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What file do you use to file down the nut?

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by AudioDwebe, Dec 3, 2012.

  1. Any suggestion of files that can be used effectively to file down the nut? Something that can be purchased at a Home Depot or Lowes?

  2. redname


    Apr 30, 2010
    i use a needle file but tht's because i used it for some small adjustments.

    for the majority, i just use a piece of sandpaper laid flat on the flat surface and just sand away
  3. Pilgrim

    Pilgrim Supporting Member

    Do you mean filing the slots, or filing down the entire nut to reduce height?
  4. Art Araya

    Art Araya

    May 29, 2006
    Palm Coast, FL
    If you're talking about the string slots in the nut, I use the ones from Stew Mac.


    They're not from Home Depot or Lowes but they're easy enough to purchase online.

    Each of the slots has to be cut at a different width for the strings to sit in the slots properly. I would not use a one-sized solution for all of the slots. I would get 4 different files each appropriately sized for the strings slot I was filing (.45, .65, .85. 105)
  5. Those slotted ones should be perfect...and pricey!

    So would I get the exact same size as the strings, or a bit bigger?

    Thanks, all.
  6. Arial Bender

    Arial Bender

    Oct 28, 2012
    Largo Fla.
    Get the right size for strings, then either use fine sandpaper or work the file if to tight.
  7. 202dy

    202dy Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2006
    Purchase files that are the same size as the strings. Still, the slot needs to be a few thousandths wider than the string. Roll the file to make a larger slot.

    Pricey? We hear this all the time. Good tools cost money. They last forever. The total price of the files for this job are roughly the cost of a new nut from a pro. There is no free lunch. Look at it this way: The next nut will be slotted at half price. And if you're willing to do the first one, you'll do more.
  8. boynamedsuse

    boynamedsuse Supporting Member

    Oct 13, 2010

    I've used those on two basses and am glad I spent the money. Strictly speaking, the smallest one is actually .046 not .045.

    There is a great how-to here:
  9. xaxxat

    xaxxat Supporting Member

    Oct 31, 2008
    Emery paper wrapped over drill bits works too.
  10. rockinrayduke

    rockinrayduke Supporting Member

    Dec 30, 2007
    Henderson, NV
    Yep, I did the same thing. Figured if I was going to teach myself to do it, get the right tools.
  11. audioglenn


    Jul 14, 2012
    I have found files that are usable in both Home Depot and Lowes. Both stores sell sets of files that are small and in different shapes. I have used them both with very good success. This is what I have done to file them down to the correct depth/width. Use a nut that you know is filed to the correct dimensions you want as a template. Then, find out how deep you can slide one of the Lowes/Home Depot files into the nut you're using as a template. Then, use that as your guide for filing the new nut. Be sure to pay attention to the space between each of the string grooves. I have had good results using this method.
  12. I use drill bits for nut files. They are ultra precise. I have only tried them on graphite nuts. Here is a chart by size that mixes all letter, number, fractional and metric drill sizes. You can get individual bits at Grainger's. http://www.accuratebushing.com/pdf/ENG-FractionalChart.pdf
  13. zortation


    Dec 26, 2011
    Toronto, ON
    If you can get a round file in the same gauge as the string, go that route. Those Stew Mac ones aren't fully radiused, so if you use them, you'll need to change the angle to smooth out the slot on each side. And don't forget to angle the slot down and away from the fingerboard edge of the nut, otherwise you'll get a perma-rattle that can't be fixed any other way than to file it down until you get it right? Isn't this fun?!
  14. I think the Stew-Macs (blank on the flats; teeth only on the edge) were made that way to avoid hogging the slot out wider than the specified width. I bought a set for M45 but I switched to a mix of letter/number/metric/fractional drill bits. WAY cheaper.
  15. tjh

    tjh Supporting Member

    Mar 22, 2006
    ... as does an old set of roundwound strings in the same guage ... especially if only very minimal adjustments need to be made .. JMHO
  16. Everything else being equal on two separate basses, would you actually be able to tell a difference between a perfectly filed nut versus a nut not done perfectly, if the action height were the same?

    I'm asking because I didn't feel like waiting (or paying the $$$) and got a small set of files at a local Home Depot and worked on my old Fender copy. I made sure the slots angled downward a bit, but I'm pretty certain it didn't fit the strings exactly. But it seems to be fine.

    Which got me to thinking...

    Is the whole "nut" thing the same as that of other hobbies and their tendency for anal retentiveness when it comes to certain aspects of that hobby?

    Your opinions?
  17. sanding paper wrapped aroudn appropriate feeler gauge
    the result isnt boutique and it takes a while but works when youre poor or lazy
  18. 96tbird

    96tbird PLEASE STAND BY Supporting Member

    Or cheap! (Like me).
  19. Gibson found that the average player can feel a difference in a neck that had 0.003" more lacquer than another. So you could say some folks are gonna know if the nut slot's holding the string higher than it would be if it were resting on a zeroth fret. Now if you are going to take things down that far, yes, you have to be anal about taking just a touch off, then getting out the feeler gauges again, or you're going to have first fret buzz. The closer you cut anything, the more careful you have to be about everything.
  20. I'm not talking about differences in nut height, but rather the half-diameter of the slot fitting the strings to a "T" versus a slot where the strings may not make contact with the nut quite as good.

    Let's say the difference between filing down a nut with a precise tool made for a particular string's size versus using a general purpose file getting the string height/angle correct, but may not necessarily be as precise.

    I guess the core question becomes: Do I really need a file made for a particular string size or can I get away with using a regular file to get the action to the same location? And, if I can, would there be any noticeable difference between the two.