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FDP Forum / Guitar Mods, Repairs, and Projects / Still looking for the "Works every time answer" LP nuts

Contributing Member

New Jersey

I'm back with the otters again
May 7th, 2017 07:00 PM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

I long post and I apologize.

You guys know that I understand nuts. We've beaten this subject to death here but I'm still having trouble with the complications of the D and the G-strings on Gibson 3X3 headstock guitars.

A week or so ago I was replacing a nut on an LP. I was at the string spacing part of the job having formed the nut to fit the neck from a corian blank and using the stewmac nut gauge to establish the string spacing. I typically find the interval using the stewmac tool and use an exacto knife to score the blank. I just wipe my thumb across the top of the nut and the score marks appear. I then use the exacto knife and very carefully cut on each side of the score mark to create a tiny vee so a .012 nut file will find the right place and start the slot. .012 in all six slots followed by .016 for E to B; .020 for E to G; .030 for E to D; .042 for E and A; and then .050 for the E. This way the slots remain exactly where I want them and widening is progressive -- its what I always do.

By the time I get to just the low E-string, the slots are at the correct width but very shallow. All I've done to this point is establish the correct spacing and distance from the fretboard edge for the E-strings. When I carve a blank, the height of the nut is very close to being correct but I leave just a little room to work with. I use the half-round sharpened pencil method when I'm in the process of carving a blank and it always works well.

With the slot positions established I can now proceed to carving the actual slots to the proper depth. The strings go on the guitar and I'll tune the strings to maybe two full steps below pitch. The lower pitch makes it easier to pull the string out of the slot over and over, use the nut file, and then check my progress using the 2nd fret and evaluating the distance between the string and the first fret method -- blah blah blah...

All of what I described above is my routine that I do probably once or more every week when I replace a nut. But I noticed something last week. Having only cut the slot to width and not yet to depth, I don't know why I checked but the G-string was flowing through the slot perfectly. It was only a .020 flat shallow slot without any taper or finese and maybe only of length of 1/16" -- a very short slot with the blank cut in the traditional Gibson style with a steep falloff at the back of the nut.

I have noticed that Gibson nuts although nearly 1/4" thick, typically have very short slots with the plain strings being fully exposed and out of the slots long before they reach the back of the nut. Is this the answer -- very short slots??? Or part of the answer???

Intermission and cartoon

My method for dealing with tuning instability is to tune the guitar to pitch, prestretch the strings and tune to pitch again. Bend and release a note up a full step near the 7th fret and then check the pitch on the electronic tuner and make note of the result. Then I'll press down and release on the length of string between the nut and the tuner post causing the pitch to elevate and return to pitch and again use the electronic tuner to see what has happened to the pitch. If there is a huge difference between the two measured pitches on the electronic tuner, there is a problem. In the first part of this test you are pulling the string through the nut toward the fretboard and releasing. In the second part, you are pulling the string through the nut toward the headstock. If the nut has zero friction the guitar should remain in tune. This is my way to evaluate if a nut is causing tuning instability and its a quick and easy way to do it. The difference in measured pitch between the first part and the second part is a measure of how bad things are. If you modify the slot or try a lubricant, you just repeat the test and you can immediately tell if you've done any good. You also get a bit of an indication when monitoring an electric tuner and watching how the pitch responds to movement of the tuning key but that is dependent on the health of the tuning key.

Open for discussion and I'd really like to master the Gibson nut. Thoughts???

Contributing Member

I've got my own

double-cross to bear
May 7th, 2017 07:07 PM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

I've always cut nuts so the string slots are really shallow. The wound strings are 50% in the nut and the plain strings are about 80% in the nut. All the strings stand proud of the top of the nut when everything is finished and the nut is polished up. Even on Strats with vibrato bridges I've never had any issues with strings popping out of the nut.

I don't flare out the rear of the slots like Dan E recommends. I've never had a reason to do so.

I've always been really obsessive about nut work. I like the entire exposed portion of the nut to have no hard corners anywhere.

Hope to see you at the Jersey jam next Saturday!

(This message was last edited by Peegoo at 09:09 PM, May 7th, 2017)


michigan usa

May 8th, 2017 03:36 AM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

Yep, shallow and short slots, the latter achieved by a rounding of the nut profile. Also, how much play are you allowing with regard to slot width? I shoot for around .005" wider than string thickness and rarely have any problems. So long as your slots are rounded at the bottom and there's sufficient break-angle you can have a lot of slop there...



Why do I keep fixing things that work?
May 8th, 2017 07:42 AM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

Personally, I don't care much for Corian for nut material, but it is easy to shape and slot, but that being said, I would opt to use Black Tusc, as it does allow for better tuning.
The Corian is really soft and can be tacky, which can lead to more tuning issues, but with the use of nut sauce, it performs better and does need a lower top profile to get better tuning stability and string release. This has been my observation.
I have learned most of my nut making skills from you and pains me to hear that you are having issues with this item!
I do think that the nut sauce will give you the performance you want to achieve and will get the nut to behave as it should after using it. With Corian being so soft, I do allow for the G/D strings + .003 wider slots, at least, and go straight out the back side of the nut toward the headstock with no added widening to the back of the nut. I think it will perform best for you.
Best regards, Woody



May 8th, 2017 10:03 AM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

Short and shallow for me. Not diving in through a lot of material allows for better filing technique too, so how much is because the sides of the slots are a problem and how much because it just lets you finesse it better I'm not sure.

One thing I've noticed (but can't really explain) is that straight slots pointed towards the tuner work better than trying to curve it or split the difference between the vibrating length angle and the angle to the tuning machine. One would think that it would bind unnecessarily right at the front, but after trying so many different approaches this one always seems to work best.

