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Thread: Make a Fender Style Nut On the Cheap

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    Frito's Better Half beandip's Avatar
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    Default Make a Fender Style Nut On the Cheap

    You’ll need your nut material (in this case, bone). A hacksaw, pencil, radius gauge, double cut mill file, thin blade saw, various grits of sandpaper, radius gauge, feeler gauge, and a set of needle files. All of this can be purchased at your local tool emporium for about 30 bucks total.
    Don’t worry if I have more files than you do. They usually come in sets of 8, 10, or 12. I’ve purchased several sets over the years, and I’m a complete tool guy. I gotta have ‘em all.
    Not having a great strat neck, to show the beginning steps, just use your imagination and do without the pics.



    First, in order to remove the strat nut, cut any finish that might have crawled up onto the sides, or anywhere else. Using a set of standard pliers, place them in between the D and G string slots and pull upward with a steady, firm pull. Don’t yank, but you might have to do a little bit of wiggling to convince it to let loose.

    After the nut is out, using a FRESH razor blade, remove any glue out of the slot, but be mindful not to remove any wood. Fender necks usually have a radiused underside to the nut, and if your neck does, using your radius gauges figure out what the underside radius is. To make it easier, the underside radius usually matches that of the fretboard. I said usually, I have ran into some that don’t, but I suspect they were probably refretted at some time or another by a previous owner.

    For the sake of this article, we’re going to be using the common compromise, 9.5” radius. First start by finding the width of your neck. Or using the old nut as a guide, transfer the neck’s width onto your nut blank. After you’ve done that, it’s time to start cutting. I usually like to have the inside of the pencil mark to be the correct width, so I follow the outside of the mark with our hacksaw, or thin cut. NOTE I usually don’t use the nut and saddle vise, but this was done at the kitchen table, and was told that if I put one MORE scratch in it, I’m dead





    You might want to save all the bone dust that is created from cutting. Remember the build up a slot with baking soda thing? You get it even better when you use bone dust. You also might want to save the little “unusable” pieces for just such an occasion.

    Alright, after we’ve roughly cut it to size, we’re going to smooth out the edges a tad with our double cut mill file. There’s really no sense in rounding off the edges at the moment, cause we’ve still got a lot of work to be done. You want to clean them up just a tad, we’ll do the heavy polishing later.



    Now, that we’ve got the nut cut out to proper length, let’s put some radius’ on it shall we? Using your radius gauge, trace out your bottom radius. Then the top. You want to leave it higher than what you’d like in the guitar, so you have some room for error, and proper string slots. After you’ve done that, you have two choices to remove material. With your double cut mill file, or hacksaw. I suggest for a novice, to use the mill file. It removes material slower than the hacksaw, so it’s harder to botch. For the sake of time, and the fact that I’ve done this before. It’s 10:30 at night, I don’t wanna be doing this until sunrise.





    By now your nut should look something like that pictured below. Pay attention to how I left the bass side a tad higher than the treble. Just to give me a little more room to play around. Notice, it’s still in a rough shape, but we’ll take care of that here in a minute. Once you’ve got your nut rough cut, use 80 grit sandpaper to smooth away most imperfections. We’re not going to be doing any final shaping right now, that comes later. We still want plenty of material to work with.

    Last edited by beandip; 06-10-2009 at 12:55 AM. Reason: for Thurisaz's smartass comment. LOL.
    This is the very perfection of a man, to find out his own imperfections. - St. Augustine of Hippo

  2. #2
    Frito's Better Half beandip's Avatar
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    Default Re: Make a Fender Style Nut On the Cheap

    *CONTINUED*

    Now, measure the thickness of the nut slot, or previous nut. Our “previous nut” (actually a plastic pre-slot) measured 3.37mm. So take some 80 grit, and tape it to a flat surface. Wrap a piece of tape around your fingers so you can keep a good grip and even contact with the paper. Check your progress regularly, and once you get to the proper width (maybe a tad bit wider), you can call it quits on that crap.






    Using the old nut, or the general rule that the outer strings are 1/16th to 1/8th of an inch in from the edge of the fingerboard, mark your outer string spacing’s using either a very sharp pencil or your thin blade saw. I use the Stew Mac string spacing rule for new nuts, but you can use your previous nuts spacing by butting them up against each other and marking out the slots. Once you’ve got the string slots laid out, we’re going to cut some rough slots. I’m going to do the low e string using the hacksaw/sandpaper method I mentioned in my Tips thread that can be used in a pinch. The others will be done using a set of needle files from Lowe’s and our thin cut saw.



    Once you’ve got your rough cut of the slots (just a quick run with a file or hacksaw blade, just to make the slot. Not cut). Place the nut in the nut slot on the neck. You’ve got to find out just how high you want the nut slots. Or, you can measure the height of your strings from your old nut, and cut the slots to that depth, if you like the playability now. Any number you come up with for string height is fine, but the general is .020” to .050” above the first fret. Our fret in this example are .040” and we want .030” of clearance. So we’ll use our feeler gauges (8 bucks at Napa Auto) to .070 and cut down until you hit the gauge.



    To cut your low e slot, take the blade off the hacksaw. Using 220 grit paper, wrap it in a sort of “hot dog” fashion. Angle your blade at about 5-10 degrees towards the headstock. You want the break angle of the string to be right at the front edge of the nut, for proper intonation. Keep a steady hand, and go slow. You don’t want to accidently go too low (although I will demonstrate how to properly build up and recut a nut slow). For our A and D slots, we’ll be using one of the needle files from Lowe’s. It has a cut on the edge, so it’s a good thing to use on the cheap. Follow the same procedure you used for the low e. Now the problem that arises with using the needle file is it leaves the slot bottom squared, instead of nicely rounded. To fix this, use a piece of 120 (not 220) grit sandpaper folded in half and round out the slot.



