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Guitar Setup

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Customer Reviews and Testimonials:




Daniel Pepin: 

Darius Scheider:

Dr. E C Fulcher:

Scott Lawrence:

Guitar FAQ
What is the guitar made of?
The Top Guitars bodies, necks and fingerboards are all handcrafted from premium tone woods. 
Body woods include Alder, Ash, Basswood, Mahogany, various figured Maples, and some other exotic woods. 
Neck woods include Maple, Mahogany and some other exotic woods. 
Fingerboard woods include Maple, Rosewood, Ebony, and some other exotic woods. 
How much set up and adjustment do I have to do when I get my guitar?
All you need are very basic mechanical skills. Your guitar will come 100% assembled and set up in the box. All you will have to do is tune the guitar and possibly make a truss rod adjustment using the truss rod wrench provided. 
What tools will I need in order to maintain/adjust my guitar?
You should be able to perform all adjustments with just a number 1 and 2 philips screwdriver, a flat head screwdriver, and various allen wrenches (we provide allen wrenches).
What is the difference between a fixed bridge and a tremolo bridge?
A fixed bridge has significantly fewer moveable parts compared to a tremolo bridge. 
If you want to do whammy bar tricks, then you need a tremolo bridge. 
If you want a simple guitar that is easier to maintain, then you should consider a fixed bridge. 
What scale length should I get?
The Top Guitars offers various scale lengths. You should choose your scale length based on the tuning you plan to use on your instrument. 
For guitar, you should choose a relatively shorter scale length (24.75" to 25.50") if you plan to tune your guitar to EADGBE, or something similar. 
You should choose a relatively longer scale length (25.50" and above) if you plan to down tune - for example, BEADF#B - or something similar. 
How much do your guitars weigh?
Fully assembled, our guitars weigh 6.5 lbs to 9 lbs. This varies slightly depending on the wood type, the components and the size of the body/headstock.
Why are the prices so affordable?
We build all our guitars from scratch at our own factory overseas. We sell all our guitars directly to you (the end user). This means you get factory-direct pricing because there are no 3rd party guitar manufacturers, distributors, dealers, or other middlemen between you and us. 
Why Choose The Top Guitars - Custom Guitars? 
As one of the first companies to offer affordable guitar customization, The Top Guitars has become a trusted source for custom made guitars. 
The Top Guitars was founded in 2005. Since that time, other custom guitar companies have come and gone, trying to offer the quality, customizeability and affordability of a custom made instrument. The fact that The Top Guitars - Custom Guitars has not only survived, but also grown, reflects positively about our business versus some our competitors. 
As avid guitar players ourselves, we understand the importance of playability, durability and affordability. The Top Guitars offers instruments that can be enjoyed by both first-time guitar owners and seasoned professionals, without breaking the bank. We love what we do, and we hope that is evident when you receive your The Top Guitars instrument. 
Assembled and Set Up.
Components assembly (ex: bridges, pickups, potentiometers, switches, frets, etc.), set up and quality control is done right here in Japan and China.
Higher Quality.
With all the radical designs, paint colors and custom options, the quality of a The Top Guitars instrument is often mistakenly overlooked. By offering precision setups, high-quality components and tone woods, The Top Guitars offers one of the best guitars available in this price range.
Personal Customer Support.
The Top Guitars offers email, phone and social networking options for any questions, comments, or concerns that you may have. As a company dedicated to satisfying customers, we will do what it takes to make your guitar-purchasing experience an easy one.
Ordering FAQ
How long will it take to build and ship a Production Model The Top Guitars instrument? 
We build and assemble all of our Production Model Instruments on demand - therefore, Production Model orders are fulfilled in the order in which they were received. These times can vary due to demand and inventory levels, but generally, we are able to ship Production Model Instruments within 20-25 business days of your order/payment. 
How long will it take to build and ship a Custom Shop The Top Guitars instrument, or a Semi-Custom The Top Guitars instrument?
We build all of our Custom Shop and Semi-Custom instruments from scratch and on demand - therefore, Custom Shop and Semi-Custom orders are fulfilled in the order in which they were received. These times can vary due to demand and the custom options you choose. Please allow at least 15 - 25 days after your order/payment to receive an update on the status of your Custom Shop order. Please note: this 15 - 25 day time frame does not mean you will receive your instrument within 25 days.
What credit cards do you accept? 
We accept Visa, MasterCard and Discover. 
I do not have a credit card. Can I pay another way? 
Yes, we also accept PayPal, Bill me Later, checks, and money orders. 
What is your return and warranty policy?
All The Top Guitars instruments carry a warranty against defects in materials and workmanship to the original owner from the date of purchase. If your guitar shows up with a broken or defective part, don’t sweat it! We will make it right. If for any reason you are dissatisfied with anything you have purchased from us, we want to hear about it. Tell us what the problem is and how we can fix it. Our policy is to make our customers happy.
We have a hassle free return policy and offer full refunds on the instrument as long as we receive it back in good condition.
For full Shipping and Return Policy, visit here:
Custom Shop FAQ
What kind of woods are available?
We stock the following woods: Mahogany, Alder, Ash, and Basswood. Other woods are available at an additional price because we don’t stock it, and we’d have to buy it specially for your custom shop order. 
Can you build the neck with the exact thickness and contour I want?
We handcraft all our necks so we cannot offer precise thicknesses and contours. However, we can get reasonably close to what you want if you provide us with all the specifications.
Can you build the guitar or bass with the exact string spacing I want?
Yes. The string spacing at the nut and bridge is your choice. Just let us know what you want. 
Do you offer oil finishes?
Yes. We offer tung oil finishes at an additional price. However, we do not warranty tung oil necks because they require maintainance and we cannot control how well the neck is maintained after it leaves our shop. 
Do you offer custom inlays? 
Yes. We offer custom inlays at an additional price. You just need to send us your inlay design and let us know what kind of material (abalone, mother of pearl, acrylic, etc.) and color (black, white, etc.) you want for the inlays. 
What kind of pickups can I choose? 
You can choose any brand and model pickup you want. We purchase pickups directly from EMG, Seymour Duncan, Wilkinson, and many others. 
Can I send you my pickups, bridge, or other guitar parts to use in my custom order? 
No. We do not accept customer-supplied parts in the vast majority of cases. However, if you have an exceedingly rare guitar part that we cannot purchase for you, then we might make an exception and allow you to send us the part and we'll install it in your custom guitar for you. 
Shipping FAQ
How much is shipping?
Shipping varies based on your shipping address. Orders shipped to US addresses cost $115.00 (Alaska and Hawaii, too). 
Orders shipped to Canada, Great Britain & Northern Ireland, Italy, Norway, and Greece are typically $115.00. 

