Before I start grinding on this nut ...

Uncle Vinnie

Proud Boomer
Gold Supporting Member
Joined
Jul 2, 2017
Messages
5,744
Reaction score
11,087
Just a couple of questions.

First, I picked up a good quality set of files and a feeler gauge set from Philedalphia Luthier's Supplies.

The nut that is on the guitar was replaced but never properly filed for string height, i.e., the height of the 6th string above the first fret is > .035". On my other two LPs it's equal or < .015" with no buzz.

Dan Erlewine uses a string height above 1st fret spec of (which I agree with based on my other guitars)

6th, .015"
5th, .014"
4th, .013"
3rd, .012"
2nd, .010"
1st, .009"

Of course, well before I get to those numbers I'll file and check, file and check ...

Procedurally, how would you suggest as the safest way for handy, but non-luthier person to approach filing the nut slots for depth ... and I know some or most of you will say let a pro do it: I would if I were close to one.

But, I'm not intimidated by the thought of doing this myself, I get the theory, I just need some helpful suggestions to pull it off.

Feuer Frei!
 

Roxy13

Senior Member
Joined
Dec 27, 2017
Messages
10,904
Reaction score
27,960
If you can hold the feeler gauges and file at the same time the gauges will keep you from filing down too far. And after all your slots are filed you can reshape the top to remove the excess material.

Following Dan Erlewine you won't overshoot any of your slots. I actually go lower than he does. I did buy the Stew Mac collar that can hold the gauges for me. Kind of pricey if you aren't making nuts all the time like I am though and I lived without it for a long time so it's not necessary. You can also draw a line on your blank to mark where the fret height is to help you see where you are at.
 

Roxy13

Senior Member
Joined
Dec 27, 2017
Messages
10,904
Reaction score
27,960
If you are right handed use the thumb and index finger of your left hand to hold your feeler gauges radiused to the neck and file with your right hand. The opposite if you are a lefty.
 

Uncle Vinnie

Proud Boomer
Gold Supporting Member
Joined
Jul 2, 2017
Messages
5,744
Reaction score
11,087
Thanks Roxy. Very very helpful info.

I watched a couple youtube vids on the Stew Mac collar, but figured I'd be OK doing it the old fashioned way.
 

Roxy13

Senior Member
Joined
Dec 27, 2017
Messages
10,904
Reaction score
27,960
Thanks Roxy. Very very helpful info.

I watched a couple youtube vids on the Stew Mac collar, but figured I'd be OK doing it the old fashioned way.
You will. Depending on which slot you are doing as well you can probably get more than your thumb and index finger on the gauges as needed. Both e's tend to be a little more difficult than the inner strings for holding them in place. But, try to get one finger on the outside then and some inside closer to the slot. You'll figure it out, what works and is comfortable for you.
 

Roxy13

Senior Member
Joined
Dec 27, 2017
Messages
10,904
Reaction score
27,960
Oh, and tape off your headstock a couple of pieces width of masking/painter's tape first. As you angle your slots to the tuners you don't want to cut into your headstock veneer. I do the space between the nut and first fret as well. Just a precaution.
 

fatdaddypreacher

V.I.P. Member
Joined
Feb 5, 2011
Messages
6,814
Reaction score
4,974
as a roughing in reference, you can take a pencil and grind it down halfway longwise so it's flat across the bottom, then simply put the flat side down onto the frets and move it across the nut to scribe the radius of the fretboard. depending on how wide the pencil line is it will give you an idea of how much you need to remove before you get to the pucker point and have to use your feeler gauges.
 

Roxy13

Senior Member
Joined
Dec 27, 2017
Messages
10,904
Reaction score
27,960
I think he's working with his exisiting nut so there are slots there already? He probably won't be coming down as much as he might if this was a blank.
 

Roger66

Senior Member
Joined
Mar 4, 2021
Messages
212
Reaction score
125
Just a couple of questions.

