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Nut String Spacing, Equal Gap Verses Equal Centre?

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I'd always though equal gap between the strings was the correct way to space a nut, but all the production guitars and graph tech replacement nuts I've measured are equal centre spacing.

With equal centre spacing the highest part of the strings will always be the same distance from each other and so theoretically it is easier on your fretting hand to remember the distance between strings?

So how do you do it?

Edited by Bmth Builder
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The thing about the SM rule is that while it does give wider spacing as you go towards the bass strings, it still doesn’t account for gauges, the instructions tell you to mark the centre of the E and e strings and then fill in the 4 middle strings, so anyone playing with thicker gauges or irregular gauge string sets, e.g. guys playing with drop tunings will still experience crowding on the bass strings.

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I can see how the SM rule would not account for thicker string guage - but surely itd still be better than no spacing?

I've never used one so I don't know. I'm guilty of always buying pre made nuts, something I wish to remedy this year.

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I have always gone on center...

I used to do this.

Measure the width you want the strings. Add all the gauges of the strings. Subtract from Measured width. Divide by 5.

Doesn't that give you equal gaps? :D


That gives you the equal gap size minus the width of the strings.

I set the E strings first.

Then you set the gap measurement up on your calipers and start from the one side and work across. Placing your inner strings as you go.

Then a .05 pencil line on each side of the strings so you can visually check and move the string to cut the slot in between the pencil lines...

It made perfect sense when I wrote the first post. Now looking back...

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  • 1 year later...

Hi guys. Sorta hijacking this thread. I'm currently building a six-string bass. I'm gonna do the nut myself for the first time. I'm thinking of going with equal gap, but I have no idea as to what string spacing is appropriate. I want the string spacing to be tight, similar to a vintage jazz bass. I can't seem to find the dimensions I need. What equal gap measurements do you advise?

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The way I do it is to have a total nut width, the gap between the edge of each outer string and the edge of the nut plus a list of the string gauges. Adding the edges plus the gauges, subtracting them from the nut width and then dividing that result by the number of strings minus one gets your equal spacing value. This is for a four-string bass:

BASS EDGE 3,0000mm
E 2,540mm

A 2,032mm

D 1,651mm

G 1,143mm

TREBLE EDGE 3,0000mm

For a 43mm nut you add the edges (6mm) plus the sum of the string gauges (7,366mm) and subtract that from the nut width (43mm - 13,366mm = 24,634mm). The remainder is the spacing between the strings which there are three of on a four-string bass, so 24,634mm/3 = 7,4mm each gap. For practical use this can be rounded to 7,4mm

This is nothing beyond what was described previously, but there are the numbers. For a vintage Jazz I guess you would want a string spacing that would be expressed by a super narrow 38mm nut. Throwing those numbers in on those gauges leaves a spacing of 6,2mm so if you worked that backwards:

6mm edge gaps

5x 6,2 = 31mm string gaps

11,42mm sum gauges of D'Addario EPS170-6SL ProSteels

....gives you a nut width of 48,42mm which is pretty slender. Even Ibanez SoundGear 6-string basses are 54mm wide! I bet that would be a pretty interesting bass to play. You would of course want to solidify the gauges of strings the bass is being designed for. Heavier strings would express a slightly wider nut so having this down as a specific design characteristic is fairly crucial. Saying 50mm for the sake of safety is wise given that six bass strings can make slender necks rubbery.

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I use the Stew Mac ruler, and it gives a reasonable approximation of equal gap.

As mentioned, it does not account for a wide range of string gauges.

In addition, it assumes a consistent increase in string diameter from one to the next, which is not how it really works.

So yeah, not exactly equal, but a good compromise, and feels comfortable enough.

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