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Thread: do you use any type of jig to cut nut slots

  1. #1
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    Default do you use any type of jig to cut nut slots

    i've had and used one of these from stewmac for the past year or so. I really like it-works easy with any instrument i've used it on(guitar/banjo/mandolin). it has really helped me be consistent and accurate,and it works fast.

    in my continual effort to learn and improve, i figure some of you have some neat ways to do this and i'd be appreciative to hear about them.

    https://www.stewmac.com/Luthier_Tool...Nut_Guard.html

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    Last edited by darylcrisp; Apr-15-2019 at 2:25am.

  2. #2
    Adrian Minarovic
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    Default Re: do you use any type of jig to cut nut slots

    I've done quite a few nuts and never neded such. They will help beginner to get ecent results but many pros just o it freehand. I've got good eye for string spacing and for depth of slots you can use ordinary set of gauges and rubber band or just scribe line on nut with edge of plane iron or chisel (flat side on frets), or flattend pencil like Frank Ford uses and cut to line or as close as you dare. No real need for fancy jigs. I even made my own nut files out of steel gauges - nicely rounded the edge an cut tiny teeth with triangular diamond file. pre cut slot fit file and finish with few passes of the gauge. You can polish slots with 1200 grit paper wrapped around edge of thinner gauge - works perfect for cleaning pearl nuts that tend to heave gritty surface in the slots.
    Adrian

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  4. #3
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    Default Re: do you use any type of jig to cut nut slots

    I use a very short pair of dividers, they are very accurate and it is easy to do.
    THE WORLD IS A BETTER PLACE JUST FOR YOUR SMILE!

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  6. #4

    Default Re: do you use any type of jig to cut nut slots

    I've used the older nut spacing ruler sold by stewmac for nearly twenty years and depend on it. I'm no good at spacing by eye and even purchased a second one of these when I had temporarily misplaced the one I had. I certainly can see an advantage to the new device but I'm doing well with what I have. It has a lot to do with what you develop your skills with and you stick with what you know and are successful with. This new tool has some advantages that I'd benefit from but my process of fabricating nuts is quite alien to what is demonstrated in the stewmac demo video. I kinda went -"Wow" - not only spacing measurement but slot depth too. I can't see why it wouldn't work. The geezer in me doesn't like it but I gotta say its clever.

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  8. #5

    Default Re: do you use any type of jig to cut nut slots

    Quote Originally Posted by Wrnchbndr View Post
    I've used the older nut spacing ruler sold by stewmac for nearly twenty years and depend on it. I'm no good at spacing by eye and even purchased a second one of these when I had temporarily misplaced the one I had.
    Is the Stewmac nut spacing ruler really helpful for double-course strings on a mandolin? Do you use it to find the center between the two strings in each course?

  9. #6
    Adrian Minarovic
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    Default Re: do you use any type of jig to cut nut slots

    I just tookthe time to see the video and I'm not getting it. I counted something like 7-8 changes of the jig and the gauges within the video and few nut removals and repeated filing of top... Experienced luthier would finish the nut just within the time the guy in vid needed for all those unnecessary steps.
    Adrian

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  11. #7
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    Default Re: do you use any type of jig to cut nut slots

    I mainly use this tool for cutting the slots-and I like the quick precision it gives me. in the past I did it without any jig and would have the slots cut nice and just right, and then, every time, I would keep going to get that lower action, and those last few cutting strokes would give me a low string or set.a man's got to learn when to stop-lol

    I like this little tool because it helps control me when I have a file in my hands. I like boundries and this thing does that for me, I say that jokingly but its the truth. it guards me from myself.

    I've never used it fully like in the video, but I think i'll give it a go next time I make a nut just to see how it all works for me. Those key words Adrian used "experienced luthier" do not describe me. I'm just a fellow who does a few things here and there for myself and a few others, and tools like this give me more precision and make me more efficient(and I just like cool tools, if they work good). I may not make 4 nuts in a year. In the past did it by hand and a file and small hobby saw, and about an hour of time(trial fits and such).
    Last edited by darylcrisp; Apr-15-2019 at 5:28pm.

  12. #8
    Adrian Minarovic
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    Default Re: do you use any type of jig to cut nut slots

    Quote Originally Posted by darylcrisp View Post
    I've never used it fully like in the video, but I think i'll give it a go next time I make a nut just to see how it all works for me. Those key words Adrian used "experienced luthier" do not describe me. I'm just a fellow who does a few things here and there for myself and a few others, and tools like this give me more precision and make me more efficient(and I just like cool tools, if they work good). I may not make 4 nuts in a year. In the past did it by hand and a file and small hobby saw, and about an hour of time(trial fits and such).
    Stew Mac offers brilliant jigs and tools but in some sense they are a curse. They will help beginner or DIY'er to get decent results, but I've seen cases when such guy with shop full of clever jigs and tools pretends to be the real luthier. I've had folks come to me ask me to correct or re-do work of such luthiers in the past (and I'm not even pro and tell everyone I'm just experienced hobbyist trying to use all my skills and brain to get decent results). They come for set up regularly when that other guy couldn't set their instrument for lower action that they like and I typically could do for them before.
    Experience is something these tools and jigs won't give you even if you use them for years, actually they will prevent getting experience. You NEED to make some mistakes of your own (and preferrably learn from the big mistakes that others' around you made) to really learn from. Using these tools will get the job done but you gain very limited amount of experience.
    Adrian