First, I picked up a good quality set of files and a feeler gauge set from Philedalphia Luthier's Supplies.

The nut that is on the guitar was replaced but never properly filed for string height, i.e., the height of the 6th string above the first fret is > .035". On my other two LPs it's equal or < .015" with no buzz.

Dan Erlewine uses a string height above 1st fret spec of (which I agree with based on my other guitars)

6th, .015"
5th, .014"
4th, .013"
3rd, .012"
2nd, .010"
1st, .009"

Of course, well before I get to those numbers I'll file and check, file and check ...

Procedurally, how would you suggest as the safest way for handy, but non-luthier person to approach filing the nut slots for depth ... and I know some or most of you will say let a pro do it: I would if I were close to one.

But, I'm not intimidated by the thought of doing this myself, I get the theory, I just need some helpful suggestions to pull it off.

Feuer Frei!
OK, first it depends on the fret height
You want the bottom of the slot just a few thousandths above the fret height. Imagine that the bottom of the slot is a fret. In fact, Stew Mac makes a "Zero nut fret" where you take a fret of the same height, but offset towards the headstock so the crown of the fret is inline with the string side of the nut so it works. That special fret is .051 tall when the rest of the frets are .050 on MY Gibson. They give you 4 frets to choose from. That offset fret is incorporated into the special nut that sits behind the fret. It's only purpose is to keep the strings the right distance apart as it goes over the zero fret which is .001 taller than the other frets. They take up the same amount of space as a regular nut so it fits in perfectly where the old nut was without modifying the guitar at all. Completely reversable! So, knowing that, the bottom of the nut slots should ideally, should be .001 higher than the first fret. I would shy away from feeler gauge 'specs' because the height of frets can vary, especially if it has had a fret job. I would measure the actual height of the first fret at the top and bottom in case it's different then add .001 to get the height of the bottom of the slot. I would do all the flaring and polishing on the headstock side of the nut before you reach your final depth of the slot, in case flaring and polishing makes it deeper. This is Important: when you are getting reasonably close to final depth of slots, it is a good idea to slide the string back into the slot and see if there is any buzzing in case you got anything a bit off. And make sure that the tops of the lower frets are in a line. If you get it perfect on the first fret, it might buzz on the next few frets if they are the slightest bit uneven. In that case, one would either use a dead blow hammer to knock it back down, or take a little off the top of the offending frets. Or one could make the bottom of the nut slot a few thousandths higher, maybe .0025 or so. A lot of people are just fine with even higher nut slots, but I am telling you how low you can absolutely go. This is important because the lower the slots, the easier it plays, and the less the intonation is off on the lower frets even though it intonates perfect at the 12th fret. The higher the nut slot is, the more one has to bend the string to reach the fret, making the fretted note slightly sharp. The higher the nut slot is, the worse it gets, even though it intonates fine on the 12th fret, the lower frets will be sharper. So it is to your advantage to make the slots as low as you can go. Now when you get close, you might think that 'one more stroke of the file should do it' it might, but usually one more stroke is too far. Use 1/4 or even 1/8th of a stroke or folded 600+ sandpaper and put the string back and check for buzz every time and you can quit anytime you get real close. I only said .001 because that's what that zero fret nut will give you and THAT works. It also fixes nut binding forever. Once you get the slots right, you will find that the guitar tunes and sounds better with no fretted notes off at all with the open notes. You will be very proud of yourself when you get it right. And IF you DO get one too low, it is acceptable to fill the low slot with super glue and try again, but let the super glue dry all the way first. And it's real easy to file away all the super glue out in one stroke, with a file. You can try a folded bit of 600+ sandpaper. so be REALLY light before you get to the proper depth. IN ALL CASES.
You can make super glue dry really fast by sprinkling baking powder or soda on it. I think I covered just about everything. That's how I would do it, and have successfully done to all of my guitars. But there is more than one way to skin a cat.

Just a couple of questions.

First, I picked up a good quality set of files and a f
Just a couple of questions.

