How To Cut A Guitar Nut

One way of modifying your guitar is changing out the nut; so many guitarists need to know how to cut a guitar nut. This can be a complicated process if you lack any prior experience in wood work, but can be accomplished with some patience and hard work.

What you will need:

  • A material to use for the nut (ivory, plastic, etc.)
  • Sand paper (various grits from 100 up to 300)
  • Gauge saw
  • Vice grips
  • Pencil
  • Ruler
  • Set of strings for guitar
  1. Start by making a “rough draft” of the nut shape. Use the 100 grit sandpaper for this part of the process.  To know how big to make your nut, start by placing it in the nut slot and trace a line where the nut and fret board meet on the guitar. Add .25-.3 inches to this line and that is about how tall the nut should be for that specific guitar.
  2. Using the pencil, mark the places where you will cut for the strings to go. The marks for the high and low E strings should be about .3 of an inch away from the edge of the fret board. The rest of the strings should be about .5 of an inch away from the string on either side.
  3. Now it’s time to make the incision in the nut for the string placement. Start by placing the nut into the vice grip with the marked areas facing up towards you, this will make it easier to make a straight cut. Make a small cut on each mark with the gauge saw that is no more than .5 of an inch.
  4. Place the nut in the nut slot with the incisions facing towards you. Take your new set strings a string them through the guitar as you normally would, this is what will till you how deep and wide to cut.
  5. Pull the strings tight over the nut but do not put them through the tuner pegs. Using this as a reference cut the incisions deep and wide enough so that they are just a bit bigger than the whole string itself. Repeat this for all incisions on the nut.
  6. Mark where the nut overlaps the fret board on the sides of the neck. This will tell you where the excess material is and where to cut.
  7. Put the nut in the vice grips again. This will hold it tight for the last step.
  8. Cut on the last reference point you made. This will give you a nice, clean nut. 
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