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So, you’re thinking about setting up your own guitar. Or maybe you’re even looking at becoming a professional guitar tech/luthier.
One thing you’ll certainly want to learn is how to adjust string height. This can be a little complicated and difficult to pin down, especially if you don’t have access to the right tools.
One such tool is a guitar string height gauge. It takes a lot of the guesswork out of adjusting your guitar’s action by giving you measurement markings.
In this guide, we’ll be looking at the best guitar string height gauges.
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FretGuru String Action Gauge Guitar Ruler
The FretGuru string action gauge comes with laser etched number increments in .010” and .005” line increments. This means the markings shouldn’t wear or rub off.
This bit of kit is designed to help you measure fret height/fret wear and nut slot height in addition to string height. This can assist with knowing when to dress or replace frets, as well as further changes that may need to be made to the guitar’s action.
If I were to bottom line it, though the FretGuru costs a little more than the alternatives, it helps with all aspects of your guitar’s action and is built to last.
Many users said this tool helped them achieve professional results. Some felt it was a little expensive, however, and noted that it did not come with sufficient documentation on how to use.
If you know what you’re doing, though, you’ll probably appreciate this baby.
Item weight: 1.58 ounces
Package dimensions: 3.5 x 2.5 x 0.4 inches
Activists Guitar Luthier Tools 9 Understring Radius Gauge
This isn’t just a string gauge. It’s an entire tool set. But we thought it would be worth highlighting, since it’s a great deal.
The Activists tools set comes with nine understring radius gauge, 32 blades steel feeler gauge dual, one string action gauge rule, two fingerboard guards, and one grinding stone in a velvet bag.
Users liked the product as well as its price point.
But some complained that the edges were sharp on the tools, and others even said they were kind of roughly finished.
Activists seem to have some issues with quality control, but if you’re looking for bang for buck, this is a solid all-purpose DIY tool kit.
Item weight: 8 ounces
Package dimensions: 4.9 x 3.2 x 1.2 inches
Jim Dunlop DGT04 Action Gauge System 65 Guitar Tools
Jim Dunlop hardly needs an introduction, and in the world of guitar accessories, they are a well-known, trusted, reliable brand.
Here we have the Jim Dunlop DGT04 actions gauge system. This tool allows for precise measurement for guitar action setup.
Some buyers said this was the best product they’ve ever seen, noting its build quality as well as its usability. Its price is also moderate.
Negative reviews for the gauge were few and far between. There was one buyer who said the measurements on the long edge weren’t completely accurate. We cannot confirm or deny this criticism.
Item weight: 5.6 ounces
Package dimensions: 72 x 72 x 60 inches
TIMESETL Feeler Gauge Imperial And Metric 32 Blade + Action Ruler
The TIMESTL gauge and ruler allows for both imperial and metric measurements. They’ve been designed with stainless steel and are durable and anti-rust.
Overall, this is an affordable set of tools, and most users echoed this sentiment.
But apparently, it’s not without its issues. Some buyers said the product showed up at their door covered in oil (apparently, the oil protects the tools from rusting, though). Others said the feeler gauge was great, but the string measuring tool proved less useful.
It doesn’t sound like it’s all upsides with the TIMESETL, but it’s an affordable bundle and it might be just right for some.
Item weight: 5 ounces
Package dimensions: 8.27 x 2.05 x 0.59 inches
Baroque String Action Ruler Gauge
The Baroque string action ruler gauge is supposedly military quality – laser etched, precise calibration, and made of stainless steel for durability.
This tool includes data for electric guitar, acoustic guitar, and bass, which should prove useful if you’re adjusting a variety of guitars. Manufacturer claims it can even work for ukulele, banjo, mandolin, and other stringed instruments.
With the Baroque, you can measure string distance, bridge saddle height and depth, fret groove depth, and string distance for electric guitar pickups.
Many users confirmed this was a great tool for all stringed instruments and said it worked well.
Others thought the gauge was sturdy as well but found the measurements difficult to read.
Item weight: 1.06 ounces
Package dimensions: 3.54 x 1.97 x 0.08 inches
AZMUSIC Premium String Action Gauge
The AZMUSIC premium string action gauge helps you set up your instrument with precision. It has precision etched markings and is made of stainless steel. It comes with a decimal and metric conversion chart as well.
Many buyers said this gauge helped them set up their guitar like a pro. They liked the asking price too.
Unfortunately, other reviewers found the edges to be sharp, and also noted that the markings eventually faded after regular use.
Item weight: 0.32 ounces
Package dimensions: 4 x 0.2 x 2.4 inches
Forever-Direct String Action Gauge Ruler, Guitar Set Up Tool Kit
The Forever-Direct string action gauge ruler is made of stainless steel. The gauge includes a scale for string height, ridge saddle slot depth, nut pieces, and pole pieces.
The pocket-size gauge includes a conversion chart for string action at the 12th fret and works for electric guitar, bass, acoustic guitar, banjo, and other instruments too.
Users found this gauge easy to use and thought it was well-made to boot.
Item weight: 1.12 ounces
Package dimensions: 3.5 x 2 x 0.4 inches
Pixnor String Action Ruler Gauge Tool For Guitar Bass
The Pixnor string action ruler gauge is made of stainless steel and can be used for electric guitar, bass, and acoustic guitar.
It’s designed to handle string height, bridge saddle slot depth, nut saddles, and pole pieces.
Positive users said the Pixnor was well-built, accurate, and handy.
Others didn’t find it accurate, and said the product was just okay.
