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I have a nice acoustic Seagull SM-6 that I love playing but the intonation is slightly off between the open C and D chords. The nut slot depth can have a great deal to do with intonation and playability, so I assume that there may be an issue in how the nut was cut for the SM-6.

After looking at several options, including: adjusting the slots on the existing nut; installing a compensated nut, and installing a Zero Glide zero fret. I decided that the Zero Glide zero fret system was the best way to go. It gets good reviews, does not alter the guitar (other than swapping out the nut), is inexpensive ($20-30), is easy to install and doesn’t require bizarre tuning (e.g., Buzz Feiten).

The Zero Glide nuts come in a range of sizes for acoustics and electrics so it was pretty simple to find the correct nut for my application.

Tools:

  • Basic hand tools – whatever you need to get the old nut off and cut the new fret wire
  • Sand paper – I used 100 grit
  • Digital calipers – optional, but makes the sanding much less iffy.

Safety:

  • Sanding the nut material will produce some dust. If you are sensitive to dust, be sure to wear a mask.
  • Watch out for your finger tips when sanding. You can get down several layers of skin before you know it!

Step 1: Remove Old Nut and Prep Nut Slot

Most people should be able to do this entire install without totally removing their strings. They just need to be out of the way while you are working. Plus it makes the dry fit and testing phase a lot quicker and painless.

Nuts are usually held on with just a drop or two of super glue. It should pop off without much resistance. If the nut seems to be welded in place, take it somewhere for a second opinion before going any further. There may be a screw anchor or something else that’s holding it in place.

Step 2: Sand Down New Nut

This step takes the longest and is the most critical in the success of this upgrade. I recommend using a caliper of some sort to measure things. You can eyeball it, but it’s more fun to run up to Harbor Freight and get a $10 digital caliper.

  1. Adjust width of new nut
    1. Measure old nut width – 45.90 mm
    2. Measure new nut width – 47.33 mm
    3. Calculate the difference – 1.43 mm
    4. Divide by 2 so you know how much to take off each end - 0.715 mm/end
    5. Make a note of how far down you need to sand for each end
      1. End 1 – Sand down to 46.62 mm
      2. End 2 – Sand down to 45.90 (the width of the old nut)
  2. Adjust depth of new nut – Sand down the bottom of the new nut until the upper lip of the Zero Glide nut is even with the fret board. The lower lip keeps a channel open for the new fret to slide in.
    1. NOTE: This is the most critical step of the entire installation process. Take your time and make sure you don’t sand the bottom unevenly. I took frequent measurements to adjust my pressure and angles as I sanded.
  3. Sand down sharp edges as needed to finish up the nut.

Step 3: Prep Zero Fret and Final Install

The key to the Zero Glide is the included zero fret. The fret tang is actually offset to one side so that the string break from the nut will be at the exact same place as it would be with the original nut. Otherwise the intonation would be off. So for this step you just want to:

  1. Determine which fret size works the best for you
    • You can dry fit each of the included frets at this point and restring/tune the guitar to see which one you like the best. Just make sure you are setting the fret in the slot with the correct orientation.
      • Narrow side toward the tuners
      • Wide side on the fret board
  2. Cut the fret to the correct length
  3. Smooth out the edges
  4. Check fit
  5. Glue in place with cyanoacrylate glue (“superglue”). You only need a little bit. Two drops for the nut and one for the fret should be plenty. Avoid letting the glue seep out the edges.
  6. Let it set with the strings installed and in tune for a while so the glue can totally set and that’s it!

Step 4: Closing Thoughts

The Zero Glide zero fret system is an easy upgrade for just about anybody. I immediately noticed the improvement in playability, tuning and intonation. The intonation is still SLIGHTLY off, but it’s a significant improvement from what it was before. I personally feel this is the best upgrade I have done for this guitar.

Things to consider:

  • It WILL change the tone of the open strings and sound more like a capo’d guitar. If you don’t want that, then do not install this.
  • You can always go back to your old nut if you don’t like it.
  • It’s a very affordable upgrade – twenty to thirty dollars depending on your vendor.
  • It’s easy to do yourself if you have the time, ability, materials and tools needed. If I wasn't do this Instructable and taking pictures, it would probably been about a 1 hour (or less).

Now that I’ve done this for my 6 string Seagull, I’ll probably end up doing the same thing to my 12 string Seagull. The intonation is better on the 12 string, but the Zero Glide system will definitely make it easier to play an F barre chord on that monster!

Thanks for reading and please let me know if you have any comments or suggestions.

About This Instructable

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Bio: I'm just a compulsive DIYer that plays guitar and tries to fix just about everything around the house and garage. Sometimes I even succeed!
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