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filing nut slots

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by thehangingmist, Feb 1, 2013.

  1. how to determine whats the best nut slot height to file on a new nut or when the strings seem to be sitting a little too high on the nut? on a fretted bass guitar.

    all the set up manuals i have seen dont talk about this at all. i've got a 6 string SX ursa jazz bass on which i need to fix the nut slots. so please keep the low B and high C string in mind.

    also are there special round files for filing nut slots, each of varying thickness for different strings as the gauges go from .130 to .040?
  2. 202dy

    202dy Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2006
    Big subject for a game of a few thousandths that make a huge difference in playability.

    Clearance: Fret the string at the third fret. There should be roughly .003" clearance between the string and the first fret. If you do not have feeler gauges a sheet of notebook paper will do in a pinch.

    The quickest way to get to depth is to stack up feeler gauges next to the nut. How much? Add up the height of the fret from the fingerboard to the top of the fret plus .010". Stack the feeler gauges next to the nut. Cut with the file until they hit the gauges. Now you're near final depth. From there it's all about feel. A few strokes and test at pitch. Be careful. It is easy to go to far.

    Yes there are dedicated nut files. Some are single edge toothed files. Others are double edged.

    Caveat: This is not a job for the casual repairman or want to be. As always, if you must hunt through the kitchen drawers to find your tools, still haven't memorized that "lefty loosey" is counter clockwise, or think that changing a tire is working on your car, please take your guitar to a professional.
  3. Arial Bender

    Arial Bender

    Oct 28, 2012
    Largo Fla.
    Feeler guages are cheap, nut files are not. If you don't intend to do this often take it to a pro.
  4. boynamedsuse

    boynamedsuse Supporting Member

    Oct 13, 2010
    +1 for the Stewmac Gauged Nut Slotting Files.

    There is a great how-to here:
  5. Sweet. I've never seen a figure anywhere. I need to do this on 2 basses this weekend; at least now I have a number to aim for. I was going to aim for "is this F still too hard to fret."

    +1. If this gets messed up, you'll be replacing that nut in short order and doing it all over again.

    I definitely do have feeler gauges this small.
  6. +1 for John Carruthers' 4-part Yootoob on setting up a bass. Follow each step and any bass plays better.
  7. Arial Bender

    Arial Bender

    Oct 28, 2012
    Largo Fla.
    Yep, that's where I learned.Doesn't get much clearer than that.
  8. Old Fart

    Old Fart

    Mar 11, 2011
    Not for the feint of heart. I have used feeler gauges many times. Rebuilt a Porsche engine. I have a thread here today, just to get validation from the experts here. I am going VERY slowly. I have the proper nut files, etc. And yet, this is scary. In my humble opinion, a $4 set of feeler gauges is necessary. If you're not willing to approach this properly and carefully, you shouldn't be doing it.