String Nut – Dress and Profile

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String Nut - Dress and Profile

finished front
The String Nut of a Fender Stratocaster Guitar

Though simple in appearance, the string nut serves a critical function for the instrument. Whether hand made or pre-slotted, it is crucial that it be properly installed, and dressed.

Often, factory made guitars are shipped with a nut that has not been fully slotted and dressed. This sometimes leads players to seek a replacement, when a bit of fine tuning, through a service that we call a “dress and profile”, is typically all that is needed to get the nut working as it should.

A Poorly Dressed Nut

Fender Strat with a poorly dressed string nut

The photo illustrates a common example of a poorly dressed factory installed nut. Though the slots have been cut to roughly the appropriate depth for a comfortable action, an excessive amount of material has been left sticking out above the strings. 

Rather than resting atop a finely tailored notch as they should, the thinner strings in particular have the appearance of being sunken into a deep trench. 

For the best results, we must correct this before performing a setup on the instrument.

The Same Guitar From A Different Angle

Dressing The Nut

Since we will not be removing the nut from the instrument to perform this task, after removing the strings, protective tape is applied to shield the surrounding area from damage. We then work the nut with a series of files to remove the bulk of excess material, reshaping the top profile as we go.

We will also use a fine file to round off any sharp edges or corners that could catch the players hand during use.


Using a File To Remove Material
The Nut After Dressing and Polishing

After cutting the nut roughly to shape using files, we switch to finer sand papers, followed by polish, to give the nut a finished shape and appearance before restringing.

In the finished product the strings are no longer buried inside the nut, but are instead resting on top of it with just enough enough of a groove to hold the string in position during play.

Besides the benefit pf what we find to be an aesthetic improvement, a properly dressed nut will yield a clearer tone from open strings as well as offer better tuning stability.

Picture of Erik Salomon - Calico Guitarworks Owner / Head Technician
Erik Salomon - Calico Guitarworks Owner / Head Technician

Tech Talk articles are part of an ongoing effort to provide clear and detailed answers to common questions about guitar maintenance, modifications, and repairs.
While not intended as a step-by-step guide to servicing your own instrument, we hope that you will find value in the information provided.

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About Calico Guitarworks

Calico Guitarworks is the area’s premier destination for fretted musical instrument care and maintenance. Owned and managed by Erik Salomon, the shop is dedicated to providing quick, honest and reliable service. The staff at Calico Guitarworks has a combined 25+ years of professional guitar repair experience. Sharing the knowledge that we accumulate in this focused pursuit is at the core of what we do. Learn more About Calico Guitarworks, explore our Frequently Asked Questions, or Contact us with a specific request.

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