Just finished up my third build, the first with a magnetic pickup, so the first with “electric” GDG strings. I used a bone bridge blank and the “dime above the fretboard” slot depth. As a novice player, I’m surprised how much stiffer the strings seem compared to the acoustic version of the set I have on my Tin Pan Alley guitar. Obviously the action could go a little lower, but how close to I dare get to that first fret?  Considering giving the notches in the nut a bit of reduction. Thoughts?

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My "measuring tool" is a thin pick (it's 0.46mm thick - no idea what fraction of an inch that is...). If you can easily slide it between the strings and the first fret but it doesn't fall out anymore, you're as low as you can go. But this only works if your fretboard is straight and your frets are perfectly level. Otherwise you might get fret buzz way before...

General advice: Go slow with filing the notches in the nut and check for buzzing every few file strokes. I've ruined more than one nut because suddenly I realized that I filed too deep...

Ok, a bit of math not done (because we have google), 1/64” is .40 mm, so a few sheets of paper past 1/64 inchesis a thin pick. so I’ve got an idea what you’re talking about. I’m old enough that I still think in inches, fractions, or thousandths of an inch. Metric smaller than a millimeter I’ve got little feel for, and can’t even guess what it converts to. But we have google or math, lol 

i just fretted at the first fret and noted the thin pick fits just as you describe at the second fret. With the strings open, my first fret is about three times that high, or close, in the neighborhood of 1.2mm. Looks like I’m gonna be loosening the strings to push them aside, and giving the notches some love with the file. Thanks. 

Hi, for my cbg's  I eyeball it. and go by feel.

It can depend on a few things when I set up a customers 6 string electrics. Things I keep in mind are: players style, some players may like to feel some resistance or use a slide

Gauge of strings. heavier gauges can go lower

I don't measure off of the fingerboard because fret heights vary, its the Hight above the fret that is important

My guidelines are measured in thousands and are different for under each string at the first fret [as it is for the strings over the saddle]

For instance, from bass to treble 15, 14, 13,12, 10, 9, thousandths of an inch. slightly higher for and acoustic 6 string. Above the first fret. I use feeler gauges to check my progress.

BUT, we are talking basic CBG's so for me with only 3 - 4 strings I just eyeball it for comfortable playing, and may have to adjust it for the customer anyway. 

For the same gauge string the feel/tension can be different from type or brand due to the tightness or not of the winding and the material used.

Cheers Taff

The thickness of a dime works good for me.  Electric strings play and slide easier and you lose less acoustic volume than most folks think.   Musicians Friend has a brand of Musicians Gear strings that are quite good for about $3 a set.  Spend more than $10 and shipping is free in the lower 48 U.S.  Great place to deal with and if you try a stringed instrument or amp (and lots of other stuff) and don't like it - send it back. 

Hey, you do mean the thickness of a dime and not the standing height?

I used a dime on the fretboard and marked the bone then filed the notches initially. I note now the dime under the strings at the nut still has a bit of clearance. My only frame of reference is the Tin Pan Alley kit with a mounted fretboard on the neck, that uses a zero fret and string “comb” rather than a nut per se. it is much lower and easier to play, but part of that is likely the bronze vs nickel strings. So I’m gonna give it a go with a file again. With my legally blind eyes, this is one operation that is a little tricky, but worst case scenario I scrap out a bone nut. 

Ok guys.  My fingers thank you. I probably took about 1/64 (.015” give or take) off each notch, and I’ve still likely got room for a sheet of printer paper (.003”) under the dime on the fattest G string, and just touching the dime with the high G string. No fret buzz and it feels a bunch better. 

Hi again,. Tip, don't forget to lower the top of the nut so that the strings sit on the slot not down in it. About half the strings diameter above the slot is good. Prevents string sticking in their groove and buzzing in the slots.


Good to know. I just kinda copied some of the contour I could find. A nice ramped wide slot. I’ll look for buzzing. Thanks. 

The above tips only work  for one fret height.

The pros use a pencil cut in half to mark the height of the frets on the nut. Then after making the rough cut they creep up on the ideal height they define by feeling the gap under the string at the first fret when a finger holds the strong down between the 2nd and 3rd fret. Old timey luthiers would aim for a cigarette paper thickness or precisely one gnat's whisker.

Hi, that's dead right Titch, would you believe  I've had the same half a pencil  for marking nuts for over 30 years and still going strong. 

The one I made for the CBG bench is going to last even longer as the nuts are shorter, ha ha.


Hey Bruce, if you have restricted vision this method may help you, I just did this Telecaster nut using it.

Cheers Taff

Thanks. It’s funny, but last night I put “feeler gauges” on my harbor freight shopping list, I realized this was the way to do this (used to set up a terribly worn out milling machine using a similar method) and with my vision, FINDING my feeler gauges, that I haven’t seen in years, would be the hardest part. I’ll do it that way next time. 


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