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Using Hardwoods For Nuts On Electric Guitars?


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I noticed in my searching that there was a GOTM wherein someone made a bass with a jatoba nut. I'd never heard about someone using wood for a nut before, just bone and graphite and such, but now that I think about it it really makes sense.

Particularly for something like this jatoba I've got, which is pretty dang high up there on the hardness scales I've seen. It's dense, heavy, hard, seems like a perfectly usable nut material.

What say ye all? Think it would work? If so, I won't need to buy any nut blanks for a long time. :D

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Jatoba chips and splinters very easily. It might work though, just make sure you're careful about what piece you use and which way the grain goes.

I've been working on a jatoba body for a while and I never want to work with it again. It's beautiful and it sounds great, but you have to really baby it to keep it from chipping.

Ebony would be a good choice for a nut. It works great for bridges.

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Jatoba chips and splinters very easily. It might work though, just make sure you're careful about what piece you use and which way the grain goes.

I've been working on a jatoba body for a while and I never want to work with it again. It's beautiful and it sounds great, but you have to really baby it to keep it from chipping.

Ebony would be a good choice for a nut. It works great for bridges.

Would you need a zero fret with ebony? I would like to try an ebony nut, my dad got me some pieces of ebony I could make a bunch out of if it works if not I'll just use corian like usually since I have a shitload.

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All bowed string instruments (well at least the good ones) have ebony nuts. The luthier who I take my cello to said he put an ebony nut on a steel string and it worked fine. When I have time (hopefully soon, college has put a stop to my guitar) I'm going to try an ebony nut on my acoustic (and maybe an ebony saddle). If that works well, I'll also make one for the electric I'm building now. Ebony is really tough and it will probably last longer than most other materials.

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All bowed string instruments (well at least the good ones) have ebony nuts. The luthier who I take my cello to said he put an ebony nut on a steel string and it worked fine. When I have time (hopefully soon, college has put a stop to my guitar) I'm going to try an ebony nut on my acoustic (and maybe an ebony saddle). If that works well, I'll also make one for the electric I'm building now. Ebony is really tough and it will probably last longer than most other materials.

I haven't tried it for a nut yet, but most of my bridges are ebony, or ebony and bone, even on solid bodies.

I think tune-o-matics, or almost any solid body bridge for that matter, kills a lot of your tone and sustain. It usually doesn't matter too much, but I figure if I'm going to make a whole guitar by hand, I might as well make the piece that connects the strings to the body as good as it can be.

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  • 1 month later...

I'm of the school of thought which advocates zero frets. Since fretted notes are string-on-metal then why not have the same material/shape/downforce at the zero position (on that note, all my fretted notes are metal - ho ho ho ho). That way you have consistency in sound. Plus you can then use whatever material you want for the guiding nut (within reason - jelly was an epic fail).

Either way, the grain direction is paramount to prevent cracking, as mentioned.

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I'm of the school of thought which advocates zero frets. Since fretted notes are string-on-metal then why not have the same material/shape/downforce at the zero position (on that note, all my fretted notes are metal - ho ho ho ho). That way you have consistency in sound. Plus you can then use whatever material you want for the guiding nut (within reason - jelly was an epic fail).

Either way, the grain direction is paramount to prevent cracking, as mentioned.

some of my favorite old guitars I either own or have owned had zero frets. They make perfect sense to me for the reasons you described.

With a zero fret I see no reason why any really dense hardwood couldn't be used for a nut.

My next neck gets a zero fret. It's funny, I like zero frets but never once considered making a handmade guitar with one.

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I was thinking about what someone said earlier in this thread about how they thought tune-o-matic bridges suck tone. My last two guitars I made the neck angle so that the tune-o-matic bridge is set so it's at a perfect (But on the low side) height when it's screwed all the way down to the bushings. This give it (Bridge) a much more solid feel. No wobble at all. I can raise it up a little if I want, what I thought I would do is if I want to raise it up, I would put a washer under the screw and screw it all the way back down. This will continue to give me a solid connection.

I figure this gives me a nice solid bridge without any thread wobble.

This may not matter, but I figure it can't hurt either. The trick is making sure that you don't mess up the neck angle and have is to shallow where you can't get the string height low enough to suit you.

Of course this means there isn't a lot of height between the strings and the body, but I never have a problem with hitting the guitar, I don't play with pick guards, and it's not a problem. Some may want the extra 1/4 inch or so of height.

Any thoughts on this?

-J

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I do the same thing with tune a matics. My main guitar is set up just how you describe yours. I get great sustain from single coils wired in series, mahogony top (100 year old table top wood) and a semi hollow plywood bottom 2/3rds of the guitar. My tune o matic is actually sunk into the mahogony top about 1/4 inch. Bottomed right out. I had to remove a little material off the bottom of the bridge to get the action low enough. But the little bit of trouble was worth it.

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Try not to veer too far OT, guys. I agree about the solidity of bridge tension though :-D

Nuge - I remember somebody mentioning that zero frets are mostly found on high-end, or cheap end instruments. I guess the middle-market doesn't need to consider all these important sounding details eh?

There's probably a degree of voo² in the tonality of a wooden nut on the basis of open notes perhaps sounding different to fretted, but I think that it would be great to see a nut made of the same wood as a backstrap, a laminate etc. Just ties the whole piece together as a cohesive design.

Are you thinking of using the Jatoba just because it's there Mind Riot, as an experiment in something different to try or is there a reasoning beyond that as to why you are considering a hardwood nut? I think neck angle is the key as string downpressure over the break angle could split it a treat. That's probably already been mentioned.... :-\

Edited by Prostheta
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