It is hard to file a guitar nut?

Discussion in 'Beginners/FAQ' started by venndi, Feb 22, 2017.

  1. venndi

    venndi SS.org Regular

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    Hi!

    I want to replace a guitar nut, becouse the current is some cheap plastic, the graphtech's tusq nut would be my choice. The problem is that here in my country I can't find the tusq nut, which fits perfect for my guitar, only these big rectangular nuts, which should be filed from every side and file out the slots for strings.
    The slots for strings would be filled/transform on both, becouse I use thicker strings...but would be much easier just make it wider and deeper, than mesuring and filling everything.
    I can order from ebay this which would be perfect for my guitar, but it takes a 2 week, but why should I wait if I can get it tomorrow...
    So, what do you think, can this job done at home, with sandpaper and feeler gauge?
     
  2. TedEH

    TedEH Cromulent

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    Filing the slots is something that takes appropriate tools and some amount of skill. I've tried to do this the DIY way with generic needle files and the results after several attempts were.... playable, but barely. This is something that, IMO, should be done by a tech or someone who knows what they're doing.

    Honestly, unless you're having intonation problems or something that you can prove are because of the nut, I wouldn't change it just "because it's plastic". There's nothing wrong with plastic nuts. Very much a don't-fix-whats-not-broken scenario.
     
  3. venndi

    venndi SS.org Regular

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    I agree that some tech would be the best, but honestly, here in local I don't know any guitar tech. I know a few from the internet, and they ask too much for that job. I had make the slots wider on my another guitar, it was not that hard. I used a feeler gauge and a sandpaper. I wrapped around the feeler gauge with sandpaper, then I measured it with caliper. I varied the feeler gauge until it wasn't the perfect width (for example .062), then I fill it.
    I have some intonation problem and tuning problem, first I will change the nut, then later maybe also the saddles, also the nut's width is smaller than it should be, it's not the original nut, someone changed it, and and make a garbage job.
     
  4. JumpingInFire

    JumpingInFire SS.org Regular

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    If the nut already sucks then I say give it a shot.
    Even if you botch it it's not like you sacrificed a perfect part.
     
  5. Webmaestro

    Webmaestro Ibanez Fanatic

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    Actually, this could work. I hadn't thought about wrapping sandpaper around a feeler to get the correct width. It's not perfect and is a bit labor-intensive, but could work. Here are a couple tips:

    (these are not in order)


    - You should start each slot with a very fine razor-type saw, or a similar sharp and precise object... like a knife, x-acto knife, etc. Otherwise, if you try to make the initial cuts with sandpaper, it can migrate side-to-side.

    - Only make the string slots deep enough that the strings don't pop out of the slots when you play/bend. If you go too deep, there's no going back--you can't add what you've removed (not easily, anyway). So, start shallow, test the string, and then file deeper only if necessary.

    - You'll want a more substantial file (or very rough grit sandpaper) to do the major shaping--of the top-back side of the nut. You want it sloped a bit where the string enters the nut from the tuners.

    - There is a proper way to shape the nut slots themselves. Simply making them wide and deep enough isn't enough. The "ramp" or "takeoff" has to be shaped properly, or you can get some string buzz, binding, and/or intonation issues. In theory, you really only want the string touching the front-side of the nut (where it exits the nut toward your fretboard).

    - As far ask sanding the nut to the proper overall height, the key is to make sure that the surface you're sanding on is absolutely flat, and that you're applying equal downward pressure on the nut blank as you move it side-to-side on the sandpaper (with the sandpaper adhered securely to a good, flat surface). You want to keep the bottom of the nut as perfectly flat as possible, so there's full contact between the bottom of the nut and the guitar. However, if it's not absolutely perfect, it's okay... as long as the imperfections are only minor. Only worry about this step if the nut is too high after you've done your overall shaping of the top and created your string slots.

