How to eliminate nut pings

If your guitar pings or clicks when you tune up, here's how to solve the issue without nut files.

Why you need this

  • Audible clicks and pings when you tune up or bend strings
  • Unstable tuning

What you need

  • Wet And Dry paper
  • Polishing compound
  • Lubricant

There’s no denying that tuners wear out, but countless vintage guitars have been fitted with Schallers and Grovers that they never really needed. Machineheads are often blamed for unstable tuning when the real cause is friction in the nut slots.

If you haven’t got fret files, wrap some 1000 grit or finer Wet And Dry abrasive paper around the string and use it to smooth the slot

Have you ever played a guitar that makes pinging and clicking noises when you tune up? Or maybe you can feel the string slipping between grooves in the nut slot when you bend it. Listen closely when it happens and most likely, the noises will be emanating from the nut.

Luthiers use special nut files to smooth and finesse nut slots, and most hobbyists will consider a set of nut files too expensive. Instead, take a small piece of 800 or 1,000 grit Wet And Dry abrasive paper, wrap it around the string and push it into the offending slot.

Having masked off the fingerboard and headstock, the nut slots are then polished with Autosol chrome cleaner

The idea is to smooth the surfaces of the slot and not to deepen it. Work the paper back and forth a few times, then pop the string back in to test your progress. Don’t rush this – just be patient and keep checking.

After smoothing and polishing, you can add some lubricant to the slot. Big Bends Nut Sauce is a popular brand and it soaks into bone to keep it slippery

If you manage to improve the slot, try following up with some still finer micromesh. You can even mask off the neck on both sides of the nut and finish off the slot using chrome polish. To further reduce friction, try introducing some lubricant into the slot. Some people use graphite from a soft pencil, while others prefer to use Vaseline. You can also buy specialist guitar lubricants such as Big Bends Nut Sauce or Guitar Grease.

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