The Spacklehoss Don't Do It Yourself Squier '51 Nut Replacement.
OK. So if you have read the Pickguard thing you should know the the drill.
You really should take your guitar to some Guitar Tech Guy. They would probably do a better job. My way is wordy and complicated. So don't change your nut. Don't change your pickups. Don't even think about setting your intonation. You could hurt yourself. You could hurt your siblings. You could hurt your Cocker Spaniel. Spacklehoss.com is not responsible for any damage to your precious $100 Squier '51, yourself, your pet turtle or your uncle's Jefferson Airplane vinyl collection. Spacklehoss.com is just not responsible for any, single thing that you do. Proceed at your own risk!
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Here are the sites that helped me out:
The Squier 51 Modders Forum
Stewart-MacDonald Nut Info
And of course this book:
The Guitar Handbook by Ralph Denyer
An amazing guitar resource. Buy it! Buy it!
So on this black Squier '51 I have cut a new pickguard and now I am going to change the nut. Most people think that the stock Squier '51 nut is garbage. I had not thought anything about the nut until I got blackie #2 and it had this buzz on the high E that I just could not get rid of. So I order three Graph Tech brand Fender Pre-slotted nuts from StewMac (part #1866). I figured I would mess up the first two, three's the charm. I also bought one Graph Tech blank just in case.
So yes, the the Graph Tech pre-slotteds have different string spacing than the stock one. But not enough to matter in my opinion. More on this later.
First thing, I measured the string height on the stock nut. I measured the distance from the bottom of the string to the fretboard on the low and high E strings right at the nut. They both came out to be just about 1/16" from the fret board to the bottom of the string on both. A hair higher on the low E.
Next we have to get the old nut out.
You will need to secure your neck. I just cut a "V" in a chunk of wood, lined the "V" with some old t-shirt and clamped the "V" block to the bench. The neck is just resting in the "V". Some sort of vice might work too, just make sure it's padded and don't tighten it at all. It just has to hold it still.
Most of this is just the way StewMac describes. You have to score around the old nut to prevent chipping the wood around the nut.
Next, after applying some of that cool blue 3M tape simply tap the nut very gently in both directions with a block of wood and a mallet or hammer. I used a rubber mallet and it tapped very gently. Remember, gentle taps.
Worked like a champ. After the taps and a little wiggling the nut popped right out.
I also took a small chisel and tried to scrape out as much of the old nut glue as I could. Just the glue! Don't modify the wood in the groove. You just want the bottom of the groove smooth and flat.
This was the first time I ordered anything from Stewart-MacDonald. The on-line ordering was easy, the shipment came when expected and the parts were individually wrapped! They need to open one on the West Coast! Preferably in the OC.
And like I also said before. Different string spacing.
The profile is slightly different also, 7-1/4" versus 9-1/2".
So 1.650"(1-5/8") and 1.685(1-11/16")? The Graph Tech turns out to be just what StewMac says. It works out that I will need to take .018" (about 1/64") off each end to make it the same size as the stock nut.
String spacing is 1.350" (1-23/64") versus 1.370(1.375)" (1-3/8") A difference of less than 1/32".
So nothing really all that big or noticeable between the lengths or spacings. There is a slight difference in the radius. To some, this may be a big deal, but not to me.
Back to string height. So 1/16" is what I aimed for when I started sanding.
I clamped a piece of 220 grit sandpaper to an old flat steel block and started to sand the bottom of the new nut. This might not be the best way to keep the paper flat but it worked for me. A really flat piece of wood would work too.
I sanded, compared it to the old nut and sanded again. Lather, rinse, repeat. I just tried to stay flat.
Here is what it looked like after some sanding.
Here it is again with the stock nut. Almost there.
So a very slight difference. Maybe 1/64" at the most in the profile. And after I got the profile and what I thought would be close for the string height, I reinstalled the nut and tuned 'er up. The low E was a little high so, I loosened the strings and pulled the nut back out and sanded it until I got the right height for both the low and high E. I had to do this a couple of times. I took small bites.
After I was happy with the height I sanded 1/64" off of each end and rounded the tops with 320 grit sandpaper. I wiped a little spit on the ends and they looked smooth and finished.
After it was sanded to the right height and length. I reinstalled the nut, tuned up the strings and made one last check. Then, I loosened everything up again one last time and pulled out the nut. I applied a VERY THIN layer of Elmer's White Glue to the flats on the bottom of the nut and pushed it back into place. The glue does not need to be monster strong glue, and I did not want the glue to damage the wood of the slot in case I had to remove the nut in the future. I tuned it back up and let it sit a couple of hours.
So yes, it works great and it stopped the buzzing. And I think the black looks cool too.
Now on to the Intonation