Replacing the Nut (Bass Guitar)

Preface:

This guide includes information on installing a new String Nut.

 

The information can also be used to check the String Nut you have on now, 
and correct any problems you may currently have with it.

The first thing you need to do is select the appropriate Nut for your guitar.

This means selecting the shape, width and thickness that is closest to that of your guitar’s 

Nut Slot.

 

Nut blanks are available in a variety of materials, shapes, and sizes.

To get the correct size and shape for your guitar, consult the manufacturer of your guitar. 

You'll see the measurements, and often 'made for round' or 'made for flat' Nut Slot.

Some Nuts also come pre-slotted. This means the string spacing is already done for you
 but some final filing will more than likely be necessary.

I recommend buying at least 2 new Nuts.If you mess one up, you'll have the other to fall back on.

 
Nut files made specifically for guitar can be expensive, but make the job easier.

Just make sure the file you're using has a ROUND bottom.

This is very important, especially for wound strings.

 

If you have to replace the Nut, it’s either damaged or the slots are badly worn & giving you 

the dreaded “Fret-Buzz”.

In my case; the corner of the Nut was broken off where it holds the G  string in place.

If I played an “open” G, the string just bounced out of the damaged Nut.

However I still had just over half of the slot left for the G, so this string sat at the correct height.

As I didn’t have any previous Fret-Buzz problems, I measured all my dimensions before
 I discarded the damaged Nut.

Using a standard 6 inch ruler, I measured the distances between each string, 
then using Feeler Gauges I measured the gap between each string & the first fret to determine how 
deep to file the slots in the new Nut.

 Before doing any of the work it would be a wise idea to first wrap the area around the nut 

& the fretboard with MASKING tape to protect the guitar from scratches, dents, etc. 

Keep the tape in place until you're completely finished with every part of this. 

Use masking tape because it doesn't leave behind a sticky residue like other kinds of tape.

 

Removing the old Nut:

1) See if you can make the Nut budge and come out using just the force of your fingers. 

2) Carefully place a screwdriver at one side of the Nut and tap the end of the screwdriver with a mallet or hammer.
 Be careful that you don't let the screwdriver slip and scratch your guitar. 

The main thing is that you don't damage the Nut Slot itself. If you scratch or damage the old Nut
 it's not a big deal because you're discarding it anyway.

After the old Nut has been removed be sure to clean the Nut Slot. 
If necessary, lightly use some sandpaper to make sure the slot is smooth and doesn't have any left over glue in it.

  

Installing the new Nut:

Try and place the new Nut into the Nut Slot on your guitar. 

You want it to fit snugly into the Slot. If it won’t go into the Slot you will need to do some initial sanding.

Take a piece of sandpaper ( 240 grit) and tape it down to something (table, desk, etc). 

Once you've done this, lay the Nut on the sandpaper and rub it back and forth to sand it.

Check again to see if the Nut fits. If it does no fit, repeat sanding until it does. 

Make sure you don't sand too much off. 

Take your time. Check and re-check until you get it just right.

If the Nut also looks too wide for the Slot it's okay to go ahead and sand down the sides.

Just use the same sanding procedure mentioned above.

 

Nut Slot (string spacing) :

Go ahead and put the Nut into the Nut Slot now. 

The reason for putting the Nut in its Slot now is to mark out the string spacing.

With the Nut in place, put on the low (E) and high (G) strings of the guitar. 

Place each string so they are not too close to the edge of the fretboard. 

Once you've got your strings where you want them, mark the spots with a pencil. 

(pen or marker will show up on the finished nut material.)

At this point, it's easier to take the Nut off the guitar to measure for the other slots.

With the Nut off, take a ruler and measure the distance between the two Slots just marked.

Once this measurement is obtained, divide it by 3 to get the spacing between the remainder of the slots.

Mark the remaining Nut Slots by beginning at either the  (E) or (G) Slot already marked. 

If you choose the (E) for instance, measure from that mark and then mark the next Nut Slot. 

Continue until all the Slots are marked.

Once you have the String Slots marked it's a good idea to put the Nut in its Slot on the guitar. 
Put the strings on and tune them up just enough to hold the Nut in place so you can see how they 
lie across the marks you've made. Remember each string has a different diameter so it's possible
 that some of the strings may appear closer together than you want them to be after the initial marking. 
If this is the case, adjust them to where you want them and change the position of the marks. 

At this point it's okay to go ahead and secure the Nut onto the guitar. 

To secure the Nut onto the guitar, apply two small drops of wood glue to the bottom of the new
 Nut (the white stuff or something similar). DO NOT use super glue. It's wiser to use an adhesive, 
which doesn't stick quite as much so that the Nut can be removed more easily when/if needed.

