Cutting and slotting a Nylon 6/6 nut (how to)

LtDave32

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*EDIT* This thread started out as an inquiry, but I decided to change it to a "how-to" tutorial, as there is a lot of interest on how to get through this.

I went and ordered a blank of Nylon 6/6 material, 3/16 thick, one inch tall and ten inches long. So the commentary is a little out of sequence. But the photo procedures are right.




This stuff is a bitch, boys..

How in the hell do some of you cut string slots in a blank of Nylon 6-6?

It's already warped my .010 slotting file. So I went to the .013 which is stiffer, but not by much.

There's no filing powder after cutting. This is the toughest material I've ever run across. Not "hardest", but "toughest".

I've heard they case roller bearings in this stuff.

So far, I think I've made a "dent", but not to sure if I've made a "cut", if you get what I mean..

Christ, they ought to make dog chew-toys out of this stuff..

Anyway, I bought a bar of 3/16" thick Nylon 6/6. pretty good deal at $8.00 and change, enough to easily do ten nuts.

20191202_141030.jpg



Here we do the typical thing of lining up the string slots from a standard nut and marking them.

20191202_141804.jpg



*Note: the marking goes a whole lot easier if you take a piece of 220 paper and scuff the Nylon 6/6.

Otherwise, pencil doesn't show up too well, and it wipes off too easy. Sanding surfaces to be marked was the perfect cure.

Now we're going to score those pencil marks with a razor knife:

20191202_142322.jpg
 
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NotScott

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I had a nylon blank that Kim from Historic Makeovers gave me. Kim's guys have been installing these things for years but rather than impose on him further, I thought it would be simple enough for my local tech at the time to install it on a 335 for me.

I brought the nut and guitar to the tech and after 20 minutes of trying to talk me out of using a nylon nut he finally agreed to do the job. He was not a happy camper when I picked up the guitar. He said it took too much time to fit and that he should have charged me more. He didn't even polish the nut and just left the edges roughly sanded. Hence, he WAS my tech at the time.

I would like to know how to polish this stuff so I will be watching your thread for tips. Good luck!
 

LtDave32

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NS, it doesn't "sand off" in grains of material.

Sandpaper sorta pushes the Nylon around. Until you've sanded on it so much, the little furry pieces sorta just "fall off".

The reason why the tech balked at the job, is the way one learns to set up a proper nut.

You get the blank roughed out to fit your guitar. Then for proper string height, you drag your nut files in the slots to deepen the string slot. -until a string height of about .018 off the first fret is reached.

With bone, Tusq, Corian, etc etc, this is a do-able procedure. Little grains of filings fall out, the file cuts, a few strokes, check-check-check and you're there.

I can't say I blame him for wanting to charge more, but he should have stated why, how and how much and quoted you a price before he did the job.

Obviously, the "tech" had never worked with the material before.

Gibson used to injection-mold their Nylon nuts with the string slots already in. Wouldn't that be nice?
 

Freddy G

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Carbon copy of my reply to Dave in a PM:

Yeah that stuff is a bitch. I just resort to sawing the slots in and then finishing up with nut files. For the plain strings I use an X-Acto backsaw (kerf is pretty small, maybe .015" ....) and for the wound strings I rough the slots in with a hacksaw. The blades I have have a kerf of about .030" which can be widened easliy enough with nut files for the A and E
 

LtDave32

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Yep, hacksaw blades and a Xacto backsaw may be the answer. Leave it to Freddy to find the way. He's the best.

I'd like to turn this thread into a "how-to", if I make fair progress. Seems like nobody in their right mind wants to take on a Nylon 6/6 nut blank.

I've looked all over the net, and there's plenty of griping, but no solid methods.

I have a Japanese flush-cut saw with a kerf of .023 I use for fret slotting and cleaning up the slots that my table saw and template make. That might be good for the D or G string slot.
 

LtDave32

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Okay, some more notes and pictures.

First off, I had an idea to double-stick tape the Nylon 6/6 nut blank to a piece of scrap wood, then take the bottom of it to the band saw to remove some excess height.

But after mocking it up on the guitar with some strings on there to check height, I found that the high E and B strings were rather close to the desired height. So cutting the bottom off would have resulted in too low a nut slot.

We don't want that, do we? Not that Nylon 6/6 is that expensive. I just don't want to go through this again. haha. Next time, I'll consider removing some height with the band saw.

So, on to some show and tell.

I was asked how to round off the back side of the nut. Well, I managed. I took a sanding block with some 320 paper to the top rear of the nut and started shaping, a little at a time:

First I get it to a beveled angle..

photo3.jpg


(thank my lovely wife for taking pics while my hands were full up with this thing)

Check it out. Check, check, check. Never assume. I'm making progress here:


photo4.jpg


Now for some rounding off for that bevel:

photo5.jpg


For rounding off the corners at the outer E strings, do the same thing. No pic here for this procedure, but it's the same as the above pics.

