Cheaper Nut Slot Files?

Wooly Mammoth

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Is there any way to cut nut slots that are decent without buying the StewMac files? I got some Amazon files and they were an absolute joke.

I usually use 10-46 strings but would like to be able to cut 9-42 and maybe 11-49 as well. I have Fenders, Les Paul and A Gretsch. The Gretsch and a Tele really need a nut slotting job and I use different string gauges. Larger flatwounds on the Gretsch.
My only squier needs a new nut.

I actually wouldn't have a problem buying the Stew Mac files but I have trouble with settling in on one string size. Is it possible to use an abrasive compound along with a guitar string with handles on the ends to makeshift a slotting file?
 

JL_LI

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I’m an adapter. I never bought nut files because I don’t need them often. That doesn’t mean I’ve never cut a nut. I have a set of automotive feeler gauges. I wrap 600 grit around the blade of the gauge and use that. The gauges go to .035” so it takes a couple of wraps for the E string. Work slowly and carefully and you’ll be ok.

I’ve had the feelers since my days of yearly points, plugs, condenser, and timing tune ups. I wouldn’t touch a car today. I had a BMW 135i ten or twelve years back. I asked the service guy how he changes the spark plugs when two of the six cylinders are buried in the firewall under the windshield. He said we drop the engine. Seriously? He said the plugs last 100,000 miles and the car will be enjoying a happy retirement in the Caribbean by then. OMG.
 
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Peegoo

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There are absolutely no shortcuts to using a good nut slotting file. Yeah, some folks will extoll the virtues of those torch tip cleaners and other cheap alternatives, but they are imprecise and a whole lot more work.

It's really hard to understand just how good (and easy) the work is when using nut files until you've actually used them. You WILL kick yourself in the junk for not getting a set of files years ago.

Use them only for nut work. Do not use them on any metals, and they will last many mNy years.

Go on Amazon and look for Yu-Chikyo nut files. They're available in various sets. Yeah, they don't have big comfy rubber handles, but handles are not necessary and you're paying for that too.

Yu-Chikyos are what's used by many big-name makers and a whole boatload of pro guitar techs.
 

schmee

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I have limited files. I can use an .046 for larger slots... all in how you use it really. Frankly, I think an .049 slot is fine for a .046 string. It's got a thousandth and a half gap on each side! Doesn't matter. May actually be better. What's the side gap on a Zero Fret?! o_O Too much contact worries me more than too little on a nut.
 

beninma

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This comes up over and over again.. unless you're Jimi Hendrix and you just worked years to afford your only guitar and can't even afford to eat buy the good tools.

If you got multiple guitars worth thousands of dollars you shouldn't be worrying about the cost of files. They pay off in like 2 setups and those guitars will be perfect thereafter.
 

jvin248

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Get a set of files at the hardware store marked as 'welding tip cleaner' files. They are under six dollars for a little self contained case of wire files. If you are only doing an occasional guitar these work great. They also do not cut so fast that a beginner screws up a nut. Getting the fancy expensive files meant for a production guitar shop can end in disaster.

The other great option ... use a zero fret made of stainless steel. Repairing and refretting a vintage 1960s Teisco Tulip I got to understand better how they work and it's pretty clever. The downfall of them back in the old days was the weak fret wire that wore out, but they can be replaced easily too.

Gibson tried switching all their guitars over in 2015. Ended in disaster for them because they didn't spend any marketing money on educating players. Had they done a better job they'd be able to remove twenty minutes of futzing around with nuts slot setups.

.
 

KokoTele

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This is a “buy once, cry once” situation. I’ve never heard anyone complain because they bought the good files. I have heard many people say that they’d wish they bought them in the first place.

Years ago, someone posted some macro photos of the slots made with the various types of files and alternatives. The gauged files were far better, with more consistently round slots and less chipping and tear out.

You can buy them from Philadelphia Luthier for about 20% less than StewMac.

