One of the most overlooked component of the guitar is the nut. The way a guitar nut is cut dictates the overall playability of the instrument as a whole – string spacing, string height, and intonation. If it’s not perfect, there is nothing you can do to your guitar setup to make it feel right. If the string slots are too high, the action will feel stiff in the lower registers, and the intonation will be sharp in the most commonly used area of the neck. If the spacing is off, the entire guitar will feel strange. If the nut slots are cut too low, the open notes will buzz against the first fret.
So, if this component of the guitar setup is so important, why is it generally ignored? My guess is that cutting a nut is simply too difficult, or perhaps too terrifying, for most people to address. Or maybe it’s just sheer ignorance. Or perhaps, it’s just that a guitar nut isn’t that exciting. Well, I’m here to tell you – a properly made nut can be a thing of beauty. Behold!
This is a 7 string guitar nut I made for my Ibanez AX7221, which I picked up used for only $200. Seven string nuts are always terrible from the factory – often just made of plastic, with spacing that is WAY too tight, and even my small hands get very cramped in the lower registers. After I had refretted this guitar, I opted to make a new nut out of bone, with a wider spacing. The spacing is actually very slightly graduated, proportional to the string gauges, so the thicker strings don’t feel crowded. Each nut slot is cut using a jeweler’s file, perfectly rounded on the bottom, matching the exact gauge of each string. I made the nut out of bone, which is my favorite material to use – it looks good, sounds good, is fairly easy to shape, and allows the strings to pass through the slots without binding and catching. I’ve made nuts out of lots of other materials – brass, aluminum, water buffalo horn, pearl, ivory, dragon’s teeth… but plain old cow bone seems to be best.
Making a new nut, or even cutting down your existing nut, can make a HUGE impact on the overall feel of your guitar. Any questions? Give me a call at 504.430.6336 or shoot me an email firstname.lastname@example.org.