Strings sticking in the slots of an aluminum nut?

Discussion in 'Technical Side of Things' started by pete12string, Aug 20, 2021.

  1. pete12string

    pete12string Electromatic

    39
    Aug 7, 2021
    New Jersey
    I have a Gretsch with an aluminum nut and the strings seem to be getting stuck in the slots as they exit the nut towards the tuners. Tuning up, the string pitch suddenly changes with a “ping”. I’m constantly fighting to get the string to come into tune since it keeps binding up in the nut. I use a lubricant that helps but I was wondering if smoothing the edge of the string slots with a diamond file so there’s not a sharp angle where the strings come through to the tuners would help. Are there any tips, advice or recommendations on what to do to fix this tuning problem?
    Thanks!
     
  2. section2

    section2 Country Gent

    Dec 21, 2016
    Toronto
    Yep, the nut needs to be filed. It's precise work that's best done by an experienced guitar tech with proper nut files. I do a lot of DIY work on my guitars, but I leave the nut to the pros. It's an easy job for a good tech, but it's an easy job for a DIYer to mess up.
     
  3. pete12string

    pete12string Electromatic

    39
    Aug 7, 2021
    New Jersey
    Maybe a trip to the trusty guitar tech will be worth it. Good point and very wise advice.
     
    section2 likes this.
  4. section2

    section2 Country Gent

    Dec 21, 2016
    Toronto
    Last time I had it done, it took the tech less than five minutes, and he wouldn't even let me pay him for the work. It would have taken me an hour or more to do it myself, plus the cost of installing a new nut after I inevitably ruined the original one, plus the cost of all the dollars I'd have had to stuff into the swear jar. :D
     
    Gregor, pete12string and G5422T like this.
  5. G5422T

    G5422T Country Gent

    May 24, 2012
    usa
    Yep, a well cut nut will take a good guitar to a great guitar, and a great guitar to something really special.

    My local "doc" does it extremely well and at a very fair price.
     
    Outlaw, pete12string and section2 like this.
  6. Outlaw

    Outlaw Country Gent

    Jul 13, 2011
    UK
    Yep, take it to a tech.
    Definatly don't use anything but proper nut files if your going DIY!!!
     
  7. stevo

    stevo Friend of Fred

    May 1, 2012
    Atlanta
    If you want to do it yourself, get some proper nut slotting files and read up. It took me about 5 trys to learn how to do it right but and the results have been transformative. But it's meticulous work.

    So if you're not wanting to do it yourself, shops typically like to charge $50-$100 to create a new one for you. My personal experience with luthiers has been abysmal in that department, so you need to find someone who really knows how to do it and has a solid reputation. Getting it done right takes about a 45 minutes to an hour and there are no shortcuts worth taking.
     
  8. swivel

    swivel Country Gent

    May 13, 2018
    PNW
    Yep, in the nut you only need a short distance of string contact, at the body side of the nut please! I tend to remove nut material around the string at the headstock end of the slot, making a conical shape.... although it's easier said than done.
    [​IMG]
     
  9. Ricochet

    Ricochet Senior Gretsch-Talker

    Nov 13, 2009
    Monkey Island
    No matter the nut material, strings will cut into the nut slots, eventually.
    Keeping metal slots free from burrs and crud is perhaps even more critical than traditional nuts.
     
  10. stevo

    stevo Friend of Fred

    May 1, 2012
    Atlanta
    I’ve seen that method and it’s commonly taught. But I’ve found it can bind that way. Ive found that more contact between nut and string is better. I use a short 1-2 degree shelf (angled down toward the headstock with just enough angle to avoid sitar sounds) that then ramps gradually to the angle leading to the headstock and a gentle roll down and toward the tuning post at the end so the string can gently separate from the nut. Using this method has made a huge difference.

    Sharp and small contact areas concentrate friction and cause binding. Using a bit More contact spreads the friction out so the string can move more readily.
     
    swivel likes this.
  11. stevo

    stevo Friend of Fred

    May 1, 2012
    Atlanta
    I like to polish the slots to remove any little grooves that can become volunteers. Takes longer for the strings to cut in that way.
     
    Ricochet likes this.
  12. swivel

    swivel Country Gent

    May 13, 2018
    PNW
    Yes that could be true, "bearing area". Especially if you have a tremelo. Although I have not had an issue. The trouble with a long contact surface is "where is it contacting along that length?" For proper note accuracy it needs to be right at the edge of the nut even if it contacts elsewhere too. Matching that string angle perfectly is very difficult. In a perfect world it could sit full contact the entire length , but that's very hard to do in the real world. But as you say, as long as it's not sitaring or buzzing, "yer good to go!".
     
  13. radd

    radd Country Gent

    Dec 27, 2017
    Santa Cruz
    I do all my guitar nut work, but an aluminum nut.......
    Yup

    Often times my last step after dressing a nut is to polish each slot with fine polish using a business card. Sometimes I will just aggressively burnish the slot with a business card, making a fresh cut on the card prior to each slot.
     
    stevo likes this.
  14. stevo

    stevo Friend of Fred

    May 1, 2012
    Atlanta
    Yep. Hence the shallow ramp toward the headstock on that first section. Just steep enough to avoid sitar sounds and just enough to establish that contact point as being on the very edge. And yes, it's bloody impossible to get a nut slot and string situation that mirrors that ideal diagram in your head.
     
  15. stevo

    stevo Friend of Fred

    May 1, 2012
    Atlanta
    I like the business card idea. I've started to use 600 or 800 grit paper and wrap it around some twine for the wound slots.

    Also, there is a method that puts a small slit in the very bottom of the slot to also improve movement. I can never tell if I've done it well or not.
     
  16. Mellowcat

    Mellowcat Gretschie

    132
    Aug 22, 2013
    VA

    This video was a help to me. Is the Bigsby bridge saddle getting stuck out of position also? I've never had one that rocked back to pitch...maybe just bad luck. I sand the saddle base flat at the bridge posts.
     
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