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 Post subject: Re: The nut slots
PostPosted: Sat Jul 15, 2017 3:18 pm 
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dzsmith wrote:
I place a thin feeler gauge leaf into the nut slot and rest it on fret 2.
It's pretty easy to see the gap at the first fret.
I leave a gap of about .005" minimum.
With a smaller gap, I had a couple of guitars that buzzed on fret 1 after the guitars set for a few weeks without playing.
I reckon humidity change or something else caused movement.
Any ideas of what could cause this?



Hey Dan:

Strings are natural and already in place straight edges once tuned to pitch. What you are doing is the same idea as fretting and holding between the 2nd and the 3rd.

.005 is WAY too much though for the high e, b and maybe the g too. We typically cut the high e to less than .001". The buzz from the small gaps comes into play (on open strings) more easily on the g, d, a and low e but for the high e you can take it just above the first fret with no buzzing. The b is like this too.

The gap is so very small on some of these strings that measuring tools are as mentioned useless including feeler gauges. Instead we are looking for the presence or absence of light and we do want to hear that "tink" sound when fretting, holding, and probing.

You guys are dealing with newer builds and that does mean that your necks are going to be more sensitive to RH changes. Even major makers suffer from this too. My Strat that I bought 4.5 years ago has a neck that moved at the slightest change of RH. It was very annoying but now that it's 4.5 years old it's much more stable.

So what's causing the movement in the neck that you are seeing is either unseasoned (fully...) wood or RH swings or both. In my experience this gets better with time but I am speaking of 5 years or more to completely stabilize.



These users thanked the author Hesh for the post (total 2): dzsmith (Sun Jul 16, 2017 8:32 pm) • Clinchriver (Sun Jul 16, 2017 6:09 am)
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 Post subject: Re: The nut slots
PostPosted: Sat Jul 15, 2017 3:25 pm 
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david farmer wrote:
A couple of Idea's.

A steep filing angle, especially combined with a steep string angle, can can concentrate the string pressure on a small spot on the front edge of the nut. Man made materials tend to let the strings sink in over time and bone can either chip or wear quickly there.
I tend to file flatter than instruments I typically see so the string bears on the full width of the nut. It's a pet peeve of mine. I suspect many manufacturers use a steep nut back angle as a quick and dirty way of getting them out the door without a nut buzz. I often lower the slots dramatically and still the bearing is just on the front 1/3rd of the nut.

If you set the nut height with fresh strings, not fretted hard at the first fret yet, they may have been arching higher over nut face than after sitting for a while or getting just fretted once at the first.
The beauty of using the string itself (fretting at the 3rd checking at the first) is it accounts for the different arch of each particular string.

If a change in moisture content caused a decrease in neck relief, that would do it too. If you file the slots with the neck relief set at, or even slightly below, what it will ultimately be played with, you will always be good.


Great post and the notion of strings arching is important for folks to understand. Because of this you can at times.... not always, take a slot that is too low and the string buzzes open and back file increasing string arching. The buzz can go away at times because of this exploitation of the physics of strings arching.

Recent G*bsons are terrible for having the string sit on a very small area of nut slot near the nut face. As such it's very easy to cut a nut slot too low on these because there is not much for the file to contact in the short slot. G*bson nut material is also soft and kind of sucks IME for this reason too. Short slot, soft materials and dull, old files can be your friend....



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 Post subject: Re: The nut slots
PostPosted: Sun Jul 16, 2017 12:57 pm 
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This thread has some truly authoritative input regarding cutting nut slots. Do any of the contributors have comments about the use of a zero fret?



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 Post subject: Re: The nut slots
PostPosted: Sun Jul 16, 2017 1:10 pm 
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Zero nuts - a good idea that is seldom utilized.

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These users thanked the author Chris Pile for the post: Hesh (Sun Jul 16, 2017 2:38 pm)
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 Post subject: Re: The nut slots
PostPosted: Sun Jul 16, 2017 2:22 pm 
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Chris Pile wrote:
Zero nuts - a good idea that is seldom utilized.


Yes, I think it might be because some cheap factory guitars used zero frets, that customers may think the zero fret is inferior when in reality, IMHO, you can't do a nut slot job that can beat a zero fret.
If you do a perfect job, you've just equalled the setup of a zero fret.


