When is cutting a new nut necessary?


I walk the line
Unless you're having a problem that you can directly link to it, when do you do it?

If you're going down in string guage, how big of a difference does it have to be before you consider a new one?

When you get a new (used) guitar, and you don't know what it had been cut for in the past, is there something you use to gauge it?
I'm no expert but without a problem that I can directly link to the nut, I'm probably not going to touch it unless it looks really old and worn.
Strings should be half-in/half-out - each string channel in the nut would be a semi-circle profile,
so if any looks much deeper than that or substantially worn in any other way, I'll probably put in a new nut.
If the nut's in good nick without obvious wear, that can give you a good idea what it was cut for.
You probably get gauges for this stuff - I'm not that advanced. :ROFLMAO:

Whether moving down a string gauge is worth a new nut depends how well done the nut was, and for what gauge, in the first place.
With a new-used guitar there's a good chance we don't even know what it was set up for in the first place so I'd just use my ears and eyes.
If everything looks snug and nothing's buzzing, I'd leave it alone.

snow lizard

Dedicated Slacker
Unless it's obviously damaged in some way you might consider replacing the nut if it's not made from bone or Tusq for tone reasons. There is a way to check the relief of the nut with feeler gages. Stew Mac and others have some good videos on youtube. If it's too tall it will be difficult to fret the strings near the nut and will mess with intonation. The string grooves could be filed down with nut files. If it's too low it will be difficult to get a decent setup on the guitar without fret buzz. There's a trick to build the height back up with baking soda and super glue if that seems like a neat idea. Stew Mac has a video on that as well, but it's easy and cheap to just buy a Tusq nut with the string grooves already cut for your style of guitar. You still have to get the old nut out without damaging the finish and shave the bottom of the new nut down to the correct height before gluing it in.

I don't think going down in string gage would be too much of an issue unless the grooves are already too wide. Going up to heavier strings might make it necessary to widen the string grooves.

If the G string on your Gibson keeps going out of tune there's a way to feather the nut groove on a slight angle towards the tuning peg to keep it from snagging.
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There once was a note
If its a Stratocaster with a non locking tremolo system, the nut is crucial, how it's cut, the string gauge, the lubrication, etc. On the rest of my guitars I notice a difference changing string gauges, which I do often, because I use several different tunings. I just deal with the fact that using .013's on my acoustic are pinched in the nut and .011's are a bit loose. Varying more than that would be really annoying. I think if you buy a new guitar you should be able to tell how the strings feel pulling through the nut. I'm a perfectionist so the nut height is also crucial to making your action optimum. If the nut is cut to high you can't get a good angle for low action, if its too low, the open chords will buzz.


Well-known member
Dropping one gauge has never caused me a issue. Going up a gauge, might cause a binding issue, which often means tuning issues for me when I do bends. Over the past few years, I've moved a few of my guitars from 10s to 9s. I didn't change the nuts on any of them.