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Thread: checking nut slot depth

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    Default checking nut slot depth

    I decided to setup my main strat yesterday. I set it up to Fender recommended specs (9.5" radius) as a starting point:

    - .010" neck relief, measured between the low E string and the 8th fret with both 1st and 22nd frets pushed down

    - 4/64" action, measured at the 17th fret

    With this, the guitar wasn't uncomfortable to play, but felt stiff... very much like an acoustic. I lowered the action slightly at the bridge and it felt a little better, but the strings strat to fret out when bending in the upper registers (i.e high E chokes when doing 1/2 step bend at 15th fret.)

    I sighted down the neck, and don't see any high frets or bumps that would cause this.

    So I put the strings back to 4/64" and put a capo on the first fret. With the capo in place, the guitar plays perfect! I can do whole step bends without fretting out, the action still measures 4/64" at the 17th fret, and it is very comfortable to play over the whole neck. This makes me think that the nut slots may not be deep enough.

    What is the easiest way to measure the depth of the nut slots? What would be an ideal measurement? I was thinking of measuring the gap between the strings and the first fret, while fretting the string at the 3rd fret... would that work, or is there a better way?

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    Default Re: checking nut slot depth

    I too, have deep nuts

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    Imperator of Indignation idsnowdog's Avatar
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    Default Re: checking nut slot depth

    An easy way to check if the nut slots are too high is to play a note at the first fret and check it with your tuner. If the note is sharp then the nut slot is not deep enough for the gauge of strings you are using.

    To adjust the action you can also adjust the saddles height, neck angle and trus-rod. To adjust the saddles measure the action at the 14th fret. To set the trus-rod capo at the twelfth fret and measure the gap between the string and the frets at the 5/6th fret.

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    Default Re: checking nut slot depth

    Quote Originally Posted by DMyers77 View Post
    I was thinking of measuring the gap between the strings and the first fret, while fretting the string at the 3rd fret... would that work, or is there a better way?
    That's the way I do it quickly. It works fairly well. I'll stack feeler gauges against the front end of the nut to get a more precise measurement.
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    Default Re: checking nut slot depth

    Gauging by the gap between the string and 1st fret is the best way to set nut height, but if it at the ideal height this is far too small a dimension to be measured with any standard tools. It's one of those things which can be done more precisely and accurately with a trained eye than with any simple measuring tools.

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    Default Re: checking nut slot depth

    Oh, I misread the title. S-L-O-T depth.
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    Default Re: checking nut slot depth

    In Dan Erlewine's nut making video he suggests laying a straight edge across the first and second fret and sliding feeler gauges in between the two frets (under the strait edge) until you can't fit any more. This is an accurate measurement of your fret height at the first fret.

    Add .005 to .007 to whatever your total fret height is and that should be your approximate nut slot depth. (this can vary slightly from high to low e)

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    Default Re: checking nut slot depth

    I've used old strings before when I didn't have feeler guages. Got that tip from Erlewine's book and it seems to work just fine. Of course I had the job professionally done after that anyway, simply because it's included in the price of a setup at my local shop but it worked out just fine how I did it.
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    Default Re: checking nut slot depth

    .005" to .007" above the plane of the frets might as well be a Hawaiian slide nut in my opinion. That's huge in terms of nut tolerances - about as ideal as your first fret being .005"-.007" higher than the second. It would feel terribly stiff, and lead to all sorts of intonation issues. I find the ideal height to be more in the range of 10-20% of those numbers.

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    Default Re: checking nut slot depth

    I do it like this...

    Push down the string at the 3rd fret. You should see a gap between the string and 1st fret that's as small as possible. So small, you can pluck that distance between the 3rd fret and nut and it still makes a sound, but the string just barely clears the top of the 1st fret.
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    Default Re: checking nut slot depth

    If your frets re truly level, you should be able to lightly push a string down just before the first fret, and just past the third, then tap the string over the second fret to look and listen for movement. You should not be able to really see a gap here, but rather the slightest speck of light appear and disappear if you are looking from just the right angle, with just the right lighting. Really, really tiny speck of light.

    That is the reference to shoot for when fretting past the second fret and tapping over the first. There are exceptions to this rule for some particular instruments and playing styles, but that gets in to a lot more complicated details.

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