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Alternative Nut Material

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I was in Home Depot yesterday and ran across a pack of this soapstone. At only 2 bucks for 6 sticks of the stuff it was worth it to take it home for an experiment.

soap stone sticks

As it turns out, the sticks are the perfect size for a nut blank. It may be too soft. It is for marking steel for welding, after all. So far though, it seems to be no worse than a piece of plastic. Just playing around with a pocket knife and a razor saw, I mocked up a nut for a string or two and slipped it under the strings of one of my guitars. Good sustain and the tone was really bright.

Just curious what you guys think about it. Has anyone worked with soapstone here before?

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i too use soapstone a bit and i'm afraid that it's going to be too soft for a nut. if you think about the fact that every time it comes in touch with metal a bit of it rubs off then i'm betting that your strings would very quickly cut through it each time you tune up. there again, it's cheap and like devon said, you already have it so give it a try.

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I've been experimenting with UHMW. It has lubricating properties much like graphtec.


Busy bee tools sells longer pieces that can be fed through a planer.

Busy Bee

It's very hard to cut this stuff though. It NEEDS to be clamped to a jig when cutting on a tablesaw. It's just so slippery.

As far as sound goes I find it is more like a fretted note. Its not that bright sound that stands out its more mellow.

This stuff can be sanded to shape and then polished to a mirror shine.

Edit: BTW soapstone IMO is just way too soft.

Edited by GuitarGuy
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I sell soapstone in the marking grade and I am surprised you got the slots cut and in the pocket without it shattering. $13.00 per gross, by the way. There is a structural/architechal grade of soapstone that is a lot harder but no more durable. I have used brass, aluminum, bone, faux ivory, real ivory, carbon(about like soapstone)but a lot messier, copper, bare ebony, oil-soaked ebony, glass, teflon(high durometer), stainless, phenolic, mild steel and Oilite bronze. None of them are perfect. Never tried soapstone because it would seem impossible, to me, to sucsessfully cut it to shape and groove it. Didn't take long to file the slots, did it?

So far, my favorite is yellow brass with 6061-T6 aluminum right behind it.

Since you seem to be able to pull it off, why not try a bar of Ivory soap? :D

Sorry, Wes made me say that.

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Yep. I figured it was going to be too soft and brittle for a nut.

For some quick practice on cutting and slotting nuts, I might as well shape a few just for fun. It's been fun to scrape it and make dust here in the office. :D

Ivory soap... hmmm...

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I forgot to add buffalo horn to my list as well as elk horn(not too bad) and man does that stuff stink in a milling machine. Almost had one guy quit over the stench(I use his machine over the weekends).

I would like to add a couple of uses for soapstone. I learned many years ago that when you have belt-squeal on a machine or VEEHICKLE (courtesy of MASH) you rub rub the side of the belt with soapstone to stop the squeal. It seems to follow that a little soapstone rubbed on the wound strings where they hit the nut might make sliding through the nut a bit easier. BTW, most decent welding supply companies will give you two or three sticks for free.

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