Stick Maintenance

I broke my Melody D string last night.

That’s the thinnest, tiniest string on a Grand Stick with Classic 6+6 Tuning. I didn’t break it the cool way (rockin’ out to Led Zeppelin and bending too far). No. I broke it because my sweat corrodes all metal to hell and just normal tuning caused it to overtension and snap.

I usually replace the melody strings monthly and the bass strings every 3 months. They all wear at the same rate but (a) the bass strings are thicker and take longer to corrode to the breaking point and (b) because of the fifths tuning on the bass side, worn-out bass strings don’t sound as bad as worn-out melody strings.

The starting point

The starting point

Padauk Grand #5240 with a missing melody D string

Padauk Grand #5240 with a missing melody D string

Original Headstock #5240, Padauk Grand Stick

Original Headstock #5240, Padauk Grand Stick

The supernova of Stick Strings

The supernova of Stick Strings

Christa needs to teach me how to take non-flashy pictures. Stick Strings are custom extra-long guitar strings made by D’Addario (makers of the best acoustic and classical guitar strings ever) to Emmett Chapman’s specifications.

A Half-destrung Grand Stick

A Half-destrung Grand Stick

The first step was to remove the strings I was going to replace. Since this laminate hardwood resists warping (and the instrument has a through-truss rod), the little tension exerted by the strings isn’t enough to cause problems if all the strings are removed at the same time. Don’t try this with a natural-wood neck guitar, however.

A half-empty headstock and nut flap

A half-empty headstock and nut flap

And a half-empty bridge and tail

And a half-empty bridge and tail

Since I’m not changing gauges, I can leave the bridge alone. Were I to change from light to medium gauge strings, I would need to re-intone the instrument by sliding each bridge saddle up or down to accommodate the new resonant scale length. Going from medium to heavy requires changing the nut flaps and adding a larger damper on the melody side, nut end.

Empty frets

Empty frets

Where my fingers wear away the wood

Where my fingers wear away the wood

After a goof polish (notice the shiny fret rails?), I can still see where the wood’s been worn smooth by my fingers here between the 7th and 12th frets.

The belt hook

The belt hook

Now’s a good time to adjust the belt hook. I’ve noticed that to reach the areas I play the most on the Stick, I have to reach my hands down into unnatural wrist angles. To correct this, I’m going to adjust the belt hook to move the fretboard up a bit.

The adjustment screws for the belt hook

The adjustment screws for the belt hook

I started by removing the two screws holding the belt slot onto the anchor.

The Bare Anchor

The Bare Anchor

The black vertical line in the top of the shot is the through-truss rod that stabilizes the fretboard against the string tension. The silver nut just above the belt hook anchor is the truss rod relief adjustment. I’ll use it later to adjust the relief of the fretboard after the instrument is restrung.

The new position for the belt hook

The new position for the belt hook

After some trial and error, I decided I liked it best at the highest possible position so I screwed the slot back onto the anchor.

The melody C# string is on

The melody C# string is on

Stringing a Stick is just as easy as stringing an adjustable bridge electric guitar. It’s wayyy easier than stringing a fixed-bridge classical guitar.

Keep the string in the nut

Keep the string in the nut

The two things to watch out for (as with any adjustable bridge string instrument) are the nut and bridge. It took me a while when I first learned guitar to figure out how to keep my finger lightly on the string during tensioning to keep it from jumping the nut.

Bridge and tail

Bridge and tail

Since these strings are self-anchored, once you have them in the tail slots, all you need to do is guide them into the bridge saddles and onto the nut. The melody strings are easier because they sit deep into the bridge saddles. The thick bass strings have more of a tendency to jump the saddle.

Fully restrung

Fully restrung

I’ll clip the ends off after the initial tensioning.

All in the proper nut slots and sufficiently embedded in the damper

All in the proper nut slots and sufficiently embedded in the damper

All in the proper bridge saddles and tail slots

All in the proper bridge saddles and tail slots

Finished restrung instrument

Finished restrung instrument

Adjusting the truss rod relief

Adjusting the truss rod relief

The silver wrench fits over the nut to adjust the truss rod that lengthens or shortens to keep the neck in proper relief and to keep the action low.

Uniformly low action at the high end

Uniformly low action at the high end

Barely any action at all at the low end

Barely any action at all at the low end

Just how I like it – fret X (the fret at the damper) is playable on all strings and the top action is very low and easy. I’ll give the strings some time to unkink and then later today, I’ll tune them for the first time, then recheck the action and possibly readjust the truss rod. After I’m satisfied with the tuning, I’ll clip the ends off of the strings to stop it from poking me in the eye while I’m trying to play.

BTW, Christa – did you want my old Stick strings for an art or anything? Otherwise I’ll just toss them.

UPDATE:  I also lubed the seals between the volume control knobs, washers, and pickup housing – the control knobs were starting to stick and grind.

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