How hard is it to cut your own guitar nut

Discussion in 'Luthier's Guitar & Bass Technical Discussion' started by r9player, Jul 22, 2005.


  1. r9player

    r9player Silver Supporting Member

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    Just wondering I have a nice piece of tusk that I was going to have put on an acoustic ... but I figure I am making my Tele now, should I shape it and notch it for my Tele .. and how hard would it be?
     
  2. pedalpat

    pedalpat Guest

    Tusq, cuts, files and sands easily. good material to work with.

    stewmac.com has an excellent tutorial on how to make anew nut.

    probably should invest in a set of nut files to cut the actual slots.

    measure twice, cut once!
     
  3. decay-o-caster

    decay-o-caster Member

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    It's too damn easy to break a bone nut if you're not careful! Not that I'd know from experience, of course... :(
     
  4. GuitslingerTim

    GuitslingerTim Member

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    A good set of nut files is required, and a nut template helps. I tried cutting a few nuts using the old nut as a guide and had less than ideal results. You might be surprised at the technique and patience required to cut a nut accurately.
     
  5. r9player

    r9player Silver Supporting Member

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    From what you guys are saying I am probably better of to just have that done ...
     
  6. David Myka

    David Myka Gold Supporting Member

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    It's not that difficult but you do need to take your time and make slow progress if this is your first time doing it. Having perfect nut action and a buzzing fret can be a few file strokes difference. Here are some good online articles:

    A good description of the process from StewMac: Making a Nut; Step-by-Step.

    And here's one from Frank Ford: A new nut.

    Here is another Frank Ford article: Setting nut action.

    ~David
     
  7. Ian Anderson

    Ian Anderson Supporting Member

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    I think cutting a good nut ican be a tough, frustrating job at first and really takes a bit of experience and skill to get it right.

    The right tools are a necessity and make all the difference.
    There is so much to go wrong, the spacing, shape of the slots, break angle, not rolling the front so it buzzes, getting the depth right, getting the outer strings the proper distance from the edge. Or so I've heard ;) I probably forgot a few as well.

    If you only need one nut done, don't waste your time or money. You'll spend $75 or more getting the right tools. If you have the inkling to learn how, go for it, it's a great thing to know! Check the links to make it easier I am sure Stew Mac and Ford have some great advice to share.
     
  8. DamianP

    DamianP Member

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    Having just fitted and cut a nut for the first time, I have to agree with this.

    It is quite tricky to get right first time. I had the most difficulty getting the string spacing right. It would be a little off and then in trying to correct it I would end up with the slot too deep.
    Took 3 attempts before I had something I was happy with.

    ,Damian.
     
  9. VaughnC

    VaughnC Supporting Member

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    Cutting a nut does take a little patience but, with the right tools, you can get excellent results. However, a good set of nut files is a necessity as they have round cutting edges to let the strings seat properly. I start by establishing the proper position for the outer E strings then use a pair of dividers to set up the proper equal distance between strings. From that point it's just cutting and trying until you get the depth, angle, and height right & glueing it in place. After about 2 trial runs on cheap nuts, my first good one came out perfect. However, like previously stated, a good set of nut files will run around $100.
     
  10. TAVD

    TAVD Guitar Player Gold Supporting Member

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    It's not too difficult. Just lay the blank out for your E strings, measure between the two marks and divide by 5 for the spacing. A dial caliper or metric ruler makes the math simple.

    BTW, if you have a radiused sanding block, you can quickly rough in the top with it.
     
  11. fzkicksbuttock

    fzkicksbuttock Member

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    So you're saying you've busted a nut before? :p Just wondering, of course.
     
  12. r9player

    r9player Silver Supporting Member

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    Those were the kinds of replies I was worried about ... when I posted this ...:D
     
  13. decay-o-caster

    decay-o-caster Member

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    :)
     
  14. TAVD

    TAVD Guitar Player Gold Supporting Member

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    Well at least nobody has suggested that you hurdle a barbed wire fence in the nude. :eek:
     
  15. Johnny Raz

    Johnny Raz Member

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    Personally, I'd only trust a professional to cut my nut -- no way I'd want to do that myself.
     
  16. Matt Gordon

    Matt Gordon Senior Member

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    Yeah, I wouldn't know about that either . . . . . :(
     
  17. rclemmer

    rclemmer Guest

    Here's a quick tip I learned from a luthier years ago. If you accidentally cut the string slot too deep, you can fill it using the following simple steps. All you need is some masking tape, super glue and baking soda... along with the appropriate nut file, of course.

    1. Tape the front and back edge of the nut slot using masking tape or painter's tape. (The tape will be running perpindicular to the nut slots)

    2. Drop a little baking soda into the slot and pack gently. Don't put too much or you'll create more work for yourself in the later steps.

    3. Add a drop of super glue into the slot to solidify the baking soda.

    4. Let it set for a few minutes and file to the desired height.

    Anyone else care to share a preferred method that doesn't involve paper wedged into the slot?
     
  18. LaXu

    LaXu Member

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    You don't necessarily have to spend lots of money on the tools, even though I highly recommend it if you plan to make more nuts than one. I think it's a good skill to learn because most electric guitars, even expensive ones, come with very poorly made nuts. For some reason acoustics, even cheap ones, have pretty well made nuts by comparison.

    But if you're low on cash or simply a cheap bastard like me, here's what can be used.

    [​IMG]

    • Triangular file for shaping the nut.
    • Old wound guitar strings superglued to sticks for rounding and polishing slots.
    • Thickness gauges with teeth filed into them (basically just roughed with the triangular file) for cutting slots.
    • Sandpaper for shaping and polishing the nut and slots.

    Costs very little and believe it or not, with these tools I have made several nuts out of nut blanks. Tedius? Hell yeah. Cheap? Absolutely. Results? Very good.
    Here's some "before and after" pics of a bone nut that I fixed with the aforementioned tools.

    Before - lots of excess material, tight slots, rough shape

    [​IMG]

    After - Just the right size string slots, no tuning issues and looks good
    [​IMG]

    I find that the most difficult part by far (when making a nut from a blank) is getting the string spacing right. This is where the proper tools will help tremendously.
     
  19. Bloozcat

    Bloozcat Member

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  20. LaXu

    LaXu Member

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