A lot of people who are just getting into making modifications to their guitar have many questions, especially regarding particular aspects of repair and design, like guitar bridges, the tremolo system, pickups, knobs, and so on and so forth.
This particular article briefly discusses the nut, which is the piece of material that sits on the top of the neck and holds the guitar strings in place. It makes sense that people have questions as to whether or not the same nut can work across different models of a guitar.
While guitar nuts can be created from a variety of different materials, they are universal and can be installed on any guitar, with some modifications like filing and sawing.
In other words, if you buy a nut for your guitar, even if it doesn’t fit exactly the way that you want, it’s usually just as simple as sawing off the ends of it to make it shorter or by filing down the slots a bit more so that the strings fit inside it a little better.
In this article, I’m going to explore the different types of nuts for a guitar and what modifications will be needed in order to make it work for your specific instrument.
If you’re looking to make these adjustments by yourself, know that you’re going to need a variety of different tools.
Here are some of the best tools that any luthier needs.
- Gauged Saws
- Fine sandpaper
- Radius Gauges
- String action gauges
- Wood Glues.
In other words, it may be a good choice to simply take it to a respected local luthier who can make adjustments to your guitar without causing any problems, because it takes a lot of time and money to get all of the appropriate equipment that you need.
Guitar Nuts – What Are The Differences And How Do They Fit?
A guitar’s nut is extremely important for a number of reasons, including the tone, playability, and the general sound and performance of the instrument.
It’s very important for the nut to be fitted appropriately with the right amount of groove in each slot and also being fitted properly to fit the guitar’s neck, specifically, how wide the nut is and whether it has to be modified so it sits square on the neck.
A bad nut can cause a variety of problems, including a guitar that doesn’t sound quite right through things like string buzzing, intonation issues, and fretting out on various sections of the neck.
Different nuts have different sounds as well. For instance, a bone nut is going to sound a lot different from a brass nut – which is far less common.
The following materials are some of the most common types of nuts.
Bone is often hailed as one of the best materials for nut construction. They are fairly light-weight, hard, hefty, and they’re known for being great for tuning especially if lubricant is applied to it every once in a while.
Furthermore, bone nuts have a reputation for being very durable and they have great resonance and sustain, especially after receiving appropriate slotting adjustments and when installed properly.
It’s not uncommon for these types of nuts to be used on some of the higher-end models.
Bone nuts are preferred by many luthiers because they’re not the hardest to modify and change.
As I mentioned above, if you have files, saws, and sandpaper, and wood glue, you should be able to adjust a bone nut without issue. With that said, these tend to cost a bit more money than say, plastic, although, they’re certainly not out of reach for most people.
Plastic nuts are, obviously, the cheapest nuts on the market, and while they still work and most people won’t know the difference, they probably have the worst sound quality of all materials.
Putting it simply, plastic isn’t a material that’s known for its ability to transmit quality sound.
With that said, plastic nuts, because of their inexpensiveness, are almost always used stock on guitars just to save a bit extra money.
Ivory nuts are a lot like bone, especially when it comes to performance, although, they have a reputation for being a bit more difficult to modify, they’re slightly brighter and also are harder.
With that said, ivory nuts are great for resonance and sustain and have a great reputation regarding sonic quality. However, as most know, ivory means that it’s made from elephants tusk, so the ethical implications of using an ivory nut may make it a serious issue.
Despite its quality, fossil ivory is considered wrong by most people and is likely banned in many countries around the world due to the moral and ethical implications.
Metal nuts are a bit more nuanced and are usually only used by certain players. Obviously, one of the greatest advantages of using a metal nut is the fact that it’s extremely dense and durable.
If you have a metal nut, it will last ages and will never need to be replaced, unless, of course, it rusts.
With that said, a metal nut is harder to modify and fit properly to a guitar neck. In the case that you need a metal nut, it would be wise to have some kind of lubricant to keep the product fresh and resilient.
I’ve only had one guitar in my life that used a metal nut, and it was an Ibanez.
Graphite is another type of nut that’s quite popular due to its tuning reliability and also for the fact that it’s self-lubricating.
It’s not uncommon for guitar technicians to take the graphite from a pencil and shave it off into a plastic nut to fix buzzing issues and go out of tune less often.
Moreover, they’re said to be great for tremolo effects, however, if you’ve chosen a much cheaper graphite nut, you’re going to diminish some of the aforementioned qualities.
Ebony nuts are another nut type that is great for sonic quality, and they also have the advantage of looking super cool. With that said, they’re known for softening quicker than other nuts on the market.
Additionally, there are other types of nuts out there, not in the sense of their material, but in their design.
For instance, you can have a compensated nut, a standard nut, a locking nut, a roller nut, zero frets, etc.
One of the best ways to keep your guitar in tip-top shape is to keep the nut lubricated, especially if its made out of bone or another naturally occurring material.
All-in-all, I think it’s a much better practice to take your guitar to a luthier, unless, of course, you’re ambitious and you want to make these adjustments by yourself without the help of a professional.
Truthfully, you’re going to need a lot of different tools so that’s one of the reasons why I think taking it to a trusted luthier is a much better choice.