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Nuts
Author
Post
deadedith

Total Topics: 34
Total Posts: 165
My razor saw, chisel and sandpaper approach to cutting a notch to seat the nut in, while pretty successful, was shaky enough that I wonder if there is a drillpress or router method for cutting that notch that would be faster and more accurate?

Any suggestions, other than "develop more skill with your existing tools" <g>, would be welcomed.

Dave

Dec 30, 09 | 12:18 pm
Adaboy

Total Topics: 64
Total Posts: 509
Can you clamp a block in place to guide your razor saw while cutting the notch? Anything that would help keep the saw vertical and keep the cut perfectly straight would help. Also, use your chisel with the flat side of the blade up where it doesn't tend to dig into the wood. Not sur eif that helps you or not.

Dec 30, 09 | 3:00 pm
llajoy

Total Topics: 6
Total Posts: 295
On the first few guitars, I used a razor saw and chisel. I would position the nut, and cut the groove using the razor saw. After that I would clear thins out with the chisel.

I now use a file from StewMac that is sized to match the nut. It's pretty quick and easy.

I don't know of a router or drill press option, but I'm sure it could be done. But I would consider it high risk, low reward. By that I mean, you are almost done with the guitar and a slip with a power tool will cause a lot more damage that a slip with a hand tool.

Just my opinion. Lance.

Dec 30, 09 | 3:06 pm
deadedith

Total Topics: 34
Total Posts: 165
Thanks for the input guys.

Dec 30, 09 | 3:31 pm
Kevin Sjostrand

Total Topics: 84
Total Posts: 981
Practice, practice practice! It will become less shaky Dave, just keep building them.

Kevin

Dec 30, 09 | 7:26 pm
deadedith

Total Topics: 34
Total Posts: 165
No, no, anything but THAT!! :-)

Well okay, if I must...

Dave

Dec 30, 09 | 8:19 pm
Freeman

Total Topics: 27
Total Posts: 668
Taylor use a CNC mill. I just use gauged files and lots of time. The clever little StewMac rule makes lay out a lot easier - especially something like a 12 string.

I've alway thought that little details like the nut, saddle compensation and fret work were the mark of a good and careful craftsman and I think the extra time to do it right pays off.

Dec 31, 09 | 7:16 am
Freeman

Total Topics: 27
Total Posts: 668







Dec 31, 09 | 7:24 am
deadedith

Total Topics: 34
Total Posts: 165
Thanx Freeman.
The craftsman v. utilitarian tension has no doubt been discussed in these Forums. It's new to me, and thinking it through is very interesting.

Dave

Dec 31, 09 | 7:49 am
Freeman

Total Topics: 27
Total Posts: 668
It takes me several hours over several days to make a new nut - I keep bringing each string down a little at a time until each one is just where I want it. I play a lot of slide and the level of the tops of the strings is as important as the actual height off the fretboard. When I built the saddle for this particular guitar I think I have about 6 hours in getting it just where I want it - each string of each course is individually compensated.

You can do so much to affect the playability when you do the setup - the spacing of the E string with respect to the edge of the f/b (there is a guy on one of the forums right now complaining about the high E on his new Taylor), string spacing, slot depth - as well as the usual things like relief and action. I spend some time angling the exit slot so the string curves towards its tuner and I like to file each slot just a few thou over the strings that I will use (I have some really wonky string gauges - this 12 string has some monsters on it).

I also buff the heck out of the nuts and saddles (however I've heard that if you buff a bleached bone one enough it just looks like plastic LOL). On this git I used unbleached 'cause I wanted that old timey look (it matches the tuner buttons)

It seems a shame to rush thru any of the steps of building one of these critters - I get a lot of pride and pleasure out of seeing each part of it come toghter. You'll spend a lot of time looking at a crappy nut - why not make it good the first time?


