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Cutting the nut to correct height - when did we realise that was a good idea?

Discussion in 'Bad Dog Cafe' started by dlew919, May 3, 2020.

  1. Jakedog

    Jakedog Telefied Ad Free Member

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    I learned about it in the late 80’s. Maybe 88 or 89? I was 15 or 16. It wasn’t long after I started playing electric. I’d already been playing acoustic... I had a strat that would not play in tune. Store I bought it from charged me to work on it multiple times with no apparent improvement.

    Then one of my dad’s friends (he knew all the cool local players) pointed out that it wouldn’t stay in tune because the bridge was floating and I was anchoring my hand on it while I played. I’d only played acoustic and a hardtail electric up til then. I had no idea that was a thing. I tried playing without my hand anchored on the bridge. I couldn’t do it. That just how I play.

    This friend of my dad’s told me how Eric Clapton blocked his Strat bridge, and offered to do it for me. I said sure, cause every time I tried to use the whammy it went completely to hell anyhow.

    After it got blocked it was greatly improved but still not perfect. He took the guitar from me, played it for a second, said “the nut is too high” and fixed it. After that it was AWESOME. And played a whole lot better.

    After that I was always conscious of all aspects of setup. And by the time I was 19 I could do most everything myself.

    I do remember one of my band mates in the early 90’s watching me stick an Allen wrench in the truss rod hole and freaking out. “DUDE! You’re gonna ruin your neck!” lol.
     
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  2. trev333

    trev333 Telefied Ad Free Member

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    I have to play further forward on strats to keep off that bridge... I like to keep them floating, though...

    probably why I like the tele bridge...
     
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  3. telemnemonics

    telemnemonics Telefied Ad Free Member

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    Dan Erlewine is a newcomer to guitar tech-ing!
    I learned most of the basics in 1980, reading a 1973 book by guitar maker and author Irving Sloane.
    No measurements were involved, not like all the numbers on the internet now.
    Sloane died in 1998.
    He seems to have learned his early lessons from John D'Angelico, and another unnamed NYC luthier.
    Roger Sadowsky says he got hie early inspiration from books by Sloane.

    As far as cutting nuts properly, Stradivarius made a few guitars in the 1700s, I'd presume he cut the nuts nicely!
     
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  4. TelenTubes

    TelenTubes Tele-Holic

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    Since before Stradivarius.
     
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  5. gitold

    gitold Poster Extraordinaire

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    I got my first real guitar, a Jazzmaster in 1970. I took it all apart and figured out the locking trem and the truss rod. Even then I could not understand why Fender put them on the wrong end. I started measuring my action to see how low I could get it with out fretting out. Figured out that the shim I forgot to put back in was needed in the neck pocket. Put Elmers on the bridge piece screws so they wouldn’t jiggle out of place. Boy that guitar taught me a lot. I have a brother a few year younger then me whose been playing for 50 years and he still won’t touch the truss rod. He’s afraid he’ll bust it. We didn’t need no stinking internet.
     
  6. Engine Swap

    Engine Swap Tele-Afflicted

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    Don't remember reading much about nut setup going all the way back to the early 80s. I remember most setup info focused on setting the action using the bridge.

    Personally, I found that a well-dressed nut is a critical part of setup. Bought a set of files 10 years ago and they've paid for themselves many times over.
     
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  7. SecretSquirrel

    SecretSquirrel Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

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    When I was a teenager in the 1970s, a friend knew about truss rod adjustment from his guitar teacher, so I was always able to make use of that.

    The nut was another thing, I don't remember ever deepening nut slots back then, but around age 16 I did put a little wad of foil paper in the high E slot of my Epiphone acoustic :eek: to raise it and stop the fret buzz. Took some tamping to get it just right but worked!

    Of course today, I'd be saying, "Noooooo!! You're RUINING the tone!!!!" but it didn't change the string timbre.

    It wasn't until much, much later...like five years ago...that I found TDPRI and learned to cut nut slots. :cool:
     
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  8. Toto'sDad

    Toto'sDad Telefied Ad Free Member

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    I've been doing my own nut setup since about 2009. Never liked the setups I got at a store, so I went about learning for myself. Ordered some tools from StewMac, and just started doing them. I soon discovered the nut is probably the most important part of the setup, get that right first, and the rest is much easier.

    The one store bought setup I did like was from Lighting Joe's in Arroyo Grande. I took my D-28 Martin Marquis to him, and was going to have to leave it for a couple of weeks. My wife and I went to have some lunch, and he called me back and said this guitar doesn't need much c'mon back to the shop and I'll do it for you right now! I watched him set it up, and it was almost identical to the approach I use. He did a very good job though. The only reason I took it to him was that I was a little nervous about setting up such an expensive guitar. Watching him do almost the same things I do when I set one up, convinced me to never be afraid to do one again. The cool thing is, if you learn to do a complete setup, you can fine tune it later, and you will most definitely at some point need to do so. Joe is a super good guy, I'd not hesitate to buy from, or do business with, providing he's still there, it's been a long time since I was there.
     
  9. TelenTubes

    TelenTubes Tele-Holic

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    Cut the first slots on a guitar - ever - this year. Messed around with a Dobro redo years ago, but without the right files, it didn't work out so well. Luckily, it was a Dobro and the strings were already about a half inch above the fret board. But, bought some nut files and fine tuned a recent build. Now I've been eyeing my other teles for some fine tuning.