I bought my set from StewMac a dozen years ago or more and have done hundreds of nuts. I’ve only replaced one, and that was because I was inattentive to my work and snapped it (the .010” one).
 

schmee

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This is a “buy once, cry once” situation. I’ve never heard anyone complain because they bought the good files. I have heard many people say that they’d wish they bought them in the first place.
Years ago, someone posted some macro photos of the slots made with the various types of files and alternatives. The gauged files were far better, with more consistently round slots and less chipping and tear out.
You can buy them from Philadelphia Luthier for about 20% less than StewMac.
I bought my set from StewMac a dozen years ago or more and have done hundreds of nuts. I’ve only replaced one, and that was because I was inattentive to my work and snapped it (the .010” one).
Me too!
 

Beebe

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You could go the "vintage" route with a single triangle file.

I got pic from:
 

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Wooly Mammoth

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I’m an adapter. I never bought nut files because I don’t need them often. That doesn’t mean I’ve never cut a nut. I have a set of automotive feeler gauges. I wrap 600 grit around the blade of the gauge and use that. The gauges go to .035” so it takes a couple of wraps for the E string. Work slowly and carefully and you’ll be ok.

I’ve had the feelers since my days of yearly points, plugs, condenser, and timing tune ups. I wouldn’t touch a car today. I had a BMW 135i ten or twelve years back. I asked the service guy how he changes the spark plugs when two of the six cylinders are buried in the firewall under the windshield. He said we drop the engine. Seriously? He said the plugs last 100,000 miles and the car will be enjoying a happy retirement in the Caribbean by then. OMG.
I have at least 4 sets of feeler gauges being into 3d printing, motorcycles and guitar setup. They are a must have for valve adjustments, leveling an older 3d print bed and guitar setups IMO.
 

Wooly Mammoth

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You could go the "vintage" route with a single triangle file.

I got pic from:
Interesting. I wonder how that impacts bending/vibrato? There must be a reason they switched to better fitted slots. Maybe it was poka-yoke (dummy proofing string installation).
 

Wooly Mammoth

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Get a set of files at the hardware store marked as 'welding tip cleaner' files. They are under six dollars for a little self contained case of wire files. If you are only doing an occasional guitar these work great. They also do not cut so fast that a beginner screws up a nut. Getting the fancy expensive files meant for a production guitar shop can end in disaster.

The other great option ... use a zero fret made of stainless steel. Repairing and refretting a vintage 1960s Teisco Tulip I got to understand better how they work and it's pretty clever. The downfall of them back in the old days was the weak fret wire that wore out, but they can be replaced easily too.

Gibson tried switching all their guitars over in 2015. Ended in disaster for them because they didn't spend any marketing money on educating players. Had they done a better job they'd be able to remove twenty minutes of futzing around with nuts slot setups.

.
Zero frets I always thought was an excellent idea however what keeps the sting in place laterally? There has to be some notch.
 

Boreas

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I bought just 3 S/M "double edge" slotting files, so 6 sizes - a smidge over $100. They cover virtually anything for an electric. If I need a bigger slot, I just put a little more side pressure on it. I also will use abrasive cord to polish after. You don't need a huge set of files, but you should get good ones.
 
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Boreas

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Zero frets I always thought was an excellent idea however what keeps the sting in place laterally? There has to be some notch.
There still is a nut. The nut slot keeps it in place. But the slot can be any depth as long as it is below the level of the zero fret.

Another plus for the ZF is that an open note has the same "tone quality" as a fretted note.
 

Peegoo

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Zero frets I always thought was an excellent idea however what keeps the sting in place laterally? There has to be some notch.

There still is a nut. The nut slot keeps it in place. But the slot can be any depth as long as it is below the level of the zero fret.


Zero frets are greatly misunderstood. The nut behind the zero fret--when properly set up--does a whole lot more than just maintain string spacing.

Ideally, the nut slots are cut to a depth that allows the strings' downforce over the zero fret to be just a little more than what you exert when you press a finger on a string to fret it. This misunderstanding is why zero frets wear so fast: they're improperly set up. More here:

 

Davecam48

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This is what I did with the Stew Mac files which I find to be far superior than anything I contrived myself! The biggest problem is the "wobble" factor of the very thin files.

Do this to overcome that problem!


DC
 

Davecam48

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