Installing new nut..

tommygunn1986

Member
Messages
2,854
I wanna install bone nuts on 3 guitars. Never done it before. Should I buy the complete nut kit from stewmac? Do I need all that?
 

VaughnC

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
19,041
If you're making nuts from scratch, you'll need more tools. But, if you're starting from nuts that are pre-cut but just need tuned in, a set of nut slot files and a good flat file should get the job done. However, polishing the slots is a step most skip which can sometimes lead to string hangup. It takes a little practice the get the hang of making a good nut.

However, being biological, bone nuts scare me as you don't know the source and whether or not the animal was diseased and/or grazed where it might have ingested radioactive elements. So, if I were to use bone for nuts (which I won't), I'd wear a mask to not breathe any dust or polishing fumes and would vacuum up any residue immediately so its not contaminating your area and you're not potentially breathing toxic dust for months.

Personally, I prefer brass for nuts as it sounds & acts like another fret.
 
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KGWagner

Member
Messages
3,243
I wondered about the hazards of bone dust some years back, I think after seeing some TV show where bone dust was the cause of some plot-dependent problem. So, over time I asked couple guys I thought might know (a butcher and a custom knife maker) and eventually even talked about it with my doctor. The general consensus was there's nothing inherently dangerous about the stuff, beyond the normal hazards of inhaling any kind of very fine particulate matter. Fears of radioactive particles would be seriously overblown, as most fears of radioactivity are, and chemicals/biologicals would be as dead and inert as the animal.

So, I figure when shaping/polishing by hand with files, sandpaper, etc. there's no problem. Particulate matter would never be fine enough to get airborne or otherwise be an issue. I do sometimes use a narrow belt sander to quickly set nut height, so then I slip on a filter mask.

I actually worry about wood dust more. Some species, like Ebony or Cocobolo among others, can make some wicked dust. They can be toxic, and if you have or develop a sensitivity to them, or suffer from asthma or emphysema, they can make your life miserable. Here's a toxicity chart, if you like finding things to worry about :D

Keep in mind when looking at that chart that just because you don't have a problem with a particular wood now, doesn't mean you won't later. Some of them you have to develop a sensitivity to over time/exposure. So, if you work with something that's particularly toxic, better to be safe than sorry and wear a mask now.
 

ahhlou

Member
Messages
777
Bone nuts have come a long way over the years. They are very consistent as they are fabricated with bone dust and a binder. IMO (and other opinions are just as valid) they maintain the ring and sustain of strings better than most materials and have good wear properties. If cut properly and regularly lubricated they are very stable and do not introduce tuning issues. I use them on all my guitars as blanks are easily available and easy to work.

As for tools I use the basics, nut slot files, small flat files, needle files, sandpaper, small ruler and sometime a dremel tool. A mask is mandatory for the dremel tool (for bone and wood). I would buy the Stewmac tools but I don't work on enough nuts to justify the expense.
 

VaughnC

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
19,041
I wondered about the hazards of bone dust some years back, I think after seeing some TV show where bone dust was the cause of some plot-dependent problem. So, over time I asked couple guys I thought might know (a butcher and a custom knife maker) and eventually even talked about it with my doctor. The general consensus was there's nothing inherently dangerous about the stuff, beyond the normal hazards of inhaling any kind of very fine particulate matter. Fears of radioactive particles would be seriously overblown, as most fears of radioactivity are, and chemicals/biologicals would be as dead and inert as the animal.

So, I figure when shaping/polishing by hand with files, sandpaper, etc. there's no problem. Particulate matter would never be fine enough to get airborne or otherwise be an issue. I do sometimes use a narrow belt sander to quickly set nut height, so then I slip on a filter mask.

I actually worry about wood dust more. Some species, like Ebony or Cocobolo among others, can make some wicked dust. They can be toxic, and if you have or develop a sensitivity to them, or suffer from asthma or emphysema, they can make your life miserable. Here's a toxicity chart, if you like finding things to worry about :D

Keep in mind when looking at that chart that just because you don't have a problem with a particular wood now, doesn't mean you won't later. Some of them you have to develop a sensitivity to over time/exposure. So, if you work with something that's particularly toxic, better to be safe than sorry and wear a mask now.
It's ok to believe what the so called experts say...but even experts have been wrong in any endeavor. But it is a known fact that when an animal ingests radioactive elements it settles in its bones. All I'm saying is that if anyone is working with bone to exercise caution as there's a potential risk from any airborne dust or particles created while working with it (especially when you don't know its source)...unless you believe it's harmless to breathe in radioactive dust. Better to be overly cautious with something like this that just blowing it off as being totally harmless. Heck, there are people who believe smoking is harmless too. However, just the thought of having part of a dead animal on my guitar is repulsive to me...especially when there are other alternatives.
 

testing1two

Platinum Supporting Member
Messages
3,138
Bone dust and animal sensitivities aside, unless you plan on making lots of nuts in the next year and years to come, it will be cheaper, faster, and better to have an experienced tech/luthier make them for you. Properly shaping, slotting, and polishing a nut from a blank takes practice and practice means making mistakes. Depending on your level of experience with the tools involved you may end up scrapping more than you make until you get the hang of it.

