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How to fill a nut slot properly

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by matty4string, Sep 10, 2017.

  1. matty4string

    matty4string Banned Supporting Member

    May 11, 2016
    I recently had some terrible open a string buzz on a fender jazz. It wasn't even musical just a bunch of racket. I tried everything even a string retainer to no avail. Today I said the hell with it and put a tiny piece of paper in the nut slot and strung it back up. NO MORE BUZZ!! Is it that my nut slot is to shallow ? Or maybe to wide from a heavier gauge string? How can I fill this instead of getting a costly new nut made ?
  2. JGbassman

    JGbassman Supporting Member

    May 31, 2011
    Cedar Rapids Iowa
    I'm not a luthier by any means, but I've seen a superglue and nut material mixture placed in the nut slot, then filed correctly to depth and shape.

    If I'm off target on this I apologize, I'm going off memory and not actual experience.
  3. craigie


    Nov 11, 2015
    I've done that myself but I'm no luthier. I have an old nut I file for the donor dust, make a pile of it in the nut slot and add a drop of superglue. Then file with correct radius nut file.
    MarkoYYZ and JGbassman like this.
  4. RSBBass


    Jun 11, 2011
    Baking soda and super glue (CA) is a common way of fixing this problem.
  5. 96tbird

    96tbird PLEASE STAND BY Supporting Member

    exidor, Matt R, mech and 1 other person like this.
  6. weldaar


    Oct 14, 2012
    I've never used baking soda, but I have used some ground up nut material and crazy glue. Worked for me.
    WillieB likes this.
  7. WillieB

    WillieB Battling Bass Guitar Bulimia since 1975 Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2010
    Columbus Ohio
    I did this exact thing two weeks ago ... worked great.
    bonruiz likes this.
  8. Bearston


    Jul 11, 2012
    Toronto, Canada
    The beauty of this trick is that it is repeatable, incredibly resilient and will likely outlast the nut. Works equally well with bone or baking goods (I've done both). Biggest pain is having to shape the results, so neatness and patience are your friends. I try to make a barrier on either side of the nut so that the soda stays in place and doesn't ooze out the sides. I stole my mother's diamond encrusted nail file 25 years ago (she still doesn't know) that works perfectly to this day. I love doing this because it is so easy to do and connects you to your instrument in the most profound ways. It's also a very easy to teach technique that anyone can learn.
    bdplaid and WillieB like this.
  9. Upr1ght


    Aug 18, 2014
    If you think a new nut is costly, you probably will want an inexpensive substitute for the nut file as well. Look up Lincoln Electric tip cleaners at your local hardware store....should run you about $4, and do a stellar job when used carefully.
    I concur with the Stew Mac tip of Super Glue and baking soda (or sacrificial bone donor: old nut, or the saddle of an acoustic guitar)....First, tape off the fingerboard and headstock side of the nut to capture runoff, and maybe use tape to crate a mold form on the front and rear faces of the nut. Recommend you put the glue into the slot first, then immediately sprinkle the powder in gradually...prevents a dry clump of powder forming at the bottom.
    To start the nut slot on a budget, I suggest a Nicholson 6" taper file (around $4 at your local Lowe's/Menard's/HomeDepot, also useful for fret filing, saddle shaving, etc.... will also help restore the rectangular shape to the nut faces after you've glopped the glue and powder in place.) Use the pointed edge of the triangular file to start creating the "V", then the appropriate size tip cleaner to round out the bottom (even cheaper trick is to use the snipped end of your old A string as a nut file....) Follow the conventional advice to be sure your nut slot slopes DOWN from the fretboard side to the headstock side....keeps your intonation tight.
    Let us know how this turns out for you!
    Last edited: Sep 13, 2017
    bonruiz and craigie like this.
  10. matty4string

    matty4string Banned Supporting Member

    May 11, 2016
    Well the shop I go to charges 70 for a new nut and instalation
  11. nyde7


    Jun 27, 2005
    I used just superglue (after I took the paper out). Been holding for years...
  12. lowendblues

    lowendblues Supporting Member

    Oct 8, 2004
  13. walterw

    walterw Supportive Fender Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 20, 2009
    first one yes, the second two not so much.

    maybe less of a thing with basses and their big fat strings that seldom get bent, sliding over typically shallow nut slots, but the glue/dust amalgam is usually softer and more "grabby" than the original material, so it wears faster and doesn't stay in tune as well.

    barring replacement, the better "cheat" for a low nut slot is to actually inlay a solid piece of new nut material into the slot then re-cut it to the right height; done right the string rides on "virgin" nut material instead of being dragged over soft, grabby glue.

    with typical graphite/tusq whatever artificial materials you can take a super-sharp chisel and carve off a little "tailing" from another piece which you then superglue into the slot.

    with bone you have to carefully saw off a little sliver and glue it into the slot, maybe even filing the slot out square to make the "graft" fit.

    the better choice than all this is to pop the nut out and shim it up from the bottom, then re-cut all the slots to the right height again.
    202dy likes this.
  14. Kozmyk


    Feb 6, 2009
    I had the black graphite nut fixed on my Modulus by a good local luthier.
    His solution was powdered pencil lead and superglue.
    Well there's SOME graphite in there...
    Hasn't been a problem since and that was done 20 years ago.
  15. lowendblues

    lowendblues Supporting Member

    Oct 8, 2004
    When shimming a nut from the bottom, what is the choice material to use for the shim?
  16. CharlieMac

    CharlieMac Supporting Member

    Aug 27, 2017
    I use small strips of wood veneer cut to match the size of the bottom surface of the but. So the nut it's sitting on wood just (almost) like it should be. Sometimes I will use two layers of veneer.
    On most of the instruments I've worked on you can't use more than one or two veneer shims because there nut will be lifted too far out of the slot. In this case you have to just make or buy a new nut that is the right size
  17. allcanbforgiven

    allcanbforgiven The Lord's Neck Shop Supporting Member

    Oct 20, 2015
    Blacklick, Ohio
    Why did it just start buzzing? Did the neck wood tighten and pull the strings closer to the frets, a slight back arch? This stuff happens with change of seasons, the wood reacts to different temperatures and humidity. Make sure your your neck relief is good first. If you are in for the long run, you might learn to cut your own nuts, you can buy blank bone pieces for about $5 and then shape and polish when done, lots of videos on this. Then, every guitar you get you can easily make a new bone nut for it. Is your nut on your bass bone or plastic? Just trying to help, bill
  18. matty4string

    matty4string Banned Supporting Member

    May 11, 2016
    lowplaces likes this.
  19. CharlieMac

    CharlieMac Supporting Member

    Aug 27, 2017
    I've made lots of nuts for everything from classical guitar to mandolins. I always use cow bone. You can buy rough blanks on eBay for a couple dollars. It takes a bit of work to flatten and size them with a decent file and sand paper.
    Lately I've purchased a couple pre made bass nuts made from tusq. You can get them in every sort of size and configuration for $5 or so. This is way-easier than building from scratch. Tusq is easy to file and it holds up well. This is what I recommend
  20. farace


    Jul 9, 2016
    Connecticut USA
    Same thing going on with the G string slot on my 1970 Dan Armstrong/Ampeg See Through. It's been that way for the more than twenty years I've owned it, and in fact was that way when I bought it, so no doubt it's now a vintage relic piece of paper. (I'm pretty sure vintage paper sounds better than the inferior paper made today.) I suppose I should fix it one of these days. :)