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 Post subject: Re: The nut slots
PostPosted: Sun Jul 16, 2017 3:00 pm 
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Imbler wrote:
Chris Pile wrote:
Zero nuts - a good idea that is seldom utilized.


Yes, I think it might be because some cheap factory guitars used zero frets, that customers may think the zero fret is inferior when in reality, IMHO, you can't do a nut slot job that can beat a zero fret.
If you do a perfect job, you've just equalled the setup of a zero fret.


We cut nut slots lower than zero frets every day. Come on by and we will show you how.

Zero frets are not a bad idea and for folks who can't cut a nut slot properly possibly a better idea. They do have their limitations though AND zero frets do wear out and become too low.

When a bone, ivory..., plastic, tusk or some counter top material nut gets too low I can in the course of a set-up raise it with a material that is harder and longer lasting than the original nut material. What's important to understand is that a number of nicer instruments have the nuts "finished in" and scoring and knocking the nut out to shim it can damage finish if not done perfectly.

Filling and raising nut slots with composite, light cured dental fillings (in a host of colors to match Goober Gobber with the green teeth that J Giles talked about ;) ) is also a nice option to have. The repair is invisible, longer lasting than the original material and so easy that even a Hesh can do and NOT charge the client since I'm already doing a set-up. In fact it's not unusual for us to raise a number of nut slots on the same guitar.

Fast reverse to a zero fret. When the zero fret gets too low it can't be filled (it can but who's going to go to the welder....). As such replacing the zero fret is much more invasive than invisibly and safely filling a nut slot. And do you have all sizes of fret wire available to you to match it up for proper replacement..... We do but many won't.

Zero fret implementations vary too. Some users have used a higher zero fret and some folks use just another of the same fret as the rest of the guitar. It is also true that since many cheap instruments had zero frets they get a bad rap. Lots of cheap instruments have laminated sides too and Somogyi's have "double sides" which are, at the end of the day laminated as well.

The other thing that makes a conventional nut with well cut slots superior to a zero fret in my view is we can dictate each strings clearance over the frets where with a zero fret it's a compromise. The treble strings have to be at times high enough to pull notes sharp so the bass strings have proper clearance. With a conventional nut I am free to cut a high e less than .001" over the first fret where if we do this with a zero fret the bass strings will buzz open.

Lastly regardless of what we think a best practice may be there are the market perceptions.... Many of the folks my age (60's) that are our clients have a perception that zero frets are or were done as a cheap alternative on cheap instruments for semi-skilled labor at the f*ctory.... back in the day. On many of the inexpensive instruments in the past they would be correct as well. It was done so that on the nut end of the neck NO set-up expertise is necessary.

When I was a kid.... I had a Yamaha 175 Enduro bike. It was my first vehicle before I got the Jetstar 88 that you had to jump wires to start but I digress...

The Yam with it's not very aggressive knobby tires could be ridden on the street or in the dirt. Unfortunately because of this jack of all trades engineering the thing basically sucked at riding on any surface.

Zero frets might get you better results as a builder than your nut cutting skills but I'm going to maintain that it's still a compromise and not ideal nor can it ever be.

Really lastly if you ever intend or ponder selling your creations in my experience f*ctory guitars are NOT the standard that Luthier built instruments are measured against. Instead there is an expectation and rightly so that we can do better, will do better, and better...... do..... better. ;)

Get some drop offs from a counter top store and learn to cut nut slots. It's not that hard to do and all of the guitars in your life will play better than ever.


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 Post subject: Re: The nut slots
PostPosted: Sun Jul 16, 2017 4:45 pm 
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I don't build my guitars with zero frets for the perception reason which I mentioned.

And I know how to cut nut slots. I don't need to drop by your shop to have you show me. You can be kind of condescending. You are not the only person that can do a good setup.



Hesh wrote:
Imbler wrote:
Chris Pile wrote:
Zero nuts - a good idea that is seldom utilized.


Yes, I think it might be because some cheap factory guitars used zero frets, that customers may think the zero fret is inferior when in reality, IMHO, you can't do a nut slot job that can beat a zero fret.
If you do a perfect job, you've just equalled the setup of a zero fret.


