The Jazz Guitar Chord Dictionary
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  1. #1

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    Where can I get nut files that won't break the bank? Or an alternate method? Need to lower my new Brook Lyn acoustic just a tad but I don't have equipment anymore and there's not a tech around here that I would let with 50 miles of my guitars. I don't mind using Xacto saws on my Teles but this one needs it done right. Feeler gauges and sandpaper maybe?

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  3. #2

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    I use a set of very small rat tail files I bought for automotive use decades ago. You can find them everywhere- Amazon has dozens. They also have nut file sets from $10 (iLuiz) on up that are probably fine for light use.

  4. #3

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    There are functional tools on places like Ebay. They work fine but they don't have the harness for a lot of longevity. For the very occasional guitar owner who just wants to optimize and personalize his own guitar, these may work nicely.
    3pcs/set Guitar Nut Files Fret Crowning Slot Filing Luthier Repair Tool Diamond 846874419292 | eBay

    Nut Files-screen-shot-2022-06-25-12-02-53-pm-png

  5. #4

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    If you want cheap, feeler gauges work. I have a set which I turned into files by using a very thin cutoff wheel in a Dremel tool to cut teeth into the edges on one side. If you don't have that, a small 3-corner file can do the job. You select the width you need by using whatever combination of gauges combine to get it. It's not as good as actual nut files, but if you only need to do one nut, only once in awhile, it works well enough, when used with care. I bought a set of the ebay files, and I don't like them. They're all close to the same size, none thin enough for the plain E, and just not precise enough for my taste. But better than nothing, I guess, although not worth my money.

  6. #5

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    Quote Originally Posted by nevershouldhavesoldit
    I use a set of very small rat tail files I bought for automotive use decades ago. You can find them everywhere- Amazon has dozens.
    Yep, nozzle cleaning files. They have the advantage (AFAIK) of being round, but may not come sufficiently thin gauges for the 2 steel trebles. I bought MusicNomad nut files for those.

    If you need just retouch the slot, an old round-wound string of the matching gauge can work too (or the header part of a still usable string).

  7. #6

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    These are mine. They do a great job. Google will find you many suppliers but they seem to have gone up in price a lot. I know I paid well under $100.

    Nut Files-img_20220626_104829-jpg

  8. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by RJVB
    Yep, nozzle cleaning files. They have the advantage (AFAIK) of being round, but may not come sufficiently thin gauges for the 2 steel trebles. I bought MusicNomad nut files for those.
    They are selling nozzle cleaners as nut files on ebay for under $10. Probably will wear out fast, but you can just buy new ones as needed.

  9. #8

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    They sort of work as a finishing tool, but cutting a full slot takes a loooonnnnggg time with one. I still have a set in a drawer. They don't even do that great a job of smoothing a rough slot, nevermind cutting one. By far the best nut files I've found are the ones from Music Nomad, sold through Sweetwater. They aren't that expensive, and work really well.

  10. #9

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    One other solution is to use endodontic (root canal) files. If you’re friendly with your dentist, see if you can “borrow” one in the right size. I’m pretty sure you can buy them from Amazon too. Both the stainless steel and the titanium alloy ones are fine for nuts. You want files, not reamers.

    I’ve also used ultra fine grit emory paper folded around a string to open, reshape, and polish nuts and saddles.

  11. #10

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    I've posted this before. Feeler gauges that I adapted. Not my idea though.Nut Files-20210112_004154-jpg

  12. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by sgosnell
    By far the best nut files I've found are the ones from Music Nomad, sold through Sweetwater. They aren't that expensive, and work really well.
    The tiny ones that come with a yellow plastic holder? I find I have to take them out of those to finish the slot; they sit too deep in the plastic.

  13. #12

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    If the strings are still in place, and you're just sliding them over for an adjustment, then I agree that taking them out of the holder is usually, not always, but usually, necessary. It's because of the size of the holder, mostly the width. But it's easy enough to remove the cutting portion from the holder. I still like them more than any others I've tried, and I have an assortment of unused nut-cutting tools. The feeler gauge fix posted above is my second-most favorite tool for the job, and I still sometimes use mine for some slot widths. It's easy to get any slot width you might need.

