BYO - string spacing at the nut?


The build is a 670-scale petite bouche.

What's the standard string spacing at the nut?

  • Would anyone recommend something along these lines: (?)

(this is from a StewMac page)

Thanks guys.


  • jaredjared New
    Posts: 25

    The widely-available Selmer 807 plan shows a width of 46mm at the nut. 1.75" nut width is common on many steel-string guitars and that is 44.45mm. Somewhere around 44 or 45 is more comfortable for me so I do that. The whole point of building your own is to do what you want and like. Proportional spacing is definitely the way to go. A good player will usually feel poor string spacing quite quickly. The nut/bridge spacing ruler from Stew Mac is a bit expensive, but is one of the best time-saving, quality-improving tools I ever bought.

    bluemovesBill Da Costa Williamsbillyshakes
  • bluemovesbluemoves New
    Posts: 41

    Thanks Jared, what is the spacing between each string?

    (I imagine it would be different between them all with proportional spacing but I can't afford the magic ruler so probably will have to go with 'standard'..)

  • jaredjared New
    edited July 14 Posts: 25

    That totally depends on how far in from the outside edges you want to be for top and bottom E. .About 3mm or tiny bit less is common. Measuring isn't necessarily the best way to get at this string spacing thing. The numbers are too small for rulers. You'd have to measure those distances between strings with a fine vernier caliper. Such a caliper would cost at least as much as what the string spacing rule costs and you have already mentioned that money is an issue. I don't know about you, but neither my eyes nor my ruler can actually measure any finer than about .25mm and even after making many, many guitars I find I have no need of a caliper such as would be required to do this. If you have one, that is great; locate the outside strings and then move the other 4 around and measure until the distances between are equal.

    You can do this many ways with just your eyeballs, a super fine pencil, and a razor knife for marking. Here a a few options:

    • draw it out on paper until it looks right and then transfer to the nut by cutting through the paper with a razor knife
    • draw directly on the nut with a very fine pencil. Erase and redraw until it looks right.
    • use one of the many images out there on the internet that you could scale with any word processor until it fits your desired width. There are also paper version of the string spacing rule.
    • put the strings on with enough tension so they kind of stay in place and move them around until it looks right, then lift them one by one and mark the centers.

    Try watching a bunch of videos on "making a guitar nut" and you'll see a host of other possible ways of doing this.

    Check, double check, go away for 5 minutes, check again before you cut slots. A little baking soda and crazy glue fixes a multitude of sins if (when) you mess up.

    Musical Instrument Maker's forum will also have loads of posts on this subject in their archive.

    The "standard" spacing IS even spacing (or very close to even spacing) between outside "edges" of the strings. IMO even spacing between string centers is really just poor thinking/design/workmanship. It generally feels really crowded on the bass side of things. Of course there is no accounting for taste and the various odd things that people might get used to.

    If you ever plan to make a second guitar, save your money and buy the tool. These things didn't exist when I started building and so I waited a long time after they came out before I bought one. I shouldn't have. It paid for itself on the first use in time and mitigation of eyestrain and frustration and in increased quality and accuracy. There is an unbranded version of the Stewmac one out there for less money. It works for spacing at the bridge too where the same problem comes up.

  • billyshakesbillyshakes NoVA✭✭✭ Park Avance - Altamira M10
    Posts: 552

    You guys who make these BYO posts continue to inspire me. I don't have any of the tools, nor do I have the time in my current life to do this, but I feel like I do when I go down the youtube rabbit hole and find all these cool methods and tricks for how everyday things are built or done. I would have never thought to consider string spacing, be it equal or proportional. But now that I know there is a difference that exists, I believe my life is enriched. It is like seeing color when before I only knew gray. Thanks for sharing your craft.

    rudolfochristBucoBill Da Costa Williamsjared
  • BonesBones Moderator
    Posts: 3,106

    I make the empty space between each string the same. I guess that is what Stew mac calls Proportional. That is pretty typical I don't really think anyone does it by just marking the equal distance on the nut and then cutting the slots.

    You take the neck width at the nut, subtract the spacing from the edge of the fingerboard/nut to the OUTSIDE EDGE of the low and high E strings, then subtract the diameters of all the strings. Then divide that result by 5 (for a 6 string guitar). The result is the spacing between all adjacent strings. The spacing BETWEEN each pair of adjacent strings is the same. I hope that is clear it's a bit hard to explain. I think it is easy to confuse the term "equal spacing". That means the distance from the CENTER of each string is the same. THAT IS NOT RIGHT. I think what Stew mac is calling "proportional spacing" means the distance between each adjacent pair of strings is equal, which is the "correct" way to do it.

    As far as accuracy, I use a caliper, a scale (i.e. "ruler") isn't accurate enough.

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