Cheaper Nut Slot Files?

fraser

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I bought 3 of the stew mac files for cutting the high strings-
i have a couple sets of jeweller style files, and i use those for the other string slots.
with a set of welding torch cleaners, a set of feeler guages and sandpaper, ive been set for nut cutting for like 20 years.

i dont know about cheaper nut files, but when i got the stew mac ones they were about 10 bucks each. Good investment, considering theyll last me forever.
 

Wooly Mammoth

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Do you need different files for those? I've changed between 9, 10 and 11 on my guitars and friends guitars without doing anything to the nut, I just presumed all stock nuts are cut slightly over size, to accommodate all modern 'standand' string gauges? Do people cut nuts perfectly to a single string gauge usually?
Thats a good question. Its only 0.001" difference. You can just move the file side to side a bit at that point.
Its the larger files that would make more of a difference.
Stew Mac says pick a file withing a few thousands.

"Choose a file of the same size as the string, or no more than a few thousandths wider. By rocking the file side to side, you can widen the slot to fit a slightly wider string."
 

smoothrecluse

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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).

This is the boat I’m in. I bought the Hosco double edge set from Philadelphia Lutherie Supply, and the bottom of the files are square instead of round, so it’s reaaallly difficult for my to get a good nut slot without a bump in the middle for the string to slip over. The sides are also angled, which I don’t care for, but I think they did that to give the files more stiffness, and if the slots aren’t too deep to begin with it doesn’t matter anyway.

Long story short, I shouldn’t have cheaped out, and just ordered the Stewmac files to begin with, instead of progressing from diy serrated feeler gauges, to torch tip cleaners, to Hosco files, just to end up buying the Stewmac ones anyway.
 

Wooly Mammoth

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This is the boat I’m in. I bought the Hosco double edge set from Philadelphia Lutherie Supply, and the bottom of the files are square instead of round, so it’s reaaallly difficult for my to get a good nut slot without a bump in the middle for the string to slip over. The sides are also angled, which I don’t care for, but I think they did that to give the files more stiffness, and if the slots aren’t too deep to begin with it doesn’t matter anyway.

Long story short, I shouldn’t have cheaped out, and just ordered the Stewmac files to begin with, instead of progressing from diy serrated feeler gauges, to torch tip cleaners, to Hosco files, just to end up buying the Stewmac ones anyway.
StewMac 10-46 set it is. I'm sure the 10 will work fine for cutting the 9 on my Telecaster. I'm an Engineer and have seen insane specifications for size but 0.001 or 0.003" extra is nothing for a U shaped notch on a guitar string under such tension.
I was thinking of getting maybe a couple extra files to fill out the collection down the road like a 42 but I'll start here and start on cheap nuts to begin with.
I'd love to learn to install zero frets but I'm not going there.
 

Red Ryder

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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.
What does Jimi Hendrix have to do with nut files?
 

Red Ryder

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StewMac 10-46 set it is. I'm sure the 10 will work fine for cutting the 9 on my Telecaster. I'm an ( Engineer) and have seen insane specifications for size but 0.001 or 0.003" extra is nothing for a U shaped notch on a guitar string under such tension.
I was thinking of getting maybe a couple extra files to fill out the collection down the road like a 42 but I'll start here and start on cheap nuts to begin with.
I'd love to learn to install zero frets but I'm not going there.
It must be cool driving a train.
 

KokoTele

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StewMac 10-46 set it is. I'm sure the 10 will work fine for cutting the 9 on my Telecaster. I'm an Engineer and have seen insane specifications for size but 0.001 or 0.003" extra is nothing for a U shaped notch on a guitar string under such tension.
I was thinking of getting maybe a couple extra files to fill out the collection down the road like a 42 but I'll start here and start on cheap nuts to begin with.
I'd love to learn to install zero frets but I'm not going there.

You want a slot a couplefew thousandths wider than the string or it will bind. On the skinny strings I shoot for .003" wider, and about .005" on the heavy strings.
 

Wooly Mammoth

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It must be cool driving a train.
There is an Engineer and an Engineer. There is a Musician and a Muscian. There is Billie Eilish and Jimi Hendrix. Called the same thing but completely different.

Actually thats an insult to train and every other type of engineer to compare them to Billie Eilish.
 

Wooly Mammoth

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You want a slot a couplefew thousandths wider than the string or it will bind. On the skinny strings I shoot for .003" wider, and about .005" on the heavy strings.
I would assume the Stew Mac files are designed with this in mind? I guess I won't know and put my calipers on them.
 

trev333

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get .011 and .013 files for the steel strings and cheap files/tip cleaners for the wound strings...

there's your cheap nut file set.... ;)
 

telepraise

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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?
I haven't read all three pages of this thread but I can tell you as a builder/repairperson/tech for a long time that there is no substitute for good nut slot files, IMO. Strings binding in improperly cut slots is the number one cause of tuning issues. You need slots of the correct width and depth with a round bottom that arches down from the front edge of the nut and splay out at the back (on acoustics at least). All of these are not hard to achieve with good files. Buy a set of files for the most common strings you use. It's good, actually desirable, to have slots a couple of thousandths wider than the string. A narrower file can always be leaned side-to-side to create a slot wider than itself.

Getting nut slots just right is a fine dance. Too high and intonation is off and it's more work to play. 0.002" too low and you've got a buzz. Save yourself a lot of headache (and extra work) and get the right tool, …or take it to a tech with the tools and experience to get it right. Just my 2.5 cents
 

backalleyblues

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Another vote for the Stew-Mac files, I've had mine for about a year, and have used them on 4-5 guitars with no problems. Important thing to remember is to angle the file downwards slightly towards the headstock when cutting, so that the string will "take off" on the fretboard side of the nut-also eliminates intonation issues and "sitaring" of the string. Also, take your time when cutting the nut, 2-3 strokes at a time, then check it at pitch, 2-3 more strokes, etc.

Franc Robert
 

Red Ryder

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There is an Engineer and an Engineer. There is a Musician and a Muscian. There is Billie Eilish and Jimi Hendrix. Called the same thing but completely different.

Actually thats an insult to train and every other type of engineer to compare them to Billie Eilish.
Woo woo ha ha ha
 

Marc Morfei

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I was like OP, trying to find a less expensive option. I started out buying the Hosco file set, which cost around $50. They worked well, but they are tapered so they cut a v-shaped slot. I guess that’s ok, but if you’re adjusting an existing slot it just shaves away the sides of the slot at first. I found it really hard to tell when the file reached the bottom of the slot.

I ended up selling them and buying the Stewmac set. I resented having to spend $100. But I’ll say now that I have them I use them more than I thought I would. I’m going around to all my guitars and making tiny adjustments to the nut slots, ones that were fine but maybe a hair off. So I’m glad to have them.
 

WRHB

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I have these, too. They are awesome. I also like the little case they come in.
I got mine before they had the case for the full set so I store mine in an old cigar box. Not sure if I’ll buy the case or just keep them in the cigar box. Either way they do a great job!!
 




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