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Making Nut Grooves

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yeah ... nut files and gauged saws are the way to go ... They do cost some $$$ though.... I have read that you can clean up a nut slot w/ a guitar string super glued to the edge of a popsicle stick. You can make your own gauged set with a set if old strings. I don't think you could actually cut the full slot this way... but it helps to make small adjustments. Thats what I read in on of Earlwin's books...

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" the right tool" is a matter of opinion. Those "specialized nut-slotting files" sold by stew-mac are usually joint files, which were actually designed to make, or fine-tune, the screw-driver slot in the heads of small screws. look at some watch repair suppliers and you'll see them selling some.

I have about 10 of the nut files/joint files, but also have a bunch of other small files that would make a round bottom slot just as well, maybe better, since they are perfectly round, and the joint files are "round" on the edge, but can often leave less than a perfectly round slot bottom, sometimes more like a U with a flattish bottom.

A lot of needle-file sets will come with a round file about 1/8" diameter. This is perfect for some bass string slots. If you're lucky, you find these same round files in smaller sizes ( I recently did).

In the past, I have used a set of feeler-gauges, that I ground little teeth into with the dremel cut-off wheel. Since the edges of those feeler-gauges were already round (quite perfectly round, actually) , cutting the "teeth" into them was all that was needed. But, they are not file steel, so they get dull very fast. Using the dremel wheel probably wasn't the best way to go. I just got some very small triangle files that would be great for notching teeth into feeler-gauges (and sharpening razor saws).

Some have said they use torch cleaners. They're sort of like little round files that come in a set, and supposedly can be found at home repair shops. I never took a close look at these things. I certainly will next time I have the chance to check them out.

I have also used guitar strings along with abrasive powder. This was quite helpful when I wanted to get the final depth on the slots on a steel nut I made. I had the pieces of string glued to popsicle sticks. I would dip the string in mineral spirits, then into the powder abrasive, the grooves in the string would hold the abrasive while I used it like a "sanding block". I didn't do it with plain strings.

Sandpaper wrapped tightly around the edge of a feeler gauge is also good, especially if you already "roughed-in" the slot with something else.

I also like to burnish the nut-slots by rubbing the slot against a guitar string. The other day I was testing out some new files on a scrap of fiber-glass, to see how round the slots were, then I rubbed a slot against a string that was on a guitar, behind the nut, where it's real stiff. After a few seconds, the nut slot was shiny and also looked like it was coated with nickel off the guitar string. I guess those little glass fibers are harder than the strings nickel.

The right tool is whatever get the results you want. I see great new ideas come along about doing fret-work, like using a stainless steel spoon to harden the fret-tops, but you seldom see any advanced ideas in nut-slotting.

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