- The break angle at the saddle, as there must be one otherwise there won't be enough pressure meaning the string will get out of the slot very easily and the string will sound almost dead or really dampened.

 

If these two points are met, no need for a shim, just remove it and set up the instrument perfectly.

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I always thought shims were to fine tune neck angle compared to body - not to lower action...   there is though differing level of craftsmanship in basses - and something cheap and mass produced might need a shim, cos it's relatively cheap and mass produced... whereas I doubt the  one bolt neck on a Freedom custom guitar research Rhino bass would ever need one! 

@Twincam - how do you feel neck micro tilt features like you find on 70's Fender and Musicman and G&L ? 

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49 minutes ago, LukeFRC said:

I always thought shims were to fine tune neck angle compared to body - not to lower action...   there is though differing level of craftsmanship in basses - and something cheap and mass produced might need a shim, cos it's relatively cheap and mass produced... whereas I doubt the  one bolt neck on a Freedom custom guitar research Rhino bass would ever need one! 

@Twincam - how do you feel neck micro tilt features like you find on 70's Fender and Musicman and G&L ? 

 

I think they were there because vintage instruments of certain periods just didn't have good neck pockets.

Which would be a valid reason for having a shim or micro tilt feature. 

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2 little bits of sandpaper in the neck socket pocket are the reason my cheap Cruiser jazz is usable, it's got all the problems without that.
Fixing it properly would mean somehow removing the uneven paint/lacquer out of the pocket, filling/re-drilling the holes in both the neck and the body and likely still putting in a shim to brace the neck which creeps upwards until the E string no longer touches the neck past fret 12.

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1 hour ago, Hellzero said:

I've been setting up instruments for more than 35 years including a decade as a professional, so it means thousands of instruments, and sometimes a shim is needed for two main reasons :

- The neck tilting, as there must be one to allow some dynamic.

- The break angle at the saddle, as there must be one otherwise there won't be enough pressure meaning the string will get out of the slot very easily and the string will sound almost dead or really dampened.

 

If these two points are met, no need for a shim, just remove it and set up the instrument perfectly.

 

I'm not sure I follow on the tilt for dynamics? There's through neck basses that have level fretboards with the body. I'm keen to hear your thoughts. As this kind of thing interests me.

 

The break angle annoys me as there should be sufficient angle in the design in the first place and the neck pocket wasn't correct in first place or has a poor bridge placement/design. Of course if putting a bass together from parts or bits from other makes then shims are going to help there. 

 

It's just that most of the time people put them in for no good reason. And that's my issue. 

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Just now, Hellzero said:

I understood that, no worries, I've done the same a lot.

 

2 shims removed from a bass the other day. Little plastic one and on top a bands card! Don't know why they were there, neck has perfect angle I would say. Strings contact the bridge well and sit in the saddle perfectly. The saddles have plenty of adjustment there, setup was better by 0.1 mil haha. But it made me feel better. 

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