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Thread: Action high - but why, I cry!

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    Registered User Willi Bahrenberg's Avatar
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    Default Action high - but why, I cry!

    Hello Everyone,

    first post here, I hope I put this into the right category.

    Well, an ad for a 1999 Lebeda has caught my eye, but there is a detail that's kind of a red flag for me, because I had a bad experience with this sort of thing in the past:

    One photo shows that the bridge is set as low as it goes so the action must have gotten higher over time. In my search on the internet I've found several reports of this happening (even Weber acknowledge this on their website) but never any information on what process causes this to occur.

    Anyone with any answers?
    Also, what would be the remedy for high action? Apart from sanding down the bridge - I've done this to the Brekke-bridge of my Yellowstone (the aforementioned bad experience) - Its so tiny now, I fear if I took even more off of it, it might take damage from the string tension.

    Oh, here is the link to the ad:
    https://www.ebay-kleinanzeigen.de/s-...757106-74-2836

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    Oval holes are cool David Lewis's Avatar
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    Default Re: Action high - but why, I cry!

    It could be as simple as a truss rod adustment.
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    Registered User mandrian's Avatar
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    Default Re: Action high - but why, I cry!

    Hi,

    I would ask them what the action is just now, ie string clearance at 12th fret. If it is around 1.5mm I would not be concerned about the bridge being set low. I’ve had a three Lebedas in my time, they were good well made mandolins and of course they have a truss rod.

    Regards,

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    Registered User Willi Bahrenberg's Avatar
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    Default Re: Action high - but why, I cry!

    sure, maybe the lebeda in the pictures would benefit from some trussrod adjustment. No way to tell from afar.

    What I can tell however, is that the neck on my Weber is fine, so that doesn't answer my general question.

    But thanks for the suggestions, keep 'em coming ;-)

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    My Florida is scooped pheffernan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Action high - but why, I cry!

    Quote Originally Posted by Willi Bahrenberg View Post
    One photo shows that the bridge is set as low as it goes so the action must have gotten higher over time. In my search on the internet I've found several reports of this happening (even Weber acknowledge this on their website) but never any information on what process causes this to occur.

    Anyone with any answers?
    If I understand your question correctly, my guess would be that the top has settled or sunk a bit over time due to string pressure which simultaneously is pulling the headstock up towards the body of the instrument. That process can be combatted by dropping the bridge, but when it has bottomed out, eventually a reset neck is the only remedy.
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    Default Re: Action high - but why, I cry!

    If the weather is humid this time of the year, as it is here, the top will swell and the bridge will need to be lowered to keep the action acceptable. Mine go down quite a ways, with one near the bottom now. As winter comes and the air gets drier I will have to raise them back up. Not saying this is the problem, but between a truss rod adjustment and humidity it can have a pronounced effect.
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    Registered User Willi Bahrenberg's Avatar
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    Default Re: Action high - but why, I cry!

    Quote Originally Posted by pheffernan View Post
    If I understand your question correctly, my guess would be that the top has settled or sunk a bit over time due to string pressure which simultaneously is pulling the headstock up towards the body of the instrument. That process can be combatted by dropping the bridge, but when it has bottomed out, eventually a reset neck is the only remedy.
    I knew a mandolin top could sink, but always figured that this would cause a lower action instead of a higher one. But if the headstock gets pulled forward this would change the neck/body-angle, right? And that causes the higher action even though the neck itself is straight?

    If thats the case, I think I finally get it!

    Thanks for all the answers! - I guess instead of buying a new old mandolin I might have to invest in some maintenance for the one I already own...

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    Registered User John Bertotti's Avatar
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    Default Re: Action high - but why, I cry!

    Is there any chance you can handle it first? Why not just put a non-adjustable bridge on it and work it to the proper height. I would think that would work well as long as the neck is tight straight set up as it should be and the headstock is as it should be. Frankly if I see an instrument with a straight neck and a headstock pulling forward I'm passing on it.
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    Registered User jim simpson's Avatar
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    Default Re: Action high - but why, I cry!

