Nut slot Do's and Don'ts--????

Jupiter

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Sorry to jump in on this thread but I’m in a similar spot. I have one tele that just feels stiffer than the others. I can tell the nut is higher than the others just by looking at it and suspect that may be the reason for the stiffness as string height and relief are pretty much the same as the others.

Rather than filing down each nut slot, would it be possible to remove the nut and slide it over some fine sandpaper a few times until I get the height I’m aiming for?
Depends on if, what, and how much glue is holding the nut in there. Sometimes a judicious sideways knock will pop it loose…and sometimes you get a broken nut…

Also the bottom of the nut slot may be flat, or it may be radiused, in which case your challenge will be considerably greater.
 

Boreas

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Sorry to jump in on this thread but I’m in a similar spot. I have one tele that just feels stiffer than the others. I can tell the nut is higher than the others just by looking at it and suspect that may be the reason for the stiffness as string height and relief are pretty much the same as the others.

Rather than filing down each nut slot, would it be possible to remove the nut and slide it over some fine sandpaper a few times until I get the height I’m aiming for?
That's what I do if I am dropping them all. If it is a radiused nut, it is more difficult but still doable. But OVERDO it and you are scrod. Remove just a gnat's eyelash at a time.
 

Jupiter

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That's what I do if I am dropping them all. If it is a radiused nut, it is more difficult but still doable. But OVERDO it and you are scrod. Remove just a gnat's eyelash at a time.
yep, and after a few iterations of:
1. de-tune all the strings
2. work the nut out of the slot
3. sand off a gnat's eyelash
4. replace nut
5. retune all strings
6. check string height on all strings
7. decide if one side is lower than the other
8. mark the nut so you take the extra off of the right end
9. rinse and repeat

You might start to question whether it isn't actually quicker to do em one at a time. ;)
 

Boreas

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yep, and after a few iterations of:
1. de-tune all the strings
2. work the nut out of the slot
3. sand off a gnat's eyelash
4. replace nut
5. retune all strings
6. check string height on all strings
7. decide if one side is lower than the other
8. mark the nut so you take the extra off of the right end
9. rinse and repeat

You might start to question whether it isn't actually quicker to do em one at a time. ;)
I suppose experience helps. I usually get it right the first shot. Best to have an idea how much you need to remove to begin with. I also wouldn't do it this way if I was unhappy with the existing slots. It should be noted I am not too picky. 😁
 

NoTeleBob

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yep, and after a few iterations of:
1. de-tune all the strings
2. work the nut out of the slot
3. sand off a gnat's eyelash
4. replace nut
5. retune all strings
6. check string height on all strings
7. decide if one side is lower than the other
8. mark the nut so you take the extra off of the right end
9. rinse and repeat

You might start to question whether it isn't actually quicker to do em one at a time. ;)

It's debatable. If I had a lot more experience with filing slots, I'd think that that was much faster. I think Gibson guitars with flat bottom nuts and no slot to fit the nut in are done quicker with the "sand the bottom" method. Noting that that only works if all the slots are uniform depth (new pre-cut nut or new guitar).
 

chas.wahl

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StewMac SchmooMac. Stick with Freeman Keller (who's posted above) and Bryan Kimsey (start here). Read them both in parallel, compare (their techniques are very similar) and be careful.
 

trev333

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this is a handy way to lift the strings when you remove the nut a few times while fitting/testing it....
detune a bit, even take them out of the trees..;)..

Nut and pen small.jpg
 

plusorminuszero

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After watching the StewMac videos on the subject...

Know you are trying to create a single contact point at the front of the nut and nothing for the string to catch on behind it.

Go by feel and note stability. Play notes on the first fret and if they go too sharp when you squeeze down, file the nut a little more. ...that is assuming you don't have those silly tall frets that will make this happen no matter what.

Fret the string on the third fret and tap the string against the first fret. There should be almost no space between the string and the fret.

Once you get them the proper depth the playability suddenly becomes a lot more buttery.

File - check - file - check - file - check... Come up on it gradually.
I will add that you should leave the (wound strings especially) height settings just a little higher than you intend
finally, because the strings will absolutely settle over time.
If you inspect the slots after a week or so you will see the impressions taking form, right over the ledge where the strings sit. Eventually the footprints will deepen and lengthen, tapering away near the rear. I should think the settling is done once the wrap impressions are fully embedded in the slots...

Let's just say my efforts have been wasted many times, almost exclusively due to trying to get too close
to zero fret heights, succeeding, and later, the settling. Even plain strings are going to sink in a bit, being under pressure, and sitting on a ledge. I cannot see any possible gain in 'polishing' nut slot bottoms. They will, however, need to be broken in, and initially the action will be palpably high. Every time you file away at more depth, the breaking in will have to continue again since impressions have been wiped away, removed. For all I know this may take a year.

