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To nut file or not to file....

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by Bassmingo, Jan 11, 2019.

  1. Bassmingo


    Nov 6, 2008
    I have a few basses in different tunings, with different gauges. For example, my standard tuned basses normally will be with strung with 40-100's and my full step down basses strung with 50-110's. I set these basses up with these gauges in mind, but even though some of these basses will be downtuned for an extended period, I still deem the tunings temporary, and I leave the nut alone.

    Now, there aren't any major problems with the nuts on my basses, but my latest acquisition, a MIM standard jaguar tuned down a full step has a nut that I think could be filed a little more, (for height, not width) at least on the E (D) and A (G) strings.

    The thing is, should I do this if I plan to go back to regular gauges and tunings someday? The reason for my question is that in watching some videos, it's recommended that I file for the gauge of string used. (so this will mean using a .110 file on a groove that is currently a .105). Won't that create a problem whenever I go back to standard? Will I just need a new nut when that time comes?

    Advice please.
    saabfender likes this.
  2. DeltaDelta


    Feb 17, 2018
    If reversibility is your concern why not make a second nut to accommodate the larger gauge and swap with the original nut as necessary?

  3. Bassmingo


    Nov 6, 2008
    I suppose that's one solution. I've never attempted to change nuts though. So, what would the most efficient process be? Have a nut cut with my preferred height for .110's, glue it in place, then when I want to swap it, soften the glue and replace?
  4. Zooberwerx

    Zooberwerx Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 21, 2002
    Virginia Beach, VA
    Slot depth is virtually a constant irrespective of string gauge...slot width is another issue altogether. It has to be wide enough to accommodate a, let's say, 110 E string without binding. If properly cut, the same slot will also be able to accommodate the narrower 100 E string if desired. The key is installation including adequate wraps, proper break angle, and witness points.

    To paraphrase @Turnaround : there is pretty much one optimal / correct nut "setting" for any given instrument.

    96tbird likes this.
  5. Bassmingo


    Nov 6, 2008
    Then I present my headstock for critical appraisal. The bass was bought new, and the stock strings (.45's) were swapped out for roto rounds 50's and set up for same. The nut is untouched. IMG_20190111_123121.
    Zooberwerx likes this.
  6. 96tbird

    96tbird PLEASE STAND BY Supporting Member

    Tuning is no reason to file nut height.

    String WIDTH is different. If your .110s fit in the slot and are seated properly leave it. You don’t want it wider in case you go back to .100. Too wide and the string may slop around in the nut, buzz when playing open strings.

    Action at the first fret is the only reason to mess with nut height: If it’s more difficult to fret the first comfortably than the second and third, then file the nut. A side effect of nut too high is pulling your notes sharp when you fret because the string is stretched sharp as you press it down to the fret.

    Nut height is a measurement that doesn’t care what tuning is used.

    A quick method to check for good nut height is:
    1) fret string at first. Look at the gap between the string and second fret. Tap the string down on fret 2 with your right finger to feel the gap.

    2) Now fret string at 3rd fret. Look at the gap between the string and fret 1. Tap it down on fret 1 with your right finger to feel the gap.

    Both steps one and two should look and feel the same. If not, then and only should you consider nut height adjustments. At that point it’s time to get some feeler gauges out and take some real measurements, but the above method is a great first step; also useful when in a store looking at a bass you may consider buying and you don’t have tools with you.
    Last edited: Jan 11, 2019
  7. Lobster11

    Lobster11 Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Apr 22, 2006
    Williamsburg, VA
    It looks to me like the strings are cut too short so there aren't enough windings around the posts -- and thus the break angle of the A and E strings across the nut isn't sharp enough.
    Zooberwerx and 96tbird like this.
  8. 96tbird

    96tbird PLEASE STAND BY Supporting Member

    I agree with this now that op has posted it while I was posting. Four to five wraps on the A and E posts (I always go with 5) to get the strings down on the deck for max break angle.
    Lobster11 and Zooberwerx like this.
  9. Zooberwerx

    Zooberwerx Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 21, 2002
    Virginia Beach, VA
    Not to be critical but your A string break angle is too shallow...addt'l post wraps would help. If it hasn't been problematic, more power to ya!

    Edit: looks like I was a little late to this party!

    Lobster11 and 96tbird like this.
  10. Turnaround

    Turnaround Commercial User

    May 6, 2004
    Toronto Canada
    Independent Instrument Technician, and Contractor to Club Bass and Guitar - Toronto
    This always seems to be a problem with those tuners that have hourglass shaped posts. It wants to squeeze the wraps to the centre of the post, not to the bottom where they should be. To overcome that problem you have to put more wraps on the post which is less than ideal. The more wraps there are on the post, the more opportunity there is for uneven tension in the wraps and thus more opportunity for slippage and tuning stability issues. You just can't win with this type of tuner, though you can get by.
    Lobster11 likes this.
  11. Bassmingo


    Nov 6, 2008
    Understood. They seem to fit in the slots adequately, so I'll leave the widths as is.

    They look and feel approximately the same.

    Based on my feeler gauge, the distance between the first fret and E (D) string is approximately 0.25"/0.63mm (the string barely moves when inserting the gauge)
  12. Bassmingo


    Nov 6, 2008
    If memory serves, I used to stock strings as templates for the new strings. I had assumed the Fender would cut them correctly!
    Lobster11 likes this.
  13. Bassmingo


    Nov 6, 2008
    I agree, I think it's too shallow, but it has not been a problem.
    Zooberwerx likes this.
  14. jthisdell

    jthisdell Supporting Member

    Jun 12, 2014
    Roanoke, VA
    As has been said, the real question is if the strings are binding in the nut. If so that will cause tuning issues and should be addressed. If not I would leave it alone.
  15. saabfender

    saabfender Banned SUSPENDED

    Jan 10, 2018
    No. You don't need to glue a nut in place. Spit on it! Really, that's what I do if needed. Sometimes the friction fit is good enough. But no, a nut doesn't have to be glues to do its job.

    As far as string binding: pencil lead on the nut each and every time. Little trick I learned while I was driving a DB.
  16. 96tbird

    96tbird PLEASE STAND BY Supporting Member

    One tiny dot of wood glue is all it takes. But yeah, if it fits snug in the slot, you can get away with no glue.
  17. Paulabass

    Paulabass Supporting Member

    Sep 18, 2017
    I always file the nut width going to heavier strings, but never going back. The thinner string has always been fine in the slightly wider slot. It's the height that's critical.
    Zooberwerx likes this.
  18. lz4005


    Oct 22, 2013
    You're overthinking this massively. Nut slots can easily be .020 oversized without issue. A .005 difference is completely insignificant.
    JLS and Paulabass like this.
  19. Bassmingo


    Nov 6, 2008
    Good to know. I'm a nut novice.
  20. On my P-Bass, the slot for the lowest string is just too deep, so if you play the open E loudly you can hear it rattle against the first fret. I have been wondering if this will end if I put a B string in place of the E (as in BEAD tuning) but this thread tells me it will still rattle.
    (The nut can't easily be replaced because the fretboard binding runs beyond it.)

    So thanks to all of you for the useful info. :confused:

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