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Lost The Nut On Your Guitar? No Problem, Here's How You Make Another

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Picture of Lost The Nut On Your Guitar? No Problem, Here's How You Make Another

My favorite instrument is a cedar body Spanish classical guitar, but unfortunately, when traveling across country, it got a bit to much sunlight and started to warp around the bridge. So, I removed all the strings and humidified the body, which worked, but took almost a month to get it back to shape. When it came to restringing it, I realized that I had lost the nut in the process. Well, that wasn't to big a deal so I did a bit of calling around and found that none of the music stores, in my area carried one large enough to fit the neck of a classical. That's when I decided I would make one myself. Having a dog that loves bones, it seemed like the logical choice of materials and so I proceeded to get to work, commandeering one of her horde, and planned on how to make a replacement nut.

I suppose this process can be adapted, pretty easily to creating a custom nut for your guitar leaving your stock nut unmodified. I created this one out of bone but there's a plethora of materials you can use such as ebony, horn etc.

 
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Step 1: Materials And Equipment

Picture of Materials And Equipment

Supplies;

  • Sandpaper - 220, 400, 600 wet
  • 1 cow leg bone - Soup bones work great, just try to pick one with the thickest walls.

Here's the thing with dogs. They leave bones everywhere and only want them when you do so I had to play this one a little close to the chest when 'acquiring' mine, otherwise the sad looks, I'd receive for the rest of the night, would have given me cavities.

**important** If you choose to use bone as your nut making material, make sure they're raw and not cooked. I feed my dog raw frozen bones and never give her cooked as it makes them brittle and subject to splinters. I'd recommend not using a cooked one for the same reason.

Equipment:

  • Saw - circular, coping, table, whatever you have on hand, but for cutting bone quickly, nothing beats a circular or table saw. Just set the depth on low and start slicing.
  • Sander - belt or disk. This will make the shaping process a lot easier.
  • Micro Files - for filing the string grooves
  • Vernier Calipers - precision is important. Don't guess
jslarve4 months ago

This is really cool, especially because it came out well. :-)

dangerous dan4 months ago
one of my favorite materials for these type of projects is dominoes: black, or white. I've even laminated both colors, and made rings out of the blanks.
antagonizer (author)  dangerous dan4 months ago

Very cool idea. What are dominoes made of?

I believe they are made out of a phenolic resin. the material is strong, won't warp, and can be polished to a pretty high sheen.
Kyleluvspets4 months ago
Change title too....."Lost a nut on your guitar?? Don't fret!!"
antagonizer (author)  Kyleluvspets4 months ago

I'm really wishing I'd thought of that first.

Chicken Spit4 months ago
How does it sound? I got bleached bone nut and saddle blanks from Stewart Macdonald when I built my first guitar awhile back. It was incredibly dense and hard to work, but was durable and gave excellent tone; they were quite expensive, though. I will certainly get a marrow bone next time I'm at the grocery store and prepare some blanks for future builds. From the pictures, it appears your string slots are all the same width. Did you have any problems with the lighter gaged strings buzzing in the slots? I play mostly steel stringed acoustic guitar and electric bass, and they both usually match the slot width to the individual string diameters. I wouldn't be surprised if the soft, stretchy nature of nylon guitar strings allows for greater tolerances in this respect.
antagonizer (author)  Chicken Spit4 months ago

You definitely get more of a full sound from a denser nut, though I couldn't get a back to back comparison without the original. With nylon strings, slot size wasn't a problem for me but if you're playing with steel, you may want to narrow the B and High E a bit, if only to reduce movement inside the slot. Also, you could adjust spacing as well. I used .33" between on a 2" neck, but with steel, it'd probably be more like .34 from Low E to A, .32 A to D, .33 D to G, .34 G to B and .31 B to high E. It's a small variation on spacing but designed to compensate for the thickness of each string.

Wow, nice job! I love that you used one of your dog's bones for the project, haha.

There was a struggle, she pulled a sad face, I pulled a dog cookie...in the end I got my way.

BadPuns4 months ago

I was fixing to ask how you lose a nut, but it makes a lot of sense now. I haven't lost mine, but it is plastic and I might just so I can make a nice bone one...
I play in drop C most of the time and the nut could have been a little higher anyway.

antagonizer (author)  BadPuns4 months ago

You can use other materials as well. Ebony, horn, purple heart, etc. and though the strings have to track a certain way, there's room to play with the shape as well.

rimar20004 months ago

I attest your procedure is correct. When I was a young boy, my father bought a used guitar (new were too expensive). He changed all frets, but the nut was my work, using a cow bone, under his supervision. The result of both tasks was very satisfactory.

antagonizer (author)  rimar20004 months ago

Thank you. I tried to research as much as possible but it can be hard to wade through all of the opinion on the matter, so I tried to keep it simple.