Nuts, Cables, and Random Observations about Fret Tools

I was a bit tired and tired of basses today, but a package came in the mail from Redco. I thought I had lost my trusted cheapy Mogami instrument cable, but it ended up being at the studio. . . but, I had already ordered parts to replace it. . . 75 feet of Canare L-4E6S Quad mic cable.

I read on the web forum that if you wanted to get super-duper trick, you could use the twisted pair XLR cables and connect the shield to the instrument end of the cable and not at the amp end. . . essentially, you extend the control cavity shielding all the way down the length of the cable. . .so I thought I'd give it a go.

Plugged it in, and what do you know? It sounded like a bass. . . I don't really know if there's any gain to be had with these. . . but, it was worth a go. Plus, if it really works better at shielding, it might save me sometime in a bad room with lots of interference. This cable ended up costing about the same as a high quality instrument cable from the normal sources, but I have a bit more peace of mind when I know all of the solder joints and components in my cable are top shelf.

Next, the nut on #4 was giving me grief during the pickup shootout studio session, so I thought it was time to take care of that once and for all. I don't know how clearly you can see it, but there's a bit too much "custom handmade" going on in this nut. It's pretty impressive. . . behold:

I will be replacing the stock plastic nut with a new custom fit nut starting from a 1/8" flat bottom graphtech TUSQ blank. First I had to thin it a bit to fit into the slot. I just used the 300 grit paper that was on the side of my leveling block.

Once the nut was able to fit into the slot, I needed to trim it to length. I figured the E side would need to be a little higher, so I decided to just scoot it over to that side and cut on the E side with a file.

The Norman fret file system came with a little laminated print-out to help set string spacing, so I just gave that a go.

Then, I extended my mark perpendicular to the bottom

Then, using the smallest file, I started my initial cuts.

Then, I widened them out with the appropriate sized file.

All polished up . . .a drop of crazy glue under the nut and I'm good to go. I'm guessing this is as good a nut as any. The only gripe I have is the Norman files loaded up with teflon or whatever slippery stuff is in this nut and became really difficult to cut with even though these are plastic. . . . . plastic. . . anyways. If these files will no longer cut right I'm going to have to talk with the seller. This is the first nut on this file set. It should be cutting like butter.

Some observations about tools. . .

Norman nut file system do not buy this tool. I have requested refund via Ebay on these. The metalurgy on these are not suitable for production work and they dull WAY too fast. 1/2 of a simple plastic Graphtech nut and they're toast.

I'm going to be placing an order with Stewmac:

4551 Gauged Nut Slotting Files - 0.065" width $14.79

5313 Gauged Nut Slotting Files - 0.046" width $12.95

5314 Gauged Nut Slotting Files - 0.085" width $14.79

4546 Double-edge Nut Files - 0.105" / 0.120" $25.45

These tools total out to $67.98. The Norman system was $60 and I think the purchase was a bit penny wise, pound foolish. If you're only going to do a couple of nuts, you can still buy quality tools and sell them when you're done.

As for the other essential fret tools I have been using, here are some thoughts.

Fret files. . . ~$37 Stewmac standard steel crowning file works well and will probably last a lifetime if taken care of. . . no regrets there. It takes some finesse to use these really well. Chatter pisses me off but that's the nature of the beast.

Ebay cheapy dual side 150 grit/300 grit diamond file. . . ~$37. . . if you are only doing 3-5 instruments, this tool will be ok, but the crown pattern is not cut as cleanly on the tool and the diamonds will start to fall off. This tool is not "forever", but it does leave significantly less chatter than the steel file. I've been using this file a lot and will use it until it dies.

But, what I REALLY should have done from the beginning is just put down money for the Stewart Macdonald diamond file to begin with. Again, if you're only going to do a couple of basses, you can still sell the tool when you're done.

Stewmac 16" precision leveling block. . . full of win. I use it with the 300 grit 3M sticky back sandpaper.

Stewmac notched 2' straight edge. . . I reach for this tool all the time. I bring it with me when I'm checking out an instrument to purchase.

Stewmac Fret Rocker. . .. awesome diagnostic tool. REALLY nice to have in the backpack or gig bag especially when you are trying out an instrument you intend to purchase. This tool finds things that would be really hard to detect any other way.

Cheap Ebay fret pullers. . . get the job done and I see no problems with continuous use.

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