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?  

Views: 11253

Reply to This

Replies to This Discussion

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 ...



The Essential Pages

New to Cigar Box Nation? How to Play Cigar Box GuitarsFree Plans & How to Build Cigar Box GuitarsCigar Box Guitar Building BasicsCigar Box Guitar Parts Store

Site Sponsor

Recommended Links & Resources


Cigar Box Amp Mods

Started by Cigar Box Nation in Feature Articles. Last reply by Steve Allen on Friday. 13 Replies

Blog Posts

Mr. Bells

Posted by Stephen Cohen on September 4, 2021 at 12:30pm 0 Comments

Bookie's Poor Man's Dobro

Posted by Steve Bookout on July 18, 2021 at 2:04pm 3 Comments

Get your groove on for free

Posted by François on July 13, 2021 at 3:05pm 1 Comment

Soon to be free to play more

Posted by Danny Gordon on June 14, 2021 at 1:06pm 4 Comments

Latest Activity

Randy S. Bretz posted a photo

Bocote wrap around bridge & 2 pc. nut

Got the bridge and nut finished for the new blk. locust fretless.
1 hour ago
Martin Fisher liked Gary O'slide's video
3 hours ago
Doug Thorsvik commented on Uncle John's video

Make Me Down A Pallet On Your Floor

"One of your best Uncle John! Your unbusy straight ahead playing, soulful singing and harmonica…"
7 hours ago
Cigar Box Blues commented on CLG's photo

High noon and 1/2

"How did you get that beautiful color and paint job???"
8 hours ago
Cigar Box Blues commented on CLG's photo

High noon and 1/2

"How did you get that beautiful color and paint job???"
8 hours ago
Korrigan posted a video

Testing... 1... 2...

I'm in the process of learning to record and mix with the Zoom R24 digital recorder and Reaper digital audio workstation. This is project #1... pray I get be...
8 hours ago
Uncle John commented on Uncle John's video

Make Me Down A Pallet On Your Floor

"Thanks AGP.  The ten year old one is gone.  And I missed the 3 year old one.  Darn,…"
9 hours ago
Rob Uker posted a photo

Campground Ukes

My wife and I have been camps a lot in our trailer in upstate New York. My homemade ukuleles have…
10 hours ago
Darryl Tuttle left a comment for Lee Kelchner
"Did you start to build a guitar yet?"
11 hours ago
James Pobog posted discussions
11 hours ago
Doug Thorsvik commented on Doug Thorsvik's photo

Short Scale Cigar Box Bass

"Thanks very much Ambrose! With the neck pretty much done except for minor lefty to righty…"
13 hours ago
The Cigar Box Guitar Store posted an event

18th Annual Cigar Box Guitar Festival at Huntsville, AL

June 4, 2022 from 11am to 8pm
The world's longest-running CBG festival continues with its 18th year. See More
13 hours ago


© 2021   Created by Ben "C. B. Gitty" Baker.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service

\uastyle>\ud/** Scrollup **/\ud.scrollup {\ud background: url("https://storage.ning.com/topology/rest/1.0/file/get/963882636?profile=original") no-repeat scroll 0 0 transparent;\ud bottom: 25px;\ud display: inline !important;\ud height: 40px;\ud opacity: 0.3 !important;\ud position: fixed;\ud right: 30px;\ud text-indent: -9999px;\ud width: 40px;\ud z-index: 999;\ud}\ud.scrollup:hover {\ud opacity:0.99!important;\ud}\ud \uascript type="text/javascript">\ud x$(document).ready(function(){\ud x$(window).scroll(function(){\ud if (x$(this).scrollTop() > 100) {\ud x$('.scrollup').fadeIn();\ud } else {\ud x$('.scrollup').fadeOut();\ud }\ud });\ud x$('.scrollup').click(function(){\ud x$("html, body").animate({ scrollTop: 0 }, 600);\ud return false;\ud });\ud });\ud \ua!-- End Scroll Up -->