There are a couple schools of thought on where the nut slot on a fingerboard should be placed. LMI’s standard for years has been option #1 below. This will continue to be the norm on our Pre-slotted/Pre-radiused fingerboards with the exception of the boards that have a Fender-style nut slot. These “ready to ship” boards come with the nut slot cut into the board, you simply remove the material from the nut slot and you are ready to go.
Our custom fingerboard services now allow for a choice of either option #1 or #2. This blog will help you understand the difference between the two options so you can make the best choice for your building style. Option #3 is not available on custom slotted boards, but we do have a couple of options available in our Pre-slotted/Pre-radiused fingerboard selection.
#1 – The LMI Standard moves the kerf back half the width of the slot. Our slots are .024”, so we move it back .012”. This puts the string’s breakaway point (the edge of the nut) at “true zero”.
#2 – The “zero fret” option places the nut slot so that it is centered at the zero point of the scale. This works for those who install a zero fret – a fret at the nut position (with the actual nut getting placed just behind it to position the string spacing and guide the strings towards the tuning machines). Some players like a guitar with a zero fret as it helps eliminate the tonal differences between fretted and unfretted notes.
Some luthiers like this option because if they cut the fingerboard off at the zero position, this leaves the edge of the fretboard half the width of the slot (again, .012”) closer to the bridge. They do this to add compensation to the nut in an attempt to achieve greater intonation between fretted and unfretted notes. With the nut being slightly higher than the 1st fret, tension is added to the notes when the 1st and subsequent notes are fretted. Compensation is added to help reduce the subtle dissonance created by this tension.
Not all luthiers agree that nut compensation is needed. According to Cat Fox of Sound Guitar Repair in Seattle “The nut slots should be cut so that they are as low as a fret would be. That’s why zero frets work. That’s why capos work. If the truss rod is adjusted so that there is .010 clearance at the center of the board between the string and the fret, everything works out perfectly. It all depends on correct neck relief”. So Luthiers who follow Fox’s thinking (and there are many) would order option #1, above.
#3 – On Fender electric guitars, the 1/8” wide nut is inlaid into the fingerboard so that the fingerboard wood can be tapered down into the headstock. The slot is cut 1/8” deep and the forward edge of the slot is set back, as in option #1 above. This option is not available for custom slotted boards, but we offer a couple of options in our Pre-slotted/Pre-radiused fingerboard offerings.