What is the optimum nut height and bridge height combination. What are the best materials to use?

I have been building and experimenting for a couple of years now. 


1) I am curious for peoples thoughts on the best set up heights for the nut and bridge.


2) Having experimented with many materials, what is the best nut material and bridge material?  

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Hi 407bug,

Depends on if you are playing slide.  I like to finger pick and have a neurological deficit in both hands so like to use a hardtail bridge and set the height as low as possible at the bridge to make fretting easier.  I think bone is the best if I'm not using a hardtail so long as I can cut it outside if I need to grind it to size or shape (the smell of power cutting/grinding bone always takes me back to having fillings at the dentist when I was a lad).

It all depends on what you want, really. High action works okay if you want fretless, lower action with frets to avoid 'bending the note' from too much pressure on the string. I like my action about 2mm above the frets on the nut and 3 mm at the bridge, and will gladly dress the frets to get my tone from there-your preferences may vary. Fretless i'll often do 3mm and 4mm-I like low action.

As far as materials-again it depends, but you want something fairly hard for both. Members have used metals,bone,hardwoods, Corian (synthetic countertop material) ivory etc. I like to cut my own nuts and saddles from bone-my Dremel has been slicing off the same $2 pork thigh for months now. My other choices are:

-3/32 brass bolts and nuts-one secured as a nut and one epoxied to the bridge. Bolts and other threaded parts make great pre-cut slots.
-solid oak bridges trimmed to size and notched, matching nut
-bamboo chopstick nut, and broken violin bridge shaved flat for bridge
-commercial bone nut cut in half for narrow-neck Dulcimer, standard Banjo bridge clipped at the corners from 5 string to three string

etc. Lots of choices-although if you've never notched nuts and bridges for strings before, the threaded rod might be the easiest way-feel free to experiment with everything though, because you may notice some slight differences in tone with each-also, if you leave the nut and bridge loose(string tension only holding them in) then you can switch out materials at will.

In short, I don't think there is a 'perfect action' or 'perfect material'. There is just 'industry standard' which can change from one guitar model or type to the next as far as action, and bone for high end/plastic for low end guitars...and '407bug standard' which is Whatever You Want. I do know material hardness inpacts tone somewhat, so just judge with your ears until you like what you hear...

Thanks For the Tips

I have used bolts and like them, I found that a big first fret works quite well and then smaller frets after

and have made a bridge with a bit of mahogany and a fret on top works quite well.

But none of these are ever spot on. I note quite a few guys use ebony nuts as its workable or bone.

As presumably you adjust till its just right.

So at the nut on my guitar looks like 3-4mm that must be what you are aiming at?

Is the neck flat or slightly raked, as a guitar neck has a truss for a slight adjustment, os does your bridge height do this for you?

Maybe I need to dress my frets, as I never do.


I use a short level with a nice flat side of 280 grit sandpaper tape and dress my frets after a black marker high light across the tops of frets to show where the high side is. Each build is different and so my choice of bridge and nut height varies. I enjoy having an adjustable bridge. As far as material used in the nut, I think harder denser is better for tone because it doesn't absorb the strings vibration. So anything from bone, ebony to aluminum and other metals work great. String depth should be sunk less than half into the slots, not buried. All this is personal opinion and subject to what works for you.  

 Bone !!!!  and as far as setup i learned a long time ago the Jim Frets method of dialing in the nut height. I lay a dime on the fretboard and slot the bone nut to the top of the dime. 3/8 bridge height with a thick bone saddle so it also can be dialed in to give you an exact fingerstyle action.     You can`t beat bone nut and bridge with a mag pickup !!

That is cool!
I'm not quite getting how you use the dime?
Under the bridge cut slots then remove?
Ah ok think I get it so your dime thicknessis now fret string clearance.

Randy, Nice set-up would love to hear it. Do you have a video?

You lay the dime on the fretboard up against the nut, I usually make my nuts about 3/8" high or a tad bit higher figuring the fretboard is a 1/4" thick.  [ it`s always easier to make the nut a bit higher and take them down then to have a low nut and not enough left to slot ] The dime is your stopping point when slotting the nut, sometimes it`s needed to deepen the slot if your using low fret wire. But having the slots at an even depth gives you a good starting point.     The one pictured above was a higher nut giving that the angle of the limb neck was steeper. But i`m sure you get the idea. On my limb necks i like having a thicker nut with a tapered back guiding the strings to the tuners. Plus it helps in cushioning the stress on the natural angled peghead.

I get ya now...great tip thanks

we don't have dimes in the uk ...



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