We cut nut slots lower than zero frets every day. Come on by and we will show you how.

Zero frets are not a bad idea and for folks who can't cut a nut slot properly possibly a better idea. They do have their limitations though AND zero frets do wear out and become too low.

When a bone, ivory..., plastic, tusk or some counter top material nut gets too low I can in the course of a set-up raise it with a material that is harder and longer lasting than the original nut material. What's important to understand is that a number of nicer instruments have the nuts "finished in" and scoring and knocking the nut out to shim it can damage finish if not done perfectly.

Filling and raising nut slots with composite, light cured dental fillings (in a host of colors to match Goober Gobber with the green teeth that J Giles talked about ;) ) is also a nice option to have. The repair is invisible, longer lasting than the original material and so easy that even a Hesh can do and NOT charge the client since I'm already doing a set-up. In fact it's not unusual for us to raise a number of nut slots on the same guitar.

Fast reverse to a zero fret. When the zero fret gets too low it can't be filled (it can but who's going to go to the welder....). As such replacing the zero fret is much more invasive than invisibly and safely filling a nut slot. And do you have all sizes of fret wire available to you to match it up for proper replacement..... We do but many won't.

Zero fret implementations vary too. Some users have used a higher zero fret and some folks use just another of the same fret as the rest of the guitar. It is also true that since many cheap instruments had zero frets they get a bad rap. Lots of cheap instruments have laminated sides too and Somogyi's have "double sides" which are, at the end of the day laminated as well.

The other thing that makes a conventional nut with well cut slots superior to a zero fret in my view is we can dictate each strings clearance over the frets where with a zero fret it's a compromise. The treble strings have to be at times high enough to pull notes sharp so the bass strings have proper clearance. With a conventional nut I am free to cut a high e less than .001" over the first fret where if we do this with a zero fret the bass strings will buzz open.

Lastly regardless of what we think a best practice may be there are the market perceptions.... Many of the folks my age (60's) that are our clients have a perception that zero frets are or were done as a cheap alternative on cheap instruments for semi-skilled labor at the f*ctory.... back in the day. On many of the inexpensive instruments in the past they would be correct as well. It was done so that on the nut end of the neck NO set-up expertise is necessary.

When I was a kid.... I had a Yamaha 175 Enduro bike. It was my first vehicle before I got the Jetstar 88 that you had to jump wires to start but I digress...

The Yam with it's not very aggressive knobby tires could be ridden on the street or in the dirt. Unfortunately because of this jack of all trades engineering the thing basically sucked at riding on any surface.

Zero frets might get you better results as a builder than your nut cutting skills but I'm going to maintain that it's still a compromise and not ideal nor can it ever be.

Really lastly if you ever intend or ponder selling your creations in my experience f*ctory guitars are NOT the standard that Luthier built instruments are measured against. Instead there is an expectation and rightly so that we can do better, will do better, and better...... do..... better. ;)

Get some drop offs from a counter top store and learn to cut nut slots. It's not that hard to do and all of the guitars in your life will play better than ever.


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 Post subject: Re: The nut slots
PostPosted: Sun Jul 16, 2017 8:45 pm 
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dzsmith wrote:
david farmer wrote:
A couple of Idea's.

A steep filing angle, especially combined with a steep string angle, can can concentrate the string pressure on a small spot on the front edge of the nut. Man made materials tend to let the strings sink in over time and bone can either chip or wear quickly there.
I tend to file flatter than instruments I typically see so the string bears on the full width of the nut. It's a pet peeve of mine. I suspect many manufacturers use a steep nut back angle as a quick and dirty way of getting them out the door without a nut buzz. I often lower the slots dramatically and still the bearing is just on the front 1/3rd of the nut.

If you set the nut height with fresh strings, not fretted hard at the first fret yet, they may have been arching higher over nut face than after sitting for a while or getting just fretted once at the first.
The beauty of using the string itself (fretting at the 3rd checking at the first) is it accounts for the different arch of each particular string.



If a change in moisture content caused a decrease in neck relief, that would do it too. If you file the slots with the neck relief set at, or even slightly below, what it will ultimately be played with, you will always be good.