Dec 31, 09 | 10:51 am
Ken Cierp

Total Topics: 58
Total Posts: 2262
I do admire the work Freeman has posted (beautiful) and his passion for this hobby. But for the new comers I would like to make it clear that it is not really necessary to mortgage the house to buy specialized tools to build one or two guitars, nor is the making of a high quality nut a product of trial and error. It’s a math thing and the simple tools and methods below will help you take advantage of that fact.

http://www.kennethmichaelguitars.com/zerofret.html
http://www.kennethmichaelguitars.com/fretdressing.html
http://www.kennethmichaelguitars.com/neckprepandassembly.html

Having performed this service for a living I can tell you that the customer expects great results and is certainly not willing to pay me the going rate for many hours of service just to make a nut.

I believe that the utility and accuracy of the simple sanding sticks are often overlooked, in many situation in the guitar making process they are the very best choice for fine work. A piece of scrap wood and some sticky backed sand paper can be transformed into an exact fitting channel cleaning tool or a flat file in a flash. These are now “custom” tools that cost next to nothing --- can’t beat that!

Now, if you plan to go full bore in the hobby – for the sake of efficiency a set of four slotting files will serve you well. I like the flat Grobet style as opposed to those that are tapered.

I believe the essence of the question in this thread is “will some special tools make it easier for one to prepare the nut channel” --- I would answer yes, with the caveat that you can and should make those tools yourself so they match “your situation”.

Again, I am making this entry for the benefit of those new to the hobby – special tools and fixture are nice. Heck, we now have three rather large CNC machines in the shop. Yet, in my opinion what needs to be stressed is that the new scratch or kit guitar builder will reap much more value by taking the time to gain a complete understand of the “what and why” of the guitar construction process. With that knowledge and confidence, many times the builder is able to proceed with the “how” to accomplish task based on his or her own personal skill sets.

Ken

Kenneth Michael Guitars est. 1978




Jan 01, 10 | 7:03 am
Ken C

Total Topics: 30
Total Posts: 554
For my last few guitars, I put the 15 degree edge on the head plate using my disc sander before laminating the headstock. I then locate the headplate using pins, making sure the nut slot is good and tight. I glue on the headplate then clean up with a slightly undersized stick that has sandpaper stuck to one side. The bottom of the slot can be cleaned up by sticking sandpaper to the bottom of the stick or even the nut.

Might be a bit unconventional, but I can get very tight fitting nuts with nice clean edges without spending lots of time. I do like to sand the nut down to a bit under 1/4" if I am using 1/4" nuts just to make sure I don't end up with an oversized slot and nut that may be difficult to replace later.

Ken

Jan 01, 10 | 2:51 pm
Freeman

Total Topics: 27
Total Posts: 668
Ken makes some good points and one of the fun parts of building these things is trying to figure out the best way to do it with tools that you have available. However, based on my humble experience and the tools that you already have, I tell people to expect to spend as much as $500 for the special tools that will make your work easier - and that your second build you will buy the tools that you wished you had on your first. Building doesn't eliminate GAS, it just adds TAS ("honey, can I buy a new router?")

Yes, there are ways you can jurry rig or substitute for almost every special tool - people have used welding tip cleaners, feeler gauges with teeth filed in them, guitars strings wrapped in sandpaper and I'm sure other things to make nut slots, but a set of three or four double edged files is around a hundred bucks and you will use them over annd over, Add a machinists rule, some feeler gauges, a pencil sadded in half, and your razor saw and you are ready to make nut that will be a pleasure to play when you are done. You'll be able to tweek the nut on your factory made guitars or do a setup for your friend. A small investment for someone who wants to do as good as job as she can on this very important part of her guitar.

I happen to believe that the thing that sets a luthier built instrument off is the attention to the little details, and setup is very high on that list. It seems like we should strive to be "luthiers">

Jan 02, 10 | 7:39 am
deadedith

Total Topics: 34
Total Posts: 165
I am all for tools that make the job easier - but not as substitutes for judgment or for a particular skillset or for expertise that can only be gained by attentive learning and improving.

