13 November 2013

Guitars: typical measures equivalents with handy objects


This article was already published in my old Spanish version of this blog. I am picking it up because it complementes my previous article.

In the previous article (http://hermeticoguitar.blogspot.com.es/2013/11/guitars-please-lend-me-your-card-and.html) we discussed the steps and handy-objects that can be used as tools to do a basic guitar setup.

Since, early electric guitars were manufactured in USA, maker's meassures are always given in inches or fractions of inches (1/16", 3/31", 5/64", etc.).
Asian makers are usually manufacturing using milimeters.

So, there is often the need to translate units from one to the other side.
At the end, to properly measure you will need to use quality rules or gauges but, could be use some well know and handy objects to do our measurements?.

Yes. We can. As soon as we measure first the thickness of common objects we have a way to simplify everything together.

We are going to use money for everything better than to buy an instrument: to setup it!.
Stay reading...

Long life to Euro!

One day, I was using a caliber to measure the thickness of the several Euro coins (but, you could even find those measures in some official page, for any coin).
Most of thickness are really close the measures usually handled with guitar makers for their setups and, therefore, combining some coins we can measure and adjust practically everything in an axe.
Interesting, right?.

These are the thickness of the several Euro coins:

2 Euros = 2,2 mm
1 Euro = 2,32 mm
50 cts = 2,38 mm
20 cts = 2,14 mm
10 cts = 1,93 mm
1/2/5 cts = 1,67 mm

You can check your own coins to stablish a direct relationship between typical measures and one or more coins.

Typical measures used in guitar setups

Pickups heights

Depending on pickup class, output range and magnets strength, recommended pickups high varies but, heights are mostly determined with very few values.

By example, Dimarzio recommends following clearance from pickup poles to string:
First measure is for low string (6th) and second for treble string (1st).

Low output pickups (rails or AlNiCo II, III magnets and alike):

Normal setup
Neck & Middle: 2.4 mm /  1.6 mm
Bridge: 1.6 mm /  1.2 mm

Open setup (weaker but clearer)
Neck & Middle: 3.2 mm / 2.4 mm
Bridge: 2.4 mm / 2.0 mm

High output pickups, humbuckers and AlNiCo V, IV, VIII and alike

Normal setup
Neck & Middle: 3.2 mm / 2.4 mm
Bridge: 2.4 mm / 1.6 mm

Open setup
Neck & Middle: 4.0 mm / 3.2 mm
Bridge: 3.2 mm / 2.4 mm

Some makers also give some specific measures.

Gibson recommends following pickup heights for their humbuckers:
Neck: 3/32" (2,38 mm) both sides
Bridge 1/16" (1,59 mm) both sides

Fender recommends different heights, depending on type of pickup:
4/64" = 1,6 mm
1/8" = 3,2 mm
1/16" = 1,6 mm
3/32" = 2,38 mm (2,4 mm)
5/64" = 1,98 mm (2.0 mm)

So, in fact, measures are usually between 3/64" and 10/64":

1,2 mm (3/64")
1,6 mm (4/64" = 2/32" = 1/16")
2,0 mm (5/64")
2,4 mm (6/64" = 3/32")
3,2 mm (8/64" = 4/32" = 2/16")
4,0 mm (10/64" = 5/32")

And here is where we can use the closer Euro coins to measure those gaps:

3/64" --> 1 / 2 or 5 cts. coin (closer)
4/64" --> 1 / 2 or 5 cts. coin
5/64" --> 10 cts coin
6/64" --> 50 cts coin
7/64" -->  50 cts coin (closer)
8/64" --> 2 coins of 1 / 2 or 5 cts
9/64" --> 2 coins of 10 cts (closer)
10/64" --> 2 coins of 10 cts

So, with a couple of coins of 5 cts, a couple of coins of 10 cts and a coin of 50 cts. we can cover any pickup height.

Quick pickup adjustment trick.

If you don't know recommended height or you are in a hurry, following procedure will give you usable sounds with humbuckers and single coils:

A 50 cts. coin in both sides of Neck pickup.
A 5 cts. coin on both sides of Bridge pickup.

Single Coils:
Two coins of 5 cts. on Neck' sixth and, one coin of 50 cts on Neck's first.
One coin of 50 cts on Middle' sixth and, one coin of 10 cts on Middle's first.
One coin of 10 cts on Brigde' sixth and, one coin of 5 cts on Bridge's first.

From there, you should probably have to low a tad the pickups (1/4 of turn to each side each time).
Seems stupid, right?. Just check it!.


  1. Put the coin (or coins) between pickup's pole and the bottom of the string with guitar in a horizontal position.
  2. Push the string on the last fret.
  3. Raise the pickup side until the coin gets trapped between the pole and the string.
  4. Put the guitar in a vertical position (as if you were to play).
  5. Lower the pickup side, step by step, until you notice the coin moving or falling down to floor
  6. You are done!

My card has not credit but, still useful!

With coins we can measure gaps greater or equal to 1,67 mm but, there are some other adjustments that need inferior measures as, by example neck's curvature.
Depending on the maker, heights are in values between 0.008" (0,2 mm) and 0.014" (0.36 mm).

You can do a quick check and setup just with a credit card or any other plastic card, as explained in previous article. Just leave a clearance enough to make the credit card to slightly lift the string.

OMG, I can reuse my broken strings!

Don't throw your used strings!, wait a momment?.

Which are the gauges of strings? they are between 0.008" to 0.054" and, even greater values.
Probably, one or more of your strings can be used to measure some gaps.
You just need to attach those strings to any piece of wood or cardobard and, you have some gauge there!.


With that tedious coins that are only adding weight to your purse and, that you never see the oportunity to pay with them and, some old plastic card and your used strings, you have a lot of measurement tools to do your basic setup without the need of expensive tools.

Do you like it?

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