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The need for nut files
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Post
billm

Total Topics: 32
Total Posts: 147
Hey guys -

What are y'all generally using to make nut slots?

There are, of course, the nut slotting files available, and I've read Bill's comments on the web site - yeah, I'd like to avoid the close to $100 cost of the file set.

Went to the local guitar store ("the" store in the area; believe it or not Eric Clapton's cousin works there) - I know them pretty well in there, asked one of the guys about alternatives; he said not really (but offered to do it for me), mentioned that the double-sided files were probably more of a bargain.

In the stewmac video, they actually do most of the work with a razor saw; in the Cumpiano book, they do the same thing, then finish off with a needle file.

So - million-dollar question - what do you guys use?

And since we're on the topic - do you guys use the special recommended crowning file?

Nov 11, 06 | 12:42 pm
Ken Cierp

Total Topics: 58
Total Posts: 2262
Here’s my take on it -- Even though I just dink around these days I’d much rather play a Yamaha that’s set-up properly than a D-45 that is not! So if you are going to take the time to build a guitar and plan to make it a true musical instrument “on your own” --- skimping on set up tools is not the place to save money. A crowning file is a must, at least three nut files (joint round edge files is what jewelers call them) .016 --- .032 --- .047 will do it. They can be rocked side to side to make a larger slot. A small drill press vise to hold the nut for the initial slotting. A razor saw, a buttonhook tool to pull the string out of the nut slot while doing the adjustments. And feeler gauges. Don’t forget the goal is --- “where did you get this guitar?” Not --- “did you build this yourself” A really good intonation and set up job is not cheap ---- I charge about $100 so what would you save? Two cent.

Ken

www.kennethmichaelguitars.com

Nov 11, 06 | 1:57 pm
billm

Total Topics: 32
Total Posts: 145
Ken, I do believe you're going to shame me into actually building a good guitar. :)

Nov 11, 06 | 2:58 pm
Ken Cierp

Total Topics: 58
Total Posts: 2262
Not shame ---- just encouragement. One day I’ll post some pics of the first piece of C**P I built. Way back (1964) when I got started, all the Luthiers I contacted told me I was crazy to think I could build a guitar ---- only they had the knowledge and experience for such a project, I was told by many I was wasting my time. What a bunch of egomaniacs! To me if one has the motivation, that’s most of the battle. Add a little insight, the right tools and some patience and a very respectable guitar can be constructed by most of us.

Ken

Nov 11, 06 | 3:47 pm
billm

Total Topics: 32
Total Posts: 145
You know, I ran into someone else (working at Woodcraft) who said exactly the same thing - 10 years ago, he said, everyone was very protective of info on guitarmaking and the couple of books available were awful. He said it only started to change about 5 years ago.

Well, I am grateful for the guidance and encouragement. :)

And I hesitate to add that I was born in 1970... :)

Nov 11, 06 | 4:59 pm
Peter

Total Topics: 12
Total Posts: 44
I've read that the files from Ste Mac have a v shape and you should be looking for more of a round (string shape) profile. Can anyone recommend a source for nut files that they have used and like.
Thanks
Peter

Nov 12, 06 | 9:16 am
Ken Cierp

Total Topics: 58
Total Posts: 2262
Here is where you can find nut files galore!

http://www.grobetusa.com/ProductDescriptions/jointroundedge.html

This is another one of those Cryptic luthier’s things ---- these are files that happen to be used as nut files not the other way around.

Ken

www.kennethmichaelguitars.com

Nov 12, 06 | 9:35 am
KTHOM

Total Topics: 19
Total Posts: 244
Ken,
Thanks for the link to Grobet, they look like nice files. Bill, you may....or may NOT have heard of the "torch tip cleaner" file option. You can buy a set at some hardware stores and virtually all welding supply companies. I picked up a set that are about 6 inches long. With those and a Exacto knife saw blade you should be able to rough cut and file to the right size almost any string sized slot.
I believe I read about the torch tip option on Frets.com

Nov 14, 06 | 6:37 pm
billm

Total Topics: 32
Total Posts: 145
Thanks for the tip! Looks like Home Depot has a set on their web site for about four dollars - this may be worth looking at. I appreciate it! - Bill

Nov 18, 06 | 4:46 pm
mbbransc

Total Topics: 13
Total Posts: 71
Here is a link to the Home Depot site for the $4 torch top cleaners. Interesting idea. I'd be curious to hear from some of the 'seasoned' builders about their opinion if it would work.