    So if you have a low Lebeda, you should see a mandolin doctor! lol!
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    Registered User Ranald's Avatar
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    Default Re: Action high - but why, I cry!

    Jim, I gather from your title that your writing style was heavily influenced by Dr. Seuss.
    Robert Johnson's mother, describing blues musicians:
    "I never did have no trouble with him until he got big enough to be round with bigger boys and off from home. Then he used to follow all these harp blowers, mandoleen (sic) and guitar players."
    Lomax, Alan, The Land where The Blues Began, NY: Pantheon, 1993, p.14.

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    Registered User Ranald's Avatar
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    Default Re: Action high - but why, I cry!

    Quote Originally Posted by Ranald View Post
    Jim, I gather from your title that your writing style was heavily influenced by Dr. Seuss.
    Oops, that should have been addressed to Will.
    Robert Johnson's mother, describing blues musicians:
    "I never did have no trouble with him until he got big enough to be round with bigger boys and off from home. Then he used to follow all these harp blowers, mandoleen (sic) and guitar players."
    Lomax, Alan, The Land where The Blues Began, NY: Pantheon, 1993, p.14.

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    Default Re: Action high - but why, I cry!

    Quote Originally Posted by pheffernan View Post
    If I understand your question correctly, my guess would be that the top has settled or sunk a bit over time due to string pressure which simultaneously is pulling the headstock up towards the body of the instrument. That process can be combatted by dropping the bridge, but when it has bottomed out, eventually a reset neck is the only remedy.
    That can be true. However, more often than not, I can often dress the frets and modify the bridge to get mandolins playing again as long as the neck joint hasn't moved or the neck relief isn't excessive.

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    Kelley Mandolins Skip Kelley's Avatar
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    Default Re: Action high - but why, I cry!

    [QUOTE=Willi Bahrenberg

    One photo shows that the bridge is set as low as it goes so the action must have gotten higher over time.



    Please help me understand what you are asking. If the bridge is as low as it will go, why is there a concern for high action? If the bridge is low, the action can't be too high. If the bridge is high, there may be high action. Am I missing something?

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    Registered User Willi Bahrenberg's Avatar
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    Default Re: Action high - but why, I cry!

    Hey Skip,

    my phrasing might have been a little misleading. Sorry for that, English isn't my first language. My amateurish understanding of mandolin setup might also be a factor.

    Please let me specify: I bougth the mandolin I own right now - a Weber Yellowstone - online without the opportunity to check it out in person first.
    It was a private ad and the mandolin was 5 years old at the time.

    When it arrived, it was in a conditon where the action was way to high although the bridge was set as low as possible. There was only minimal neck relief so adjusting the truss rod wasn't really too much of an option.

    I did sand down the bridge and today it plays nicely. But when I first got it I was angry and disappointed and didn't really know what to do. It was (and still is) the most money I had spent on a single thing ever in my life.

    So now when I see a mandolin with a bridge set as low as it goes, I assume there must have been changes in string action that were dealt with by lowering the bridge.
    Here's the quote from the Weber-Website:

    "Every now and then, the action of an instrument needs to be adjusted, sometimes beyond the capability of the new bridge's range of motion. If this happens, give us a call with your current measurements and we will supply you with a new base and/or saddle"

    I've always wondered how this happens i.e. which part of the instrument shrinks, swells, sinks, bends etc. So far noone online or in person was able to provide me with a comprehensible answer.

    The explanation that pheffernan gave me - yeah, that's finally something I can wrap my head around.

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    Default Re: Action high - but why, I cry!

    Quote Originally Posted by Willi Bahrenberg View Post
    The explanation that pheffernan gave me - yeah, that's finally something I can wrap my head around.

