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Inexpensive Nut Files - Something for hobbyists

Discussion in 'The DIY Tool Shed' started by John Nicholas, Jan 19, 2021.

  1. John Nicholas

    John Nicholas Friend of Leo's

    Jun 26, 2014
    Poughkeepsie, NY
    This is something that comes up very often in many threads, folks asking about less expensive options for nut files. Those of us who build lots of guitars are always answering these question by recommending expensive options that are just a bit too rich, for a hobbyist.

    Others recommending they use torch tip cleaners.

    Neither option is really all that good.

    Just found this set that looks like it would be a decent set, possibly perfect for hobbyists.

    Screen Shot 2021-01-19 at 10.10.19 AM.png
    Screen Shot 2021-01-19 at 10.09.55 AM.png

    Manufacturers Description

    Hello again from GeetarGizmos. We are happy to offer our Nut Slotting Saw Rod Set for 6 string guitar. Made from strong stainless steel, these Rods are serrated for a sharp cutting edge. Work great on guitar nuts from bone to brass. Sized to slot from low E to high E. Each Rod is appx. 2 to 2 1/2" long with a loop end for easy gripping.

    Saw Rod diameters are: .06, .05, .04, .03, .025 and .02" - great for any string gauge!

    They're easy to use. The best method is to grip the loop-shaped end with pliers and guide the opposite end with your fingers. The nut is best slotted if held in a vise. These are a very useful low-cost alternative to the extremely pricey nut slot files that are typically offered. And they will last you a long time. (Hint: If you have a jeweler's saw handle - they fit!)


    I hope this helps someone!
    nickhofen likes this.
  2. Boreas

    Boreas Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

    Nov 3, 2019
    Adirondack Coast, NY
    What do these offer that torch-tip cleaners don't? To me, they look like torch cleaners removed from their handy case - just corrugation like an orifice cleaner designed to remove softer materials from a harder material without enlarging the orifice. I don't see an actual cutting edge. Recommending pliers with fingers? That sounds like damage waiting to happen. Look at the add - this seller also pushes using tip cleaners as well. These also have one end that is circular where the pin passes to hold the tips in their case.

    BUT, I could be totally wrong - wouldn't be the first time. May be the best thing since sliced bread. Bread sliced with a hatchet....
    Last edited: Jan 19, 2021
    Peegoo likes this.
  3. Peegoo

    Peegoo Poster Extraordinaire

    Oct 11, 2019
    Between the Raindrops
    Just like a torch tip cleaner, these are only good for scraping gunk from the bottom of a slot or widening an existing slot (the lateral pressure created by the 'pinch' of the slot helps them work). They're not going to work if you need to deepen a slot or make a nut from scratch.

    I suppose they might work if you're really determined and have a full pot of coffee in you, but the hours you'll spend doing it are not worth the imprecise results you get.

    A poorly-cut nut is the source of all kinds of problems on a stringed instrument, and there are plenty of bad nuts made with perfectly good nut files.

    Why handicap yourself right out of the gate just to save some bucks?
  4. Nickfl

    Nickfl Friend of Leo's

    May 24, 2016
    Let's do sound suspiciously like torch tip cleaners that have been removed from their case...

    And those torch tip cleaners suck for cutting nut slots.
  5. hemingway

    hemingway Poster Extraordinaire

    Mar 14, 2012
    London, UK
    The HOSCO files seem to be a good compromise between the pricey ones and the cheap options. I like em. But I reckon the OP has made a lot more guitars than I have.
    Boreas likes this.
  6. ukepicker

    ukepicker Tele-Afflicted

    Oct 15, 2013
    TRUE. Been there, done that. HOURS and HOURS to cut a new nut with tip cleaners. Frustration led to hacksaw blades and coping saws and all kinds of horrific things. And it took more than one set of tip cleaners for one nut blank.

    I'm with Peegoo here. I finally bought a set of proper files and, man, what a difference! I don't use them often, but when I do use them, I am glad to have them. They cut quickly and accurately.

    I bought these from StewMac.
    Peegoo and Boreas like this.
  7. Soapbarstrat

    Soapbarstrat Tele-Meister

    Aug 29, 2003
    I imagine they would bend quite easily. And that’s not a good thing. At least a toothed round edged feeler gauge won’t bend (at least in the one direction). Still not great for doing more than a couple guitars.
  8. Davecam48

    Davecam48 Friend of Leo's Ad Free Member

    Dec 31, 2009
    Queensland Australia
    TobyZ28 likes this.
  9. eallen

    eallen Friend of Leo's

    Jul 30, 2013
    Bargersville/Indianapolis, Indiana
    I have 2 sets of habscos in various sizes as well as a handful of diamond ones from Philidelphia Luthier. I always grab the Philadelphia files first. Both are good but the diamond require less effort to slide as they cut.
  10. PeterUK

    PeterUK Poster Extraordinaire Silver Supporter

    Mar 4, 2003
    Nottingham, UK
    The harsh reality is that the nut is, IMHO, the most important part of a guitar with regard to tuning, action, playability and stability. There is no shortcut. It needs to be cut properly and precisely.

    Using your term 'hobbyist' implies that this person is assembling guitars as a hobby to even to contemplate investing in 4th rate tools to do a job which will ultimately defined the playability of any guitar leaves me shuddering.

    The TDPRI is awash with posts/cries for help about guitars that won't play and stay in tune and in 99% of these cases, a badly cut nut is the problem.

    There simply is NO shortcut; no cheap alternatives. A hobbyist can develop really sound nut filing techniques, but they will never be able to develop these skills with inadequate tools.

    I used the eBay link you provided and searched for proper nut files and came across oa good set which matched my string gauge choice:


    I know times are tough but the best advice to give is invest in a decent set of nut files, take your time and delight in the knowledge that you've invested in a tool(s) that will last a lifetime and give you the best possible change to set up your guitar properly.
    Peegoo likes this.
  11. boop

    boop Tele-Holic

    Dec 1, 2018
    I found my homemade feeler-gauge saws work pretty good. A set of gauges costs a few $. I think I got the idea from one of Ron Kirns pamphlets. You can superglue a few gauges together to produce just about any width. If you are going to do a bunch or have no problem shelling out the real deal is the way to go. The welding top cleaners look about as fun as using a wet noodle.
  12. BelairPlayer

    BelairPlayer Tele-Afflicted

    Jun 22, 2010
    I bought a proper set of nut files many, many years ago. Have not considered the cost even once since then. Regarding “saving” money with sub par tools: the bitter taste of disappointment lingers long after the sweetness of a “bargain” disappears. Regarding expensive tools, buy the best and only cry once.
    PeterUK and tewiq like this.
  13. Sean_D

    Sean_D Tele-Meister

    Jul 12, 2017
    Sacramento, CA
    I've never understood the resistance with buying quality set up tools. With the cost of getting a guitar properly set up ever rising, the investment in quality tools is the best hedge against throwing money at guitars. A top quality set of nut files will cost about 1.5 professional set ups. Once one has completed the second guitar, the files start to pay for themselves.
    PeterUK likes this.
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