View Full Version : nut and saddle joint files

11-23-2009, 01:22 PM

My husband is the owner of curlykoa.com, a business that sells beautiful sets to all you guitar builders and ukulele builders out there. I can't stand having that wood around without trying to produce some beautiful, quality ukes myself!

It's been years since I took a class in Hawaii and learned the rudiments. I'm setting up shop to finish a couple of instruments we started then.

What size nut file should I buy? (Maybe I need more than one size?) Luthier's Mercantile has Grobet files in .058", .039", .032", .024", and .016". I don't want to go overboard buying tools at this point, but hope to finish the two tenor ukes that are almost ready to assemble before our kids come home for Christmas.

Also I'm getting a minimum amount of fret wire, and selected nickel silver mando-dulcimer wire. Is that what you uke builders typically use?

Thanks, and aloha, Wendy

11-23-2009, 01:47 PM
Welcome Wendy!

Nut files: http://www.ukuleleunderground.com/forum/showthread.php?t=21061&highlight=files

Fretwire: http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=170369486823&ssPageName=STRK:MEWAX:IT

11-23-2009, 02:09 PM
CBgitty, the guy who is selling the fretwire is a good guy to deal with and is well known in the Cigar Box Guitar forum. The per piece price is about the same as ordering direct from Stewart Macdonald, but he packages the Stew-Mac bulk packs in easily manageable 6" segments rather than force you to buy more than you really need. If it's your first time fretting, get his "How To" guide while you're at it.

People have suggested welding torch tip cleaners for files before, so I checked out my local Home Depot. Sure enough, for about $3 you get a handy folding file kit with about 8 different sizes of mini-files perfect for nut grooves.

11-23-2009, 08:14 PM
Aloha Wendy! Welcome to UU!

I'll just go off the deep end and assume since you're already looking at Grobet's at LMI, you understand the value of using good tools the first time.

While I'm not much of a Stew Mac fan anymore, they really have some good (sometimes overpriced) stuff for builders. In the Saddle/Nut department, two of the double edge nut files (.026/.032 and .036/.042) should be good for a Tenor (if you started the class in Hawaii, it was probably a Tenor anyway). I know there are other cheaper ways, but the nut and saddle vise is really good (its the last tool I bought after I "filed up").

Of course a set of feeler gauges (get them at an auto parts store). Paul Okami recommended the string action guage. Trust me, you'll never look at a ruler the same when setting action.

As for Fretwire, you really want to buy long lengths. I use both the 764 and 147, depending on the customer and the build. I use just under two lengths on a 20 fret Tenor. Fretwire is cheap, you don't need to skimp there.

For saddles, I just shape and compensate (and set action) with a flat file and sanding blocks - the top of course. There are a number of member here who set action from the bottom, and don't take the opportunity to reshape the crown. Of course, this leads into what some would call "advanced" setup, and others would consider "necessary".

Hope this helps. Aaron

Matt Clara
11-24-2009, 02:49 AM
I'll just go off the deep end and assume since you're already looking at Grobet's at LMI, you understand the value of using good tools the first time.

We all understand the value of using good tools, but there's also the value of making our rent/mortgage/car payments on time, too...

11-24-2009, 06:55 AM
Thank you all for quick replies and good ideas. This forum is really going to be helpful; I can see that.

I'm pretty lost in this forum formatt. Thought I could refer back to your replies when composing this, but no.

So to the Hawaiian luthier who responded about fret wire: You said you use two different ones (I'll look them up at the LM website). Nobody mentioned a preference for nickel silver or stainless steel. Guess I'll stick with nickel for now.

How about the zero fret? I was taught that way, where you use a heavier fret wire for a "zero" fret at the top of the neck. The strings rest on this which means that perfection in filing the string grooves in the nut isn't so critical. It seemed to me an amateur's solution...but who was I to question my teacher. Any thoughts? Thanks again, everyone. Wendy

11-24-2009, 04:27 PM
Use the "Quote" button to respond back.

The fret wire sizes I gave you are off the StewMac site. I do order from LMI, who has the stainless. Stainless is much harder than nickel, and will eat through your tools faster. Because of the nylon strings, Stainless may be overkill, but, still a great feature nevertheless. I've used the LMI gold on 1 build, and will continue. They're a little harder than nickel, so you have to pay more attention when dressing frets (more so with Stainless). As for size, personally, the larger frets are easier to play, the smaller ones seem faster up and down. YMMV.

Some guys do Zero Frets, like David Hurd (Kawika Ukulele). Never tried it so I don't have anything negative to say. Without the Zero fret seems to work for me (and a host of others). As for slotting the nut with a Zero fret, there still needs to be attention paid to everything except slot depth. The fit, angle, shape etc all play a part in setting up the instrument. Of course, there's no way to tune with the Buzz Feiten System with a Zero Fret, I think.

You may want to visit the Official Luthier's Forum and the Music Instrument Maker's Forum. There are a few `Ukulele builders there, mostly guitar of course, but the techniques transfer over very readily. The search functions will serve you well in both places. Of course, you'll learn that building an `ukulele is decidedly different than a guitar, so not ALL things transfer over.