Nut filing

ThreeChordWonder

Senior Stratmaster
Dec 2, 2020
3,147
Cypress TX
^ Doing it that way inevitably ends up with slots bigger than the strings. The difference might be okay for a 0.042 inch low e but on a 0.009 inch high e?
 

ThreeChordWonder

Senior Stratmaster
Dec 2, 2020
3,147
Cypress TX
There is a slight possibility that the nut slot and therefore the bottom of the nut is radiused, so you won't be able to sand it on a flat surface:

This is true, but you won't know for sure until you get the nut out.

In this case have to put sandpaper on the guitar fingerboard and rub the bottom of the nut on this to maintain the correct radius.

Sounds like a good way to ruin a fretboard, and what do you do about nuts like Fender ones with a locating pegs in the middle.

Personally at that point I would get my needle files out, but if you're not a good file user, I'd take it to a pro.
 

Mr Jagsquire

Strat-O-Master
Sep 26, 2020
648
Berkshire
Sounds like a good way to ruin a fretboard, and what do you do about nuts like Fender ones with a locating pegs in the middle.

You don't put the gritty side against the fingerboard, but I don't know if you are just being facetious or pulling my leg. ;)

So far I've not come across one with the locating pegs in the middle: I did buy a pre-slotted bone nut with the peg on it, so I had to sand it off as my (MIM) guitar had a radiused nut slot. But I don't generally sand the bottom myself, I'm just aware that some people do and not all slots are flat.

I have a proper set of nut files myself, but I can understand someone taking it to a pro, especially if it's a one-off job. Even with my files I've recently taken my Strat to a pro: Mainly for a fret level (since it's not worth me buying the tools to do this now, let alone to learn how to do a decent job of it), but while he's got it I asked him to cut me a new bone nut from a blank as he can space the strings a bit better than the 'guide' slotted ones I usually buy. It'll leave me more time for practising for our upcoming gigs, which is more important to me...
 

Miotch

Most Honored Senior Member
Jun 28, 2011
5,207
ok
Flat or radiused, I often will sand the bottom of the nut. But that is only IF the string radius is correct in the first place. I've often had to lower only one or two strings and there just isn't getting around filing in that situation. I've also had to sand the bottom of the nut at an angle because either the low or high strings were too high.

On wound strings, I use a taut piece of the string itself to file the slot (never tried brass or bone nut, though). I don't wrap sandpaper around the strings when I do this, the string itself will cut into plastic or graphite nuts. I have thin saws I've collected over the years for the unwound strings. The other thing a novice needs to pay attention to is the angle of the cut so the string break is right at the fret board, which is why you can't just flip a guitar upside down, reverse the existing nut and go.

On guitars with a slot for the nut, I've never used glue.
 

ThreeChordWonder

Senior Stratmaster
Dec 2, 2020
3,147
Cypress TX
Flat or radiused, I often will sand the bottom of the nut. But that is only IF the string radius is correct in the first place. I've often had to lower only one or two strings and there just isn't getting around filing in that situation. I've also had to sand the bottom of the nut at an angle because either the low or high strings were too high.

On wound strings, I use a taut piece of the string itself to file the slot (never tried brass or bone nut, though). I don't wrap sandpaper around the strings when I do this, the string itself will cut into plastic or graphite nuts. I have thin saws I've collected over the years for the unwound strings. The other thing a novice needs to pay attention to is the angle of the cut so the string break is right at the fret board, which is why you can't just flip a guitar upside down, reverse the existing nut and go.

On guitars with a slot for the nut, I've never used glue.

Using a string as a file I like. A lot.

The peg I refer to is like this:

pq-5000-l0-a_49e3a1f7-cb10-4b75-8b5d-64e8b77a7918_900x.jpg

Gluing is really only needed if the nut is flat bottomed and not a particularly snug fit IMHO. During " normal operation" the string tensions should hold it down.
 

StratoMutt

Dr. Stratster
Mar 15, 2019
10,440
SE Pennsylvania
Those are actually welding tip cleaners being marketed as nut files. The price in the link isn't bad, but some vendors charge way more for a tool that should cost less than $5.

There are a few mentions of the efficacy of tip cleaners as nut files from others here. Seems the consensus is they are not very good.

Sanding from the bottom is a great way to lower action once proper slots are cut. Cutting good slots is harder than it looks.

Took me three tries to get it right on my first attempt of shaping a nut from a blank. I broke down and got premium $100 Hosco files.
 

ThreeChordWonder

Senior Stratmaster
Dec 2, 2020
3,147
Cypress TX
Out of interest, how close does the collection end think intonation should be?

I use a Boss tuner so think in terms of illuminated bars high or low.

Say I've got spot on intonation open string and 12th. I've decked the strings as low as they'll go before fret buzz and the nut lowered is as much as I dare.

Should the frets near the nut end be spot on? If not how many bars is acceptable?
 

Dreamdancer

Senior Stratmaster
May 1, 2014
2,362
Greece
Those are actually welding tip cleaners being marketed as nut files. The price in the link isn't bad, but some vendors charge way more for a tool that should cost less than $5.

There are a few mentions of the efficacy of tip cleaners as nut files from others here. Seems the consensus is they are not very good.

Sanding from the bottom is a great way to lower action once proper slots are cut. Cutting good slots is harder than it looks.

Took me three tries to get it right on my first attempt of shaping a nut from a blank. I broke down and got premium $100 Hosco files.

