Mini electric, E string breakage?

necessaryrooster

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I got a mini electric guitar kit from StewMac with the intention of making a mini electric guilele. The kit itself was easy to build; all the holes were pre-routed; saddle/neck screws pre-drilled. All there was to do was apply paint/finish to the body, install the tuners, screw the neck/bridge on, solder the output jack to the pickup wires and screw the pickguard in and you're good to go.

However, once I got it all put together, I've now snapped four high E strings just trying to tune them up to pitch. It's a 16.3" scale, and they advertise it (recommend, even) as being able to tune A to A. I thought maybe I had the saddle slot too high, so I lowered it, which enable me to at least get the string up to Eb, but once I tried to tune to actual E it snapped again. They're snapping up on the tuning peg, so it's not like it's due to sharp edges somewhere. The only thing I messed up on was drilling the hole for the string tree between the B and E strings too deep so the screw fell out, but when I was tuning I was pushing on where it's supposed to be with my finger to mimic the tree.

Reading through the reviews, apparently this is a common problem with this guitar, but why? Why does a shorter scale make the string snap? And how can I combat this? Some reviewers mentioned tuning down a step, but I don't want to do that.
 

necessaryrooster

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I’ve had that experience as well. I went to thicker (heavier gauge) strings.
I tried heavy gauge Elixirs; still broke. I think the last one I tried was a medium gauge D'addario, which let me get to Eb before it snapped. I don't even know what strings to try at this point and I don't want to keep buying and breaking E strings. I tried to find electric tenor uke strings, thinking those would be better suited to the shorter scale, but apparently they all just use regular electric guitar strings.
 

Jim Hanks

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So you have a guitalele-scaled (shorter than normal even) 6-string And you're trying to tune it how? I would think standard strings get you A2 D3 G3 C4 E4 A4

are you trying to get to E5 on the high string? I can see why that wouldnt work
 

Futurethink

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I believe you’re talking about one of these. They have a 16.3” scale, and Stew Mac recommends A to A tuning.

Have you considered buying a string set for a seven-string guitar, and using only the six thickest strings?
 

necessaryrooster

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So you have a guitalele-scaled (shorter than normal even) 6-string And you're trying to tune it how? I would think standard strings get you A2 D3 G3 C4 E4 A4

are you trying to get to E5 on the high string? I can see why that wouldnt work
Standard guitar tuning, E2 A2 D3 G3 B3 E4, which it is supposed to be able to handle.
 

necessaryrooster

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I believe you’re talking about one of these. They have a 16.3” scale, and Stew Mac recommends A to A tuning.

Have you considered buying a string set for a seven-string guitar, and using only the six thickest strings?
Maybe I'm confused about what A to A tuning is. I thought a guilele was like a guitar with a capo on the 5th fret, which would put A to A higher than E to E, so if I can't get to E, wouldn't I have the same problem trying to tune to A?

And yes, that is exactly the kit; I've got the mini-S one.
 

Futurethink

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Yes, a guilele/mini-guitar tuned A to A does sound like a guitar with a capo on the fifth fret.

For me, E to E tuning resulted in floppy strings unless I used 12 or 13 gauge strings.
 

Jim Hanks

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Hmm, tension can't be the problem. As Futurethink points out, standard strings should have very low tension at your target tuning. If it's breaking at the tuning peg, it sounds like something is binding between the nut and the tuning peg. Could the string be cutting into the nut itself when it starts getting under tension?
 

necessaryrooster

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Hmm, tension can't be the problem. As Futurethink points out, standard strings should have very low tension at your target tuning. If it's breaking at the tuning peg, it sounds like something is binding between the nut and the tuning peg. Could the string be cutting into the nut itself when it starts getting under tension?
It's possible? The E string does want to keep slipping out of the nut slot if I'm not using my finger as a temporary string tree.

I think it has to be some kind of design flaw as a lot of the people reviewing this kit had the exact same issue.

Futurethink said that lighter gauges were floppier; should I try a lighter gauge string then? I tried what came with it (no idea what they were; they were unlabeled loose strings in a clear envelope) and then I tried heavy gauge and mediums. I don't remember what the heavy gauge broke at, but the medium broke just after getting up to Eb. Barring that I can do what s/he recommended with using a set of 7-strings.
 

Jim Hanks

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If it is binding at the nut, I think the gauge isn't going to matter. You get to a point that the string is no longer moving between the nut and the tuner and the next tuner twist sharply increases the tension between that small distance, not the entire length of the string - and snap.
 

necessaryrooster

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If it is binding at the nut, I think the gauge isn't going to matter. You get to a point that the string is no longer moving between the nut and the tuner and the next tuner twist sharply increases the tension between that small distance, not the entire length of the string - and snap.
How do I fix it? Widen the nut slot?
 

merlin666

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Pay attention to where the string breaks. If it is in a random spot then it is likely some tension problem. If it is always at the same place near a tuner, the nut, or bridge then it is a contact or friction issue where you need to sand the contact point.
 

Futurethink

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When tightening the tuning peg, pay attention to your clip-on tuner/ear as you pluck the string. If the pitch does not change, lift the string out of the nut temporarily, reseat it, and pluck again.

Graphite is a lubricant, so you can “draw” in the nut slot with a sharp pencil while the string is out of the slot.
 

necessaryrooster

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Pay attention to where the string breaks. If it is in a random spot then it is likely some tension problem. If it is always at the same place near a tuner, the nut, or bridge then it is a contact or friction issue where you need to sand the contact point.
It breaks on the tuning peg right before it wraps around. Here's a pic of me pointing to the location on the B string. IMG_3814 2.jpg
 

Tim E

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How many windings are left on the peg after the string breaks? If there are windings left, can you determine if it's breaking where it crosses over a hole?