Bone vs. Tusq as a nut material. Pros? Cons?

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner: Guitar & Bass Technical Discussi' started by G'OlPeachPhan, May 18, 2005.

  1. G'OlPeachPhan

    G'OlPeachPhan Member

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    Particulary in regards to electric guitars... specifically and ES-335.

    Thoughts? Comments? Suggestions?
     
  2. Ron Thorn

    Ron Thorn Gold Supporting Member

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    I love Tusq nuts.
    The 6 open notes have a lot of brilliance and sustain. The other positive is that Tusq has slight self-lubricating properties which helps tuning stability on non-trem and trem guitars.
    Ron
     
  3. G'OlPeachPhan

    G'OlPeachPhan Member

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    Hmm, that self-lubricating property is a cool plus that I was not aware of... It'd be nice to not have to use a pencil to lace the grooves with graphite every time I change my strings. Plus if the tone is great, the whole thing seems like a no-brainer.

    Tonally, does tusq have even more brilliance and sustain than bone? I've never played a guitar with a tusq nut, but have an acoustic with a bone nut. If it does have more sustain and brilliance than bone even, that'd be PERFECT for what I'd like.
     
  4. Ron Thorn

    Ron Thorn Gold Supporting Member

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    I've found some bone nuts can have sustain issues from one string to the next. We're talking about a very natural product and consistancy is not the best.
    While slotting a bone nut you can often "feel" soft spots as you cut into it. Tusq is very consistant, but I wouldn't say MORE brilliant than a high quality bone or fossilized nut...close though.

    Ron
     
  5. Rob DiStefano

    Rob DiStefano Member

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    I prefer natural unbleached cow bone for most fretted instrument nuts. Recently I've used water buffalo horn - though I find it's fiber is a tad softer than bone, it does allow the strings to glide better through the cut slots.

    Graphite tends to be too soft for my tastes, though I find Tusq hard plastic to be okay.

    Of all the man-made nut materials, Corian is my fave - super dense and extremely uniform, and it comes in lotsa colors, and if you use 2" square kitchen counter top samples you can make yer own nuts for free.

    YMMV.
     
  6. Tone_Terrific

    Tone_Terrific Member

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    Why do guitar players value brilliance and sustain on open strings? As charming as it may be, I find open strings to always sound more....open... regardless of nut type. Shouldn't we be finding ways to balance open and fretted tone?
     
  7. Ron Thorn

    Ron Thorn Gold Supporting Member

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    That's called a zero fret ;) .

    I should hope most fretted notes are brilliant with a lot of sustain. Achieving that with a nut is the challenge.
    I've made nickel silver nuts to act as a zero fret, it's balanced with fretted notes...but tuning stability is compromised with trem work or heavy bends.
     
  8. dave251

    dave251 Member

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    I find myself agreeing totally with Rob...Although I've used natural "horn" only on request. Tusq is at the bottom of my list...just above the cheapest plastics. I find it to be "gummy" when filing the slots, and WAY overpriced.

    Corian is VERY good, files evenly, and consistently, although not as hard as bone. I recently completed a nylon string guitar that used a piezo cable for the UST....corian was a bit too flexible, so I went back to bone...sounded way better. This is kind of opposite to common thought, but in this particular application, the bone was superior for pickup response over the Corian. So for the saddle application in my design, it will be bone.

    Martin has used corian for years at the nut, with great results. They still continue to use micarta for saddles, which is another good material. It's just a touch harder to work than corian, and perhaps even a bit more difficult than bone. But it's more consistant than bone.....

    If you're going to pay Tusq prices, use bone instead.
     
  9. G'OlPeachPhan

    G'OlPeachPhan Member

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    Thanks for all the help/suggestions guys. I knew I'd get the great info I was looking for here.

    I will be going with either Corian or unbleached bone for the nut... I'm thinking of also having the graphite nut replaced on my PRS as well... the guitar has a stoptail, so there's really no reason (trem) to have a graphite nut, and a little more brilliance on the open strings is always a good thing.

    I found a nice tech locally who's willing to sit down with me and teach me how to make nuts and install them, so I'll learn how to do it, I won't have to buy any tools, and the job should be "pro" the first time... He's only going to charge me $24 to do both guitars.

    Does anyone have a good resource to get Corian on the net?
     
  10. Rob DiStefano

    Rob DiStefano Member

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    Home Depot Kitchen Counter Department :cool:

    Stew-Mac used to carry Corian blanks, but www.lmii.com definitely has them.
     
  11. brad347

    brad347 Member

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    reviving an old thread.

    I just had a reputable tech/luthier recommend that I let him put a TUSQ nut on my ES-347 instead of the bone I requested to replace the guitar's original brass nut (which I don't care for). I've always used bone and been happy. He says Tusq will be better. I'm not so sure. But he didn't really seem to give me any options.

    This is an extremely reputable luthier that comes highly recommended.

    For the record, the guitar is if anything a bit too bright for my tastes. The brass nut might have something to do with this but it's entirely more likely that it's a combination of that and the maple neck, ebony board, low-output humbuckers, RS kit, and brass center-block inserts (an ES347 anomaly) all put together.

    I'm not expecting any miracles.

    What do you think?
     
  12. Evan Gluck

    Evan Gluck Member

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    Nice to know I am highly reccomended here Brad. As far as giving you no options that was not how the conversation seemed to me. I prefer Tusq particularly on Gibsons, but a well cut bone nut is certainly fine. As Ron said, bone has inconsistencies that can come up. Whatever you prefer is fine but I prefer the Tusq. Kind of wished you had called me back to express your concerns about my seeming rigidity on the topic but you seem to have chose a public forum. Not my favorite method of communication.
    Hope to see you for your appointment.
    Best, Evan @ New York Guitar Repair
     
  13. brad347

    brad347 Member

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    :eek: busted!

    Not really "no options," that's not what I meant. More like "This is the best way."

    Perhaps I should have chosen my words more carefully and said "The luthier seemed very confident in his position that Tusq was the way to go."

    My apologies dude.
     
  14. Evan Gluck

    Evan Gluck Member

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    No worries at all Brad LOL I was eating lunch and just was surfing the net and saw the post. Luthierie is a a funny thing a lot of us have preferences like Rob's use of Corian. Its nice to hear other folks opinions and think of new ideas. Never really noticed the "gummy" quality to the Tusq that was mentioned. I tend to polish the tusq up really well so it takes a nice shine to it.
    Anyway we can talk about it when i see you. I refuse to use fossilized walrus nipples though!!!
    Best, Evan
     
  15. LaXu

    LaXu Member

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    I still can't really find tone differences between various nut materials. One of my guitars had a plastic nut and I've replaced it with bone. Some other guitars have Graphtech or TusQ nuts and those work fine as well. What I did notice is that the bone/Graphtech/TusQ nuts do give a bit better tuning stability, possibly just plain plastic is too soft or something even when properly filed.
     
  16. daddyo

    daddyo Guest

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    Is anyone familiar with Slip Stone that StewMac sells?
     
  17. Boogie92801

    Boogie92801 Supporting Member

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    Have you ever heard anyone use the term "Bad to the Tusq!" - I didn't think so!
     
  18. Rock Johnson

    Rock Johnson Member

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    Gibson used Corian in the '50s for the nuts of their LP's. I believe the Gibson Custom Shop uses corian on their modern instruments.

    I've got corian on mine, it sounds okay - just typical Gibson, is cut poorly.
     
  19. Jef Bardsley

    Jef Bardsley Member

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    That would have been difficult.... Corian® was first produced in '65. :D
     
  20. LZ_69

    LZ_69 Member

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    I think he wanted to say nylon...
     

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