Nov 30, 06 | 4:33 am
mbbransc

Total Topics: 13
Total Posts: 71
Well, I don't think that link will work (takes you to the home page). But you can search for 'torch cleaner' using the search feature in the upper right side.

Nov 30, 06 | 4:36 am
Martinedwards

Total Topics: 3
Total Posts: 10
Sam Irwin (head Luthier at Lowden & Avalon) has a set of Stanley needle files.....

I Know cos I borrowed a few at his class on thursday night!!

none of stewmacs expensive specialist stuff, just decent honest tools.....

Dec 15, 06 | 10:50 am
RavenT

Total Topics: 2
Total Posts: 10
Hi here in Montreal it is hard to get tools but I had asked my local guitar shop if he could get me some nut files and fret crowning files. He was able to get 2 sets for me. I paid about $80.00 a set. The fret files are the Ibanez set comes with 3 files and the Ibanez nut files set of 8 files. They are good files and I am very happy with them. If I would of ordered from Stewmac it would have cost more and shipping and duties. So go to your local guitar shop and ask if they could get them for you. Never be cheap on the tools but if you really dont want to buy a set of file use a filler gauge with sanding film. Let say for a 11 gauge sting use and 9 gauge with the sanding film well give you an 11 gauge. Good luck.

Oct 04, 08 | 9:07 pm
Ken Cierp

Total Topics: 58
Total Posts: 2262
For many years all I used to make nuts for various instruments were an assortment of needle files -- so, can perfect nuts be made with those tools -- Yes. Than I came to realize that nuts files were really what is know in the general manufacturing industry as "round joint files" Grobet makes/sells tons of them, the cost is reasonable so I bought a set. Can perfect nuts be made with "round joint files"? Yes -- and a little quicker as well.

In my view the essential tools for nut making include a razor saw -- to get the slot on course and a stable holding device. Shaping and or sloting a nut while it is on the guitar is a recipe for disaster.

The essential goals are to make sure the slot is angled, flat and the very peak is at the fingerboard side. And most importantly --- the slots should only be as deep as half the diameter of the string. There is no need for deep canyons! If one keeps the shallow slot concept in mind its easy to see how simple needle files will work just fine. Here some basics:

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

Ken

Oct 05, 08 | 3:52 am
Bill Cory

Total Topics: 158
Total Posts: 3584
To add to what Ken said above ....

If you have ever had the "sitar" effect on a guitar, or a small "tink" sound as you pick a single string, you are hearing something that happens at the nut. A deep nut slot that is not perfectly formed will cause one or both of these -- and a perfect slot is not easy to make even with the right tools, until you have some experience.

Making the nut slot only half as deep as the wound strings, and just slightly deeper for the unwound strings, gives you a margin for error. You can make the slots imperfectly and have no problems with those extra string vibrations. Don't worry, the strings won't slip out of the slots.

Bill

Oct 05, 08 | 4:21 am
blues creek guitars Authorized Martin Repair Ctr

Total Topics: 52
Total Posts: 1011
I am in total agreement , that a guitar if not set up well is not a good guitar. In my early days I tried a lot of different things to get a "cheap" setup. Don't do it , you are wasting money and time.
A good tool is an investment. The files Ken linked to are fine and will do well . The torch cleaners will work but are way inferior . When was the last time you complained about a good tool. A tool is an investment not a cost.
john hall
blues creek guitars
Authorized Martin Repair Center

Oct 05, 08 | 5:07 am
billm

Total Topics: 32
Total Posts: 145
Wow! Ancient thread resurrected. Looks like I first posted this thread two years ago -

For an end to the story, I tried the torch tip cleaners, and I can definitively say that they are not the way to go. Today I own a set of nut files. I'm glad I own them.

