Nut blank roughing

swarfrat

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Most of the discussion I see for nut making is about slotting. I have a bunch of blanks from Philadelphia Luthiery and they're very thick for a fender slot, and almost big enough to get two out of. Needless to say sanding takes forever.

So far the best thing I've tried is a permagrit block. But I'm wondering if theres a better no power way. I say non power mostly because of where and when I work on guitar stuff. Dremel is loud, and I don't want a ton of dust flying in the bonus room.

Is there a better way? I bought one of the roller jigs which is ok for flattening the bottom. It's kinda of a pain for thickness. And it doesn't work with my permagrit block (too small) so the paper loads up quickly.

What tooth rasp/file works well for removing a lot of material quickly on bone?
 

ale.istotle

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Ideally you would buy fender-sized blanks. Phila Luthiery sells 0.14" thick blanks.
As for thinning what I assume are 0.25" blanks a stationary belt sander is ideal, but not really what you asked for.
I'd look at a large double-cut file to remove material quickly. Holding your blank will be a challenge too.
 

Boreas

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Ideally you would buy fender-sized blanks. Phila Luthiery sells 0.14" thick blanks.
As for thinning what I assume are 0.25" blanks a stationary belt sander is ideal, but not really what you asked for.
I'd look at a large double-cut file to remove material quickly. Holding your blank will be a challenge too.
Agree!! The best way to remove excess material is to not buy it in the first place! Save those thick blanks for a Gibson or something.
 

KokoTele

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Thicknessing an oversized nut is one of my least favorite things. If the blank is something like 2x the size that's required, you want to start with a fine saw and slice the blank close to the right thickness. Then go to your sanding or filing.

I have one of these saws from StewMac. I'm not sure what the non-luthiery equivalent is, but the blade is similar to a veneer saw. An Xacto saw would work too, but the teeth are finder and it would take longer.

FWIW, most fender net slots are about .120". You still need to size a 1/8" blank, but it's less work. They can be bought on Amazon relatively inexpensively.

1653405422315.png
 

swarfrat

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Just to clarify - these ARE the 0.14 blanks (nominal - they're actually 0.15in and trust me - if you're sanding an extra 0.01 counts)
It's still a ton of sanding. They're almost tall enough to get two out of if you split down the middle - but not quite.
 
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tomasz

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Any small toothed saw would be my choice, for getting close to size with the blank.
 

swarfrat

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I'll definitely say that the xacto saws are probably too fine for cutting anything but balsa wood. I figured bone being hard would want a fine tooth but it's too fine. I have a pull saw with 'fine' teeth but it's still much too coarse for bone.
 

KokoTele

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Just to clarify - these ARE the 0.14 blanks (nominal - they're actually 0.15in and trust me - if you're sanding an extra 0.01 counts)
It's still a ton of sanding. They're almost tall enough to get two out of if you split down the middle - but not quite.

I just measured a StewMac one and an Allparts one. Both were pretty close to .125". I've use the Amazon ones occasionally and they were about the same thickness and pretty good quality. Maybe try those?

I've never had sandpaper load up working with bone. In your situation, I'd probably double-stick tape the blank to a surface to hold it and use a small sanding block with 120 paper. You could get a double cut file instead, though I find that files don't bite bone the same way they do wood, so a very coarse file is actually less efficient.

I'll definitely say that the xacto saws are probably too fine for cutting anything but balsa wood. I figured bone being hard would want a fine tooth but it's too fine. I have a pull saw with 'fine' teeth but it's still much too coarse for bone.

That has not been my experience. Maybe yours is dull? I use them to rough in my slots, and when someone has used too much glue on a nut I use one to slice them in half for extraction.
 

Freeman Keller

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Band saw and belt sander. Wear a mask, watch your fingers. 120 or 180 grit works pretty good. Then clamp it in a vise with soft jaws and use a small mill bastard file. Then 120 grit stuck to a sanding stick, followed by finer grits, polish with compound

IMG_6239.JPG



ps - just reread the original post and see that you want a no power way. I use power when its helpful.
 

swarfrat

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Mine were 40tpi and brand new. I think 20tpi is probably better for a 1/8" blank.
 

oldunc

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Most of the discussion I see for nut making is about slotting. I have a bunch of blanks from Philadelphia Luthiery and they're very thick for a fender slot, and almost big enough to get two out of. Needless to say sanding takes forever.

So far the best thing I've tried is a permagrit block. But I'm wondering if theres a better no power way. I say non power mostly because of where and when I work on guitar stuff. Dremel is loud, and I don't want a ton of dust flying in the bonus room.

Is there a better way? I bought one of the roller jigs which is ok for flattening the bottom. It's kinda of a pain for thickness. And it doesn't work with my permagrit block (too small) so the paper loads up quickly.

What tooth rasp/file works well for removing a lot of material quickly on bone?
I bought a set of nut slotting saws at some point- small Japanese style saws with fine teeth. I used one of them at one point to rip a nut blank into thin slices to use on a classical bridge- a bit arduous, but certainly less so than taking them down with abrasives. If you have a thickness sander, you could make a setup fairly easily to do it.
 

bobio

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small hobby inlay tools would work well with nut work.

I know the OP said no power tools. There are plenty of hand tools for inlay work.

I am looking at a small benchtop vertical disk sander and a scroll saw just for shaping nuts.
 

KokoTele

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small hobby inlay tools would work well with nut work.

I know the OP said no power tools. There are plenty of hand tools for inlay work.

I am looking at a small benchtop vertical disk sander and a scroll saw just for shaping nuts.

