View Full Version : 1st fret hard to press

Mike Fisher
Jul-15-2009, 8:21am
I just purchased an Eastman 815V. The first fret is hard to press on all strings. I have adjusted the bridge down to the point of string buzz. Can anyone elaborate on the three adjustments (bridge, truss rod & nut) as to the cause and effect of each.

Jul-15-2009, 9:00am
Bridge will adjust the string height over all,usually measured at the 12th fret, the truss rod is for neck relief and the nut is for the height above the first fret. You need to have someone file your nut to an acceptable height to play on the first fret.

Jul-15-2009, 9:19am
Simply put, you need a set up.

Pops is probably right, the strings are probably too high at the nut, but to get that height right, the frets need to be level, and to get things playing correctly, the neck has to be straight with appropriate relief. A good set up will assure all those things and more are correctly adjusted.

As for the adjustments you asked about, the truss rod controls the straightness of the neck. It adjusts the relief in the fingerboard so that low action is possible. The string height at the nut should be about as high as the frets above the fingerboard. Few players like it higher than "0" (the height of a zero fret), so once that is adjusted it's done until the nut wears out. The bridge height adjusts the action, or the height of the strings above the frets. That is the most useful adjustment for setting up the mandolin for an individual, along with neck relief sometimes.
But, back to my original statement; unless the neck and frets are in good shape, adjusting those three things will not result in a mandolin that plays well.

Jul-15-2009, 9:31am
When I bought an lefty Eastman 615 a few years back I had the same problem. I could not fret the E string at the 1st fret. That said, I had my repair/builder man remove all the frets in favor of a larger gauge, clean up the radius as it was a bit rough I would assume he adjusted the nut. At a later date he scooped the neck out a bit near the body. After all this I would say that my Eastman plays smoother than all the higher end mandos I have owned. Tone, that's another topic.

Jul-15-2009, 10:31am
I suspect they're supplied with high nuts on the basis that its easier to take some off than to add some on. incidentally, taking the nut down usually involves removing it and filing the bottom rather than filing the top and re-cutting the grooves. It doesn't need to be firmly glued back - just enough to stop it dropping off.

Jul-15-2009, 10:59am
Ray, it's standard operating procedure to cut the nut slots to the correct string height, then shape the nut until the slots are the correct depth.

Most, if not all, factory instruments are shipped in need of some set up, string height at the nut in particular is usually high.
It saves the company money because it's expensive to pay a good set up person to set up every instrument well, it avoids many returns because if the set up is done well and things change in shipping, buzzes can easily result. Buzzing instruments often get returned rather than adjusted. Leaving the strings high at the nut usually avoids that situation. Wooden instruments are dynamic. Things move and change with string tension, relative humidity and such. If a mandolin is well set up in China and then sent on a boat to America, there's no guarantee, and nearly no chance that it will arrive still well set up, so the factory paying someone to do good set ups is seen as wasted money.

A good retailer will set an instrument up for you when you buy it, but if you're shopping for the best price only, you can forget about buying a well set up new factory instrument. You can "pay now or pay later". Buy from a retailer who sells the instrument set up, or get the best price and pay to have it set up later.

Jul-15-2009, 11:38am
We setup all the mandolins with a fairly neutral setup so its can be dialed in by the owner to suit their preference. Each instrument is setup here in California by one of our two luthiers (40 years combined experience).
Please dont take this the wrong way but are you a beginner at mandolin? I ask because this is your first post and fretting a mandolin is much harder than if you were accustomed to playing guitar or another larger scale instrument. If you are a beginner, that's a mighty fine first mando!

Mike Fisher
Jul-15-2009, 2:34pm
I consider myself to be an intermediate player. The strings are not impossible to play but I have two other mando's that require less pressure. The nut does look a lot higher on this one than the other two I own (J.Bovier & Michael Kelly Legacy Deluxe). I am a craftsman/woodworker hobbiest. How would I remove the nut in order to sand it down slightly on the bottom?

Jul-15-2009, 3:02pm
Click here (http://www.frets.com/FRETSPages/Musician/GenSetup/NutAction/nutaction.html) and click here (http://www.frets.com/FRETSPages/Musician/GenSetup/Nuts/nuts1.html), and don't remove the nut.

Jul-17-2009, 11:44am
John, That may be standard procedure for a new nut but if its a matter of raising or lowering it a "midges" its simpler (and cheaper) to knock it off and either shave or shim it to suit - at least that's what my luthier usually does for small adjustments.

Jul-17-2009, 12:03pm
Ray, you're assuming that the slots are of even depth, and in my experience they nearly never are. If you remove material from the bottom of the nut you're left with slots that still are not of even depth, though lower, and still need to be cut to proper depth. Removing the nut always risks some damage to the instrument, either simply the finish, or in many cases when the nut is securely glued to the neck wood, splinters to larger pieces of wood can be split from the neck under the nut.
I remove nuts from instruments regularly, for various reasons, but simply lowering the slots is not usually one of those reasons.

Wendell Jeong
Jul-17-2009, 8:04pm
Click here (http://www.frets.com/FRETSPages/Musician/GenSetup/NutAction/nutaction.html) and click here (http://www.frets.com/FRETSPages/Musician/GenSetup/Nuts/nuts1.html), and don't remove the nut.

This is great info. About four years ago, I filed down the nut on my bass. When I changed strings recently, one string rattled because it was too low. I couldn't figure out why this happened. Turns out I did kind of a ###### job filing it from reading this post. Now I realize the angle I created caused the sting to wear out the slot every time I turned the peg. I ended up glueing in some monofiliament fishing line to raise the nut. Removing the nut and filing it to lower one sting doesn't make much sense to me.