Bob Flesher Minstrel Banjo Kit

Cutting the Nut Slot

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As I was fooling around with the neck, I noticed, Yikes!, no nut slot. The neck was supposed to have a nut slot cut into it. Here is a photo.

No Slot

Well, it can't be too hard to cut a nut slot. So, here goes.

The problem was that I did not know how big or deep the nut slot was supposed to be on this banjo. So I did some research. I measured the nuts on a couple of my other banjos. The nut on my Bart Reiter is 1/8 inch wide and the slot is 3/16 inch deep. The nut on my Fairbanks & Cole banjo is 1/8 inch wide and the slot 1/8 inch deep.

I also went out on the web and found photos of Boucher style minstrel banjos and tried to estimate the width of the nut from the photos of the pegheads. My point of reference was the width of the nut slot measured on the computer screen relative to the diameter of the pegs where they stick up from the peghead. By assuming that the pegs on the other banjos were the same diameter as the pegs on my banjo, I came to the conclusion that the nut width was just about 1/8 inch on those other banjos as well.

So I decided to cut the slot 1/8 inch wide and 1/8 inch deep. I did not want to make the slot too deep for fear of weakening the neck.

Before beginning to saw the slot, I clamped the neck down to the table. Here is the rig:


Think that clamp is big enough for the job? LOL. It is a bit of overkill, but it is unlikely that it will mar either the neck or the table. I put very little pressure on the neck, and clamped it down into my neck support block to keep it safe. I made the neck support block when I built my Goldtone banjo. Here is a photo of it:

Neck support

Then, I marked off where the nut slot is to be cut.


I marked the slot on the slanty part of the neck where it just begins to angle down from the fingerboard. This will make the slot slightly less than 1/8 inch deep on the side toward the pegs, but that should not matter much.

Once I had the slot marked out, I cut the wood out using my fret saw. Here is a photo of the saw that I used.

Fret Saw

The official purpose of this saw is to cut slots for the frets in the neck. I am using it to cut the nut slot because it is the right size for the job. The saw has two blades with it which are different sizes. As it is shown in the photo, I have installed the smaller of the two blades. If you do not have a fret saw, you could probably do this work with a 32 TPI coping saw.

Then, I sawed the neck at the pencil markings, splitting the lines with the saw.


I made multiple cuts across the neck inside of the slot to remove as much of the wood as possible. Here is what it looked like.

Multiple cuts

Now I have to remove the waste wood from the slot. I have no chisel that is small enough to fit inside of the slot, so I just dragged a larger saw through the slot a few times. After all, a saw blade is really just a bunch of tiny chisels all lined up in a row, right?

Big saw

Why didn't I just saw it with the big saw in the first place? I was able to be more precise with the smaller saw, and the big saw blade is thinner than the nut slot, so I was just using it to take out some of the waste wood. I finished the slot off with my chisel, straightening up the sides.


Here is what the slot looks like after I am done with the chisel.


As a final touch, I squared up the bottom of the slot using a file.


That's it. One nut slot cut. Whew! That was more work than I had anticipated. But I still had some time left, so I decided to go ahead and make the nut blank and fit it into the slot.

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Last updated June 25, 2006