Also, be tentative with starter notch marks. Set up as many times as needed with the loosened strings nearby, to tension, just to be certain you aren't upsetting the plan. You want a certain clearance from the fb edge on the outer strings, and you want a particular spacing (compensated or equal or what
ever +/- compliments your fingerings) so you will
benefit from having a caliper. They aren't expensive and once
you use one you won't work without.

While laying out, and notching, start with a taller than
intended nut blank and (repeatedly) gently break any sharp edges in slots along the top surface, using a small barette type file, because without relief, edges of bone can catch the semi loose strings laying about, especially the file when coming out of a cut, and cause a fracture well into the blank, ruining the effort. As you ascertain you have starter slots or a slot in the right place you can start notching deeper.
I like to put the strings in place when I have the slots scribed and take precise measurements. While getting deeper, I do this as many times as needed. If you are going to change location now is the time to do it. It is very hard to relocate a slot once established. When finished all sharp edges should be slightly broken around slot edges, blank -even if only visible under magnification- it is enough. The last thing I do is to glue it in, using minimal CA glue only on bottom - there isn't a lot of room for error at this point. Instead one could choose to fit and glue the blank and then start laying things out.
 

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thegaijin

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yep, and after a few iterations of:
1. de-tune all the strings
2. work the nut out of the slot
3. sand off a gnat's eyelash
4. replace nut
5. retune all strings
6. check string height on all strings
7. decide if one side is lower than the other
8. mark the nut so you take the extra off of the right end
9. rinse and repeat

You might start to question whether it isn't actually quicker to do em one at a time. ;)
Domo domo
 

thegaijin

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That's what I do if I am dropping them all. If it is a radiused nut, it is more difficult but still doable. But OVERDO it and you are scrod. Remove just a gnat's eyelash at a time.
Thanks. Will let you know how it goes.
Worst case, it’ll be a trip to the luthier for a new nut.
Also, is that an imperial gnat or a metric gnat?
 

thegaijin

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Depends on if, what, and how much glue is holding the nut in there. Sometimes a judicious sideways knock will pop it loose…and sometimes you get a broken nut…

Also the bottom of the nut slot may be flat, or it may be radiused, in which case your challenge will be considerably greater.
Ouch
 

netgear69

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That was good advice about getting the nut to just above the height of what is needed before filing the slots
it is not much fun filing bone on the B & E slots on a high nut snapped a couple of files learning that lesson
 

thegaijin

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I tried knocking the nut out but I could tell it wasn’t going to end well so I stopped. I’d need to scrape off the lacquer around it. Leaning towards just biting the bullet and buying a set of nut files.
 

Jupiter

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I tried knocking the nut out but I could tell it wasn’t going to end well so I stopped. I’d need to scrape off the lacquer around it. Leaning towards just biting the bullet and buying a set of nut files.
yeah, I left that out of my steps above; I use Tru-Oil on my necks, and they're always finished before I install the nut...
Some folks run a razor blade around the edges of the nut.
 

thegaijin

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I tried knocking the nut out but I could tell it wasn’t going to end well so I stopped. I’d need to scrape off the lacquer around it. Leaning towards just biting the bullet and buying a set of nut files.
Hmmm. Nut files about 14,000 yen. Luthier charges 6,000 yen. Luthier it is then.
 

Boreas

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I tried knocking the nut out but I could tell it wasn’t going to end well so I stopped. I’d need to scrape off the lacquer around it. Leaning towards just biting the bullet and buying a set of nut files.
Sometimes they will slide out sideways, other times tapping them out perpendicularly works best. But SCORE around the nut first with a razor or you could get "unexpected results". Another option to removing a stubborn nut is moderate heat - enough to soften glue and not melt the finish.
 

Wagster

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1) When removing a glued nut...I'd suggest NOT hitting the nut directly. Find something with a flat surface (a center punch, small dowel, etc). Place it squarely against the nut and then tap IT. This will reduce the risk of blowing the nut apart.

2) Nut noobs should always have a few spare blanks on hand before starting to tamper with the existing nut. Odds are at some point you are going to screw up something.

3} It's O.K. to screw something up. Don't kick yourself when it happens. (Personally...I've made about 20 bone nuts. Only a half dozen or so ever ended up on a guitar).

4] Sanding the bottom of the nut to adjust slot depth sounds like a bad idea to me. If the slots are not already at the correct depth in relation to each other....well.....see #3 above.

5) A small piece of marble (foot or so square) makes an excellent (and very flat) area on which to sand nut surfaces.

6) I am not a luthier nor an expert nut crafter. Don't hesitate to gather differing opinions from persons knowledgeable in such matters.

7) Most of all.....have fun and drink beer
 
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