What company will it be shipped with? 
We ship most US orders via USPS Standard Post (Ground) via EMS Express and SF Express. Tracking Number is provided to be able to monitor the shipment online and signature is required upon delivery to ensure safety of the package.
How long will will shipping take?
We ship all orders from Beijing, China for Custom Korean Built Guitars and California for Authorized USA Brand Guitars and Custom USA Built Guitars.
Transit times range from 7-10 business days.
The transit times are in addition to the build/assembly/set up time, which may take up to 10 business days depending on demand and inventory levels. 
Will I get shipping information?
Yes. As soon as your guitar has passed all Quality Control checks and is boxed up and shipped out, you will get an email notification a tracking number, or delivery confirmation number. 
Do you ship to Hawaii and Alaska? 
Do you ship internationally?
Customs, Duties, and Taxes 
Orders that are shipped to countries like the United States, Canada, Europe, Australia and other countries may be subject to import taxes, customs duties and fees levied by the destination country. The recipient of an international shipment may be subject to such import taxes, customs duties and fees, which are levied once a shipment reaches your country. Additional charges for customs clearance must be borne by the recipient; we have no control over these charges, but you may visit for additional information. Customs policies vary widely from country to country; you should contact your local customs office for further information. 
When customs clearance procedures are required, it can cause delays beyond our original delivery estimates.
Please contact your local customs office for further information.

Our mission is to provide you with the best possible online guitar ordering experience around.
That's why at Top Custom Guitars, our professional guitar technicians inspect each instrument by hand, then perform a full, precision setup so your guitar or bass is ready to play the moment you take it out of the box. 
If your new Top Guitars instrument's playability is compromised in any way, then the neck might just need a simple truss rod adjustment to correct any problems. Guitar necks are crafted from wood, and they will sometimes shift during shipping and as the temperature/humidy/elevation changes. 
Top Guitars Factory Setup:
- Truss rod adjustment to keep the neck straight and playing in tune
- Action adjustments at the nut and bridge for effortless fretting and chording, and better intonation
- Pickup height adjustments for optimal signal output
- Intonation adjustments to make the guitar play in tune all across the neck
- Frets are leveled and crowned (rounded) to eliminate any buzz or dead spots
- Frets are polished for smooth string bending
- Tremolo Systems are set to float in optimal position
- Fingerboards are oiled for protection and to bring out the rich, natural woodgrains



We don't believe in shortcuts.