    - After you get everything to where you're happy and you feel you're finished, remember to give the string slots a good polish/buff with ultrafine sandpaper. You want the string slots slick and shiny inside, so you don't have tuning and binding issues.

    Anyway, I'll stop yammering. There's more to this, but you can learn it all online, so I won't continue going into that. It sounds like you may be able to pull this off.

    Maybe consider buying 2 nut blanks, in case you screw the first one up. If the whole operation goes sour, you can always put your old plastic nut back in place.
     
  6. venndi

    venndi SS.org Regular

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    Thank you very much Webmaestro, You helped me a lot.
    I read that the slot should be wide as the strings are, or a bit wider...how much is this wider? If I fill a slot for .062 string, than the slot should be between .062-?
     
  7. Webmaestro

    Webmaestro Ibanez Fanatic

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    You can go wider, but keep it within .001".

    For example, my high E string is .009"... but it's difficult to find a nut file at that exact size, so it's common to use a .010" nut file. So, for your .062" string, you could go .062" - .063" with an actual nut file, but don't go wider than that or you may have some buzzing and/or tuning issues.

    However, you're using sandpaper wrapped around a feeler gauge, so you need to factor-in the thickness of the sandpaper, and we really have no idea how thick that actually is.

    Using your .062" string example again... If I were you I'd start with a .058" feeler gauge. See how the string fits after you've created your slot, and if it feels tight, then hit it with a slightly thicker feeler gauge (.059" if you have one). Keep going till the string slips easily in/out of the slot, but without having any side-to-side slop.
     
  8. 7 Strings of Hate

    7 Strings of Hate Mid-Level Asshole Contributor

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    Width isnt as important as depth. It can be a few gauges wider with no issues.
     
  9. venndi

    venndi SS.org Regular

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    Thanks again. I measure the thickness of feeler gauge + sandpaper, so I wrap the feeler gauge, then measure, and add or take away some feeler if it should to get a perfect width. Yeah, the best is to see how it fits in the slot, then fill a bit again if needed.

    Edit: I think the width is more important when you fill it perfectly flat. I mean, there are files for nut, which are rounded (have some radius), and ones which are flat. I read that the best is the flat file, since the string will fit on smaller part of the nut, aka the string will fit as on the fret. When you fill with radius file, the string won't move side to side, becouse it will always be in the middle of radius, becouse of the big tension of the string...I don't know if you get it or not...my english is poor.
     
  10. marcwormjim

    marcwormjim SS.org Regular

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    Apologies if I'm misunderstanding the original post, but you can enlarge/deepen slots without a a feeler gauge, too - Just use sandpaper around the string.
     
  11. Rachmaninoff

    Rachmaninoff Amateur porn actor

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    This. :yesway:
     
  12. venndi

    venndi SS.org Regular

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    I think I make a really good job, but after I installed the modified tusq nut, I realize that the string spacing is different than on the previous nut, the string spacing is equal.
    It's just annoying currently, maybe I'll get used it later.
    Do you use equal or compensated spacing?
    I use 13-62 strings, it's should be compensated at that string gauge?
     
  13. All_¥our_Bass

    All_¥our_Bass Deathly Chuuni

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    I use wooden emery boards turned sideways to widen nut slots for the low strings.
     
  14. odibrom

    odibrom .

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    https://www.thomann.de/pt/ibanez_4449eg6_rasp_set.htm?ref=search_rslt_ibanez+files_363364_15

    Buy this. It may look expensive at start, but saves you many troubles in the long run. Also, you can use them in several guitars and eventually do it for friends and get the money back...

    I got a complete set of these files, not just these 6 ones...

    As for the filing technique, I usually file in 2 angles, parallel to the fretboard and parallel to headstock (in angled headstocks), then I try to get the slot's inner surface curved for smooth string flow. On strat type headstocks, the second direction should be parallel to the string when it goes to the tuner... Most important, DO NOT RUSH. Do it by small steps at a time and Check regularly. It is better to take longer time, than to ruin a nut because you went too far.
     

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