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Dot action: recommended measurements for nut height and relief?


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Picked up a 2nd-hand dot last month and the first of many improvements is a new nut. The low E string has to be physically pushed in to the slot at present - not ideal but hey I'm not complaining. I kind of expected a few issues with a guitar as inexpensive as this. What I didn't expect, and have been delighted to discover, is that the basic guitar is really quite good and actually a bit of a bargain.


Anyway, I've ordered a new pre-cut, bone nut and need some advice on set up. Let's assume for now that the slots are all properly spaced and have the correct radius of curvature. Anyone know what the slot heights should be? I want to take my time to get this just right; I'll sand material off the bottom and use feeler guages to check height with the nut in place.


Also, if you know what sort of neck relief I should dial in for 10 gauge strings on the gibbie scale that would be useful info too :)

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Neck relief should be between .2 and .5mm ... Most folk generally aim for .3 to .4. .. I don't know in inches sorry. And as for string height at the nut, I usually hold down the string at the3rd fret and see how much the string sits above the fret wire at the 2nd ... you should be aiming for a clearance of about half the diameter of the string.


Hope this is useful, p.s you should check out our DIY section in the information thread pinned above. Loads of great tips and info in there.

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Also, if you know what sort of neck relief I should dial

in for 10 gauge strings on the gibbie scale that would be useful info too :)


In inches I set my neck relief between .008" and .010" using an automotive feeler gauge. It is not written in stone.

What I'm looking for is no buzz when the the string height is at my preferred height.

Also, when adjusting the truss rod I tend to be over cautious.

I loosen the strings. I never turn more than 1/8 turn at one time. Re-tune and let set for a few hours.

Repeat process if needed and never adjust more than 1/4 turn in any given day. (that is quite a bit)

Most use a capo on the first fret and measure while holding the string at the 13th fret. Some hold

the string at the 17th. Others hold where the neck contacts the body.

I like to use one of these:



More setup info:

(in case someone else can use it)



On to nut slot heights:


Even if you have someone else work on your nuts (LOL) you can still check them out yourself.

Presuming your bridge height is set correctly.

The trick is getting the nut slots to the proper depths. Some simply sand the bottom on pre-slotted nuts.

( I do this myself to get the nut to a "general " height)


To determine nut slot depth, there are three basic methods:


1. Pressing on the first fret space and the using the measurement above the

second fret as the desired gap above the first fret when the string is open.

I have used this method successfully for many years.




If you wish to see the above method used on a complete nut replacement, you can find it here:




2. This method involves pressing on the third fret space and measuring the gap above the first fret.

This is probably the most widely used. However, I do not know a definitive measurement for the gap.

This is what I have read:


Fret each string individually starting with the High E between the second and third fret and pull out your feeler gauge out to check

the amount of space between the bottom of the string and the first fret. You should have approximately .005" of space between each one

with the string barely touching the second fret.

(I have also heard the correct measurement is the thickness of a sheet of paper?)

I do not know as I do not use this method.





3. This method involves using a straight edge and feeler gauges:

STEWMAC.COM : Using Feeler Gauges to Control Nut Slot Depth Free information

STEWMAC.COM : Making a Nut, Step-by-Step Free information

I intend to try it sometime as it is likely a very accurate method.


If you do not know what you are doing then I suggest watching someone that does the first time.

If not, you might want to have an extra nut or two around as you practice. Take off a bit to much and you have three choices.


1. Shim the nut.

2. Raise the slot/slots with a mix of baking soda and super glue and try again.

3. Start over with a new nut.


If your G string is catching on your nuts...(or any of the others) You can widen slots with a torch tip cleaner.

Be careful to only widen the slots and not to deepen them, unless that is your intention.




(Available from any welding suply store for under $5.00)


Best of luck,



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3 considerations:


Action (height)

binding or rattle


On intonation, generally, if the nut is too high, the extra pressure required will cause the notes on the frets to get progressively sharper toward the nut. I mention this, because on most guitars, the nut slot may be cut slightly back to compensate, so you may leave the nut a little higher than super-low in order to not have to take some out of the fretbaord to bring the nut closer. Just saying, check this as you go. It sucks to have a perfectly cut nut when the intonation, and thus tuning is off.


On action, the lower the nut slots, the better the action will be all the way up and down. As an example, if the neck and bridge are adjusted perfectly, 1/16" higher at the nut will translate to 1/16' higher no matter where you fret the note. So, low cut nut=low action. In thoery, there is no gain to having the strings higher at the first fret than what the hieght is at the second fret if fretting the first fret. Nuts thought, are usually cut a little higher to not just be safe, but because it's nearly impossible to have it be exactly the same height with different gauge strings.


As for the shape and angle of the slot, there are only 2 considerations: that the string slide easily and not bind, and that it not rattle. To achieve this, firstly: the string should have equal pressure and contact both at the front and back. If the string rest good at the side toward the frets, but tapers off and goes to nothing toward the tuning pegs, it may likely rattle a bit or loose energy where it tapers off. The string, basically, should have solid contact on both sides of the nut.


As for the shape of the cut, you want a soft, rounded "V" shape. If the slot is cut too square, it will rest on the bottom and rattle the sides. If the "V" or radius is too sharp, the sides will tighten on the sides of the string as it goes in the slot. While no one has a mircoscope to see, it's basically this: the string should "roll" toward the center, and/or have 2 points of contact toward the bottom of the string. Too sharp a "v" and the string binds, too soft or square and it moves side to side. So as you go, if you see movement side to side pressing the string, it's too loose, and if it doesn't slide easily front to back, it's too tight.


Happy nut cutting. I usually go for it checking all 3 as it gets closer to the ideal, and shape the top last.

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Well that was worth doing :) The guitar plays so much better with a new nut and a bit of relief. I managed to drop the action quite a bit - the fretboard used to be almost perfectly flat!


If anyone is looking for a nut for a dot, try here (UK). The width and string spacing turned out to be just right so you just need to take a bit off the bottom to adjust the height. I used 360 grit sandpaper and, while I was sanding, I held the side of the nut against a block of wood in order to maintain a perfect vertical/horizontal angle. I'd definitely recommend using feeler guages to measure everything up. Although this isn't a hard job it is precision engineering.


Next step, when I can find the time, will be to have a go at winding some pickups, and swap out the electronics. I'd like to add some coil taps and a series-out-of-phase option.

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