Thanks David, yes my slots are cut at a steep angle. Makes sense there could be just a sliver left at the face. I'll give that a try. Good point about setting depth with an actual string.
Appreciate the help!

I took your advice David on the slot angle. Makes sense about new strings arching. I cut a nut this weekend and left the slots a bit high. I'll leave it under tension and play it for a week or so and then do a final setup.
Thanks,
Dan
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 Post subject: Re: The nut slots
PostPosted: Sun Jul 16, 2017 8:56 pm 
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Hesh wrote:
dzsmith wrote:
I place a thin feeler gauge leaf into the nut slot and rest it on fret 2.
It's pretty easy to see the gap at the first fret.
I leave a gap of about .005" minimum.
With a smaller gap, I had a couple of guitars that buzzed on fret 1 after the guitars set for a few weeks without playing.
I reckon humidity change or something else caused movement.
Any ideas of what could cause this?



Hey Dan:

Strings are natural and already in place straight edges once tuned to pitch. What you are doing is the same idea as fretting and holding between the 2nd and the 3rd.

.005 is WAY too much though for the high e, b and maybe the g too. We typically cut the high e to less than .001". The buzz from the small gaps comes into play (on open strings) more easily on the g, d, a and low e but for the high e you can take it just above the first fret with no buzzing. The b is like this too.

The gap is so very small on some of these strings that measuring tools are as mentioned useless including feeler gauges. Instead we are looking for the presence or absence of light and we do want to hear that "tink" sound when fretting, holding, and probing.

You guys are dealing with newer builds and that does mean that your necks are going to be more sensitive to RH changes. Even major makers suffer from this too. My Strat that I bought 4.5 years ago has a neck that moved at the slightest change of RH. It was very annoying but now that it's 4.5 years old it's much more stable.

So what's causing the movement in the neck that you are seeing is either unseasoned (fully...) wood or RH swings or both. In my experience this gets better with time but I am speaking of 5 years or more to completely stabilize.


Thanks Hesh! Pretty amazing how lowering a nut slot a tad can affect playability.
It's a shame that guitars costing $1000 are not set up before they are sold.
I tried out a new custom LP and was horrified. Action was bad and the fretboard was really dry.
I decided to start building hoping I could one day replicate the feel of my '69 custom LP.
25 guitars later, I'm getting close. If I achieve my goal, I'll sell all of my stuff and take up gardening.
I have given away most of my builds, waiting for the good one.
Dan

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These users thanked the author dzsmith for the post: Hesh (Mon Jul 17, 2017 4:29 am)
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 Post subject: Re: The nut slots
PostPosted: Mon Jul 17, 2017 4:49 am 
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Dan no thanks required, happy to help.

These discussions and my posts are intended for all forum members with the sincere hope that someone will benefit.

A zero fret is not an example of perfectly cut nut slots or the standard that all others (nut slot cutting) should be judged by. Cutting a conventional nut well and properly offers advantages as detailed in my post over the compromises that one is stuck with from a zero fret.

A goodly percentage of the electric world, particularly the shredder world couldn't use zero frets either. Locking nuts are standard fare for Floyd equipped instruments making a zero fret not a possibility. The locking nuts suffer from the same issue that zero frets do. One size does not fit all.

Milling the bottom of the locking nut (with cup of water near by to drop it in as it heats up on the belt sander...) or shimming it for a compromise... of string clearance that works for all strings is how these instruments are set-up. What's left are nut slots like with a zero fret that on an individual basis are not ideal but again are a compromise where some are better than others.

We ask our clients to sit down and try out their guitar when they pick-up. Nearly universally they comment nearly at once on the reduced effort required in the first several positions to fret the thing. It is something that is very noticeable as well and likely some of the greatest value that anyone will receive from a well done set-up.

It's also part of what I love about being a Luthier, making people happy!