    Except if the top sunk the bridge would need to be raised, not lowered. Sorry to put you back at square one.
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    Default Re: Action high - but why, I cry!

    As I understand it, wood doesn't shrink lengthways so I'd say nothing is shrinking. A set of Mandolin strings have around 90KG of tension, which presses the bridge downwards and pulls the headstock and tailpiece upwards. As all wood and each Mandolin is different, some give a little more than others and move out of the ideal geometry. The compromise is to make a Mandolin light enough to be resonant and heavy enough not to pull itself apart.

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    Default Re: Action high - but why, I cry!

    There are a lot of possible causes for a high action, some of which have been mentioned above. Without seeing the mandolin it can be very hard to tell what the cause is. it can be more than one thing. Here are the ones I can come up with beyond basic setup..

    Seasonal wood movement; This actually can cause high or low action depending on what is moving where. As long as it stays in a decent range it is OK. Keeping some climate control helps.
    Top deformation from a loose or broken brace.
    Neck set issues or neck block issues.

    I would be cautious about buying the instrument and would at least want a good return policy established.

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    Registered User John Bertotti's Avatar
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    Default Re: Action high - but why, I cry!

    You action is high but the neck is ok? How humid is it where you live? If you loosen the strings is the neck nice and tight?
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    Registered User Willi Bahrenberg's Avatar
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    Default Re: Action high - but why, I cry!

    Quote Originally Posted by pops1 View Post
    Except if the top sunk the bridge would need to be raised, not lowered. Sorry to put you back at square one.
    Yeah, that has always been my reasoning - and great cause of confusion to me.
    But pheffernan suggests that the sinking of the top puts more tension on the headstock thereby altering the neck's angle which would cause the action to rise. This way it makes more sense to me.
    Although I admit that mandolin physics still remain kinda arcane to me...

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    Default Re: Action high - but why, I cry!

    If the top sinks and the neck is straight, you should still be raising your bridge. Since there is a truss rod and the neck is straight, the neck joint may be suspect. Is there any gap at the heel cap, or movement as John suggested with no tension on the strings. It is hard to tell from the photos, is the action good at this point? Maybe ask for a shot of the bridge at a different angle.
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    Registered User Willi Bahrenberg's Avatar
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    Default Re: Action high - but why, I cry!

    Quote Originally Posted by John Bertotti View Post
    You action is high but the neck is ok? How humid is it where you live? If you loosen the strings is the neck nice and tight?
    From what I can tell the neck seems to be perfectly fine. And yes, the neck is a nice, tight chunk of wood. The whole thing looks and feels just right. Nothing rattles or creaks, nothing seems warped of out of proportion. That's partly what makes me so confused.

    And the climate is moderate, with noticable but not too drastic changes in temperature or humidity in the course of a year - at least comparatively.

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    Registered User Willi Bahrenberg's Avatar
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    Default Re: Action high - but why, I cry!

    and @ pops1: No heelcap gap, either. There's just nothing obviously wrong with it

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    Default Re: Action high - but why, I cry!

    Even tho your humidity is fairly stable, how does it compare to where the mandolin was made? Is it normally a higher humidity? Possibly it was made with a low neck angle, you could contact the builder.
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    Fingertips of leather Bill McCall's Avatar
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    Default Re: Action high - but why, I cry!

    You have issues with this, let it go.

    But I don't think the pictures are very enlightening as to the issues, certainly can't tell if the neck is straight. If you deducted a large amount for a repair, it should guide your bid.

    But unless its perfect and the photos are deceiving, I don't think you'd ever be happy with it.
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    My Florida is scooped pheffernan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Action high - but why, I cry!

    Quote Originally Posted by pops1 View Post
    Except if the top sunk the bridge would need to be raised, not lowered. Sorry to put you back at square one.
    My thought was the same process that I understand leads to a neck set on a guitar: rising action combatted by reducing the bridge saddle until that solution is exhausted.
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