A quick and elegant trick
Fast & Easy Nut Shim
© Frank Ford, 4/22/98; Photo by FF, 1997

This is a really quick trick that's saved me a lot of work.

Here's the scene:

You've strung up the instrument and the nut is just a teeny bit low. All you need is a couple of thousandths more height at the nut. You want the job to go fast and look good when you're through.

Here's what I do:

I take one of those computer mailing labels off the roll and lay it on my cutting board, sticky side up. I simply stick the bottom of the nut to the label and cut around it with my sharpest knife:

Bingo! I have my taller nut and I can simply install it as usual. I don't have to worry about the shim being too visible because it's quite thin and white so you'll hardly notice it from the side view.

Not high enough? Just stick it back on another label and trim it again.

How high can you go? Well, that's a matter of judgment and depends a lot on the instrument. I believe the most important consideration is the appearance, so I'll shim pretty high if I need to on cheap instruments or ones in bad cosmetic condition.

I don't think there's an effect on the sound because I glue the nut very firmly in place at the end of the fingerboard, so it's not resilient in its mounting.

Sometimes I'll test fit the nut and find it fits perfectly so I'll glue it right in place without taking the strings off, running thin cyanoacrylate glue at the very end of the fingerboard. The glue wicks right into the space between the nut and fingerboard. If things go right, there's almost no cleanup. I'll just wipe off the excess with a Q-tip dipped in acetone. Naturally there's a risk of damaging finish, so this trick is for experienced hands.

A much safer method is to simply glue the nut before restringing. In either case I glue the nut as strongly as I can to the end of the fingerboard only, with no glue under or behind the nut. A sharp blow toward the peghead will easily knock the nut loose for future work.

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