First, I picked up a good quality set of files and a feeler gauge set from Philedalphia Luthier's Supplies.

The nut that is on the guitar was replaced but never properly filed for string height, i.e., the height of the 6th string above the first fret is > .035". On my other two LPs it's equal or < .015" with no buzz.

Dan Erlewine uses a string height above 1st fret spec of (which I agree with based on my other guitars)

6th, .015"
5th, .014"
4th, .013"
3rd, .012"
2nd, .010"
1st, .009"

Of course, well before I get to those numbers I'll file and check, file and check ...

Procedurally, how would you suggest as the safest way for handy, but non-luthier person to approach filing the nut slots for depth ... and I know some or most of you will say let a pro do it: I would if I were close to one.

But, I'm not intimidated by the thought of doing this myself, I get the theory, I just need some helpful suggestions to pull it off.

Feuer Frei!
eeler gauge set from Philedalphia Luthier's Supplies.

The nut that is on the guitar was replaced but never properly filed for string height, i.e., the height of the 6th string above the first fret is > .035". On my other two LPs it's equal or < .015" with no buzz.

Dan Erlewine uses a string height above 1st fret spec of (which I agree with based on my other guitars)

6th, .015"
5th, .014"
4th, .013"
3rd, .012"
2nd, .010"
1st, .009"

Of course, well before I get to those numbers I'll file and check, file and check ...

Procedurally, how would you suggest as the safest way for handy, but non-luthier person to approach filing the nut slots for depth ... and I know some or most of you will say let a pro do it: I would if I were close to one.

But, I'm not intimidated by the thought of doing this myself, I get the theory, I just need some helpful suggestions to pull it off.

Feuer Frei!
 

bgrizz

Junior Member
Joined
Feb 25, 2021
Messages
13
Reaction score
11
I try to get mentally prepared for the last bit of filing to be a long and tedious process of a few good strokes, put string back and put enough tension to bring it all the way down in slot, then check height. It’s an all day thing for me. I’m not a luthier either, I’ve done a hand full of nuts and probably ruined one maybe two for every one I’ve done well because of rushing. They are always ruined in the final step too which is pretty frustrating. It’s tedious because I will file and check, still be same height, then rush and now I’m buzzing and have to start all over.
 

Roger66

Senior Member
Joined
Mar 4, 2021
Messages
212
Reaction score
125
I try to get mentally prepared for the last bit of filing to be a long and tedious process of a few good strokes, put string back and put enough tension to bring it all the way down in slot, then check height. It’s an all day thing for me. I’m not a luthier either, I’ve done a hand full of nuts and probably ruined one maybe two for every one I’ve done well because of rushing. They are always ruined in the final step too which is pretty frustrating. It’s tedious because I will file and check, still be same height, then rush and now I’m buzzing and have to start all over.
Yeah, I totally have had the same experience. It takes all day and you blow it at the end, where the most exacting work is absolutely required, cuz you are fried from working on it for hours. You really have to relax and enter the 'zone' again. It's best to finish it when you are 'fresh' in the morning.
 

Roger66

Senior Member
Joined
Mar 4, 2021
Messages
212
Reaction score
125
as a roughing in reference, you can take a pencil and grind it down halfway longwise so it's flat across the bottom, then simply put the flat side down onto the frets and move it across the nut to scribe the radius of the fretboard. depending on how wide the pencil line is it will give you an idea of how much you need to remove before you get to the pucker point and have to use your feeler gauges.
Yeah! Thats a great way to get close!
 

Roger66

Senior Member
Joined
Mar 4, 2021
Messages
212
Reaction score
125
Just a couple of questions.

First, I picked up a good quality set of files and a feeler gauge set from Philedalphia Luthier's Supplies.

The nut that is on the guitar was replaced but never properly filed for string height, i.e., the height of the 6th string above the first fret is > .035". On my other two LPs it's equal or < .015" with no buzz.

