How deep to cut a nut.. why is this a bad idea?

SamBooka

Member
Messages
2,222
I know no one is stopping me but if my guitar plays great with a capo on the 1st fret.. relief and action are dialed in.. why cant I measure the space between the bottom of the string and the top of the second fret and use that as the target space between the bottom of the string and the first fret when the string is open?

EDIT: some numbers... my open low e is .0225 from the top of the first fret to the bottom of the string..
When fretted on the first fret it is .0075 between the string and the top of the second fret.
 
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hogy

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
13,736
I know no one is stopping me but if my guitar plays great with a capo on the 1st fret.. relief and action are dialed in.. why cant I measure the space between the bottom of the string and the top of the second fret and use that as the target space between the bottom of the string and the first fret when the string is open?

That's exactly how I cut a nut.
 

Structo

Member
Messages
9,555
It is easy to cut or file a nut too low, then it buzzes on the first frets.
You can use feeler gauges as a depth stop and file down to that after you determine the proper slot depth.

A new fool proof tool is available at Stewart McDonald.
I think the price must have gone up since I bought mine.
This tool clamps the feeler gauges in an arc to conform to your fret board.
Reduces the need for three hands!

http://www.stewmac.com/Luthier_Tools/Tools_by_Job/Nuts_and_Saddles/Safe_Slot_Nut_Guard.html

If you do your own setup on your guitars this is a great tool to have.

I also recommend a set of nut files which are expensive but a worth investment if you do setups.

Also remember that the string to the first fret clearance is less on the plain strings and
a bit more on the bass strings.
 

swiveltung

Senior Member
Messages
14,485
I know no one is stopping me but if my guitar plays great with a capo on the 1st fret.. relief and action are dialed in.. why cant I measure the space between the bottom of the string and the top of the second fret and use that as the target space between the bottom of the string and the first fret when the string is open?

EDIT: some numbers... my open low e is .0225 from the top of the first fret to the bottom of the string..
When fretted on the first fret it is .0075 between the string and the top of the second fret.
No problem. When I file a nut I take it one string at a time and just loosen the string a bit, pull the string to the side, file a bit and retest until I get it where I want it.
 

walterw

Platinum Supporting Member
Messages
38,989
why cant I measure the space between the bottom of the string and the top of the second fret and use that as the target space between the bottom of the string and the first fret when the string is open?
you want the open-string gap over the first fret to be just bigger than that measurement.

trying to actually "measure" the difference with numbers is a tough project, we're talking "sheet of paper" differences here.

look closely at the string where you push on it with your finger or a capo and you can see how it actually curves up a little over the fret, which is what gives you the clearance over the next fret:



taking off from the nut, the strings shouldn't have that curve once they're fully stretched in, so you have to factor it in:



the classic "no gauges" method is to lightly hold the string down on the other side of the second fret (between frets 2 and 3), and look at the gap that the string itself makes over the first fret. that gap is the result of the difference in height between the nut and the first fret.

your goal is (while holding down past the second fret) to get that gap super-tiny, like thinner than a sheet of notebook paper, without actually touching the string to the first fret.

put it this way, with electrics that gap can sometimes be set so close you can't really see it anymore and have to check by tapping on the string and listening for the little "ping" that tells you the string isn't already touching the first fret.
 
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John Coloccia

Cold Supporting Member
Messages
9,584
I do it like Walter. As close as possible....and no closer. :) It's just too hard to measure, and even if it was easy, how would you even determine what that measurement should be? It's easier to simply let the string itself tell you where it wants to be.

edit: Gawd, these new smileys look dopey.:bitch
 

hogy

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
13,736
We've been through this before when we discussed zero frets.

Walter thinks the zero fret should be taller than the first fret, I use the exact same height.

Works perfectly for me.


edit: Gawd, these new smileys look dopey.:bitch

Yes, they do.
 

Tone_Terrific

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
34,059
The path of the string after passing the fret is irrelevant to the actual measured height of the string over the next fret. (capo method)
If that height works, it works.
OTOH, making that measurement, and working with it, might be tough, at least.:eek::rolleyes:o_O oy
I would suspect Hogy's method still leaves WW's spacing.
 

SamBooka

Member
Messages
2,222
the classic "no gauges" method is to lightly hold the string down on the other side of the second fret (between frets 2 and 3), and look at the gap that the string itself makes over the first fret. that gap is the result of the difference in height between the nut and the first fret.

your goal is (while holding down past the second fret) to get that gap super-tiny, like thinner than a sheet of notebook paper, without actually touching the string to the first fret.

put it this way, with electrics that gap can sometimes be set so close you can't really see it anymore and have to check by tapping on the string and listening for the little "ping" that tells you the string isn't already touching the first fret.
That is how I have been doing it for years but have been trying to be a bit more consistent.. hence the feeler gauges (I have only been using gauges for a couple of years.. the previous 25 years I have been eyeballing it (and the eyes arent as good as they used to be ;) )
 

John Coloccia

Cold Supporting Member
Messages
9,584
I can get closer using the "ping" method than with feeler gauges. But hey, whatever works :)

Incidentally, I just looked at that StewMac tool posted earlier. I really like StewMac, and I love their luthier tools, but talk about swatting a fly with a sledgehammer!
 
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paulg

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
3,017
I'd just add; if you files the nut grooves to the bare minimum and you tighten the truss rod, you may find the string now sits too low and buzzes at the first fret. I make sure the neck is straight or leave the nut a little high.
 






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