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Thread: Adjusting the nut

  1. #1

    Question Adjusting the nut

    Hi All, I recently purchased my first mandolin, a Eastman MD305. Here's my problem. I have some arthritis pain in my left hand, so light action is my goal. The first thing I did was replace the strings with lighter J73's. That helped a bit, but I want to get it to fret a bit easier. What do you advise for action at the twelfth fret? I will probably file the nut slots down a bit ( I have done this in the past on my guitar and banjos - so not to worry). What would be a safe minimum clearance over the first fret? Thanks in advance, Jim

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Adjusting the nut

    I usually set the bridge first, but if you file the nut, fret at the 3rd fret and you should have a whisper of clearance at the first fret. I like my action low also because of arthritis. A good fret level is necessary to have low action and a fairly flat neck with out relief or minimal relief. I sometimes file in relief on the G string and leave the E string pretty flat for a lower action. I am usually 1.5/32 on the G and a hair over 1/32 on the E. I can play fairly hard and be loud for an acoustic dance if I have to, but playing hard usually makes my wrists hurt so I try to avoid too much.
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    Default Re: Adjusting the nut

    Here's the link to get member Rob's setup book: http://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/sh...n-Set-Up-eBook. Recommends bridge setup first, later filing nut to .011" clearance at first fret at E string.

    So you can setup with low action and down tune a half step to make LH less stressful.
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  4. #4

    Default Re: Adjusting the nut

    I use what I call the Frank Ford method of setting nut height, same as Pops1. For each string you will fret at the third fret and set the string height over the first fret to just barely nil. You want the smallest amount of clearance you can get and still have clearance. The idea is that the nut slot height is simply the same height as the frets, and the fretted string acts as a straight edge to define that height. A normal target action height at the 12th fret is 1/16" or a little lower (or 4/64" as some call it) but the real number is down to preference, string tension, how hard you pick and where you pick, fretboard perfection, how much a little fret buzz bothers you, etc. I agree with no or virtually no relief. As you lower the action height by lowering the bridge saddle height, the room the strings have to vibrate and not hit the frets gets smaller. The arc of the string's vibration comes from the tension it has and how hard you pick. Low tension strings (either from tuning down a step or two, or light gauge strings) will vibrate with a larger arc at the first harmonic point (12th fret on an open string) so counter-intuitively you can get lighter action with stiffer strings in some cases. Dressing in a fall-off of a few thousands of an inch on the fretboard past the 12th fret can also help increase the room the strings have to vibrate and let you have lower action closer to the nut.

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  6. #5
    Registered User minuteman's Avatar
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    Default Re: Adjusting the nut

    I've set all mine about .002 over what would be a zero fret. Put a capo on the first fret and measure at the 2nd fret, add .002 for the first fret. Mine at the first frets are...

    E- .008
    A- .010
    D- .010
    G- .012

    12th fret is about .125 on G, E is .09 or so, a touch lower. I might add it's a short scale too, at 13.1"

  7. #6
    Registered User bennyb's Avatar
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    Default Re: Adjusting the nut

    Howdy Jim,
    Here's Frank Ford's Photo Essay on Nut action referenced above. It's a guitar, but the same principles apply. I use 73s myself, and I've got the E string at .006 at the first, and .050 at the 12th. I don't think I'd try to go any lower than that; for me, the action is really soft.

    benny

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    Registered User CJFizzix's Avatar
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    Default Re: Adjusting the nut

    This is all very helpful. Thanks folks.

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