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Cheap(er) Nut Files?

Discussion in 'Tele-Technical' started by Anchoret, Apr 25, 2010.

  1. rainedave

    rainedave Tele-Holic

    Jan 3, 2010
    NC, USA
    So, how do the Japanese Uo-Chikyu brand nut files that Warmoth sells compare to the Grobets?

  2. David Collins

    David Collins Tele-Afflicted

    Sep 28, 2009
    Ann Arbor, MI
    If you're referring to the heavy double-sided ones, those are the ones often referred to or sold as the Ibanez or Hiroshima files. I used them exclusively for years, though they were out of production for a long time and I had an older set that was quite well worn. They were similar to StewMac's double-sided files, though with a bit better rounded edge if I recall correctly. They work rather well, though I still prefer teeth with a bit more of an angle to them to avoid chatter and chipping, and like the straight sided files more than the tapered cuts. Still, though not my first choice, they're good and many people use them with great results.

    If you're talking about the gauged files similar to the Grobets, those I've also seen advertised as Ibanez or Hiroshima files. Maybe they come from the same factory, but it confuses me a bit because the old Ibanez files that were available back in the 80's were the heavy tapered style, and I don't recall the name being associated with the straight gauged files. In any case, if it's the gauged files you're referring to, those are the ones I listed as import or AllParts files in the first pic above. They work fine, and I actually have a number of them I still use regularly.

  3. Frontier9

    Frontier9 Friend of Leo's

    Dec 10, 2007
    Greetings from Sunny New Jersey
    In a pinch, I've used wound guitar strings strung up in a jeweler's saw as nut slotters - I cut "teeth" in them every 2-3 winds with a file. Obviously I could only use them on 3 out of 6 slots but it worked. I certainly couldn't use them to cut blanks, though.

  4. David Collins

    David Collins Tele-Afflicted

    Sep 28, 2009
    Ann Arbor, MI
    Yup. If you are careful and know how to use them, you can get by with a pretty minimal set. I got a call from the Mark Knopfler tour Tuesday morning when they were playing in town, and had to do a bit of emergency work for one of Tim O'Brien's instruments. I made a few banjo bridges for him in my shop in the morning, but brought along a just-in-case tool set in my pocket when I went down to the show later on, and only packed two nut files. The bridges ended up being fine and I didn't have to do anything more on-site, but you can get by just fine with just a few if you know how to use them.

  5. rainedave

    rainedave Tele-Holic

    Jan 3, 2010
    NC, USA
    Thanks David. I am referring to the ones pictured below.

    I also purchased some Ox bone nut blanks from this master ivory carver named David Warther:

    I figure he knows good material from bad.


    Attached Files:

  6. Strat62

    Strat62 Friend of Leo's

    Feb 18, 2008
    Cambridge Vt.
    My set is made in Japan; called "Hosco" professional tools, serial # TL-NF10. They are a set of ten files from .010 to .052; cost me $100. Spendy but these will easily last me the rest of my life, and if you're making a nut from scratch, damned near indispensible.

  7. Colt W. Knight

    Colt W. Knight Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

    Jan 21, 2007
    Tucson, AZ
    WYPO torch tip cleaners. They are designed to clear slag from varying size oxy/act torch tips. They are ussually about 1 time use for cleaning a torch tip, sometimes you get a few more uses out of them, especially if you use them on different size torch tips.


    They can and will accurately cut guitar nut slots. However, nut files will work a lot better. Much less labor intensive and you wont have sore fingers for two days. I do like using torch tip cleaners to make shallow cuts. My Stew Mac files will cut a nut in half if you slip or go to hard. (exageration)

    BUT... Wypo torch tip cleaners are about a buck something, and nut files are 20-30$ a piece. If you only need to dress a few nuts or make one or two nuts, I wouldn't hesitate to invest in a WYPO.

    Prefabbed nuts are your friend if you don't want or have the extra cash to invest in guitar building tools.

    I also have a .010" nut saw too. Its pretty cheap compared to the nut files, and keeps the nut files nice and clean.

  8. Greg.Coal

    Greg.Coal Tele-Afflicted

    Aug 23, 2009
    Thanks for the great post with pictures and descriptions. It is one for posterity. I print these to pdf's.

    Although I am a supporter of precision and doing things right (and I agree with everything you've written here and in other posts) I do understand, however, that we can't all always afford the best or even good enough tools. And, I am somebody who loves an excuse to buy more tools. But, I'm not a professional luthier.

    Having said that, I did just get a set of 6 double-sided nut files off of eBay (~$70). As soon as I saw David's pics I took mine out of their wraps (packed with some oil film on them) and examined them with a lighted magnifier. The average view of each of them is that the edge is the least uniform component. They're cut somehow from each side and the edge seems to be the result of the two faces converging - sometimes smoothly, and other times not so smoothly.