Dan Erlewine uses a string height above 1st fret spec of (which I agree with based on my other guitars)

6th, .015"
5th, .014"
4th, .013"
Just a couple of questions.

First, I picked up a good quality set of files and a feeler gauge set from Philedalphia Luthier's Supplies.

The nut that is on the guitar was replaced but never properly filed for string height, i.e., the height of the 6th string above the first fret is > .035". On my other two LPs it's equal or < .015" with no buzz.

Dan Erlewine uses a string height above 1st fret spec of (which I agree with based on my other guitars)

6th, .015"
5th, .014"
4th, .013"
3rd, .012"
2nd, .010"
1st, .00990

Of course, well before I get to those numbers I'll file and check, file and check ...

Procedurally, how would you suggest as the safest way for handy, but non-luthier person to approach filing the nut slots for depth ... and I know some or most of you will say let a pro do it: I would if I were close to one.

But, I'm not intimidated by the thought of doing this myself, I get the theory, I just need some helpful suggestions to pull it off.

Feuer Frei!
The good doctor's string above fret height seems fine to me, but I go lower and end up about a tenth of his recommended height.
I guess I dont have to go that low. I'm just going from where the zero fret would be and add .001+. I use a caliper for that. Also, if you use the trem alot. You might want to go higher than I said to because the slots will wear. Go ahead and go a hundreth instead of a few thousandths but if the tuner says that the lower fretted notes are sharper, be prepared to go lower. I'm just used to a few thousandths at the most, like you get with a zero fret. It doesn't wear down, and plays like you have a capo on.

Of course, well before I get to those numbers I'll file and check, file and check ...

Procedurally, how would you suggest as the safest way for handy, but non-luthier person to approach filing the nut slots for depth ... and I know some or most of you will say let a pro do it: I would if I were close to one.

But, I'm not intimidated by the thought of doing this myself, I get the theory, I just need some helpful suggestions to pull it off.

Feuer Frei!
Just a couple of questions.

First, I picked up a good quality set of files and a feeler gauge set from Philedalphia Luthier's Supplies.

The nut that is on the guitar was replaced but never properly filed for string height, i.e., the height of the 6th string above the first fret is > .035". On my other two LPs it's equal or < .015" with no buzz.

Dan Erlewine uses a string height above 1st fret spec of (which I agree with based on my other guitars)

6th, .015"
5th, .014"
4th, .013"
3rd, .012"
2nd, .010"
1st, .009"

Of course, well before I get to those numbers I'll file and check, file and check ...

Procedurally, how would you suggest as the safest way for handy, but non-luthier person to approach filing the nut slots for depth ... and I know some or most of you will say let a pro do it: I would if I were close to one.

But, I'm not intimidated by the thought of doing this myself, I get the theory, I just need some helpful suggestions to pull it off.

Feuer Frei!
Just a couple of questions.

First, I picked up a good quality set of files and a feeler gauge set from Philedalphia Luthier's Supplies.

The nut that is on the guitar was replaced but never properly filed for string height, i.e., the height of the 6th string above the first fret is > .035". On my other two LPs it's equal or < .015" with no buzz.

Dan Erlewine uses a string height above 1st fret spec of (which I agree with based on my other guitars)

6th, .015"
5th, .014"
4th, .013"
3rd, .012"
2nd, .010"
1st, .009"

Of course, well before I get to those numbers I'll file and check, file and check ...

Procedurally, how would you suggest as the safest way for handy, but non-luthier person to approach filing the nut slots for depth ... and I know some or most of you will say let a pro do it: I would if I were close to one.

But, I'm not intimidated by the thought of doing this myself, I get the theory, I just need some helpful suggestions to pull it off.

