Jump to content

Fitting a New Guitar nut & resetting the action.


Recommended Posts

I was wondering the same thing.

My guitar is actually brand new, but it's a budget model that came poorly set up and the action on it sucks. I've already adjusted the saddle heights.., but I think I need to shave the nut as well.

Any tips on doing it yourself would be great because I'm a broke college student who can't afford to take it to a shop.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hiya, The nut on my guitar is badly worn and I wondered if anyone on here has fitted their own new one? If so any tips?

Also for me the action seems quite high, Is that easy to balls up, Shall I just get both sorted by a shop?


Is the original nut worn beyond repair? I ask because it's a lot easier to fix an existing nut than to build a new one from scratch. If the nut has been broken, it can usually be glued back together. If the slots are too low, they can be filled with a mixture of nut material and super glue and re-filed to the correct height. I would definately try to salvage the existing nut before attempting a replacement.

If the nut does, in fact, need replacing, I would leave the job to a pro. Nut replacement is a delicate and time-consuming repair that requires specialized tools the average do-it-yourselfer won't have laying around the shop. But, if you're feeling spunky, here's how to do it.

Start by removing the original nut. In most cases this means knocking it loose with a mallet. If there is lacquer over the nut you'll want to score it before removing the nut to prevent damage to the finish on the neck. If the nut is glued extremely securely, it may be necessary to saw across the top of the nut, lengthwise, and then use pliers to collapse the nut in on itself.

Once the old nut is removed, clean the glue residue and any debris out of the nut slot.

The chances of finding a pre-fab nut that's an exact fit to your old one are slim to none, so you'll probably be building the new nut from scratch. I prefer bone for its density, and it's easier to work with than plastic or graphite. Trace the outline of the original nut onto a nut blank of the material of your choice, or freehand it if the original was destroyed in the process of removal. Carefully use a bench grinder to trim away the excess material, stopping frequently to check the fit. Once the new nut is roughly shaped, it can be glued into the nut slot. For the most part, the strings will hold the nut in place, so a couple of drops of super glue should be enough to hold the nut securely.

Next are the string slots. Using the old nut as a guide, or a string spacer if you have one, mark where the string slots will go. File each slot with a set of gauged slotting files according to the diameter of each string. I tend to make the slots slightly larger than the string itself; for example, if I had a .036" string, I'd use a .042" file to slot it. Roughly file all six slots enough to keep the strings in place while you work, then fine tune the slot depth once the strings are at tension. I check my slot depth by pressing down each string at the second fret and measuring the distance between the top of the first fret and the bottom of the string, aiming for a distance of .010". If the slots are too high it will be difficult to press down at the first fret, and if the slots are too low the open strings will buzz. Easy does it here, one mistake and it's back to square one.

Once the nut is slotted properly, it's time for the finishing touches. Using files, sandpaper and/or emory boards, file the nut to the correct height. The wound strings should be halfway exposed, but the plain strings need to be completely within their slots. Shape the back and sides of the nut to match the original, then smooth the entire nut with some #0000 steel wool. Then you're done!

A good nut takes me about three hours to build from scratch, working slowly and triple-checking my measurements. Even with as many as I've built, I still goof one up every now and then. Good luck!

Link to comment
Share on other sites


Considering what your saying I may leave it. It's not That bad really. On the Low E it's worn away just besides the slot, It's not causing that big a problem at the moment.

Knowing me as soon as I get some decent spare Cash I'll upgrade it anyway. I would still like to lower the action still, and I'll give that ago with the bridge nuts. I'll lower them VERY slightly in the correct way and see if that helps? Pleanty of guides on the web for that so I'm ok really :huh: I hope :slapface: He says :blink:


Link to comment
Share on other sites

They shouldnt charge much to set the action lower? Get a price first on the phone.

I wouldn't dream of giving a quote over the phone. What a customer thinks is wrong and what is actually wrong are usually two very different things. I would, however, give a free estimate once I'd inspected the instrument first-hand.

Most of my setups are based on four factors: neck relief, nut height, bridge saddle height and tremolo spring tension (where applicable). Nut height is rarely a concern as it mainly affects open strings and is generally tolerable from the factory. Tremolo spring tension is only a problem on floating bridges, or when a change in string gauge or tuning adversely affects the bridge position. That leaves neck relief and bridge saddle height as the primary components of a good setup, both of which are easily adjusted by anyone with a modicum of patience and the ability to read a ruler.

Average setups at my shop are $30-60, depending on the labor involved. I tend to charge quite a bit for service because it's one of the few things a music store can still make money at these days. That said, I setup every guitar I sell according to the customer's preference for strings, tuning and action. I figure it's the least I can do for shopping with me instead of some soulless chain store or anonymous online retailer.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...
I think I finally found someone that knows what they are talking about. I have a question for you? I had a Gibson Les Paul studio. I always thought it sounded off when playing bar or any chords in the higher frets expecially even though the guitar was in perfect tune. I had a guy that works on guitars tell me that it was pitched wrong! A factory defect and a mistake by Gibson. I wound up trading it in straight up for an Ovation with those crazy cut outs, an electic/acoustic that I no longer have. they probably think they got one over on me but it was probably just the opposite. Does this sound right to you? Have you ever seen this before? A neck being pitched wrong into the body? Thaks. I dont know when you will see this so if you want to pm me feel free. Rick

ps Id bring you some work but I have no clue what state you are in?

The angle of the neck joint can affect action, but I've never heard of it affecting intonation. The bridge saddles are the most likely culprit; set improperly, you'll get exactly what you described. Having the pickups too close to the strings can cause some bizarre intonation issues as well, as the magnetic fields of the pickups, particularly the neck pickup, may interfere with the natural path of the string. Shoddy fretwork can be a huge problem, but I wouldn't expect to find that poor of craftsmanship on a Gibson, and even if I did, I'd expect it to be covered under warranty. Sounds to me like someone wanted your guitar more than you did and talked you out of it.

Link to comment
Share on other sites


This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

  • Create New...