LesPaul SL 10: Filing Slots of Nut
Last Updated on January 30, 2021
In factory settings of my Les Paul SL, the distance between the top of the 1st fret and the bottom of the 1st string is 1.0mm and it's a little bit reason to odd playing at low frets. I filed slots of the nut.
It's not correct measurement in horizontal direction, but the distance seems to be approx. 1.0mm.
It's on the 6th string. However, this is the wrong measurement because you should measure 4th to 6th strings from the opposite side. Otherwise, measurements for 4th to 6th strings become incorrect because of the roundness of the fretboard. Anyway, It's 0.5mm to 0.7mm. I decided to file slots for 1st to 4th strings, and stay other two.
I got these nut files via air mail spending 2 weeks and few days. Thin files are like strings, so thin files may be made of actual strings.
Methods are shown as below. Before filing, you should place your guitar on a stable working table, and double check not to drop your guitar from the table on working. If you have a clip tuner and a brush, it can help you for the work. Painter's tape prevents scratches, but it may cause to peel guitar's coating. I filed from 1st string to 4th string for 0.6mm to 0.7mm distances.
In this work, I didn't file slots for the 5th and the 6th strings, and did for the 4th a little. If you work for the 4th to the 6th strings, you may need to turn your guitar 180 degrees to work from the opposite side. Thin files can be bent, and it helps to file the slot without scratching the neck. However, thick files can't be bent, and you need to consider of the margin to stroke these files. In case, you need to remove the truss rod cover to get the margin. I stroked thin files holding by my right hand at the side of pegs, and applied my left hand to the neck and the nut.
1. Measure the distance between the top of the 1st fret and the bottom of the string you aim to file. The string should be tuned correctly. Otherwise, the measured distance becomes incorrect because of the slack.
2. Remove the string from the slot, and select a file of which size is close to the actual string. Caution that a much thicker file may replace your favorite strings from regular to beef.
3. File the summit of the slot along with the linear ditch. The slot should be a hill shape that the summit is on the edge at the 1st fret side. I applied my left index finger near the edge at the 1st fret side to cover the file on filing. However, it causes to hurt your finger skin on filing! I used a tissue paper to protect my finger (or use a latex glove if you think of a fire by frictional heat). File slowly and count the work not to over filing. Plus, each file varies on its performance, and to check the performance of a file, you should file only 5 times for pushing and pulling at the initial procedure and go the next method. The arrow No. 1 in "Title: Filing String Slot on Nut of Guitar" shows the direction of the pressure on filing in this method.
* For smoothness, I used Vaseline between the nut and the string. However, this wax seems to make a file wrong performance. I recommend to clean the nut before filing, and if a file becomes wrong, clean the file anyway.
4. File the slope of the hilly shape of the slot. I filed same times as the 3rd method, and I applied my left index finger on the sloping shape of the nut. This method is important to ensure that the summit should be on the edge. Otherwise, the contact point between the nut and the string becomes on the inside of the slot, and it affects octave tuning. The arrow No. 2 in "Title: Filing String Slot on Nut of Guitar" shows the direction of the pressure on filing in this method. The circle near the arrow No. 1 indicates the contact point between the nut and the string.
* You can watch the external shape of the nut is also sloping. I think this shape helps to file a hilly shaped slot, i.e., the 4th method can be done with the sloping external shape. If you buy a plane nut, I recommend that you make a external shape like a slot shape at first before filing slots.
5. Clean shavings by a brush, set the string and tune correctly, then check the summit is on the edge. Finally, back to the 1st method. Not to file slots over your intention, you should repeat the 1st to 5th methods frequently, and reduce filing times in one method.
Confirmed approx. 0.6mm distance. This work helps me to play on low frets fingering thinner strings, for example, on D7 chord. I think the playability is actually improved. I think the difference between Gibson guitars and Epiphone guitars is also on adjustments in each factory. I didn't file slots for 5th and 6th strings, and this means the difference can't be seen on your first impression without playing.
Aloha 'Oe (Guitar Solo)
The sound is like a spaghetti, but not a macaroni in fact. However, it's "strict" al dente that is not served by restaurants in Tokyo. Note that this guitar solo is under the score for Ukuleles, but several parts, such as double stops, are arranged for guitars because of the low G on the 4th string. It's played with clean sound on the center position of the toggle, and you can hear chattering with the 1st and the 2nd string. I directly lined my DIY preamp with UCA222.
* (01/29/2021) I updated MP3 file:
I had uploaded raw one once, but I updated the MP3 file to be effected with stereo reverb and amplified to listen well on my phone. I also applied noise reduction. I'm using Audacity for recording and editing. You can hear the crunched peak because electric guitars linearly pick the power of vibrating strings. Although it also comes from settings of my guitar, crunching is the extension of the clean sound. When I asked this character of electric guitars, players used to say "use acoustic guitars". Jazz chords are used to be abbreviated only on 3 to 4 strings not to be crunched. Now, you can hear cleaner sound by electric guitars than ever, and the cleanness comes from technologies, e.g., Hi-Fi (24-bit) recording, excellent noise reduction, etc. These technologies also take Jazz guitars to the Lo-Fi genre in spite of Hi-Fi recording.
* So, I thought to buy a Stratocaster or its Japanese replicas. The replicas have been often adjusted well, and Tokai's one, although its factory is not in Japan, give me excellent playability. However, my work on this post let me rethink the purchase. In fact, pop noises in playing also gave me the thought. However, the story would be on another post, and it seems to come from electrostatic charge of my cloths made of artificial fibers on low ambient temperature in my dry room! (It also seems to be from my dry hands).