Be CAREFUL. material will remove. Just take it a few strokes at a time. You will get "melted crud" at the corner edges. Take a small needle file and clean this off. That way you can see your actual progress.

(Note: we are going to clean and polish this whole thing up with finer and finer paper until we can buff the nut to a polish)

Now to a mock-up to deal with final string-slot depth. I'm doing this on an unfinished guitar I'm making for a guy, because I don't want any of these blades to slip and mar up the spray job or paint-ready sanding.


I figure I can install the finished nut after spraying and not have to be taking tools to it. I haven't leveled or dressed the frets or nibs yet either. That will all come later.

You can see that the low E string sits quite a bit over the first fret. We aim to get this down to a manageable level:

photo6.jpg




Taking Freddy's advice, I took a hacksaw blade to the bigger string slots.

Note the photo shows the teeth forward. This goes better if you reverse those teeth and pull the saw blade towards the finger board, not push it towards the head stock..

photo7.jpg


I finish the slot depth off with my .046 file to round off the insides and smooth them out to a "U" shape:

photo8.jpg


More later after I've got some more of this done..
 

LtDave32

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LtDave32

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I use Mitchell's Abrasive Cord and go very slow and steady with mucho magnification ...
Oh yeah.. I'm going to run some abrasive pull-cord through the slots for sure. Later on though, after I have the nut installed. Great way to polish up the string slot.
 

Tweaker

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I may have missed it if this was already discussed, but what’s the advantage of a nylon nut?
 

LtDave32

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I may have missed it if this was already discussed, but what’s the advantage to a nylon nut?
It's very greasy and slick. Strings simply WILL NOT bind in that stuff. It also wears really tough.

Nylon 6/6 has a natural "lubricity" to it. If done correctly, I reckon it's the last nut you'll ever need to install. A lot of guys really like the way their guitar tunes up with a Nylon 6/6 nut.

However.. (there's always a dang however)

If you refret your guitar, you might have to put on a new nut, as the new, tall frets might end up too close to the strings.

A bit of research has shown that the original material was Nylon 6/4, a different chemical compound (which I won't bore you with). But it turned out to be a toxic material, so the industrial world quit making it.

You cannot find it unless you find old stock of it. There are reports that it's harder than Nylon 6/6, And I don't know if because of its hardness it was easier to file and work with.

I do know that Gibson came out with a 6/6 nut in 2009 for their 50th anniversary LP. But they couldn't get any 6/4, so they ran with 6/6.
 

LtDave32

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I did find something that now that I've used Freddy's hacksaw blade trick, would serve this procedure well.

Stew Mac has gauged pull saws. And they aren't very expensive:


They aren't all the perfect gauge for a .010-.046 set of strings, but they are close enough to get the job done using a combination of saws and nut files.

Pull_Stroke_Gauged_Saw.jpg


They look to me like just the damn ticket to get this job done efficiently.
 

jkes01

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Love those saws. I have a .010 and a .020 I use for cutting nut and saddle slots. They work great. Mine are before they switched to pull saws. Should have bought more when they clearance’d them out.
 

LtDave32

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One thing I want to put in here as a builder's tip, or anybody who's slotting any kind of nut..

Clip a snark tuner or something to the headstock when checking slotting depth of a string:

photo9.jpg


And then tune the string you're working on to pitch when checking slotting depth.

Here's the reason; you loosen the string to move it out of the way when you're filing.

So you file it some, then check the string height in what you just filed.

You fail to tune it up when checking. Don't do that. The string will sit lower in the slot when tuned up.

That means if you think you've got it at the perfect minimum height off the first fret when loose...

...it will be too low when tight. Now you can shit-can the nut, because you cut too low, dummy.

This is the Voice of Experience talking, folks.

Do yourself and the nut a big favor; check your string height while tuned to pitch.

As you can see, I'm getting there. I've gone as far as I can with a hacksaw blade, a .023 fret-slotting saw, and the appropriate files.

Now I have to head out and try to obtain a Xacto pull saw of appx. .015 thickness. Either that or order the Stew Mac saws I showed upthread. Then wait.

The slots look deep. Way deep. That's because the blank material was tall. I will be sanding the top down so that the strings sit just a hair deeper than half the diameter of the string when all is said and done.
 

LtDave32

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For today, we're done. I'll do the polishing and such in a few days, I have other stuff to take care of.

I am however, going to order that 3/16 blank of Nylon 6/6 that Jkes01 posted up. That's enough to do a LOT of nylon nuts.

Maybe I'll do some up and sell them!

See ya on the next installment.
 


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