I am enjoying building CBG type instruments and have completed 3. One area I am struggling with is the nut. I have been cutting nuts from Corian and fitting to necks that I have crafted using hand tools. Well the nuts just don't set very well. I suppose I could hold it in position and glue with CA glue but if I cut the string slots too deep I might find it difficult to remove the nut. I have attempted to provide a 90 degree ledge in the neck and cut the nut at 90 degrees also. Any suggestions?

Thanks in advance,

Grandpa G

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Hi Grandpa G.

I wasn't clear about what, specifically, the nut is doing wrong. Is it moving when you attempt to tune the strings? Is is sliding left or right (up or down) when strings are struck?

If the problem is nut movement, then  you can fashion a wedge shaped piece of wood that looks like a truss rod cover and screw it into the head stock so that it is wedged up against the nut and holds it in place. That would allow you to remove the nut without a lot of hassle if you need to.

I've used this approach to keep nuts in place, but removable.

Corian can be a PITA to work with. If I make a nut, I'll get everything right and then add a drop or two of superglue to keep it in place. 2 small drops of that stuff can be cut through with a Xacto knife later if I need to remove it.

Grandpa, corian and similar type materials will tend to roll towards the bridge if not fitted to a slot i've found, especially if it's a narrow section, even a small retaining ledge on the tuner side will help, but the real fixer is to shape the nut slots better so the string contacts all the way on a curve and releases in line with the tuner, that way it should actually push the bottom against the fretboard, it takes a bit of patience to get it right with no buzzing, but if you use old strings or oxy tip cleaners of the right size for each slot it will help. ps Tom's fix is not a bad idea

Grandpa,

First thing I see from your pic is that your hut slots are waaayyy too deep. The depth of your slots on a standard nut, no zero fret, should be approx only half the diameter of the string that will sit in them, to no more than a full string diameter. If any deeper, you run the risk of 1) string buzz if you miscut one, and 2) you'll also find that over time, even Corian can be split with string pressure and movement from tuning. You can get away with half that thickness of Corian, unless you wanna use a zero fret, and just use the nut for a string guide.

Also, don't be afraid of using CA. You can easily, with a short sideways tap with a hammer and screwdriver, shear a CA glued nut, with no wood damage. CA has great tensile strength perpendicular to the joint, but not very good shear characteristics parallel to it.

Three points:

1) Make the nut thicker so that it has a broader more stable base to sit on.

2) Glue it in place with a little CA or wood glue (nuts are usually glued in place).

3) String slots should only be about half the thickness of the string..ie a groove rather than a slot.

That it.

1) use a powertool with a fence such as a table-saw or bandsaw or router table to make the nut slot absolutely dead flat across the bottom with a perfect 90deg edge.  Same with cutting the nut, use a tool with a fence to get the nut bottom dead flat and the side at a dead-on 90deg.

2) the nut needs to be wider than it is tall so that the strings press it flat into the slot.

3) I use glue-stick, its just adhesive enough to mostly hold it in place and not move sideways while tuning/playing, but low tac enough that just a moderate pressure and it pops off easily without damaging the neck or the nut.

No power tools need for this simple job!  This is a job that can easily be done with a file or a chisel. Every guitar maker, amateur or pro should be able to use  basic hand tools for a simple task like this. This is not a case for using power tools, a special jig or some such as the way to do such a basic job - it's an overly complex substitute for learning to do it properly by hand.  Sorry, but it drives me nuts when power tools are suggested as the preferred solution for the simplest of tasks that can be accomplished quickly with a modicum of care and some basic hand tool skills. Learn the skills, train your hands and eyes..that way maybe you won't loose the ends of your fingers to a piece of high speed electrical bladed nastiness like one poor unfortunate did on here recently. Rant over.

I'm curious to learn how you file a nut slot dead flat freehand, I can never seem to not wobble a little and get a little bit convex?

Takes lots of practice to not file like your fiddling a Violin. LOL 

One way to control a file better so your dominant arm does,nt take over is to draw file the material, hold the file horizontal, at about 45 degrees to your work and pull towards yourself, it is an old method of leveling engine block head joints without machining

Gee, and violin was my first instrument, d'oh!

Practice, practice, practice..but I usually use a chisel to finish off the "shelf". With a decently wide chisel you can pare down the shelf in a couple of overlapping passes, and it's much easier to get a nice flat, crisp surface this way than with a file. You can work accurately right into the junction between the neck and the fretboard, cleaning up any remnants of glue squeeze-out . You need a very sharp chisel and a fair amount of nerve to do it, but once you get started doing it this way you realise how accurate it can be.

I know various people will say that a table saw or bandsaw or router is the way for real accuracy, but there is a lot more room for error using power tools. Bandsaw blades flex a lot, and with table saw and routers there can be  a surprising amount of play in the bearings and mounts. Also any guide,  jig or fence system needs to be well designed for the job, but even then it will have some play in it, and also relies on the steadiness, sensitivity  and accuracy of the hands feeding the work across the blade and through the guide or jig.  A good hand tool, a practiced hand and a keen eye can do the job more accurately, more safely, and in terms of set-up time, more quickly than a power tool.

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