    This is the very perfection of a man, to find out his own imperfections. - St. Augustine of Hippo

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    Frito's Better Half beandip's Avatar
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    Default Re: Make a Fender Style Nut On the Cheap

    *CONTINUED*

    Now for the single strings, it gets interesting. We’re going to use our hacksaw blade to cut out the G string slot. But, we’re not wrapping with sandpaper. You will have a slightly oversized slot, but as long as your base is good, it shouldn’t slip side to side. Round out the slot with 320 grit paper. For the B and E strings, we’re going to use out flat cut saw. I measured it with my calipers, and it’s .012” of an inch thick. This is ok with .009 or .010 strings. It’s not too big for the string (Fender’s E string slot is cut to .015!). For the B string, we’re going to roll the saw while cutting the slot. This will give us a slightly wider B sting slot than the E. With a .012” saw, we can get a .015 B string slot by rolling a lot. But I don’t want a .015” slot, I want a .13, so we’ll roll only a small bit. Remember to keep a slight angle, so that the string breaks right at the edge.






    Now, after we’ve cut out nut slots to the height that we want, it’s time to remove excess material off the top. You can either use your mill file, or 80 grit paper. We want to remove enough so that ¾’s of the bass strings are in the slot, and just the tops peeking out, and to have no more than twice the depth of the string on our plain strings. I’ll use 80 grit, because it cuts out some of the cleaning and shaping we’ll do later.



    Well ****, we cut the E nut slot too low. Remember all that bone dust that’s been making a mess everywhere? Time to use it. Build up the slot and give the glue time to set and dry. After it’s completely hardened, use the 80 grit to remove the buildup on the top and sides, and recut the nut as stated above.





    Now it’s time to do the final shaping. Using a flat needle file round off all the hard edges of the nut. Leave the bottom of the nut alone, you want a tight, correct fit with the slot in the neck. Once you’ve filed to a satisfactory shape, hit it up with some 220, 300, 400, and 600 grit paper. The 600 grit will leave everything extremely smooth, but with not much shine. If you want a good shine finish up after the 600 grit with 1500 or 1800. It’s still going to leave a somewhat satin sheen, but will have a nice gleam to it.




    Add two drops of white or yellow glue to the bottom of the nut slot, and seat the nut. Use string pressure from the two E strings to hold the nut in place for about 10 minutes or until it’s dry. Once you’re dry, string up to pitch. Check the intonation, adjust as required, and you’re ready to rock out!

    I really hope you guys enjoy these articles as much as I enjoy writing them.
    Last edited by beandip; 06-09-2009 at 11:40 PM.
    This is the very perfection of a man, to find out his own imperfections. - St. Augustine of Hippo

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    Ultimate Tone Member Thurisaz's Avatar
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    Default Re: Make a Fender Style Nut On the Cheap

    I see table scratches...

  5. #5
    Frito's Better Half beandip's Avatar
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    Default Re: Make a Fender Style Nut On the Cheap

    Quote Originally Posted by Thurisaz View Post
    I see table scratches...
    from making my last nut, hence why I had to use the vice and the table mat...I learned my lesson. She was pissed.
    This is the very perfection of a man, to find out his own imperfections. - St. Augustine of Hippo

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    Ultimate Tone Member Thurisaz's Avatar
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    Default Re: Make a Fender Style Nut On the Cheap

    Well, the finished product looks very nice. Did she throw out something to the effect of scratching one of your guitars for scratching her table? Most females I know would've.

  7. #7
    Frito's Better Half beandip's Avatar
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    Default Re: Make a Fender Style Nut On the Cheap

    Quote Originally Posted by Thurisaz View Post
    Well, the finished product looks very nice. Did she throw out something to the effect of scratching one of your guitars for scratching her table? Most females I know would've.
    No, it was more of a "You know, YOU paid 350 dollars for this dining room set, and then YOU went and scratched it up. I'd like it to look nice and stay that way, so we can give it to Lane when he moves out."

    She should teach guilt trip 101. It was all in good fun though, she's not a ***** by any stretch. She just wanted the table to remain nice, and I understand.
    This is the very perfection of a man, to find out his own imperfections. - St. Augustine of Hippo

  8. #8
    Ultimate Tone Member Thurisaz's Avatar
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    Default Re: Make a Fender Style Nut On the Cheap

    I just thought it was funny ... "I had to have this so I didn't scratch the table.. -table scratch picture-". It was kinda lul-tastic.

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    Frito's Better Half beandip's Avatar
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    Default Re: Make a Fender Style Nut On the Cheap

    Fixed.
    This is the very perfection of a man, to find out his own imperfections. - St. Augustine of Hippo

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    Super Toneologist j9fd3s's Avatar
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    Default Re: Make a Fender Style Nut On the Cheap

    thats a good write up! i will be using it later

    the one thing i do differently, is i actually put a string on the guitar to find where the string slot should go, that ways its straight from the tuner, to the nut to the bridge.

    ive also measured the string height basically at the nut, before removing the factory nut, that way you have an idea where you should be

  11. #11
    John Mayer's Mankini ImmortalSix's Avatar
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    Default Re: Make a Fender Style Nut On the Cheap

    Great writeup, you are the man!

  12. #12
    Godfather of Unholy Metal Distortion Luís's Avatar
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    Default Re: Make a Fender Style Nut On the Cheap

    Vault these threads.

    You rock.
    Quote Originally Posted by threechordcharlie and ratherdashing
    TCC:What happened to LSP?
    RD:A question friends and school guidance counselors have been asking for years.

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