This week I had the pleasure of working on an Ibanez RGA8 that my friend Robert brought in for a standard fret level and setup. During the course of the job, it became apparent that one of the biggest issues affecting the playability was the 8 string nut, which was a locking mechanism even though there was no tremolo bridge on the guitar. It appears that Ibanez didn’t actually machine the nut to handle standard 8 string gauges, and so the low F# and E were sitting very high in the nut compared to the other strings. The owner of this guitar looked into just buying another 8 string nut from Ibanez, which would have cost over $160! Instead, he brought the guitar to me to see if it could be fixed.
Locking nuts are usually made of hardened steel, and they can’t be filed down by hand with standard nut files. Since I needed to take down the walls on the nut around the F# and E, I whipped out my trusty Dremel tool and carefully ground the excess metal away:
This worked well, and both strings settled into the bottom of their respective slots nicely. The trouble was, even though each string was resting in the bottom of it’s nut slot, they were still very uneven and sitting quite high in relation to the first fret. I was able to grind the bottom of the nut down to make it playable, but it wasn’t perfect, and I wasn’t satisfied with that. I called Robert and discussed a crazy idea I had: to remove the locking 8 string nut and make a new nut out of bone. Since there wasn’t a tremolo bridge on this guitar, the locking nut was completely unnecessary (locking nuts only prevent string slippage around the tuner posts when the whammy bar is used), and a standard nut would work just as well. Making a new nut from bone gave Robert a couple of advantages: not only could the nut slots be cut low and even, but it would provide him instant access to tuning changes using his headstock tuners, which previously was impossible due to the locking nut. With Robert’s approval, I turned this:
This is probably the biggest nut I’ve ever made. I made it very wide, to cover the entire nut shelf that the locking nut used to sit on, and had to glue two pieces of bone together to get the proper width (just try to see where the two bone pieces connect – I dare ya!). This was a lot of work to make, but it came out great! Once it was all done I couldn’t help but crank up the gain on my tiny little shop amp and rock a few Meshuggah inspired “djents“.
Shameless plug alert! Check out Robert’s extremely in depth Line 6 Pod Guide, and prepare to learn more about how to properly use a Pod than you ever thought possible.