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Filing Nut Slots On The Cheap


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OK for all you people who always say you cant afford nut files but can spend $70 on a single pickup this is for you.

#1 if anyone says buy Brazing torch tip cleaners and use them for making nuts, have them taken out and shot. They are useless because they are not files.. NOT FILES.......no teeth so they cant cut hard materials. Impossible to control on softer materials. In most cases more expensive that my Nut Slot Kit on the Cheap.. read on.

Hopefully I have squashed that myth so here it is drum roll please...... Nut Slot Kit On The Cheap.


Say What?

Sorry this has an anti climatic ending. Saw and needle files?

Above is a picture of (from top to bottom) A Stumac Nut saw .008, a diamond need file from a Harbor Freight kit 4", A needle file from a standard US branded needle file kit 5 1/2" #2 cut, a 4" round needle file #2 cut and a 6" needle file also #2 cut. The #2 cut is a fine cut (smaller the number the rougher the cut).

The picture is to show you that small items can be had. The 4" round needle file I bought from MSC.com a few months back during a 40% off sale costs me under $2. Normally it sells in the $3 range. I am sure with the knowledge of the cut and size you can find it under $2 as well. This is the file to have.

The diamond file though the same size is thicker because of the diamond grit bonded to the shaft and this makes it useful only for larger strings. The Standard 5 1/2' round from the needle file kit is also just a bit to large for smaller strings.

Now if you are very good at grinding; needle files can be ground to a very fine tip. That is if you want to attempt to make up a set of sized nut files from ground needle files. I suggest using the 5 1/2" files for this task. I have not done this but have thought about it. Also a knife edge needle file is also a good candidate but has a flat bottom. Again this is just a suggestion and I have not done this myself., consult a trained professional. LOL

OK the saw. I picked up this Stumac saw for nut work. It was not a great price but the kerf is smaller that most saws. However a brand called Zona also makes a .008 kerf blade for $5.50. If you just buy the blade its under $2, but you will have to make a handle. These thin kerf saws are also know as razor saws and will cut everything but metal. Google the phrase razor saw and see what you can find, knowing the kerf size is important.

OK you now have two tools to make nuts, a thin saw, and a small round 4" needle file. Both can be had for under $10. I did say it was anti climatic right?

NOTE: You may want to look for a saw blade kerf which is slightly larger than your smallest string. If you smallest string is .010 then the .008 saw above is too small. I use true nut files to open the slot after the .008 saw, but you may not be able to using the tip of the smallest needle which is around .020-.030" wide. So your saw kerf may be your slot. So don't buy a saw which will not fit your smallest string gages. I will also suggest buying smaller nut files and using this kit for the larger strings. There is always a negative aspect to tools on the cheap, but on the bright side with this knowledge you can probably put together a cheap nut kit that will work for you.

Also for a Bass nut the limitations on file size and the saw Kerf you can ignore. The 6" file is quite large and I would stick with the 5 1/2" inch size as the largest file to use.

Your comments are welcomed.

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I bought a majorly fine kerf razor saw for under £5 here in the UK (teeth have no set) which is ideal for marking out and dropping slots in. Opening out slots wider than the kerf of the saw can be achieved with a folded piece of ~320 grit paper (popping a piece or two of paper in the fold to widen it if needs be) for plain strings. The wound strings can be slotted after marking out and starting, by using an old string lubed with graphite or whatever. I use Corian for nuts so it cuts very easily and cleanly. Polishes up a treat too. Not perfect, but if you want perfect then you pay out of your ass for a graded set of nut files of course :-D

Who doesn't have half a nut slotting set available after a restring I ask you? Even then, a set of cheap cheap strings is far cheaper than any file.

I love these posts you're popping up WS. However I do find it weird that you advocate cheap, simple and effective tools and yet still pop in the use of expensive S+M gear here and there. :D

Edited by Prostheta
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However I do find it weird that you advocate cheap, simple and effective tools and yet still pop in the use of expensive S+M gear here and there. :D

I am never beyond advocating cheaper methods, in fact I started out that way years ago. What really got me on this topic is torch Tip Cleaners, when I finally bought a set I was very disappointed. Tried to file some bone and they just burnished the top. Six bucks down the drain I was muttering to myself. I guess if you hear it enough times you begin to believe it. I was going to mount them on some wood sticks and sharpen in some edges, but when I got to my bench and looked at them I said forget it and put them away.

Gluing old strings to a Popsicle stick will give you some solid support while you cut, just a thought.

Sand paper is a great idea too, I remember Soap saying he uses sand paper wrapped around a feeler gage for some slots. You have to improvise.

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I found it strange that Frank Ford said the torch tip cleaners work great for nut work.

I also tried them, and found the larger sizes really only burnish. The smaller sizes seemed to cut slightly better, but then they bent way too easily.

Luckily I got a brand new set of torch cleaners for nothing, because some lady down the street decided to throw out her sons old addidas gym bag from the late 70's and there was a brand new set of torch tip cleaners in there (along with a mint Kiss belt buckle and a bunch of 'war hammer' lead figures-- I could evilbay that stuff and probably have enough $ to buy a full-blown set of real nut files (but I pretty much have a complete set already) )

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Good info.....

How about a thread for fretting tools on the cheap....

I'm thinking now, dont get me started.

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Further to the torch cleaners, the feeler guages with teeth ground into them don't seem too good either. I got a set cheap off eBay and they don't really cut. I think it's because slots cut into a piece of metal don't do what saw teeth do.

I actually had good luck on my first build using an exacto knife against a small metal staight edge and the using variuos sandpapaer arrangements. If you get the slot started, a folded peice of 220 cuts very nice. You can fold it more times and fold it around smaller objects, including guitar strings, for the larger slots.

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