Item weight: 0.739 ounces
Package dimensions: 3.54 x 1.97 x 0.08 inches
Simtyso Guitar String Action Ruler Gauge Tool
The Simtyso guitar string action ruler works for guitar, bass, mandolin, banjo, and other stringed instruments. The pocket-sized multi-use tool has imperial measurements on one side, and metric on the other. It also has conversion chart of string action at the 12th fret.
The gauge is made of stainless steel and claims to be easy to read and accurate.
Most users were satisfied with their purchase. Some had issues with the quality of the affordable kit, but they were in the clear minority.
Item weight: 0.81 ounces
Package dimensions: 3.5 x 2.28 x 0.04 inches
What Should I Look For In A Guitar String Height Gauge?
In case you’re wondering, this is not a purchase to overthink.
Best case scenario – you spend $10 or $20 and end up with a gauge you can use for months and years.
Worst case scenario – you spend $10 or $20 and find a gauge that only lasts for a couple of months or you find unusable because of sharp edges or markings that rub off.
Replacing a string gauge is not costly.
Nevertheless, in this section, we’ll aim to equip you with all the information you need to make the best purchase decision. We’re not going to leave you hanging.
Here are the main things covered here:
Let’s get into it.
The quality of the gauge can certainly make a difference. Most gauges are made of the same materials (with stainless steel being the most common) and are unlikely to break or deteriorate quickly.
But that doesn’t mean some aren’t sloppily made. Some gauges even come with sharp edges. There is a fix to that, but how much time do you want to spend fixing a tool that’s supposed to work out of the box?
Given the array of options, we suspect you’re going to be much happier with a tool that’s functional and reliable upon arrival versus one that doesn’t quite work the way you hoped it would.
So, quality is a factor to look out for, and checking the reviews is a reliable way to know for sure.
How usable is the gauge? There are several factors to consider here.
The measurement markings can be laser etched into the gauge (less common), printed on (more common), or otherwise. If the markings wear off over time, the gauge isn’t going to prove as usable.
This depends a lot on how often you use the gauge.
As well, do you need imperial measurements, metric measurements, or both? It’s always best to get a tool that serves all your needs.
Finally, how will you be using the gauge? Will it just be for your electric guitar, or do you plan to use it for bass, acoustic guitar, banjo, and other instruments too?
It's always a good idea to think ahead.
Keep these factors in mind and find a gauge that serves your specific needs.
Does the gauge hold up to repeated use and wear and tear?
A gauge won’t necessarily last forever, nor will you be using it all the time unless you’re a professional luthier or guitar tech.
But that is an important consideration regardless. How often will you be using the gauge?
More durability is always preferable if you think you will be using the gauge all the time.
If you’re trying to figure out whether a specific gauge will work for you, check the reviews and see what others have had to say.
We always encourage our readers to spend responsibly, but we can’t imagine the purchase of a string gauge is going to send you to the poor house.
Most gauges and even tool sets cost somewhere in the $7 to $30 range.
Some users say if it costs closer to $30, it’s a bit much, but in many ways, you do get what you pay for.
Overall, we know budget isn’t going to be a major buying factor, but it’s not a bad one to keep in mind while whittling down your options!
What Other Tools Do I Need To Adjust String Height/Guitar Action?
A string gauge is an essential tool, but its main function is to measure string height. There’s not much else you can do with it. You can't change your guitar's action with it.
Here’s a more complete (but not comprehensive) list of tools we recommend:
- Screwdriver. It’s best to find a multi-bit screwdriver, because depending on your guitar, you’ll probably be using either a Phillips head or a flat head screwdriver (in some rare circumstances, you might be using a different head). If you’re adjusting the string height on an acoustic guitar, then you won’t be using a screwdriver at all. Regardless, it’s best to have access to the right tools, and if you end up with multiple guitars, or you want to do setup work for others, you’ll need a multi-bit screwdriver.
- Allen wrench. Oftentimes, Allen wrenches (hex keys) come with guitars. So, you may not need to buy one if you’ve already got one. An Allen wrench is a must-have for truss rod adjustments and can be used on all stringed instruments with truss rods.
- Hammer. If you need to adjust or modify the nut, you’ll need a hammer to pop it out (note: some nuts cannot be removed this way). I wouldn’t recommend a standard hammer – you’ll probably want a soft mallet. Be sure to watch tutorials on YouTube before trying this yourself, or just leave it in the capable hands of a pro.
- File. For reducing the height of nuts (if necessary). Yes, in many cases, to reduce the height of a nut, you would need to manually file it down.
- Sandpaper. If you need to reduce the height of an acoustic guitar saddle, you’ll need the ability to sand it down. Yes, this is a manual process.
- Shims. For raising the height of acoustic guitar saddles.
- Other materials. For raising the height of a nut. The best solution is to laminate the same material the nut is made from beneath it, whatever material was used (nuts are made of a variety of materials including ivory, ebony, cow bone, brass, Corian, and plastic).
Again, this is not a comprehensive list of tools for action adjustments. You may need others to adjust your guitar’s action. And you will certainly need others if you plan to do other guitar related work. But this should prove a good starting point..
Top Guitar String Height Gauges – Final Thoughts
A string gauge is a good tool for every guitarist to have.
You may not use it. You may use it occasionally. If you’re a pro tech or guitarist, then it’s entirely possible you’ll use it more frequently.
But it’s not a bad idea to have a backup plan just in case your guitar goes out of whack, which can happen if you’re traveling with it or live in a part of the world with extreme weather.
Given all the above, you should easily be able to find a string gauge that will serve your needs and allow you to set up your guitars with ease.
All the best, and happy shopping!