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 Post subject: Re: The nut slots
PostPosted: Mon Jul 17, 2017 3:58 pm 
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Hesh, I would love some more input on how to approach the action on my new guitar. As you know, I know nothing about this process and I would love to learn. Thanks to this thread I learned how to cut the slots for my guitar's nut. I would like to inform you, when I press between the 2nd and 3rd frets my strings are pretty much snug against the first fret. I say this so you can get an idea of how my guitar is set up. I would also let you know that the 1st fret is .040 above the fretboard. My slots are cut at around .054. Does this seem too high still? IDK?
I had to adjust the truss rod clockwise to force the neck to go down once the strings were in place. The neck looks straight except near the second fret to the nut there's a slight upward bow.
Again, I know nothing about action but I will let you know the low E string measures in at .120 at the 12th fret.

Do you have any recommendations for me now that I have got this far? If you need me to post pictures or more info please let me know. And as always thanks!


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 Post subject: Re: The nut slots
PostPosted: Tue Jul 18, 2017 5:03 am 
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OK very simply think three steps:

1) Tune to pitch and adjust the truss rod. Minimal relief on the treble side, more on the bass side. If the neck can't do this and 50% of them can't because f*ctories don't understand how to build them then compromise is necessary.

2) Cut nut slots with the fretting between the 2nd and 3rd method and really understand how to do this. Strings should not be laying on the first fret or have any contact at all or it's going to buzz open. Distance should be minimal and is critical to the thing not going sharp when fretted in the first few fret locations.

3) Measure action at the 12th for the high and low e's respectively. Here are some set-up specs for what the action should be:

Dr*ad with 12's 4/64th" and 6/64th"
Dr*ad with 13's 5/64th" and 7/64th"
OM with 12's for finger style 4/64th" and 5.5/64th" (note Hesh's bastardized method of combining fractions and decimals.....;) )
Strat with 10's and light attack player with normal tuning 4/64th" and 4.5/64th"
mando < 3.5/64th" and 4/64th"
Ibanez with Floyd for a shredder tuned to C 3/64th" and 4/64th"

These are just general numbers and specs off the top of my balding head. Player attack can require adjustment so too can the shape of the neck. All of these action setting are ONLY done AFTER the nut slots are completed and the truss rod is in it's presumed final location.

By doing things sequentially you eliminate variables one by one leaving you eventually with simply adjusting or milling the saddle(s).

Of course there are many ways to set-up guitars but this is what I do and many pro repair folks who I know do. A sequential, spec driven approach that factors in the experience of years of doing this understanding how the player is a variable too. Any time you can ask and receive the player playing for you so you can observe their style it's invaluable and highly recommended.



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 Post subject: Re: The nut slots
PostPosted: Tue Jul 18, 2017 11:28 am 
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Hesh wrote:

1) Tune to pitch and adjust the truss rod. Minimal relief on the treble side, more on the bass side. If the neck can't do this and 50% of them can't because f*ctories don't understand how to build them then compromise is necessary.



Just minding my own business. Reading this thread thinking, "Ah, yes. I remember when it all seemed so mysterious." Then BAM!

What? How do I have variable relief from the truss rod? I got one rod down the middle of the neck. How do I have more relief under the bass strings and less under the treble? Wouldn't that imply a twist in the neck?

Turns out that not only f*ctories can't build necks, but neither can little 'ole m*!

So, Hesh you have been very patient. A simple thread has turned into a full blown online course on setup, and I apologize for adding to that. But could you please explain how I achieve different relief under the bass strings and treble strings?


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 Post subject: Re: The nut slots
PostPosted: Tue Jul 18, 2017 1:47 pm 
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Hey Rirhett, no prob happy to help.

It's not the truss rod that provides variable relief although an unmentioned f*ctory offering has gone down this route.... not very successfully it's the maker of the instrument that builds in the neck shape.

We build more relief into the bass side and less into the treble side when we build the neck and level the board. If done well this "shaping" translates into the fret work too. If the instrument is already built with a well done fret dress we can impart more relief on the bass since and less on the treble side too. We do this daily by the way again because 50% of the instruments out there are not right in this respect.

Neck shaping is easy you just have to understand the process or even have a process. We teach this in our fretting and set-up courses and at least 20 OLFers will know if they recall how with finger pressure we manipulate the neck during the board leveling process. This can also as mentioned be done with only a fret dress too.

A properly shaped neck will retain more relief on the bass side and less on the treble side regardless of string gauges or truss rod adjustment, the bass side will always have slightly more relief.



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