Luthier Shop: Shaping A Guitar Nut

There are many advantages to making your own guitar nut, such as optimizing the sustain of notes for your playing habits. While there are some specific tools needed, shaping your own guitar nut is a fun, fulfilling task. Let’s dive into the specifics of how to shape your own:

Tools needed

  1. Bone nut
  2. Drill
  3. Fret hammer
  4. Razor blade or box cutting blade
  5. Calipers 
  6. Ruler
  7. Fine point pencil
  8. Belt sander
  9. Tape
  10. Strip of leather
  11. Carpenter’s pencil
  12. Nut file
  13. General bastard file

Getting the nut ready

  1. Start by loosening the strings so that you can pull them to the side of the neck.
  2. Use a fret hammer and gently tap on the nut to break its bond from the glue.
  3. Clean out the remaining glue from the dip using a razor blade or box cutting blade.
  4. With your calipers, find the width of your nut slot, and score the bone blank with its teeth.
  5. With the flattest side of a ruler, mark the surface with an “F” for front or fretboard. You can mark it with whatever you want, but using an “F” makes it easy to distinguish. 
  6. Score the other faces of the nut for the width, and mark the grooves with a finepoint pencil.
  7. Afterwards, score the length by measuring the nut slot. 

Shaping the nut

  1. Sand down the bone blank with a belt sander.
    1. The larger surfaces can be sanded down on the belt part of the machine, beginning with the height. 
    2. When you’re getting close to the marking, turn off the machine to sand down the back of the nut to maintain a snug fit in the nut slot. 
  2. Hammer the nut into the nut slot then pull the strings back and tape in front of and behind the nut. 
  3. After everything is taped, wind up both E strings with enough tension to keep everything in place. Both strings should be an 8th inch of each of the nut’s edges.
    1. Remember to measure twice and cut only once.
  4. Loosen the strings and measure the other string paths with a string spacing ruler. If you don’t have one, measure the distance of the two E strings and divide that number by five.
  5. Put a piece of leather in front of the nut to further protect the headstock. While this is optional, we highly recommend doing this step.
  6. Mark the height of the frets. An easy way to do this is by cutting a carpenter’s pencil in half and marking the nut with the pencil laying flat on the frets.
  7. Rock the nut file back and forth slowly on each line to carve out the fret. Use slow passes to make the initial cuts. Hold the file as level to the fretboard as possible, and continue this process until every line is filed. You can apply tension on the strings after each marking to check your work. 

Finishing and polishing your nut

  1. Make sure your disc is at a 90-degree angle.
  2. Round the outside edges with the disc then behind the nut with the belt.
  3. Once your piece is filed down, use a general bassert file and smooth over your rough edges to give it a shine.
  4. Reflect the nut on some light to check your work.
  5. Once the nut is snug in place, you can finish your setup and tune to pitch.
Shaping your own guitar nut is a lengthy process that takes time to master. However, if you follow these steps, you’ll be able to comfortably create a nut that fits perfectly with your instrument. Take a look at our selection of bone nuts and other luthier parts on our website.
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