Feuer Frei!
Oh, and tape off your headstock a couple of pieces width of masking/painter's tape first. As you angle your slots to the tuners you don't want to cut into your headstock veneer. I do the space between the nut and first fret as well. Just a precaution.
Yeah, that is SUPER IMPORTANT.
 

cmjohnson

Senior Member
Joined
Dec 12, 2012
Messages
2,674
Reaction score
2,260
What I do to set up the nut height target before I start filing slots is that I use a sharpie to blacken the inside front surface of the nut (facing toward the bridge) and then I use the tip of a flat steel tool (it could be anything like a thick stiff steel ruler) as a scraper. I lay this across the first few frets and use it to scrape away the sharpie mark on the nut.

I now have a clean mark on the nut itself that is my "do not file quite this low" mark.

I can improve on this by adding a few layers of tape to the first fret so as to build up the height of the scraper mark,
so that if I cut down to just touching the line with the nut file, then I will have a few thousandths of an inch above the point of buzzing.

You can use feeler gauges to see how much string height there is over the second fret when you fret the first fret. Whatever that amount is, that's the ideal nut slot and string height over the first fret.


This will give you "zero fret" action height, which I consider to be ideal.
 

failsafe306

Senior Member
Joined
Aug 30, 2016
Messages
467
Reaction score
420
What I do to set up the nut height target before I start filing slots is that I use a sharpie to blacken the inside front surface of the nut (facing toward the bridge) and then I use the tip of a flat steel tool (it could be anything like a thick stiff steel ruler) as a scraper. I lay this across the first few frets and use it to scrape away the sharpie mark on the nut.

I now have a clean mark on the nut itself that is my "do not file quite this low" mark.

I can improve on this by adding a few layers of tape to the first fret so as to build up the height of the scraper mark,
so that if I cut down to just touching the line with the nut file, then I will have a few thousandths of an inch above the point of buzzing.

You can use feeler gauges to see how much string height there is over the second fret when you fret the first fret. Whatever that amount is, that's the ideal nut slot and string height over the first fret.


This will give you "zero fret" action height, which I consider to be ideal.
I like your sharpie trick, I’ll have to use that next time. My pencil mark always gets smeared.
 

Uncle Vinnie

Proud Boomer
Gold Supporting Member
Joined
Jul 2, 2017
Messages
5,744
Reaction score
11,087
Well, got the files and some feeler gauges.

For the hell of it I checked the frets for high spots with my stewmac fret rocker ... have a couple of high frets that are causing some dead spots.

As a beginner, I like the idea of the Stewmac fret kisser.

Any thoughts or suggestions?
 

valvetoneman

Senior Member
Joined
Aug 14, 2011
Messages
1,681
Reaction score
1,358
I use a half pencil to outline a rough height and use a sander to get it close to that line then I get my string spacing and start slotting with nut files, I use a strobe tuner to see how far out it is as I take it down, this way I don't overshoot the slots and I can do the final heights more carefully, I go by pressing the 3rd fret down and seeing how much the gap is at the first, it's virtually nothing but I leave a bit more on the low e to stop buzzing, I like to have a low action to start with.
I also press the first fret to see if I'm intonated then the 5th, works for me.
 

Uncle Vinnie

Proud Boomer
Gold Supporting Member
Joined
Jul 2, 2017
Messages
5,744
Reaction score
11,087
The kisser is a very expensive way to do what a file and checking with the straightedge does.
I agree, but for someone who has never done this before it greatly reduces the risk of botching up the fret and having to pay a whole lot more to have the fret replaced ... and remember this is an original fret so there's the binding/nib issue as well. It's the lesser of two evils.
 

Skyjerk

Meatbomb
Silver Supporting Member
Joined
Feb 8, 2014
Messages
6,906
Reaction score
8,789
I agree, but for someone who has never done this before it greatly reduces the risk of botching up the fret and having to pay a whole lot more to have the fret replaced ... and remember this is an original fret so there's the binding/nib issue as well. It's the lesser of two evils.
doesnt seem that tool would leave a decent finish on the fret, but a dull-looking flat spot that would still need to be dressed properly or look like crap...
 


Latest Threads



Top