Modifying the Nut (Help)

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by Quantized Harmonic, Jul 19, 2016.

  1. Hey guys, I've been thinking about a little problem that I may have when I (possibly) get a 5 string later this year. The B strings I have looked at using are either a .136, .142, or .145. I assume that this would require the nut slot to be wider and so in turn it would be modifying it. Now this is what I'm concerned about. I know how to handle the work so that's no biggie, but should I buy a new nut and have two nuts on hand?

    The reason being is because I'm thinking I might try the lightest string first and then gradually move up, but if I have to modify the nut for the thicker strings (142/145) then if I go back to a 136, would it buzz in the slot since it may be too wide?

    *Edit: I know how to do the work on the nut but how easy/difficult is it to change a nut? I've seen other people remove their nut but they would have to break it out which damages it.
  2. megafiddle


    May 25, 2011
    Often, guitar and bass strings are replaced with lighter gauges with no problems. So generally, if a slot is recut for the larger gauge, the smaller gauge string will still sit pretty solid in the slot.

    This assumes that the slot is properly cut with a U shape, and not a V or a square flat bottom. A slot with a V shape will allow the smaller string to sit too low, and a square bottom slot will allow side to side rattle.

    If the nut is sitting in a slot, you may very well have to destroy it to remove it without damaging the fretboard or finish. But I would not worry about removing it until you actually have to. You could get an extra to have "just in case".

    Quantized Harmonic and mech like this.
  3. mech

    mech In Memoriam

    Jun 20, 2008
    Meridian, MS, USA
    Yep, the round bottom U shape is the key. I have several 4 strings set up for BEAD (.130" - .070") and will change to EADG (.115" - .045") with no problems. As long as the bottom of the slot is round, slanted to the peghead and the string is under reasonable tension it will seat at the bottom and not move side to side.
    lz4005 and walldaja like this.
  4. Aidil


    Dec 4, 2014
    Jkt, IDN
    agree with above posters... U shape is the key. Mine was even filed larger than the above.

    I had my 6er nut filed to accommodate 0.175" - 0.45" for F#BEADG tuning. Now, I have switched it back to standar 6er BEADGC tuning using 0.132" - 0.32" strings without any problem.
  5. Hopkins

    Hopkins Supporting Member Commercial User

    Nov 17, 2010
    Houston Tx
    Owner/Builder @Hopkins Guitars
    Basically what everyone is suggesting, but haven't really said yet, is to make sure you have a proper set of nut files so you can cut your slots correctly and you won't have any issues.
    Rich Fiscus likes this.
  6. I know there are files all around online and in stores but I can't find any larger than .135". Do you know where I can find larger ones?
    (I think i can't find any larger ones because I'm looking at specific bass files, maybe I should be looking for standard files)
  7. mech

    mech In Memoriam

    Jun 20, 2008
    Meridian, MS, USA
    Check out pawn shops. Never know what you'll find. May have to de-grease them. Be sure and get fine cut. Also look for chain saw sharpening files. I have one that's 9/64" (.140") that makes a very smooth cut.
  8. Another idea to explore is installing a Zeroglide Zerofret. No need to file slots anymore. The slots are usually slightly larger than on a standard nut and everything stays in place just fine.
  9. mongo2


    Feb 17, 2008
    Da Shaw
    An important element in filing nut slots is to slope the slot down towards the headstock slightly.
  10. Thank you for all the help guys :D
    mech likes this.
  11. Hopkins

    Hopkins Supporting Member Commercial User

    Nov 17, 2010
    Houston Tx
    Owner/Builder @Hopkins Guitars
    Honestly, that Zeroglide IMO looks kind of hacked together. Not a very elegant design, and very little advantage over a properly slotted nut
    Quantized Harmonic, JLS and mech like this.
  12. JLS


    Sep 12, 2008
    Albuquerque, NM
    I setup & repair guitars & basses
    Another solution looking for a problem, IMO.
    Hopkins likes this.
  13. Hopkins

    Hopkins Supporting Member Commercial User

    Nov 17, 2010
    Houston Tx
    Owner/Builder @Hopkins Guitars
    My thoughts exactly
  14. Doner Designs

    Doner Designs Steve Doner Gold Supporting Member

    Jun 2, 2012
    Metro Chicago Area
    Doner Designs is an alias for Steve Doner
    A somewhat crude method I used before I had nut files was to wrap fine sandpaper around an object of the correct size (screwdriver, toothpick, etc). You can also just roll a piece of sandpaper up into a tiny shaft with nothing inside.

    I have a couple of file sets from Stew Mac. The nut files only go so large but the other set (not just for nuts) includes a big round one. Their slot file works really well to clean up if there is glue etc in the slot from the old nut.

    As far as changing the nut goes, if it's a Fender spec bass, precut nuts are easy to find online so it wouldn't hurt to have a couple available just in case.
  15. The advantage is not having to file or replace nuts anymore, and for me I like the open string sounding the same as my fretted notes. And its easy to install. But a regular nut is fine too. Its just another option available for stringed instrument players. Oh and its not hacked together, its very well designed and well built.
    Last edited: Jul 21, 2016