My Delightful Nuts
It seems like a pretty innocuous bit of kit your standard guitar nut, but they are often the first port of call to upgrade a guitar. Many factory guitars including those from prestigious brands are adorned with plastic nuts as standard and plastic is the least appealing of the options for nut composition. The reason for that comes down to the resonant properties of the material. Think about what a guitar is, it's essentially a board with strings attached at points. The strings are plucked to cause vibration and the sustain of those vibrations depends on how well they can travel through the points of contact through the board. If any of the contact points is a poor transmitter of sound then you essentially have a muffling effect on your guitar making it dull.
There are 4 common media used to make nuts: Plastic, Bone, Tusq and metal ( either stainless steel or brass) each has its pros and cons.
Plastic is the cheapest to manufacture and as it is a moulded object a guitar factory can just make 1000s of them cheaply pre shaped to fit their product. However the price of convenience is lower quality as these have the least resonance and break easily.
On the other end of the spectrum there are metal nuts. They are brightly resonant, extremely durable but unlike its counterparts metal nuts are milled into shape with industrial machines and are very difficult to alter in any significant way. That ca prove to be a big deal when mounting them to a wooden platform that moves and changes over time. I only utilise them in floating trem systems like the Floyd Rose where it is an essential part of the system and the guitar is specifically routed to accommodate said system.
This brings us to my favorite and most historically favoured nut media bone. Bone is beautifully resonant, easily sourced, can be shaped with easily accessible tools and is very durable. My blanks are sourced from cattle yards treated and cut to large rectangles for me to fashion by hand later. This is a bit labour intensive on my part but it means i can get a snug properly proportioned fit for any guitar regardless of the neck space size or shape an believe me i've seen some strange ones. The guitar world is definitely not one size fits all. It's also worth mentioning that just because a nut is bone does not mean that you are limited to white as a colour. By soaking bone in black colour tone pigment black bone nuts are possible as well.
And finally we have Tusq. Tusq is a synthetic graphite infused material developed by Graphtech to have great resonance and be easily workable. They offer pre cut drop in replacements for some popular brands, and are a great if somewhat expensive alternative for those who desire an upgrade to their nut but don't feel comfortable with animal based products. I like Tusq but have found it to be less durable than bone and only anecdotally a better resonator. I'm am however really into the graphite being part of the nut as graphite makes it easy for stings to slide along the fret holes making tuning a breeze.
Well there you have it. For mine Bone and Tusq are the way to go, I personally favor bone but that's just a personal preference. If you're unsure i would always suggest doing a little snooping across the interwebs and discussing with your tech what they recommend as the person doing the work is good to bring into the conversation. If you're trying a do it yourself job I'd say Tusq all the way. Just be sure to get the correct size pre cut, they have a helpful guide on their website.
Till next time stay safe and riff hard.
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