Wow I haven't been on for a long time. On my 3rd build (scratch - well, LMI unserviced kit), going VERY slowly, and dealing with new problems like... "hmmm. Took it out of the form and... it's a little lopsided. Crap." and, the one this morning... after multiple test runs with the router and verifying it was set at a good height, cut the truss rod trench for in the neck and it was too deep. Crap. Currently gluing shims into the bottom of the trench.

Some day I'm going to take this hobby more seriously and rise from my current "hack" status.

Enjoy your Sunday, guys! - Bill

Oct 05, 08 | 11:33 am
Kevin Sjostrand

Total Topics: 84
Total Posts: 981
Hey Bill,
I am no expert here, but I used simple needle files to make my nut slots and it seems to have worked out just fine. The strings tune up great, and stay pretty well tuned. I am getting no buzzing or squeaking.
Perhaps it was beginners luck. I think if you use a tapered round needle file and gauge often using the strings you should be able to do fine. I paid $6.00 at harbor freight for the set.....alot cheaper than nut files. Now I wouldn't mind having nut files to use, and probably will get them once the finances allow. In the mean time, the needle files worked!!

Kevin

Oct 20, 08 | 7:53 pm
Danielb

Total Topics: 4
Total Posts: 22
Found a link to a source of Joint round edge needle files (By Grobet USA, as they dont sell direct).

B2B Tools

just another source at a better rate. Think i saw them for 18 USD.

Dan

Oct 31, 08 | 3:51 pm
Danielb

Total Topics: 4
Total Posts: 22
Sorry, here's a better link to the actual files:

Grobet Joint Round Edge Files

Oct 31, 08 | 3:57 pm
Dave_E

Total Topics: 0
Total Posts: 0
Hi Bill,

And anyone else who thinks they can get away with a hobby saw! For goodness sake, don't skimp on tooling as it will make the difference between a 1st class quality instrument and a failure. Been doing this for 10 years, I know. The nut files from Stew Macs are sufficient. If yuou've got $ to burn, visit the site posted by Danielb.

Dave

Nov 28, 08 | 8:50 pm
Bill Cory

Total Topics: 158
Total Posts: 3584
It's always amazed me that we'll spend a total of $1000 or so to build a kitand get the tools, but when we get to the end, where one of only two contact points of the strings with the guitar are to be made, we start looking for cheap substitutes that don't do the job well.

The Stewmac files work well, and the Grobet files work well.

Welding tip cleaners and hobby saws and cheap mini file sets can leave your guitar with less sound than it could have, make inaccurate slots and create the sitar, dead strings, bad intonation, and other things that are hard to diagnose.

You can make those bad things happen with the good tools, too, but it's less likely.

Just my opinion.

Nov 29, 08 | 5:14 am
Ken Cierp

Total Topics: 58
Total Posts: 2262
Agreed -- however, making a less than perfect looking nut is not the end of the world. I would say, not being able to afford the joint files "right now" should not be a show stopper. BTW a "first quality" KMG OM/000 kit can be built for much less than $1000.

Ken

Kenneth Michael Guitars est. 1978

Nov 29, 08 | 5:36 am
Bill Cory

Total Topics: 158
Total Posts: 3584
Not talking about a perfect "looking" nut - talking about a functionally accurate one. Much easier to make it correctly by using the tools designed for the job.

All the other kits from all the other makers can also be purchased for much less than $1000 too.

I was including the cost of the tools most people end up buying to make the kit, plus finishing materials, etc.


Nov 29, 08 | 8:19 am
RavenT

Total Topics: 2
Total Posts: 10
Hi guys a few years ago when I was purchasing nut and saddle blanks the guy was telling me be careful when filing bone to wear a mask you never know with the mad cow. When I started to work on it the smell was bad and the dust wasnt that bad but did not like to wear a mask just for that small amount of dust. So I started to use my wet/dry grinder that turns slow enough to hold your piece by hand. The wet/dry grinder is generally used for sharpening tools so the rpm are less then the standard grinder. It also polishes the bone at the same time and the dust stays in the water and no burning bone smell and faster to work with. You can also make a jig to fit over your wet wheel to round of the top nicely and use the side of the wheel to make your straight lines. I would suggest that you practice on scrap materials first to get used to the speed of the wheel if you are going to do it free hand.