That's why we use only the highest quality parts and woods

Our Woods

We offer 12 types of woods for the bodies, necks, and fretboards, and this selection is at the crux of the company’s sustainability efforts. All of our tone wood is 100% legally harvested and sourced in a sustainable manner. Many of our woods originate in the Japan and South Korea.

 Other Components:

The quality of a guitar is truly a sum of its parts.  For this reason, we use only the finest materials and components available.  From our handwound pickups, to the silver-plated PTFE coated wire and our military grade CTS potentiometers, no corners are cut.

A guitar setup is an essential prerequisite when it comes to getting the most out of your instrument. A factory setup guitar is likely to have general playability issues and intonation problems, which can make playing the guitar impossible since it is always out of tune. Having your instrument set up involves adjusting the hardware of a guitar and fine tuning the instrument so that these obstacles are removed. To complete a basic setup you will need to adjust the neck, string height and saddle position. Tools Required for Electric Guitar Setup: 1) Allen Key 2) Screwdrivers 3) String Cutters 4) Straight Edge 5) Feeler Gauges 5) Ruler 6) Capo 7) Guitar Tuner


Step One - Neck Adjustment

Tools required:
  • Allen Key (or sometimes a screwdriver or nut driver)
  • Straight Edge
  • Capo The first step of any guitar Setup will always be to check whether the neck is straight or not. If the neck is not straight, then it will need to be adjusted via the truss rod. The truss rod is a rod of metal running through the centre of the neck and tightening or loosening this rod will determine the bow of the neck. What this means is that you can manually flex the rod in either direction in order to achieve a straight neck. The truss rod is usually adjusted from the top of the neck - where the headstock meets the neck. Some models may be adjusted from the base of the neck, meaning that you will have to remove the neck in order to make your adjustments. Checking the bow of the neck: Version 1: If you have a Straight Edge, you can place this along the neck. Version 2: Place a Capo on fret 1 then press the string on fret 17. At this point, If you have them use your feeler gauges to measure the gap between the string and the fret at fret 8. If you do not have these then you can try to use a ruler or your best guess. The gap should be approximately 0.10inches or 0.25mm between the string and the top of the 8th fret. If the gap is less than 0.25mm you will need to loosen the truss rod by turning it counter-clockwise. If the gap is more than 0.25mm you will need to tighten the truss rod by turning it clockwise. Tip: Loosen the rod a little bit first. When making adjustments make small turns - up to one quarter turns maximum at a time. Always use caution when adjusting the truss rod! If you have difficulty or notice stiffness when making your adjustments, you may be better off taking it to a professional luthier instead of risking damage to your instrument by forcing the truss rod. Result: The result of your actions should be a setup neck, straight with no curve or bow along its length. It is incredibly important to get this right early on as if you need to adjust it again later then you will have to repeat all the steps that follow this.

    Step Two - String Height

    Tools Required:
  • Ruler
  • Screwdrivers
  • Allen Key Now that you have set your neck straight, you will want to check your string height. It is important that you set your string height correctly now, as any changes made at the end of the step up will require you to correct the tone a second time. To setup the string height you will place a Capo on fret 1 and then use the Ruler to measure the gap between the strings and the frets at fret 12. You may use your personal preference when setting string height, however there is an widely accepted measurement of 1.2mm-1.6mm gap from the fret to the string. Adjusting the string height is done via the saddles on a Fender style guitar bridge or by adjusting the entire bridge on a Gibson style bridge.

