February 24, 2010 - ModGuitar Senior Editor
Quick Nut Fix
Pinging And Buzzing Are The Symptoms. How To Fix It Fast.
If you’ve ever worked on your nut, you know how easy it is to go a little too far in the search of comfortable low action ending up with some string buzz. The nut can wear down in time, or you may notice a pinging sound when tuning up or playing. Fortunately, there is a quick fix that can get your guitar up and running again in just a few hours. Ideally, you would cut and shape a new nut or have your tech do it for you. On the road or on a budget, sometimes a quick fix is needed.
Here’s What You’ll Need:
- Cyanoacrylate glue; gel or liquid. Krazy Glue is one brand name. Follow all manufacture’s warnings and instructions when using Cyanoacrylate glues.
- Masking Tape. Low tack blue painters tape preferred
- Sand Paper: 600 grit or higher.
- Small files (gauged nut slotting files for the perfectionists). Your choice of files range from a fingernail file, cheap hobby shop files (as pictured) or specialized nut slotting files.
- Cyanoacrylate glue thinner. For clean-up of glue runs or unsticking glued fingers.
1. Loosen the strings and pull them aside. If you’re working on just a single nut slot set the string in the next slot or hang it off the fret board edge. You can use tape to anchor the string(s) to the side of the neck to keep them clear of work area.
2. Apply a small piece of tape firmly into the crevice between the front of the nut and the fingerboard. This creates a dam to hold the glue in the nut slot. The tape should come all the way up the face of the nut and can overhang the top of the nut slightly.
3. With the guitar on a stand apply a drop or two of glue in the low slot. It’s better to apply a small amount and let that layer dry, then apply more glue if you need to build up a really low slot. A pinch of baking soda can be sprinkled on the wet glue to build up the slot if it’s needed.
4. Set the guitar aside and let the glue dry for about four hours. When the chemical smell of the glue evaporating is gone, it’s dry and should be hard. If you can indent the dry glue with a screwdriver tip it still needs more time.
5. Use the small files to re-cut the nut slot. Careful you don’t go too deep this time! Use a feeler gauge to measure the relief over the 1st fret while pressing down at the second fret. Gibson and Fender specs call for between .014″ and .020″ (this amount varies for string gauge and fret style).
The animation above shows where to press the string to gauge the amount of relief over the 1st fret. The relief should be just enough to see, hear, and feel that the string can move freely over the first fret. Getting this just right is essential to a low comfortable playing action.
Use sandpaper to smooth out the repaired and re-cut nut slot.
Pencil lead rubbed into the slot helps keeps the string from binding.
Done! What once buzzed or pinged is again playable. This type of fix is permanent but not ideal. Replacing a nut with one that’s solid and cleanly cut is always the best for tone and playability.