Nut slot DIY?
After some examination today, I really think my nut slots are too high and should be filed down (a bit). I live in Ecuador right now and there really isn't a good luthier that I trust. Beyond that, I'm trying to learn how to do basic set up stuff myself.
Any advice on tackling this issue? Specific tools or strategies to get it just right? Any help is appreciated!
In Germany we call it a rat tail file. A very thin and long round file that starts very thin and gets slowly wider.
Be very careful with the slots. Filing wood away is more or less easy, but what if the slots are too low and the string buzzes? You can use Epoxy to fill the slot, but better you proceed slowly and stop a bit earlier and try that for a while before you proceed to make the slots deeper.
If you only need to widen the slots, pay attention not to make the slots deeper, only wider.
This is actually #3 in a four part series. I recommend you watch them all
A rat-tail file is fine if You're very handy with it, but a straight file is magnitudes easier for a novice.
Unless You're using guts or weedwackers, the chain-saw files are probably too thick.
If a special set of nut files are out of Your price range ATM, a good 'ol trick is to wrap some emery cloth over a drill bit shank of the appropriate diameter.
Cutting the slot grooves isn't too difficult. Knowing when to stop can be the tricky part.
I use automotive feeler gauges ( the thin assorted blades for setting spark plug gaps --- the longer the better).
Get the number you need using a combination of blades, if necessary, ie. for the E string .05 inch you may have to combine .022 +.028.
Hold the feeler gauge on the fingerboard in front of the nut at the respective slot. Use a very sharp flat blade ( an exacto knife will work) and compress the feeler gauge down against the fb and at the same time cut a marking line on the part of the nut that faces the bridge.
Take a dab of chalk and rub it into the mark you sliced. I use a headset magnifying glasses for the whole operation. It really helps when your filing down the slot to your mark.
I have a different height # for each string. My guess is everyone's depth will differ very slightly. But you could use the same procedure regardless.
AND all this should happen after the fb is dressed. But that's a whole 'nuther can of worms!
Cheap tools for nut cutting.
Drill bits. Old round wound bass strings cut to short lengths and glued to the thin edge of a wooden popsicle stick.
Better yet..........buy some nut files from eBay or StewMac.
Best to use some youtube videos or StewMac videos and written advice from the web before ya start cutting the slots down.
The slots should angle from the nut to the tuners. If cut straight and parallel to the neck, you'll get the buzzing sitar sound from the strings.
Before you touch the nut and with the strings still on your bass and tuned to pitch, press down on the second fret, hold it down and then using a business card for a gauge, slide it in between the first fret and string.
If you have to force it, the nut is too deep. If it slides right through, the nut slots are not deep enough. If it slides through with just the slightest of drag, it's good.
Better too high than too low.
I would suggest using a set of automotive feeler gauges to determine your existing (and desired) depth (between the string and fingerboard), and then placing the feeler gauge in front of the nut while filing, to prevent going to deep.
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