String Action Trouble Shoot

Hey there Justin Community, I have an old Washburn D-11AN that has been passed down to me and I thoroughly enjoy it. the only problem is that I’m a guitar newbie and I have no clue about acoustic guitar maintenance/set-up.

I have a question about this guitar’s string action. to me it feels too high the further up the neck the string goes and feels more difficult to play. I was wondering if there was something I could do to fix the high action.


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Maybe this helps,



Typically the action on an acoustic guitar is adjusted by changing the height of the saddle - the white material (plastic/bone etc) at the bridge. The important question is how much saddle height you have to work with. It’s hard to see from the first picture, but it looks like you may have a decent saddle height, in which case you can sand that down (carefully and slowly - use glass paper on a flat surface such as a glass table) to lower the action. It’s not crazy difficult, however if you are not sure then it might be worth taking it to a shop or luthier because its possible to go too far in which case you will need a new saddle.
Before you do that you should also check the neck relief to make sure that’s on point (a good shop or luthier would do this automatically).
Long story short - if you have enough saddle height then it’s probably straightforward, if not then it might not be economically viable to improve it much - it would probably need a neck reset.

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Just from your photos, the action does look quite high at fret 12. The good news is, when you get it lowered, your guitar will be a lot easier to play!

I had a high action on my acoustic and took it for a setup. The tech adjusted the neck relief (using the truss bar) and also worked on the nut and the saddle. Since you mentioned you “have no clue” about guitar setup, I would definitely take it to an expert.

I like the Phil McKnight videos on guitar maintenance.

I think this looks like a truss rod (relief) adjustment is the the majority of what you will want, but you need to verify if I see it accurately given I am only looking at a few pictures. This video will help you identify what is in need of adjustment. Be sure to watch the whole thing. I believe the nut looks about right, and I’m guessing the saddle may be about right given string height at the body/neck joint.

For doing a truss rod adjustment, I like this video. Stew Mac is a well respected tool supplier for guitar stuff.


I’m no expert but I did start learning on a dreadnought with similar high action. It looks quite high in the photos. You should learn to adjust the truss rod - it isn’t difficult. You need the proper wrench from a guitar shop, and then have Google or Siri or Alexa find you a how-to video. If that doesn’t help then take it to a pro.

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This is typically the proper size hex driver. if you have an Allen wrench set, good chance you will have what you need.
Be sure to use the proper size!! It is easy to round out the truss rod nut and your luthier will hate you for making his job hard when you go in to have it fixed. :slight_smile:

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First off Welcome back to the forum.

first off don’t take advice from someone who tells you to adjust the truss rod without explaining it to you first.

You said it an old guitar that’s been handed down. It could be dried out and need re hydrating. Having it inspected by a guitar tech or luthier could save you a lot of time in getting it back in shape.
If you don’t think the guitar is dry you could start by checking the neck relief.

Put a capo on the 1st fret, Press the E string down at the 12th fret. If you can barely slide a .38 pick under the string at the 7th fret then leave the truss rod alone. If there is significantly more gap then you will need to adjust the truss rod.

Once the neck relief is set (that’s what the truss rod does it doesn’t set the action) take a 2 foot long steel ruler and set it on edge on the neck and slide it forward until it meets the bridge. It should just slide over the bridge or just bump into it.

Now you can sand down the saddle to the required highlight.


Additionally … Get yourself some measurement tools. I have a Hosco tool that measures action in small increments, but also a Fret Guru tool that measures in .5mm increments and is more useful for quick measurements. If you’re taking material off your saddle, you want to take it easy. Remove a little, measure, play … rinse and repeat.

Also, if you’re going to do this, buy yourself a new saddle and do the work on that. That way, if you balls it up, or feel there’s an issue, you can reset your guitar back to default by simply slipping the original saddle back in.