WAIT! WHAT? Don’t fail to read the Comments below this article. After a few weeks, I’ve changed my opinion on these files!

An unbiased review of nut file sets is what I needed last month when I was shopping for a nut file set for my son, Dave, who is just getting into guitar repairs and setups.

I was intrigued by the MusicNomad set with sixteen files of every size from 0.010″ to 0.130″, but several customer reviews said the files wore out very quickly, even after just one or two jobs! So I bought Dave the same Stewmac nut file set that I’ve been using for nearly ten years, now priced at about $125.

True, they don’t cut as fast as they used to, though they still get the job done after over a thousand nut file jobs! And they come with some “cons”, which I’ll get into shortly, but nearly everything is a compromise of some sort.

Did those customer reviews reflect the opinion of experienced guitar techs, or hobbyists who may not realize that different nut materials are harder to file than others? I guess I’ll find out, in time.

So how did I happen to buy the Music Nomad nut file set that costs twice as much as the Stewmac nut files? Until recently, I’ve tried to stay clear of acoustic guitar work. I work from home and it’s just over one thousand square feet in total area. You can store two electric guitars in the space that one acoustic guitar takes, so it was a no-brainer for me to avoid acoustics.

When I did get the occasional acoustic guitar, I’d just double-up nut files to get the width needed, then come back with the next smaller size to round out the bottom of the nut slot.

Hank’s “Guard Dog”!

Well, “Nuts to that!”, I said yesterday, and ordered the MusicNomad nut file set from Amazon. The package appeared on my porch at 4:55am, setting the alarm system off and our guard dog barking viciously. (See photo of guard dog!)

I really appreciate delivery people and the safety and convenience they offer. And I understand it’s a grinding, demanding job with less than spectacular pay… BUT 5am!?!?!?

My Stewmac Nut Files

Paid a hundred bucks and been using them nine years and counting. That’s gotta be over a thousand nuts filed, and they’ve been my go-to nut file set until this morning.

The Good:

Long-lasting – The fact that they’ve lasted all these years, says a lot. And they’re covered under Stewmac’s lifetime warranty.

The Bad:

Sharp corners of nut file can scratch headstocks!

Size Range – It’s the set for “Light Strings” (0.010″, 0.013″, 0.016″, 0.024″, 0.032″, and 0.042″), meaning I have to double up a 32 and a 16 for low-E 10-gauge string sets, or use a welding tip cleaning file to widen slots after filing for depth. Filing nut slots for acoustic guitars is a PIA. And I had to buy a separate set for bass guitars.

Costs – Stewmac sells nut file sets in three sizes for guitar – Light, Medium and Heavy and your choice of four or five string nut files for bass. I’d have to buy four Stewmac nut file sets, spending nearly five hundred dollars to cover the spectrum that one Music Nomad nut file set covers at half the price.

My 3d-printed storage box

Damage Control – Stewmac nut files can easily damage the finish on a headstock. Painters tape is insufficient protection since files go through tape like Joey Chestnut goes through hot dogs! Nut slots should be filed at a downward angle from the nut to where the string meets the tuner post, meaning that your file is always aiming at the headstock. I’ve had to use plastic, like cut-up string gauge or old credit cards to protect headstocks from Stewmac nut files.

Wet Noodle – The 0.010″ nut file is especially wobbly and will easily break if you don’t support it. Forward strokes can feel like you’re trying to push a string.

Storage – Files, especially delicate files, should be properly stored, but my Stewmac nut files didn’t come with any storage solutions, so I made a section for them in a tool rack I 3d printed. (See photo)

MusicNomad nut file set and case

Music Nomad Nut Files

The Good:

Fast – Maybe it’s just because they’re new, but these files cut much faster than my old SM nut files. I think this makes it easier to guess how many more strokes you should take before re-measuring, thus preventing “oopsies”.

Size Range – This set of sixteen nut files covers everything I think I’m ever going to need. Well, ok…there’s still one instrument I’ll have to double-up files for, but maybe that’s why they call it a “double-bass”!

Costs – At $240, it’s a lot cheaper than buying the four Stewmac nut files sets I’d need to cover the same range.

Damage Control – MusicNomad nut files have rounded, plastic handles that prevent scratching headstocks, though this does cause another problem which I’ll cover in “The Bad”.

Nut Files on Viagra – The plastic handles of the MusicNomad nut file set, support the file at both ends, keeping them rigid. This is especially helpful on the thinner files.

Storage – Lots of guitar tools come in storage cases that are about as useful as a whammy bar on a tuba! But this MusicNomad soft case is one I’ll actually use. It doesn’t take up unnecessary room and it’s quick and easy to open and access any file I might need.

The Bad:

When I’m filing nut slots, I’ll usually move the current string over to an adjacent slot so I can accurately follow the angle to its tuner post when I’m filing. But these plastic file holders/handles are a bit too thick to do that without hitting the string and deflecting the file unless I take shorter strokes. I can work around it, but it’s a bit annoying.


You can probably tell by now that I’m pretty impressed with the Nomad nut file set. Only time will tell if they’ll last like the Stewmac nut files, but Amazon sells replacement MN files at $16 apiece, so if a couple of the thinner files get worn in the next two or three years, it won’t be a deal-killer.

Let’s hear your comments and questions…