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  14. #9

    Default Re: do you use any type of jig to cut nut slots

    These spacing rulers shift the idea of string spacing from the intent of having the center of each string having the same distance apart toward rather having the distance between each string being the same which can be difficult to describe and if you don't understand what I'm saying, maybe someone else can help with this concept. I'll just say to reinforce this idea that on a guitar, when you use a string spacing rule, the distance between the centers of the slots between the E and the B-string is less than the distance between the centers of the wound E and A-string slots. The intent is to move toward having the distance between the actual strings the same which has greater implications as the diameter of the strings increase -- the greater the diameter of the string, the further apart they are. Visually its hard to see the difference -- its subtle.
    Parker, I find my older version of the stewmac spacing rule to be exceedingly valuable for both mandolin and 12-string guitar double course (paired) nut slots. I'm going to try and explain the best I can.
    1. I use the flattened pencil method to identify and roughly establish the overall height of the nut and I fit and perform all of the cosmetic and side fitting to the instrument including gluing the nut in place first. I do this for all instruments including violins, uprights, banjos - whatever.
    2. On a mandolin: Using expendable strings, I establish the locations of the first and the last (8th) string on the nut. I put tension on these strings and check and double check the strings relationship to the fretboard/fingerboard edge and also consider if I want a general narrowness or wider overall string spacing - I tend to build my instruments with a wider than average spacing but there is a width limit set by the neck and functional width of the frets. I mark the locations of the first and last strings on the new nut with an exacto blade and then with a nut file cut very shallow slots deep enough for the strings to stay in place under tension to pitch and then recheck the relationship to the fretboard edge.
    3. On the first and last string courses (1&2 and 7&8), I use my exacto blade to mark the positions for the second strings of the course (2 and 7). The high strings can often be a lot closer together than you usually see on mass produced instruments but its up to you how tight you space them. The low strings (7&8) need a bit more space so I tend to not depart from the average typical spacing.
    4. Because the distance between between strings 1&2 and strings 7&8 are different, the distance between 1&7 (the second strings of the four courses) is going to be less that the distance between strings 2&8 (the first strings of the four courses. I lay the spacing ruler over the nut and locate the position of the ruler where I can line up strings 1 and 7 with a section of the ruler that provides the marks for strings 3 and 5 and mark these locations on the nut with an exacto blade. The I shift the spacing ruler to find the wider section that lines up strings 2 and 8 to provide the locations for strings 4 and 6. Once you understand the idea it is unbelievably easy to get it right every time. Its hard to describe this in text. There's a mandolin section at this link: https://www.stewmac.com/How-To/Onlin...mandolins.html

  15. #10
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    Default Re: do you use any type of jig to cut nut slots

    Quote Originally Posted by HoGo View Post
    Stew Mac offers brilliant jigs and tools but in some sense they are a curse. They will help beginner or DIY'er to get decent results, but I've seen cases when such guy with shop full of clever jigs and tools pretends to be the real luthier. I've had folks come to me ask me to correct or re-do work of such luthiers in the past (and I'm not even pro and tell everyone I'm just experienced hobbyist trying to use all my skills and brain to get decent results). They come for set up regularly when that other guy couldn't set their instrument for lower action that they like and I typically could do for them before.
    Experience is something these tools and jigs won't give you even if you use them for years, actually they will prevent getting experience. You NEED to make some mistakes of your own (and preferrably learn from the big mistakes that others' around you made) to really learn from. Using these tools will get the job done but you gain very limited amount of experience.
    Adrian, thank you for being active on this forum and delivering ideas and information, I enjoy all your posts. I agree with what you say. I'm at a stage in life of looking down the barrel at my 60th yr approaching, working 40 hrs a week and an additional 24 or 48 hr round the clock call shift, family, other activities, glass work, so my time is most precious to me.

    I'm all about anything that will save time, get the job done best the first time, and most importantly, remove overuse, wear and tear to my hands, eyes, brain. Spent the past decade working with basic tools on instruments, nowadays I like a lot of these new tool ideas.

    I use a caliper from stewmac that has the very useful fret depth gauge, measure the 1st fret height along its width, add whatever additional height I want, stack the shims to meet my end spec, cut the slots, remove excess material on top of the nut, string up, check for buzzing and feel, done. Just a few minutes beyond fashioning the nut blank to fit the slot.

    All of this is fun for me, was never intended to be a primary or secondary job, still much to learn, and there's always someone out there who knows a better way and I'm all about learning that.

    Here's the cool stewmac caliper, I have decades older dial units, but this is another new tool you'd have to pry from my hands.

    https://www.stewmac.com/Luthier_Tool...l_Caliper.html
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    Last edited by darylcrisp; Apr-16-2019 at 10:42pm.

  16. #11

    Default Re: do you use any type of jig to cut nut slots

    Quote Originally Posted by Wrnchbndr View Post
    Parker, I find my older version of the stewmac spacing rule to be exceedingly valuable for both mandolin and 12-string guitar double course (paired) nut slots. I'm going to try and explain the best I can.
    There's a mandolin section at this link: https://www.stewmac.com/How-To/Onlin...mandolins.html
    Wow, that was so helpful! I followed along perfectly and really appreciate all the details about laying out the slots with strings at tension. On my first attempt with a bone nut, (Rogue mandolin bought mostly for this sort of learning) I did everything with calipers and a lot of fussing around. On my second attempt, when I built my first mandolin, I cheated and installed a Tusq pre-slotted nut that gave me a good starting point for spacing. I wasn't aware of Stewmac's info about using their rule on the mandolin. I have a big even numbered birthday coming up, and I'm going to drop some serious hints about the rule! Thanks very much, Wrnchbndr, for taking the time to provided a detailed description.

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