Photo 7

Here’s how that works: First remove the nut by gently tapping it on the fretboard side with a flathead screwdriver and small hammer (Photo 7). Next, clean up the nut slot by removing the excess glue with a small chisel or razor knife, and then scrape any glue off the nut.


Photo 8

Now super-glue the nut onto a thin piece of mahogany (Photo 8). For this kind of shim, I use a .020" thick piece of wood. Trim off the excess wood around the string nut with a razor knife (Photo 9). Install the string nut and secure it with one drop of super glue on the face of the nut between the 4th and 3rd strings.


Photo 9

Retune the guitar and then beginning with the 1st string, measure the action at the 1st fret. Remember, this measurement is from the top of the fret to the bottom of the string. Using gauged nut files, recut each slot so its corresponding string sits at the new target height of 2/64" above the 1st fret. One at a time, slowly deepen each slot, carefully maintaining the angle of the string as it heads toward the tuner. After a few passes with the file, place the string in the slot, retune, and measure the action at the 1st fret again. Repeat this process for each string using the proper nut file for each string gauge.

Adjust the pickups. After you change the action on a guitar—especially to this degree—it’s a good idea to adjust the pickups to make sure the treble-to-bass and string-to-string balance is how you want it.

First start with overall pickup height. Hold the 1st and 6th strings down at the last fret and measure the distance from the bottom of the strings to the top of the pickup. The distances in this table provide a good starting point for humbuckers.

Treble side

Bass side

Bridge pickup

2/32"

3/32"

Neck pickup

3/32"

4/32"

The next step is to adjust the individual pole pieces using a small flathead screwdriver (Photo 10). The goal here is to create an even and consistent string-to-string balance.


Photo 10

Begin with the 5th string pole piece and adjust it to match the volume of the 6th string. Raising the pole piece will make a string louder and vice versa. Then move to the 4th string and compare it to strings 6 and 5. Continue working across the strings, checking them relative to each other and making small tweaks as necessary. Typically, the 3rd string is the loudest, so don’t be surprised if you wind up lowering it below the pickup cover to keep it in balance with the other strings.

It’s a wrap. The final step to complete the project is install a new set of strings, tune to pitch, and adjust the intonation. If you need instructions for checking and adjusting the intonation, read “How to Install a New Tune-o-matic Bridge.”

With the string height and pickups adjusted for playing slide, our project Les Paul is ready to return to its owner. But before he carts it off, I’ll listen to him play and see if the bridge height and pickup pole pieces are dialed in to his satisfaction. If you set up your own guitar for double duty, you may find yourself making small adjustments after playing it for a few days. That’s the beauty of being your own tech, right? That said, if you’re not confident you can safely work with glue, files, and other tools around your guitar, take it to your local pro.