Another theory I have is that the nut material argument can be settled simply. The harder the material, the more meticulous one needs to be with smoothing. With a soft material the slot will reorient itself to the ideal shape/direction after tuning a string in there a few times. A harder material needs to be properly honed, and it can feel like it never wants to land in the right place. I'm fond of unbleached bone, but it can be a pain in the fanny like this. Brass as well. A material like graph tech incidentally needs very little smoothing because it is so soft that it just compresses into place from the string pressure. It makes me wonder how much the slick nature of the material is really contributing.

Contributing Member

New Jersey

I'm back with the otters again
May 8th, 2017 01:03 PM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

I'm also a fan of shallow slots. Anything greater than 50% on the wound strings is unnecessary. I go 100% in the slot for the plain strings but I do this more for the client's peace of mind. Strings seemingly sitting on the top of the nut make the client worry and I've had a client demonstrate an E-string popping out of the slot with what I'd describe as an intentional manipulation that would never really happen in the real world.



May 8th, 2017 03:24 PM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

"and I've had a client demonstrate an E-string popping out of the slot with what I'd describe as an intentional manipulation that would never really happen in the real world."

That definitely is a thing for fret buzz, too. I have a co-worker that is really good at gently asking "is that how you REALLY play?" as they are banging on the string as hard as they can to get the slightest buzz.

I've also learned to keep a poker face when sighting down a neck. A mild twist may be ultimately harmless, but some people will absolutely freak out. Some people's kids, I tell ya...

Mick Reid
Contributing Member


American-made in Oz!!
May 8th, 2017 05:40 PM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

"I've also learned to keep a poker face when sighting down a neck."

Yeah, you don't do this:

FunkyK: (sighting down neck) "Holy CRAP!!!"

Client: "What????"

FunkyK: "Ahhhh... nothin"


Contributing Member

Paris, France

It's just a guitar, not rocket science.
May 9th, 2017 03:15 AM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

My biggest worry with short slots is faster wear (because all the pressure from string tension is over a shorter bearing surface). Possibly more important for wound strings because the undulating surface from string windings means the surface in contact with the nut is very much less than the length of string in the slot.

I can't help but think of choosing hacksaw blades pitch; fewer teeth means faster cutting but more snagging, more teeth means slower cutting but smoother movement. Applying the same logic to nuts and wound strings suggests that more length in the nut will result in less wear and smoother motion across the bottom of the slot, which will result in better tuning stability.

Does it make much difference? The pitch of string windings vs length of slot is already pretty fine so maybe not. But I'm not inclined to go with shorter lengths and I'd rather not vary my technique for wound and plain slots, so everything longer rather than shorter is my current position.

(This message was last edited by DrKev at 05:16 AM, May 9th, 2017)

Contributing Member

New Jersey

I'm back with the otters again
May 9th, 2017 06:20 PM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

Its only LPs that give me grief and its maybe because I'm being overly critical, But even Les Paul the man himself once mentioned something about his namesake guitar probably being a better instrument with the Fender style 6-in-line tuners.

I was able to take the guitar on my bench and improve my tuning stability test result from 25 cents to 5 cents which is a success. I removed material from the back side of the nut, slightly increasing that angle, brought the slot length down to about a shave greater than 1/16" and just cleaned up the slot using a .016 file to create a slot that was probably .020 for a .017 G-string. You gotta be ever so gentle with corian. I used cork grease as a lubricant which is about the same viscosity as Nut Sauce. In this circumstance, I would like to be using something stronger than corian but in its favor, corian is always consistent and predictable -- and cheap/plentiful.

Contributing Member

USS of A

May 9th, 2017 07:23 PM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

I have to hang here more often...you guys are nuts. 😜

Contributing Member

I've got my own

double-cross to bear
May 9th, 2017 07:39 PM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

I like the wide nut on a Les Paul.

I angle the top surface to match the string break angle from the front of the nut toward the tuner posts.

That way the string rests on top of the nut, rather than 'in' the nut.

White lithium grease in the slots seems to work best on the LP nuts I make.

"Even Les Paul the man himself once mentioned something about his namesake guitar probably being a better instrument with the Fender style 6-in-line tuners."

That's partly how Gibson got aboard the Firebird bandwagon: Fender was kicking Gibson's butt in sales volume at the time, and Gibson President Ted McCarty brought in automotive designer Ray Dietrich in 1962 to create a new design to go toe to toe and compete with Fender's space-age Stratocaster.

They copied several things from the Strat: slab body, longer scale, and the six-in-line headstock. They did retain certain Gibson 'signature' features such as the set-tenon angled neck joint and the angled headstock. The banjo-style tuners were quite a departure for an electric guitar too.

Gibson also used that 6IL headstock on the Trini Lopez (a 335-alike...see link) that was a flop; it never caught on.

McCarty left Gibson in 1966 to become president of Bigsby, Inc. He is the man behind the design of the Les Paul, the Tune-o-matic bridge, the Flying V, Explorer, and many other Gibson designs. He was equally influential to the guitar world as Leo Fender.

Gibson Trini, 1966

uncle stack-knob
Contributing Member

united kingdom

May 10th, 2017 12:49 AM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

I think we have been here before,but watch the associated video in the link and note what Don MaCrostie does regarding the entry/exit angle on nut slots.
He uses a curved slot.
So do I,and I keep them shallow and short(ish).


watch the video.


michigan usa

May 10th, 2017 05:03 AM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

I guess that could help. We all probably end up with somewhat curved slots despite our best efforts.

Oh, and firebirds are not long-scale (a common misperception) and only used the set-neck design for certain models beginning in the '80s.

FDP Forum / Guitar Mods, Repairs, and Projects / Still looking for the "Works every time answer" LP nuts

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