    I won't be able to take the great pics David provided, but I'll do a number of cuts on old nuts I should have here and there and try to report back. I'm sure they're inferior files.

    Again, want to make clear that I am a supporter of doing things the right way and using the right tool for the job. I believe precision is a value and thoughtful, best efforts add up to a job well done.

    I also love Harbor Freight!


  9. Sharkblues

    Sharkblues Tele-Meister

    Dec 30, 2009
    David, I mean no disrespect, but when your living in an economy that pay's Walmart wages your can only afford to shop at Walmart.

    Thanks Colt for giving this "cheap" stay at home dad who lives on an extremely tight budget an alternative.

    I just need to alter a nut that's cut for 9 - 42 strings to fit 9 - 46s. I haven't done this before, and maybe I should take David's advice and take it to a professional when i can work it into the budget.

  10. Boolywho

    Boolywho Tele-Meister

    Nov 18, 2010
    Portland, OR
    I'm bumping this old (but wonderful) thread.

    David, I was just wondering if you know what StewMac ended up settling on in terms of their gauged nut files? In one of your post above, you said that that last StewMac nut file you tried was a model-type that you believed StewMac was moving to. The one with the more aggressive cut:

    Do you know if StewMac did indeed end up settling on these, and are they the ones that they are still offering today?

    I'm in the market for some nut files and am seriously looking at those StewMac ones, but I'd like to know what I'd really be getting, if at all possible.

    Thanks for your help!

  11. Gary in Boston

    Gary in Boston Friend of Leo's

    Apr 17, 2003
    Just a question, and I'm not being a wise guy, but does a milled, quality file really get worn out cutting a bone or similar material nut that fast?
    It seems to me they should be like little saw blades and last for quite some time, but perhaps I'm wrong?


  12. outlawyer

    outlawyer Tele-Holic

    Dec 8, 2010
    This is the best internet post ever. It should receive an Academy Award. Thanks a million.

  13. Fluddman

    Fluddman TDPRI Member

    Apr 30, 2010
    Sydney, Australia
    +1 exceptional information. Thanks

  14. Jeff H

    Jeff H Tele-Meister

    Mar 29, 2003
    State of Jefferson

  15. Big Burly

    Big Burly Tele-Meister

    Feb 23, 2011
    I purchased a set of nut slot files from Warmoth. They are gauged. With shipping they were slightly cheaper than Stew-Mac's equivalent files without shipping.

    Stew-Mac makes great stuff. I got one of their 8" long 12" radius sanding blocks for fret leveling. It is very well made, and should last a lifetime.

  16. telestratosonic

    telestratosonic Tele-Afflicted

    Mar 5, 2011
    Alberta, Canada
    Thanks, David. Informative.

  17. jefrs

    jefrs Doctor of Teleocity

    Nov 20, 2007
    Newbury, England
    Many thanks to David for the pics, good review.

    But I have to say I do not like the U-shaped slots of the "gauged files", much preferring the V-shaped or tapered sides which do not bind. David Collins did not like the V-slot in #12, from the double edged StewMac - however my Hiroshima/Ibanez double edge files, appear to have finer teeth than the StewMac variety, no tear out or chipping apparent with my set - I do appear to have worn them out though. One of them also appears to have a lop-sided edge in one area, on a hard file this sort of defect can be corrected on an old oilstone by drawing the file over it (it will eat the stone)

    I have to also say that the "gauged files" I have, also by Hiroshima, are actually industrial micro saws and have a square cut to them. You really do need a round bottom to the slot matching the string diameter.

    Swiss needle files are simply too thick, and feeler gauges are too floppy. Re-shaping the "leaf" shaped needle file a little on the bench grinder is possible but quite hazardous because they can get very hot very quickly which will ruin it and send a red hot sharp object flying into you. You can only grind out to the depth of the teeth but you can narrow the file up for use on a nut by leaving the side edge alone. Waste of time and effort, buy nut files. Btw, running a big old file on the bench grinder is done to clean and true the wheel.

  18. Scotland

    Scotland Poster Extraordinaire

    Mar 17, 2003
    Aberdeen, Scotland, Yewrup
    I bought the welding tip cleaners some time ago and threw them in the bin after an hours work produced nothing.

  19. Codger

    Codger Tele-Meister

    May 16, 2009
    You can do just fine with a decent set of needle files for cheap.

  20. bullfrogblues

    bullfrogblues Friend of Leo's

    Jun 5, 2011
    Southeast Florida
    "The bitterness of poor quality lingers long after the sweetness of cheap price is forgotten."

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