    Wonder what kind of nut files or methods classical stringed instrument makers used. They definitely were aware of action...
     
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  10. mfguitar

    mfguitar Tele-Afflicted Silver Supporter

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    It was probably around the late 70's when I started getting Guitar Player on a regular basis and Stew Mac used to be great around then as well. They use to send out catalogs that had a lot of information. I bought their top of the line Banjo kit and learned a lot from that process.
     
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  11. trev333

    trev333 Telefied Ad Free Member

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    I thought the tone pot on my first strat had a clunky bit in the middle of the sweep... and just left it full on or turned it down like a regular tone pot...:D

    then I found out about TBX pots years later..:oops::lol:
     
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  12. Slowpoke

    Slowpoke Tele-Afflicted

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    I honestly can't remember when I haven't done my own set-ups tho' I will admit to a few semi failures with truss rod adjustments.
    The only guitar I've not had to make any adjustments to is my Maton 808 Performer which was beautifully set up straight from the factory. The dealer I bought it from phoned me and said "Its being delivered today.' I made sure I was there at 10.am when it arrived in a crate with 3 other Matons so I know the dealer hadn't had time to do any adjustments to it and its just perfect for me.. S
     
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  13. trev333

    trev333 Telefied Ad Free Member

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    My first new acoustic in 78 was an Ibanez,,, it felt the nicest to play from the choices I had...the neck is like a fender C , it felt like an electric neck compared to the other acoustics...

    the nut end was set nicely from the factory and I never needed to mess with that, I only lowered the bridge piece a bit...and just made a nice new bone saddle for it this year.. the deck is still flat and the neck straight, I don't think I've touched the truss rod on it...

    proved a good buy for 100 in Singapore at the time....:)
     
  14. dlew919

    dlew919 Doctor of Teleocity

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    Ok, these are all great answers. The notion that it goes to Stradivarius and before makes sense of course. But it doesn't seem to be common knowledge till the 1970s? I remember reading Jerry Garcia complaining about high actions, and Keith Richards too. But they were talking 60s guitars. Does the knowledge start to spread outside elite luthiers in the 1970s? And by the 1990s it is fairly common, thanks to books and magazines.

    Would you agree this is a fair summation?
     
  15. Peegoo

    Peegoo Poster Extraordinaire

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    Prior to the Sloane book (pre-Internet), there were very few books and guides available to help people learn the art of luthiery or even simple wrenchin' on guitars.

    Most pros apprenticed under some guru before them; real luthiery was a 'secret art' that was closely guarded and maintained within a fairly small circle of luthiers' guilds. The masters shared secrets with one another, but God help you if you spill the beans to the unwashed masses.

    It was virtually identical to the art of magic: magicians knew how tricks were done, but they didn't talk about it with anyone but another magician.

    Proper nut work has been around a long long time. It's only in the last 40 or 50 years that it has floated up into public consciousness because of mass media and the innerwebz.
     
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  16. Peegoo

    Peegoo Poster Extraordinaire

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    Yeah, it was all pretty funny. Sort of like the caution about 'never try to pet a burning dog'.

    Or never poke a sleeping bear.

    You Will Regret It :eek:
     
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  17. LooseJack

    LooseJack Tele-Meister

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    "How the action is adjusted... by raising or lowering the bridge or saddle; by altering the height of the nut; by adjusting the dip in the neck"
    Ralph Denyer, The Guitar Handbook, p166
    Published 1982
     
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  18. Jakedog

    Jakedog Telefied Ad Free Member

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    I don’t know about the Jerry part. It’s always been my understanding that he liked his action about as high as he could get it without affecting intonation. I’ve seen some of his guitars up close at the Rock Hall and I swear you could drive a small pickup truck under the strings.

    It was a tone thing for him. Of course he also replaced his pickups every couple years because he swore after that time the high end was noticeably diminished.
     
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  19. Tonetele

    Tonetele Poster Extraordinaire

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    I had a crappy nylon string acoustic that I got for $12 in 1969. Sure enough, the nut was plastic and it broke. I took it to the only luthier who taught all others the, Brian Sampson, he gave me a rectangular piece of IVORY. Anyway, I worked out how to cut a nut.
    Later, he got me to teach Keith Potger, of The Seekers, how to string a guitar with 5/8" past and around the post. As it was a Gibson 12 string he learned by the time we got through the job. Brian just said to Potger " Oh, the kid'll show ya." Was I nervous.
    That was 51 years ago and now I build guitars ( have for the last twenty, had an ABN and small part time business at one time). Now I only do custom orders when approached. Building a nut means getting the angle of the headstock right first ( usually 17*). Then trimming the outside edges to match the guitar, not all are the same, a classical can be 2" wide. Then I use a pencil ,shaved flat and run it across the fret and leaving a line on the bone. After that it's tricky as each string will be different and follow the curve and you don't want to file too deep- ever.
    Kids, and us, are lucky as you can Google all this. We had to learn from somebody if they gave you the time of day. I was lucky, so too others, as Brian Sampson taught most of the good luthiers in this city ( a handful). Used properly the internet is fantastic.
     
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  20. dlew919

    dlew919 Doctor of Teleocity

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    Raising the height, using a whim is how I interpreted that, if indeed I even picked it up. But yes.


    Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk
     
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