The starting point makes a difference...its one thing to deal with a precut preshapped nut that you just need to dial in and another to cut a nut from scratch.

I use aluminium bars to make my guitar nuts from scratch....for that obviously tip cleaners and similar half assed solutions are utterly useless and you need regular stewmac files or files like the ones in the photo(those are crimson guitars files that i use) to actually do the work....for an already made nut though that needs a little dialing in especially if its a one time thing and you want something cheap and effective solutions like tip cleaners although a bit frustrating can work really well....for me they are absolutely useless for what i do.

 
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ThreeChordWonder

Senior Stratmaster
Dec 2, 2020
3,147
Cypress TX
^ Yup, the difference between a Horrible Fright adjustable wrench for that one loose bolt vs. a full set of Snap-Ons for working on cars day in, day out.
 

dirocyn

Most Honored Senior Member
Jan 20, 2018
6,408
Murfreesboro, TN
Out of interest, how close does the collection end think intonation should be?

I use a Boss tuner so think in terms of illuminated bars high or low.

Say I've got spot on intonation open string and 12th. I've decked the strings as low as they'll go before fret buzz and the nut lowered is as much as I dare.

Should the frets near the nut end be spot on? If not how many bars is acceptable?

Depends on the tuner. Most tuners have bars or dots along the dial, but they are not consistent in how many cents each bar represents. On the tuner app GStrings, the bars are 5 cents. On the Snark clip on that I own (not sure they're all the same) each one is 3. I don't own a Boss tuner, I have no idea how many cents the bars are.

A strobe tuner will be clear, and precise to the level of cents or even 0.1 cents.

A guitar string does not always ring at a consistent pitch. If you pluck hard, you see the pitch wobble around by 5 or even 10 cents. It can be pretty consistent with a very light touch.

When the guitar is in tune open and at 12, played with a light touch and careful not to pull fretted notes sharp--usually all the notes in between will be within 5 cents of correct. Maybe even within 3, if the frets are fresh.
 

StratUp

Most Honored Senior Member
Sep 5, 2020
6,643
Altered States
Remember that sandpaper has it's own thickness, a double layer of sandpaper can't get into a .009" slot. This trick might work for smoothing out some of the bigger ones.

If I need to widen or smooth a nut slot, the first tool I reach for is an old string. A roundwound string has ridges that can act like a saw and slowly remove material from the slot. And you know it's the right size. Plain strings can saw too, but very slowly. Maybe a little faster if it's rough with rust. Often a little flossing action is enough to get the next set of strings sliding through the nut more smoothly.

That's basically what the welding tip files are... except that they are all "wound". They are not sized, but you can just grab a caliper and measure. If you don't have a caliper, buy one because you need it in life, especially guitar life. OR, just know that the smallest is about right for a .009/.010. Step up one size per string. At most, use the next higher size. Works better if you remove them from the holder.

Again, great for cleaning up a nut of bridge slot. NOT good for cutting nuts: You need the precision and accuracy that a full file allows for that.
 

Chipss36

Strat-O-Master
Oct 1, 2018
839
Texas
Getting a nut out…

take a razor, cut carefully around the nut, this way the finish will not start pealing off when you remove the nut.

I use a gunsmith hammer I have and a nylon punch to whack the nut, from the side to break it loose.

This is a stock fender nut, “with the nut slots” the slots do not follow the radius at all…the walrus blank on top is is a 12” radius, the finished nut slots should also be a 12 radius on that fender nut.

The g string is especially deep, the b string also too deep. Hard to photo this well, but it’s off….couple this with a vintage stagger pickup, it makes a string balance hot mess.

some tasty walrus and mammoth ivory…that will soon be guitar nuts.
0352B09E-CC24-473F-A40A-A1D41F59861C.jpeg
 
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Janning

Strat-Talker
May 4, 2020
173
Dallas, Texas
I bet a tech will do it for less than that
HA.......in this city?, they prolly won't even consider doing it...at all. I ended up buying 2 nuts from guitar center ...which they said they didn't have anything that would fit..so I pointed it out to them ON THE WALL! . I used a grinder and took off a lil under 1/4".....works perfect.
 

Janning

Strat-Talker
May 4, 2020
173
Dallas, Texas
Thanks for all the replies!....Keep in mind this guitar is CHEAP, I didn't pay much at all. I have a Strat and EVH Wolfgang special. I got this one so I can bring it anywhere and work on my calluses and finger strength, basically a squeeze ball. So I don't want to put much $$ into it. I got a nutt from GC, grinded 1/4" off the height put d'addario on it, and it actually sounds pretty damn good. Hell I may get bored and put a Seymour Duncan on it. I did that to a 50 buck Memphis beater guitar and I gotta say it sounds as good as the strat.
 

Janning

Strat-Talker
May 4, 2020
173
Dallas, Texas
Next I want to lower the action on the bridge side, (Overlord of Music Bridge) I've unscrewed the Allen heads all the way, I think the only option left is, back to the grinder. (Unless anyone has a better idea) The 6 (saddles ?) come rite out. If I'm careful I can take off about 1/8" and it will be perfect. If I do take off too much, I can used the Allen adjustments to raise them back. All this being said.....I'm WELL aware I'm lipsticking the pig and polishing a terd. OLM_lower1.jpg
 

Slacker G

Senior Stratmaster
May 16, 2021
1,120
Iowa
I put a knife edge on a hacksaw blade and make the tip very narrow and increase the width over a 3"- 4" span. Works great for me.
 


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