I got the cheap combo belt/disc sander from Harbor Freight for this task. I use the belt almost exclusively, which suits me fine since it has a dust port. I have an adapter to hook up my little shop vac and that takes care of most of the dust.
 

jfgesquire

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Band saw and belt sander. Wear a mask, watch your fingers. 120 or 180 grit works pretty good. Then clamp it in a vise with soft jaws and use a small mill bastard file. Then 120 grit stuck to a sanding stick, followed by finer grits, polish with compound

View attachment 986619


ps - just reread the original post and see that you want a no power way. I use power when its helpful.
As I was scrolling down I was thinking that I was going to post the very same thing, pencil line and all, until I saw your post, now I'm just piling on.

I would go crazy sanding down nut and saddle blanks if it wasn't for the belt sander.

I see you're using unbleached bone. I just like the way it looks all vintage-y even if the vintage ones weren't. Yours in the pic is really yellow - the unbleached bone from StewMac is less yellow - more gray-brown tinted, I guess.

neck.jpg
 

KokoTele

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I see you're using unbleached bone. I just like the way it looks all vintage-y even if the vintage ones weren't. Yours in the pic is really yellow - the unbleached bone from StewMac is less yellow - more gray-brown tinted, I guess.

Depends on the batch, I think. Most of the unbleached ones I get from StewMac are quite yellow.
 

swarfrat

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I'd consider thicknessing a bunch of blanks using power but that's not the worst part - it's the shaping of the blank from the way bigger than it needs to be thing. I did buy a preslotted blank for a project that's been stalled for a while. I was kind of thinking about some sort of radiusing jig to shape the top of the nut, then use the saw to cut it to rough height and square off the bottom in the roller jig.
 
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highwaycat

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You might find a used belt sander for $20.
You will need something very flat to sand the nut perfectly square.
I have several slabs or granite for this.
I also use a piece of acrylic to line sand.
The cheap razor saws work well just be very careful using them.
Files, you can do 6”-8” cut length, second cut-bastard, or swiss 0 and 00 cut. Or a mill file.
I use 180 for the thickness.
Digital calipers are a must.
You wanna get the hang of sanding so the thickness is even.
You might want a small square file for squaring up the nut slot cavity.
Make a half pencil.
There’s really only two ‘guitar’ tools you really need, nut slot files and a recrown file, but you can substitute that for a regular file. So make sure to buy the good nut files.
You can mark the nut with pencil and sand to make sure it’s perfectly square. A small vise is helpful.
I’ll try to post some pics of my acrylic. Line standing helps.
 

Beebe

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I use a Swiss file, but also started buying the ones that already have a radius and have a lot of that material gone already.

If the bottom of your nut slot has a radius, then you can put sand paper face up on the fretboard and go to work with some elbow grease.

Edit: My last one started off pre-slotted and shaped from Philadelphia Luthier and looks like this:

PXL_20220427_115348547.PORTRAIT.jpg
 
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swarfrat

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I have power tools. I am looking for a solution that doesn't involve 120db tools that throw bone dust all over the house. I think two saw cuts and start filing are probably the way to rough the profile
 

old wrench

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Most of the discussion I see for nut making is about slotting. I have a bunch of blanks from Philadelphia Luthiery and they're very thick for a fender slot, and almost big enough to get two out of. Needless to say sanding takes forever.

So far the best thing I've tried is a permagrit block. But I'm wondering if theres a better no power way. I say non power mostly because of where and when I work on guitar stuff. Dremel is loud, and I don't want a ton of dust flying in the bonus room.

Is there a better way? I bought one of the roller jigs which is ok for flattening the bottom. It's kinda of a pain for thickness. And it doesn't work with my permagrit block (too small) so the paper loads up quickly.

What tooth rasp/file works well for removing a lot of material quickly on bone?


You say you've already got one of the roller tools for thicknessing nuts - you're already off to a good start, because they actually work very well :)

If you go to the Box Store and buy one of the 12"x12" granite tiles (about $5 bucks) and some assorted sheets of sandpaper - you'll be all set up for quickly and accurately thicknessing nut blanks

Lay the 12"x12" granite tile (they are already ground and polished very flat) down on the bench - lay a full sheet of sandpaper down on top of it (you can either tape it down or just hold it in place) - then set up your roller gizmo to the proper thickness - stick your blank in it - and then just work it back and forth across the sandpaper until it stops cutting.

The sandpaper doesn't really bother the steel ball bearing rollers the roller-gizmo rolls on - and the rollers don't bother the sandpaper either - they just roll right over the sandpaper - and even if the steel rollers eventually did wear down (after many hundreds of nuts), you can replace all four of them for about $6 or $7 bucks

One of the nicest things about the roller-gizmo is that you can pre-set it to cut an exact size - then you just roll it back and forth (you can even do it mindlessly! :)) until the sandpaper stops cutting - and voila . . . you've got a nicely thicknessed blank

You can easily use 40 or 60 or 80 grit to rough a blank down, then switch to a finer grade like 400 or 600 grit to finish it off

The bone (or Corian or whatever) dust doesn't load up the sandpaper - it brushes right off



Just about any fine-toothed saw will cut bone - manually operated or power

I rough-cut my blanks on the band saw with a 10 tpi blade - bone just sails right through



A little something to keep in mind about the roller-gizmos when you are adjusting for thickness -

I believe most of them use 3/8" - 16 tpi screws for adjusting the blanks thickness - so that means that one full turn of the screw is equal to one sixteenth of an inch (1/16" or .0625") - a half turn is 1/32" - a quarter turn is 1/64" - and so on ;)

.
 
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