Theoretically we could program machines to make instruments as good as a luthier's best. That is, logically, every job can be broken down to steps that can be further broken down to machine language and ultimately computer control of the tools.
The end user might not be able to tell us if it was a luthier or a future super-CNC machine that made an instrument. Well, depending on the skill of the luthier - a novice like me perhaps - it might make it easier to tell. <g>

But a computer can never ENJOY making the best guitar it can. It won't be thrilled to master a new skill, nor will it feel the fellowship of kindred spirits involved in the same quest. And it certainly won't relish the praise of the human being who orders it from a luthier, waits and waits and waits for it, and finds it better than sh/e ever expected.

I am a big fan of CNC technology. My goal is to gain judgment and the expertise to take the materials provided and wring every ounce of nuance, of power, of ease in playing and beauty that those CNC'd materials have to offer. I will consider myself a luthier to the extent I can do that.

Dave



Jan 02, 10 | 5:20 pm
Freeman

Total Topics: 27
Total Posts: 668
I work in a large machine shop with many CNC mills, laser cutters, turning machines, as well as 3D modeling software and a bunch of other fancy and very expensive stuff. However I still love the feel of a good sharp chisel or spokeshave - a good tool is a pleasure to own and use.

Two years ago I attended the GAL conference in Tacoma and one of the really facinating presentations was by James Buckland who collects and builds 19th century instruments. He builds using the same tools that a luthier would in the 1800's and his little guitars are incredible instruments. I wrote a summary of that GAL conference for this forum - there is a brief mention of Buckland

http://www.kitguitarsforum.com/forum/threads.php?id=3072_0_2_0_C

It was also an opportunity for me to hold and look at and play guitars built by some of the finest custom builders in the world - an inspiration to me to try to do better with each one that I build.

Jan 03, 10 | 8:31 am
deadedith

Total Topics: 34
Total Posts: 165
I wonder who on this Forum, if anyone, tries to build instruments using primitive American tools - like from the late 19th century. Just thinking about that skill level makes my head hurt.
Dave B

Apr 09, 10 | 10:07 pm
Gary Palmer of Palmer's Stringed Instruments

Total Topics: 0
Total Posts: 65
Quoted from Ken Cierp
"I believe the essence of the question in this thread is “will some special tools make it easier for one to prepare the nut channel” --- I would answer yes, with the caveat that you can and should make those tools yourself so they match “your situation”.

Again, I am making this entry for the benefit of those new to the hobby – special tools and fixture are nice. Heck, we now have three rather large CNC machines in the shop. Yet, in my opinion what needs to be stressed is that the new scratch or kit guitar builder will reap much more value by taking the time to gain a complete understand of the “what and why” of the guitar construction process. With that knowledge and confidence, many times the builder is able to proceed with the “how” to accomplish task based on his or her own personal skill sets."

Nothing much to add, as Ken's statement just about covers everything, apart from keep it as simple as possible.

Trying to keep things as simple as possible often pays dividends and while "practise makes perfect" may seem an over-used phrase, it applies to each and every aspect when learning any given craft. Practise on scrap before committing to the same procedures using potentially valuable materials and you'll seldom regret your actions.

Tool purchases and useage can be kept as simple or be made as complex as the individual desires, but please always try to bear in mind whether or not certain tools are going to be employed repeatedly and justified. One-off useage doesn't tend to justify high outlay and while it's nice to have equipment with all of the bells and whistles imaginable, you don't necessarily need them. Most craftsmen will tell you their toolkits genuinely stemmed from basic items, with additions made along the way as they gathered more experience and could justify further purchases.

Back on topic

A small investment in an accurate small engineer's vise, square and rule can make a large difference in terms of laying out smaller dimensions such as nut slots, while a basic set of needle files can make fast, accurate and efficient work of cutting the same slots. If you're going to build repeatedly, by all means invest in or produce more specialised tools for future use, but please realise no amount of throwing funds at equipment for a project can ever replace the need to learn the fundamental skills necessary in order to carry out both basic and more complex tasks.



Apr 12, 10 | 3:08 am



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