  14. #13

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    If one just wants to work on their own guitars (which means working on a few dozens nuts at most - instead of hundreds as a tech would), the cheap 15-20 $ files are fine and do the job.

  15. #14

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    Quote Originally Posted by sgosnell
    It's because of the size of the holder, mostly the width. But it's easy enough to remove the cutting portion from the holder.
    Indeed, but it makes me wonder if the person who designed the holder ever used the files... Tthey do work perfectly fine, and they seem a bit more rigid than my the one 0.016" "MaxParts" file I have (Thomann sell these). More rigidity is probably a good thing here, I suppose.

    Quote Originally Posted by Alter
    If one just wants to work on their own guitars (which means working on a few dozens nuts at most - instead of hundreds as a tech would), the cheap 15-20 $ files are fine and do the job.
    A piece, or for the set? Individual MusicNomad files can be found for (IIRC) 16.90€ a piece. Not cheap if you use them occasionally only. I've bought the gauges I don't have in my nozzle cleaning set - in 2 different orders so paid shipping twice :-/

  16. #15

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    Quote Originally Posted by Alter
    If one just wants to work on their own guitars (which means working on a few dozens nuts at most - instead of hundreds as a tech would), the cheap 15-20 $ files are fine and do the job.
    The alternative approach would be to install a ZeroGlide nut. Doesn't look very difficult if you have a proper place to work on a guitar and you're already thinking of retouching saddle slots. With one of those you'll hit the perfect nut-action at once, and from what I understand the nut slots can be cut with anything that has approximately the appropriate thickness (the nut is in some kind of resin that must be a lot softer than bone). A'zon has cheap version of those sets with 3 double-sided files with yellow handles (where each side has a different thickness); those should do fine I presume.

    (FWIW, on the one beater archtop I had that came with a 0 fret I widened the wooden nut to accept nylon E & B trebles in an experiment. Same slots worked fine with steel trebles afterwards, probably because the steel cut a bit into the bottom of the widened slot).

  17. #16

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    I meant something like the cheap files mentioned above, or like that at Thomann:

    Harley Benton Luthier Repair Care Kit – Thomann Ellada

  18. #17

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    Another vote for uo chikyu hiroshima files. A bit too hard, not tempered enough, but works really well if you are kind to them

  19. #18

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    I'm a big fan of quality tools as they make it easyer to do a good job. I bought mine (UO-Chi Kyu, gauges individually selected according to what i would need) here: JAPARTS : Uo-Chikyu Nut Files by Hiroshima Files and am very happy with them (see available gauges at the bottom of the linked page).

    Nut Files-img_2116-jpg

  20. #19

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    I have no experience with that particular brand, but I assume they're fine. If one is going to be doing a lot of nut work, a decent file set is a worthwhile investment. But that's a lot of money for a one-off job, and many people don't want to spend that much. I don't think it's such a bad thing to use make-shift tools for a single job. I started out that way, and while I have real nut files now, I still have my feeler gauge saw/file set in a box.

  21. #20

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    Quote Originally Posted by sgosnell
    I have no experience with that particular brand, but I assume they're fine. If one is going to be doing a lot of nut work, a decent file set is a worthwhile investment. But that's a lot of money for a one-off job, and many people don't want to spend that much. I don't think it's such a bad thing to use make-shift tools for a single job. I started out that way, and while I have real nut files now, I still have my feeler gauge saw/file set in a box.
    Agreed, but making and fitting a nut is tedious and finicky, even with good tools, and its something that can really screw up playability and tuning stability if done wrong. Compared to the cost of a good guitar etc

  22. #21

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    Quote Originally Posted by JohanAbrandt
    Agreed, but making and fitting a nut is tedious and finicky, even with good tools, and its something that can really screw up playability and tuning stability if done wrong. Compared to the cost of a good guitar etc
    Yeah, even cutting 6 slots can get tedious with bad tools. My UO-CHIKYU files will last forever.

    @JazzNote - nice to see you can individual sizes like that.

  23. #22

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    Tedious and finicky, yes. But you can pay a tech to do it for a lot less than the price of a set of files, if you only need one done. And if you're cash strapped, as some are, you can do the job yourself for very little money, if you're willing to take your time and do the work. Lots of compromises in life, and different people prefer to compromise in different areas. I'm not fit to judge anyone else's compromises.