But if you're like me you don't change the nut on every guitar you buy, but you still want to be able to adjust the slots. If that's the case buying nut slotting files is never a bad thing. And if you're still intent on completely replacing your own nut (hehe) a reasonable compromise would be to get a pre-slotted nut where you only have to sand the bottom and then fine tune the slots with the appropriate files.
 

Rhomco

Making UPS, FEDEX and USPS richer every day!
Gold Supporting Member
Messages
2,226
It's ok to believe what the so called experts say...but even experts have been wrong in any endeavor. But it is a known fact that when an animal ingests radioactive elements it settles in its bones. All I'm saying is that if anyone is working with bone to exercise caution as there's a potential risk from any airborne dust or particles created while working with it (especially when you don't know its source)...unless you believe it's harmless to breathe in radioactive dust. Better to be overly cautious with something like this that just blowing it off as being totally harmless. Heck, there are people who believe smoking is harmless too. However, just the thought of having part of a dead animal on my guitar is repulsive to me...especially when there are other alternatives.
The computer you are using has far more radiation exposure risk than your nuts.
 

WholeLottaGlove

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
1,387
I just finished installing a bone nut on my Telecaster for the first time. I bought it for $8 online, so I wasn't really worried if I messed it up. The only tools I used were needle files and feeler gauges from Harbor Freight, sandpaper, and a Dremel. I'm sure it's not perfect, but it sounds great.
 

Skulltower

Member
Messages
16
I wanna install bone nuts on 3 guitars. Never done it before. Should I buy the complete nut kit from stewmac? Do I need all that?

Welcome to your Nuts!

Over the years, I've went from paying a tech to work on my nuts, now I work on my own (and also have customers now)
I started shaping nuts on a few different style guitars.
Squires and epiphones were the beginning.
I also bought the cheapest bodies and necks from GFS and garage sales.
Making a crappy guitar work, was the most fulfilling end product.
My first nut on a good Strat, was about a year into learning.
I found a big part of experience was.....walking away when I'm frustrated and coming back a little later, with better attitude.
You can buy pre slotted nuts from stewed mac, they are expensive BUT they do some things well.
I got by with Stewed Mac 3 nut slotting files, gauged by .12, .20 and .32 (I think, I just bought the next slot higher or lower so it's not so expensive. (Later on I got a lot of different sizes, bass files as well.).
It's worth learning...good luck....
 

walterw

Platinum Supporting Member
Messages
40,982
I wanna install bone nuts on 3 guitars. Never done it before.
there are all too many people working as techs who have all the tools and have installed lots of them and they're still not right.

getting to "low as possible but no lower" and "stays in tune" is not easy, i'd expect to be disappointed with the results right out of the gate.

i've seen lots of "did it myself, i think it plays just fine" guitars come in that were just horrible, with the owners being blown away when they got the guitar back and discovered what it was actually supposed to play like.

unless the goal is really to learn how to do it (in which case you do need to get all those tools, especially the specialized nut files in at least a half-dozen different sizes at $15 each, and expect to throw away your first few or few dozen attempts) you might be better off finding a guy and having it done right the first time.
 

RLD

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
8,987
As a guy who has experimented cutting a few nuts, it takes practice and the right tools.
Recently I got a zero fret kit and the action on my guitars has never been able to be so low.
Too low for my tastes, but I was amazed at how low I could get it without buzzing.
It also seems to play more in tune at the nut.
Obviously a skilled tech can cut an excellent nut, but the zero fret seems easier, faster and actually better.
 

KGWagner

Member
Messages
3,243
I gotta try one of those zero-fret nuts. Seems like an excellent idea, and I like low action.
 

Tone_Terrific

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
38,110
I gotta try one of those zero-fret nuts. Seems like an excellent idea, and I like low action.
All the other frets and setup adjustments have to support the low action, too.
Nut height can already be adjusted by filing to match any size of fret even after fret dressings have been done.
The zero glide nut is a viable approach but I do not see how it would improve anything wrt action. Tuning stability, maybe yes.
 

KGWagner

Member
Messages
3,243
Right. I do a lotta fret installation/replacement and nut adjustment/replacement, so I'm familiar with what the requirements are on the neck. I just don't usually cut nut slots quite as deep as would be necessary to match what you could get from a zero fret. I usually target about .012" string clearance at the 1st fret with a standard nut, while with a zero fret you'd be closer than that. But, on a regular nut, you have to allow for wear or you'd be changing them all the time.
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