    Step Three - Intonation

    Tools Required:
  • Screwdriver
  • Guitar Tuner The final step of setting up an electric guitar is adjusting the intonation. This entails changing the length of each individual string by moving the saddles on the guitar bridge backwards or forwards. The aim is to make the a harmonic at fret 12. I.e. the note will be the exact same pitch as when the string is played open (but an octave higher). Plug in your guitar tuner and tune the instrument so that it is at the correct pitch when played open. Once done: Play the low E string open and then fretted at fret 12. - If the note is flat you will need to move the saddle forward towards the neck, shortening the string. - If the note is sharp you will need to move the saddle backward away from the neck, so that the string is lengthened. On a Fender style bridge, the screws to adjust the saddles are at the back of the bridge. On a Gibson style bridge, the screws to adjust the saddles are accessed from the front of the bridge beneath the strings. Once the length of your strings have been adjusted, the notes played at the 12th Fret and the notes played unfretted ought to be the same. I.e. an E string played open is also an E note when the same string is played with the 12th fret depressed. At this stage you can give yourself a pat on the back as you will have successfully completed all the steps required for a basic guitar setup. When it comes to setting up an instrument you can gain a gain sense of satisfaction from undertaking your own setup, but if you do run into difficulties then always take it to a professional. See the following additional suggestions for a more advanced/comprehensive guitar setup.

    Optional Steps

  • Pickup Height Adjustment
  • Nut Height Adjustment


Setting Up A New Or Used Electric Guitar

So you've gone out and bought yourself a new guitar. Okay maybe it's not new in the sense that it's straight from the factory, but it's new to you isn't it? Maybe you bought if offline and haven't played it yet. Maybe you liked the feel of the neck and the body in your hands but it probably just isn't quite perfect in one way or another. New guitars sometimes have loose tuners, snagging nuts, high action. Used guitars sometimes have rusty hardware, a dirty finish, and the previously noted brand new guitar problems. Here are a few basic things you can do entirely on your own (with a little knowledge to be provided here) to ensure you get your guitar in the best shape possible.

1) Cleaning The Finish: (If you're guitar is brand new you can skip this part) Everyone wonders what materials they should use to clean their guitar's finish. Here are the basic things you'll need.

Cotton Cloths: Most fabrics are too coarse for delicate guitar finishes. 100% cotton is the safest thing you can use on your guitar. If you don't have any old cotton t-shirts lying around you can always go out and buy the material at a fabric store. If you do have old t-shirts avoid anything but solid plain colored t's. Sometimes the material used to print graphics onto t's can scratch your guitar.

Naptha (Lighter fluid): This is an excellent way to remove grease and built up dirt on basically every part of the guitar. It's safe on the finish, the fingerboard, the bridge, etc. Naptha will probably leave haze on the guitar, but a wipe with a dry rag or the use of a polishing compound will get this out later.

Polish: Any polishing compound packaged and sold by guitar companies and intended for use on guitars will due. Beware however, as some guitar companies make polish not safe for use on vintage guitar finishes which aren't lacquer like most modern guitars. After using the lighter fluid a bit of this will bring the guitar back into shine.

Swirl Remover: Once again any swirl remover will due. This removes any potential swirls (go figure) that could be left on your guitar from the previous cleaning materials. This is where that mirror finish comes out!

Steel Wool #0000: Steel Wool is a great way to shine up those frets and clean out the dirt that gathers on either side of the frets. Pinch a bit between your fingers over each fret and give it a few rubs. The dirt around the fret should be easily removed and the fret should shine right up! Can be found at your local hardware store in the paint section.

Lemon oil: A lot of people have different ideas about what lemon oil is and how it is used. Some use it to clean guitar finishes, others claim it can ruin your finish by seeping below it and into the wood deadening your guitars natural tone. Whatever the case may be, I feel Lemon oil is best used to keep Rosewood and Ebony fretboards from drying and being damaged. Use a bit of this on your fretboard and let it sit for about 5 minutes. Your fretboard will be kept nice and healthy and will look great as well!

Now that you've cleaned your guitar up you'll probably want to swap out the strings already on it for your preferred gauge and brand. Here are a few things you should do while swapping out those strings and after you do so.

2) Check those tuners Loose tuners are never good. If the screws seem loose on the back of the headstock tighten them up a bit. Don't torque them too hard as you could strip the head of the screw trying to get them out later. Just get them snug enough to stay in place. Also check the nuts on the face of the headstock around the shaft of the tuner. They probably won't seem loose with the strings on and tuned to pitch, but this is because of the pressure of the string preventing the shaft from rocking in place and revealing the loose nut.