Dec 01, 08 | 10:19 am
DonB

Total Topics: 20
Total Posts: 240
That is a good idea RT. I use to polish stones and very quickly became aware of the danger of inhaling that stuff. Always wear protection if you can handle it. I get a reaction out of Nitrocellulose Spraying Lacquer even if I wear a double respirator.
Thanks for the tip.

Don

Dec 01, 08 | 10:51 am
RavenT

Total Topics: 2
Total Posts: 10
Hi Don nice to meet your guys. I know what you mean about the Nitrocellulose that is one of the biggest complaints coming from the finisher in most companies. They havent really come up with a filter that can protect against this stuff. That s when you need a good spry booth. I dont have problems when it comes to wearing a double respirator but with the dust masks I have problems since I wear glasses and they tend to fog up. For the grinder as long as you keep you wheel wet the dust is taken care of completely by the water reducing the risk of inhaling the dust.

RT

Dec 01, 08 | 1:33 pm
joel_c

Total Topics: 0
Total Posts: 6
I recently finished my second build and made a very serviceable set of nut file out of a set of automotive feeler gauges.
What I did was to clamp the whole set in a vise and cut slots across the edges with an abrasive wheel in my Dremel tool.
Then when it comes time to cut the nut slots I just select the combination of gauges to get the size slot that I need.
Not bad for 10 bucks.

Jan 26, 09 | 5:23 pm
Gregg C

Total Topics: 23
Total Posts: 88
Guys,
If money wasn't an issue, lets talk about what you thnk is the absolute best
nut files. no holds barred, the best ??

Gregg

Jan 27, 09 | 5:13 am
Bill Cory

Total Topics: 158
Total Posts: 3584
I've used one set of 3 Stewmac files since my first kit. Never even looked at or considered using others.

When you have a tool that works, you never need to replace it or search further. Sort of like Ken Cierp's SS Bridge Clamp.

My vote, then, goes to Stewmac -- (but I'm like the fly raised in the vinegar bottle who thought it was the sweetest place in the world because he'd never been anywhere else. - a story told by A. Lincoln.)

Jan 27, 09 | 5:39 am
Ken Cierp

Total Topics: 58
Total Posts: 2262
Gobet round joint files --- used by molder maker's, tool maker's, and guitar maker's for years. These files make a clean "round bottom", "flat sided" slot. I do not like the fret files with the angle/tapered sides -- to me that is asking for trouble and compromises accuracy.

Ken

Kenneth Michael Guitars est. 1978

Jan 27, 09 | 5:44 am
Ken Cierp

Total Topics: 58
Total Posts: 2262
What ever a "molder maker" is ------ model maker

Ken

Jan 27, 09 | 6:20 am
Ken Hundley

Total Topics: 40
Total Posts: 2169
I sprang for the whole Stew Mac set back when they had different colored handles on them and have been pretty happy. They are tapered, but on the small number I have used them for, have not had problems. THey seem to cut clean and quick.


Jan 27, 09 | 6:30 am
Gregg C

Total Topics: 23
Total Posts: 88
Thanks for the quick replys guys,
I've been a professional mechanic for 29 year and have never skimped on tools, I feel the same way about purchasing tooling for guitar building, just like John said I think tools are an investment rather than an expense.

I love this site,
Thanks !!

Gregg

Jan 27, 09 | 7:42 am
llajoy

Total Topics: 6
Total Posts: 295
I have the 12/16 from the StewMac set pictured above and the entire set of the other StewMac version of files. I like the individual files better because I often find myself confused on which side is 12 and which is 16. The files don't make it clear and my eyes are not as good as I would like so it's hard to tell a small difference.

Lance.

Jan 27, 09 | 2:49 pm
Ken Hundley

Total Topics: 40
Total Posts: 2169
Same complaint....I marked them with a sharpie marker to make it easier.....wrote the size notch along the appropriate cutting edge.

Jan 27, 09 | 3:36 pm



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