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What tools do I need to start filing my own nut slots?

Discussion in 'Tele Home Depot' started by Norrin Radd, Feb 15, 2016.

  1. Norrin Radd

    Norrin Radd Tele-Holic

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    As the title asks, which tools do I need to start filing my own nut slots and shaping the nut? Presume that I will be purchasing only pre-slotted nuts. Are there different gauge files for shaping different slots? If that is the case, do I need a set of six of them? And if so, what gauges do I need?

    If you have any recommendations, I'd love to hear them!

    Thanks for your time.

    :cool:
     
    Dustin0413 likes this.
  2. cornfed

    cornfed Tele-Meister

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    Besides the real nut files I use other things like very small hacksaw blades, torch tip cleaner files, finger nail files, those cheap small Harbor Freight files. They all work to some degree, but the real nut files save a lot of headaches and are so worth it.
     
  3. Wayne Alexander

    Wayne Alexander Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

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    You'll get the best results by using "real" gauged nut files which cut a round-bottom, flat sided slot. Yes, you need different gauges for each string slot, it's fine, in fact preferable, to have the slots be slightly larger (2-4 gauges larger is ok) than the string size, so if for instance you have a .10 high e string, you can use a nut file that's 11-13 gauge, or for a 46 gauge low E string you can use a nut file that's 47-50 gauge). I like the two-sided Stew Mac ones http://www.stewmac.com/Luthier_Tool...r_Nuts_and_Saddles/Double-edge_Nut_Files.html - if you get the first four of them (12-20, 26-32, 36-42 and 50-60) you'll be able to do pretty much any string gauge you'll encounter on a regular 6 string guitar. These tools will last many years, and will serve very well.
     
  4. RickyRicardo

    RickyRicardo Friend of Leo's

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    I have the Hosco files and they work great. There are other more inexpensive ways but if you haven't done nut slots before get the tool for the job. They are worth it.
     
  5. NotAnotherHobby

    NotAnotherHobby Tele-Afflicted

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    You know, the thread that someone did comparing the not slots made by various methods should be stickies for questions like this. Seeing the result on a microscopic level really defines the result.
     
  6. guitarbuilder

    guitarbuilder Telefied Ad Free Member

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  7. Beatbx

    Beatbx Tele-Meister

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    Nut slot files are one of those luthiery tools that are very hard to improvise, to the point I think you're best off getting the real thing. They will most likely last you a lifetime. I like the stew Mac style ones with the same size on both sides that leave a 'u' shaped bottom. If you get a set gauged for 11's that should cover most guitars you'll encounter.
     
  8. RickyRicardo

    RickyRicardo Friend of Leo's

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    Same ones I got Marty. They work really well.
     
  9. Bentley

    Bentley Friend of Leo's

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    Honestly it depends what your final goal is. Sometimes I use my welder tip cleaner files, sometimes I just use a triangle file and file a larger triangle slot. It's mainly an aesthetic thing, as both serve the purpose almost equally as well.
     
  10. jimdkc

    jimdkc Friend of Leo's

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    I bought these a couple years ago from Rondo Music:

    http://www.rondomusic.com/tk001.html

    and started a thread about them here:

    http://www.tdpri.com/forum/diy-tool-shed/443644-found-fairly-inexpensive-set-nut-files.html

    A note about some of the comments in this thread: These files are rigid, not flexible. And they DO file smooth rounded bottom slots (although the sides are slightly tapered.)

    Rondo availability is kind of hit or miss... sometimes they have them, sometimes they don't. And shipping is expensive (around the same price as the files!) I've seen what appears to be the same set for around $20-25 shipped from some of the Chinese vendors on eBay, too. For example:

    http://www.ebay.com/itm/Guitar-Setup-Kit-Nut-files-String-Spacing-Ruler-Action-Guage-Luthier-Tools-/381256823113?hash=item58c4ad7149:g:HJwAAOSwnDxUdaO5

    It's not the best set in the world, but I think it's a good starter set, and certainly a step up from using welding tip cleaners or needle files.

    I plan to supplement these by buying a couple higher quality files at a time from StewMac (since I have free shipping!)
     
  11. Vizcaster

    Vizcaster Poster Extraordinaire

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    I have nut slot files from several sources, but I prefer the Hosco files which you can get at a reasonable price from Antique Electronic Supply (www.tubesandmore.com). They come in sets of three, double-edged files for the six sizes you'll need. Get the electric set and add a single .056 to get yourself into acoustic guitar range. Last time I saw Fender Master Builder John Cruz at a Music Zoo event, he did a final assembly and setup on a guitar using nut slot files just like these.

    The Hosco files have a sturdy backbone to them which tapers to the appropriate size. They do not flop around and are easier to control than files that are a single flat piece of gauged steel.

    The second thing you'll need is a very flat reference surface, such as a scrap of granite countertop material. This is important to use with self-stick sandpaper for getting a flat/square blank to sit in the nut slot.

    Third is some kind of fine cut (single cut) file for shaping the top profile - and that's all according to what you want to spend. If you use a hardware store file, try making a safe-edge using a bench grinder to remove the teeth from one corner.

    You should already have small rubber and wood backing blocks for sanding and shaping - with a bone nut I start at 600 to remove filing marks and go to 800 and 1000 to get it to shine. After that a rag with polishing compound will bring up the lustre.

    With a bandsaw you can temporarily super-glue the nut blank to a scrap of wood in order to trace out the general profile, but that's more helpful for acoustic saddles than nuts. All you really need is a small razor saw for trimming a precut nut blank to length and some files to shape it down.

    And of course make yourself a half-pencil to lay against the frets in order to mark the general profile of the top of the nut blank.
     
  12. Count

    Count Friend of Leo's

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    I have noticed Gas Welder Tip Cleaner sets being advertised as Nut Files. They do work but don't last very long and are prone to bending.
     
  13. Tony Done

    Tony Done Friend of Leo's

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    Needle files, gas tip cleaners, junior hacksaw blades ground down if necessary and feeler gauges with teeth cut in them:

    [​IMG]

    This also shows my stop gauge in action. It is a piece of power hacksaw blade ground to a wedge to get the correct slot angle and shimmed up with tape. The tape is removed successively until the correct depth is reached. - I don't need this any more, but it was very useful when I started.
     
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