Give the glue adequate time to dry before moving on to the next step.

 

Filing :

With all of the above steps complete, you're ready to begin filing the Nut Slots. 

Firstly, you need to find out the diameter (gauge) of the strings you are using.

You should be able to find the diameters listed on your string packaging or on the website of the string manufacturer.

Important: the Nut Slots should be slightly wider than the diameter of the string.

If the Slot is too narrow, pinching and unstable tuning can occur.

If you're using gauged Nut files, pick the one closest to the diameter of the specific String Slot you're filing for. 

It's okay if it's a little larger, you can get good results without it being exact. 

If you're using some other file or knife then you will just have to judge by feel and sight for the appropriate 
width to cut.

Once you have selected the appropriate gauge to file, go ahead and make a very shallow notch on each Slot 
with the appropriate file. 

You could also use your smallest file to make this intitial Slot. 

The initial Slots just need to be big enough to temporarily hold the strings without them slipping out.

Put the strings on the guitar, routing them through their individual Slots, and start to tune the strings.

 

Now you're ready to file the Slots for depth and angle.   This procedure requires A LOT of patience. 

A few file strokes at a time is best. Take your time and it'll be worth it in the end.

 

angle:

Notice the angle of the strings as they go over the Nut towards the tuning pegs. 

The angle of your Nut Slot should follow this angle as closely as possible. 

i.e.; the Nut Slot should slope back towards the headstock. This rule is a must.

There really isn't any room for personal preference here, either you follow this closely or you get problems.

It doesn't have to be PERFECT but it needs to be as close as you can get it. 

 

*If the Slot doesn't have enough angle you can get an annoying pinging sound when playing the string open.

*If the Slot has too much angle, the front of the Slot will wear down sooner because it's supporting most 
of the pressure from the string. 

*Follow the angle of the strings with your filing.

 

depth:

There are different methods to get the depth of your Nut Slots correct. Remember that the fretboard actually 
curves and the strings are different sizes, so each Slot does not necessarily have the exact same depth.

The goal is to make your Nut Slots almost the same height as the first fret on your guitar without ending up with Fret-Buzz.

You will be continually moving the strings in and out of the Slots during the filing, so it's important to recheck 
tuning frequently.

 

Firstly, make sure the guitar is tuned to Concert Pitch. 

Starting with the (E) string, gently pull the string up and move it aside. 

File down the slot following the angle of the string to a point that looks fairly close. 

Make sure you don’t file too deep. When you reach this first stopping point, check to see

how close you are to the correct height by doing the following:

1) Put the string back into its slot and make sure it is still in tune.

    (check the other strings occasionally too because tension on the neck effects the setup)

2) Pluck the string harder than you will ever pluck it during normal playing.

    (The goal is to file the Slot down until you begin to hear some buzzing of the string against

     the first fret when plucking the string harder than you ever plan on playing it.)

3) If you hear no buzzing of the string against the first fret after completing step 2, 

    repeat step 1 again.

WARNING: as you get closer to the correct Slot depth, be very careful not to file the Slot too deeply.

If the Slot is too deep, the string (when played open) will buzz against the first fret.

Follow the above steps until you get the (E) string slotted correctly.

After this, you can repeat the same process for the remaining String Slots.

Pay attention to how the strings locate on the Nut. 

Take notice of strings that seem a lot higher than the others, or a lot lower than the others.

Keep in mind though that the fretboard generally has a curve to it and the strings are different sizes. 

 

That’s it. 

If you are happy with the set-up of the new Nut, re-tune the guitar.

Give the guitar a 10-minute workout & re-check the tuning.

 

final sanding: (cosmetic)

Once you have completed slotting the nut you are ready to do any final sanding.

(if necessary—this depends on the nut you're using).

Make sure you still have masking tape in place to protect the guitar.

 

The goal here is to sand down the top of the nut so that the strings don't look like they are buried so deeply into it.

 

How much you want to take off of the top is a personal preference.

Some players will tell you that taking more off will add to the sustain of the guitar, 

but be careful to not take so much off the top that your strings can pop out of their slots.

 

It's also nice to sand the top & side edges of the Nut so that there is a little bit of a curve there.

This is purely for cosmetic purposes.

 

Once you've finished your final sanding/shaping of the Nut, make sure that the Nut and 
all of the Nut slots are CLEAN.

 

 a finishing touch:

 

Give the Nut Slots a coating of GRAPHITE! I’ve started doing this at every string-change.

I use a soft pencil. (A pencil doesn’t use LEAD. It’s actually GRAPHITE)

 

end. 

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