Hi All,

I'm replacing the nut and doing a setup on an Epiphone Les Paul.  I'm using a pre-slotted TUSQ nut for the replacement.  Before popping the old nut off it played "ok" without buzzing.  In doing some preliminary measurements the neck had an extreme amount of relief.  I loosened the truss rod completely and clamped the neck into back bow and then tightened the truss rod and got the neck completely straight.  I put in the new nut and proceeded with my setup.  I haven't touched the nut slots with a file yet and with the neck straight I've got a lot of buzzing at the first fret.  I've got the bridge where I want it for good action.  I slowly added some relief.  Even with .010" relief I'm buzzing quite a bit at the first fret with the worst buzzing on the D string.  I hate to have to shim a brand new nut.  How would you all proceed?  Would spot leveling the first fret be an option?  As always any advice is appreciated.  Thank you for your time.

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It's hard to chase these little dragons as they appear.... it's like playing whack-a-mole.  I'd probably start from scratch....take off the nut, then do a fret dress & level on the perfectly straight neck.

Reinstall the nut and, if it needs to be shimmed, so be it.... or make a new one.  Trying to just spot-level the first fret and hope for the best is probably not going to work-out too well. If it doesn't solve the issue, it may create more problems for you.

Be careful, too, of using a triangular fret-height gauge in the leveling process. They have their place to identify the errant high fret, but can't be relied-upon to ensure the plane of the frets as a whole. Particularly, of course, if the questionable fret happens to be the first one.  Hesh Breakstone has waxed eloquently elsewhere on that subject in depth.  

Good luck and have fun! 

Thank you Mike.
Is the guitar buzzing when fretted at the first fret, or is it buzzing on the first fret when played open? Thats an important distinction. If its buzzing when open, then no, you cant just lower the first fret. That will just relocate the buzz. If it is buzzing when played open and nowhere else, your most realistic options are to either shim or replace the nut, then adjust the nut slots as FF shows on with the neck adjusted straight (this method bypasses the neck relief issue, but it doesnt hurt to play it safe).

Issues like this are reason I never install pre slotted nuts: you cant expect them to account for the unique situations that different guitars can present, unless you also expect to do either shimming and/or further slot adjustments. Truth be told, I dont even like working with pre shaped nuts.
Hi Andrew,

Yes, it's buzzing when played open. Otherwise, it plays fine. I'm learning that pre slotted and pre shaped are not necessarily a time saver. Thank you for your reply.
Hi Chris, I'm new around here. But was thinking on your issue. I believe if I were in your position, I would make some paper shims, like from business cards, and slowly shim up the nut until it played correctly. An just use that as a reference to see what needs to be done when you make the next nut from scratch. Sometimes it's nice to know the outcome in advance. And if there is anything else wrong, that should cause it to reveal itself before going further. And if one shim fixes everything, you may decide to go that way.? Just a thought,.

Thank you Russell.

The pre-shaped nut blanks can be a big time saver but - as you note - are not ideal for all situations.  I use them when I can but often wind up working from standard blanks. 

I see a lot of nut slot depth variation in the Epi's which could be a contributing factor.  Suggest you divide and conquer.  Set the action height at something reasonable (.050" to 0.060" measured at the 12th fret) with each string fretted at the first position.  Leave the relief at 0.010" and then measure the height of each string at the first fret.  A reasonable target measurement would be around 0.020".  If the strings are below 0.010" you will likely have buzzing.

Best of luck!

JR, Thank you.  I appreciate the advice.


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