3) Put on those strings correctly! Poorly installed strings can lead to tuning issues which are always a bother. I recommend sending the string through the tuner hole from the inside of the headstock to the outside, wrapping it back towards the inside of the headstock under the string portion passed through the hole, then bending the string over itself. Hold this in place while using a string winder tool to tighten the string. If done correctly the string will literally lock itself into place due to the pressure of the string on the little hook you have made when passing the string over itself in that last step. If you are having difficulty understanding this do a google search and you should come up with a detailed description of this method somewhere. Also keep in mind the angle of the string from the nut to the tuner does affect tuning stability. Too steep of an angle could cause the string to snag in the nut, and too shallow of an angle could cause the string to pop out of the nut.

4) Now tune up those strings and listen carefully... Do you hear any creaking sounds? If so this is probably the string getting caught in the nut. Most factory cut nuts are cut for gauge 09-42 strings. Since many people don't use these strings, the heavier strings people commonly use get caught in the nut. The easiest way to resolve this issue is by putting some graphite in the nut slots. Graphite is a lubricant which won't corrode the strings and will prevent nut snag. What type? Well if you can make a run to the hardware store and get some lock de-icer in the lock section that is my preferred graphite product. This is nothing more than liquid graphite. Pour some of this into the slots of your nut and let it soak into it's pores. Another less effective method is to take a pencil and color in the inside of the nut slots.

Now for the crucial part...

5) Setting the action: Trust rod and bridge adjustments. First things first. Play every single note on that fretboard to check for buzzing. If you have some and would like to work it out or your action is not satisfactory then you may proceed. If the action is set well and your fretboard doesn't have any major buzzing problems leave it be. Truss rod: The truss rod is a steel rod extending from one end of your neck to the other inside of the neck itself. It's purpose is simple. To counteract the pull of the strings on the headstock. Without the truss rod the neck would warp very easily and could potentially snap if placed under enough pressure. You adjust the truss rod by first locating the nut used to adjust it. On many guitars it is found right above the string nut on the headstock. Sometimes it is hid under a plate held in by a couple screws. Once you locate it you will need an allen key of a particular size to adjust it. Using a set of allen keys, either SAE (Standard of American Engineers) or metric, find a key which fits snuggly in that nut. Now that you know which one to use set it aside.

(Tune your guitar to pitch. It must be in tune to work out truss rod issues)

First we have to check to see if the rod needs adjustment in first place. Place a Capo on the first fret of the guitar and fret the last fret on the guitars fretboard as well. Then use either a feeler gauge or another preferred measuring tool check to see the string distance away from the 7th fret. If it is between .01mm and .03mm you should be good. If it is higher you need to make a 1/4 turn on your truss rod clock wise. This tightens the truss rod and puts more tension on the neck to counter the string pull. If it is lower you need to make a 1/4 turn counter-clock wise. This loosens the truss rod and puts more relief on the neck. After making a single 1/4 adjustment allow the guitar to sit for a while. Maybe ten minutes. Then come back, tune your guitar to pitch and remeasure. Repeat these steps until the distance from the 7th fret to the string while fretting the first and last fret is between .01mm and .03mm. Once this is done your neck is properly adjusted.

Bridge adjustments: Now that you have set your truss rod here is where the actual action setting begins. While the truss rod does play a role in setting the action the bridge is where the real work gets done. First replay all those notes on the fretboard again. If there is no buzzing great! You can now begin to either lower or heighten the bridge saddles or bridge itself to change the string height or "action." On a tune-o-matic bridge you do this by raising or lowering the poles found on either end of the bridge by using a flat head screw driver (or an allen key for some units). On a fender style bridge or a different tremolo system you use an allen key to adjust the individual saddles and set the individual string height. Here it is mostly about preference. Just remember to make small adjustments, re tune, check for buzzing, and then continue making modifications.

Great now you're done! If you follow the advice here and take your time you will surely have made a positive improvement to your axe. I hope this is useful to the audience and I hope I haven't overlapped any other articles on here. I simply aimed to make a single article detailing a simple set up of a newly purchased axe. Enjoy!

Darius Scheider

Custom Shop Marcus Miller Bass

Dr. E C Fulcher

Ordered 15 Personalized Guitars

Dr. E C Fulcher - Ordered 15 Personalized... by thetopguitar

"I have purchased 15 personalized guitars from the top guitar custom shop. All the guitars have met or exceeded my expectations. Great workmanship and quality work. An exceptional group of people to work with. They are ready to answer your questions or concerns. The one time i had a concern about a guitar they responded immediately and handled the situation more than i expected. I highly recommend this company!" Dr E C Fulcher Jr - Abingdon, Maryland USA.

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