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Thread: Sorry for this string height question

  1. #1

    Default Sorry for this string height question

    ... because I know it has been asked and answered a thousand times, but what is a good string height above 1st fret?

    And is there any way to turn strings into slot saws? Or other ways to deepen slots without buying nut files for a one-time job?

    Thanks, all,
    Brian

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Sorry for this string height question

    Fret at the 2ond fret and the string should just clear the 1st fret. You can buy a set of torch tip cleaning files fairly cheap, while they will be slower they will lower the nut slots with a rounded bottom.
    THE WORLD IS A BETTER PLACE JUST FOR YOUR SMILE!

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    Default Re: Sorry for this string height question

    I believe it is .011-.013

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    It should be noted, that I ask more questions on here then I answer,lol

  4. #4

    Default Re: Sorry for this string height question

    Brian,
    A wound string, plus maybe a little abrasive, should work, but the smooth ones maybe not. However, if you have the usual box full of Dremel bits and wheels, one of the very thin disks, hand held, not rotating, could be used for this teeny job. The outer edge, if you want to be fancy, can be rounded on any stone. To measure thickness, just lay the string next to the disk flat on the table. Or quicker, if you have a micrometer/caliper. And torch tip cleaners, meant to be specifically non-abrasive, would also be fine - with added emery powder, say. The threads here indicate cutting to half the string diameter and shaping the tuner side smoothly radiused for least friction.
    Both the tip cleaners and the machinists feeler gauge sets can be found almost anywhere.

  5. #5

    Default Re: Sorry for this string height question

    Welders tip cleaners are gauged, abrasive and inexpensive. They are readily available at farm stores or places like harbor freight.

  6. #6
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Sorry for this string height question

    Rob Meldrum describes making your own nut slot saws/files from feeler gauges in his free ebook.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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  8. #7

    Default Re: Sorry for this string height question

    A good fret height at the first fret is "as low as you can get it without buzzing".
    This is usually around .003" (the thickness of a sheet of paper). But you can get it lower. Making a nut is inherently a game of chicken - If it's not buzzing, it can always be lower! And you will feel the difference. I set up a mandolin to .011" at the first fret. David Mold (OldSausage) picked it up and said, "Wow, that thing hurts!". It wasn't for sale yet, so no harm done. And David is a great player, great players tend to be less sensitive to setup issues IMHO than novices (who like to blame everything on the setup, not that they're wrong).

    Non-zero-fret nuts are pretty much always sub-optimal.. if only slightly. Zero-fret instruments can actually be set up to optimal action by a trained monkey, while really dialed-in nut action is really hard.

    I've dramatically improved the nut action on mandolins costing $100 to $25,000 as set up by the builder.. at least I can pretty much always make things play better!

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    Default Re: Sorry for this string height question

    If you don’t own calipers then try this. Get a blue chip 60 pick and adjust the bridge until the strings just touches the pick at the 12th fret. Easy and accurate. You can easily make micro adjustments up or down from there depending on you preferences. I don’t have any nut advice. I leave that to Dave Harvey.
    It doesn't matter . . . I'm going to WINFIELD!!!!!

  10. #9
    Registered User amowry's Avatar
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    Default Re: Sorry for this string height question

    I like Marty’s use of “a game of chicken” for this. That’s exactly what it is— if the slot is the right height then you’re approximately one file stroke from having it be too low, causing buzzing, and having to spend another hour or so making a new nut.

  11. #10

    Default Re: Sorry for this string height question

    Been there with Andrew and Marty more than once. I generally wimp out when I get to 0.005-0.006". With my old eyes, I hate cutting mando nuts (and that's with a good set of nut files)

  12. #11

    Default Re: Sorry for this string height question

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeEdgerton View Post
    Rob Meldrum describes making your own nut slot saws/files from feeler gauges in his free ebook.
    This. Best bargain on the internet. Also, if you happen to have a hobby saw, you might have .011 in your toolbox. Calipers are very useful to check this sort of thing. Nothing can replace the special files for nut work though.
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    Default Re: Sorry for this string height question

    I agree with Andrew and Marty about being as low as you can get. If you use the method I described above it will be decent. If you want to lower it from that, which I usually do, be sure to adjust the saddle and set the height above the 12th fret first. If you do the nut first as low as it can be then lower the saddle you may be in for buzzing at the first fret.
    THE WORLD IS A BETTER PLACE JUST FOR YOUR SMILE!

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    Default Re: Sorry for this string height question

    Quote Originally Posted by goose 2 View Post
    If you don’t own calipers then try this. Get a blue chip 60 pick and adjust the bridge until the strings just touches the pick at the 12th fret. Easy and accurate. You can easily make micro adjustments up or down from there depending on you preferences. I don’t have any nut advice. I leave that to Dave Harvey.
    Ok guys I have a question. I have a 2015 Dave Harvey F9. I have been into instruments and bluegrass 40 years. New to mandolin (2yrs.) I was thinking my string height at the G, first fret was a little high, its .018. A buddy of mine was here at the house and I checked his mandolins. A Daley, an Altman, and a Clawson. The bridge settings were approx. .070 @ the 12th fret. His mandolins were about .012 at the G, first fret. Not to question Dave's setup, but why would mine be that high at the First fret. Do you see any reason I cant drop mine down to around .012. I think it would help my intonation and playing of my mandolin. Am I missing something? Thanks

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    Default Re: Sorry for this string height question

    I have never measured before, but my height above the first fret on the G string is more like .007. .015 is high for my taste.

    Just make sure before you go really low that you have set the string height above the 12th fret as low as you will ever go first.
    THE WORLD IS A BETTER PLACE JUST FOR YOUR SMILE!

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    Default Re: Sorry for this string height question

    I feel pretty sure I could go .010 or .012 with no problems at all. I read some where that .018 might be a starting point. I have a lot to learn about mandolin. Just kinda surprised that a top of the line builder would have the string that high at the nut. Maybe more are like that than i think though. If anyone has any thought on it please post. Im not gonna get around to filing the nut for at least another day or so. Thanks again for the help. EE

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    Default Re: Sorry for this string height question

    Thanks for the input guys. I filed the nut down tonight. Everything worked out great and it definitely plays easier. I had a little buzz on my top G after I was finished. I had the height at the 12th as low as I wanted when I started. So I checked it and it had dropped after the filing. I cranked it back up a little and the buzz went away. Now I just need to practice. LOL

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