If your action is too high at the nut (and only at the nut), this is
easy to fix, though making deeper grooves in nuts is not for the
faint-hearted and you need a suitably small needle file and some means
of polishing the grooves to make them smooth again. You could
theoretically lower the nut by filing the bottom of it or cutting the
shelf on which it sits a little lower but these are both strictly jobs
for the luthier.
Bear in mind that the height of the string over the first fret should be
only a little more than the string diameter (less if you have thick gut
bass strings). You could use thicker frets, as you suggest, but the
increase in thickness might have to be quite drastic.
It may be that the action is too high overall, however. On a lute of
about 60cm string length, the string height (underside of string to
surface of fingerboard) at the 8th fret should be about 2.75mm in the
treble and about 3.75mm on the lowest string in the bass.
Correcting an action which is too high at the 8th fret involves either
removing the fingerboard and reshaping the top surface of the neck or
lifting the soundboard and reshaping the body so that the bridge sits a
little lower. Either is a job for an experienced luthier.
I've been reading the thread about bending strings about frets with
interest. But my current problem is simpler. I have a lute with
action that is too high. Using the test David van Edwards gives in
his little Care of the Lute booklet, it seems that the action is just
too high at the nut. I believe that one of the remedies for this is to
cut the grooves in the nut a little deeper, so that the place the
string starts from is simply lower. I don't have much experience with
that and I'm a little hesitant to make a change that might ruin the
nut. I believe I've also heard or read that another possible help is
to change the size of the fret gut to make the frets taller.
So my questions are these. Are those two ideas reasonable things to
try for a lute player not much used to maintenance tasks? Which would
be better to try first? Any other advice?
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