The Trick To Filing Gibson Nuts

Tone_Terrific

Silver Supporting Member
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33,067
Somebody (say Terry Mc) has probably studied the problem and could advise on the best solution wrt angles and curvature.
What that somebody ought to do is market a LP replacement nut that is already ideally slotted, cut and shaped and only requires sanding on the bottom to achieve a 'perfect' installation.
 

Wag

Member
Messages
458
I'm curious how you would go about putting a curved slot in a nut. My files are pretty rigid. They are great for angles. Curves, not so much.
 

Timtam

Member
Messages
2,420
In addition to the String Butler I mentioned earlier as one alternative to considering a left-right slanted nut slot, a zero fret like the ZeroGlide is another alternative that reduces reliance on a precisely cut nut slot ...

https://goldtonemusicgroup.com/zeroglide/products/zs-1

Comes with several different-height frets (SS optional) so you can get the first fret action right before gluing it in.
 
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walterw

Platinum Supporting Member
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38,264
no silly gadgets needed;

it is tricky with gibsons and even done right you might need to worry more about lubing the slots, etc.

there's a bunch of good pics at hazeguitars.com, like this one:


basically the slot should look like this from every angle, not just the side. the string hits right at the leading edge (critical to sound and intonation), rests on most of the length of the slot (so not too much pressure over too small a zone) then the slot slowly flares away in all directions so that the string doesn't drag over a sharp back corner somewhere.

as for slot width, you want a round-bottom slot that's just a little bigger than the string, kinda like this (my own crappy sketch):

by being round the string will self-center in the slot instead of bouncing around, and by being slightly wider than the string it's guaranteed not to pinch. like you want to use a .020" nut file for a .017" G. with gibsons there's no risk of the string bouncing around because you have plenty of neck angle holding it down.

i tried the abrasive cord stuff but found it just flaked everywhere and also risked rounding off the front of the slot, something to be avoided.
 

walterw

Platinum Supporting Member
Messages
38,264
What that somebody ought to do is market a LP replacement nut that is already ideally slotted, cut and shaped and only requires sanding on the bottom to achieve a 'perfect' installation.
I just put on. Tusq precut nut and only had to sand the bottom. Easy and $10. No tuning issues.
no good, it'll never be close enough to get anything better than "sort of OK". there's too much inconsistency in fretboard radius from even identical factory guitars.

a good-playing guitar demands a level of precision in nut slot height that comes down to one file swipe being too high, another being just right, and a third being too low.

pre-cut nuts can be nice to speed up the process, but to get pro-level results they still need to be final-filed after installation to get each string exactly right.
 

walterw

Platinum Supporting Member
Messages
38,264
I'm curious how you would go about putting a curved slot in a nut. My files are pretty rigid. They are great for angles. Curves, not so much.
nut files, with straight sides and rounded edges?

easy. you're basically carving out a curved ramp with the file, attacking at a shallow angle towards the front and a steeper angle as you go back.you're also kinda rocking the file side to side to make the slot slightly wider than the file so the file itself doesn't get bound up.
 

Pkdawg

Member
Messages
152
no good, it'll never be close enough to get anything better than "sort of OK". there's too much inconsistency in fretboard radius from even identical factory guitars.
Not in my case so maybe I just got lucky. I’m very picky and good with the way it worked out.
 

Mr Fingers

Member
Messages
2,753
There's nothing particularly difficult about Gibson slots. Every guitar needs nut slots that match the string angle, so they can vary, brand to brand, but it's not as though one is easier or harder. The best way to get correct slot depth is to cut gradually, try the string at pitch, look carefully, and then cut some more if there's excess clearance at the first few frets. Some people just go by standard measurements, but I prefer to work on a fully strung guitar, under tension, since that's how it will be used. A "too high" nut (slots not deep enough) is pretty awful in terms of action and feel, so it's worth getting fussy and doing it right. A precut nut might get you in the ballpark at best. The String Butler is great for making your guitar look awful and announcing that you can't do a nut job, but is otherwise, IMO, absurdly ridiculous. If tuning and first fret action are not working very well, and if the setup is not simple and clean, well -- fix it, don't ad hardware.
 

Timtam

Member
Messages
2,420
The String Butler and ZeroGlide are examples of simple physics-based solutions to the physics problem created by the Gibson headstock's non-straight string lines (although the ZeroGlide is less specifically directed at that problem). A precisely cut / shaped nut is a more complex physics-based solution that has often seemed to be beyond the skills of the factory, but within the skills of some artisan guitar craftspersons equipped with a particular set of tools. ;)
 
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