A shattered nut makes this 12-string a dull boy!

Ladies and gentlemen, another 12-string visitor that I had the pleasure of giving my attention to. And like I had said some time back, the same make and model guitars visit in twos and threes, by some quirk of nature. So, here is another Pluto!

What made it special was that it was a daughter’s gift to her father!

And just beyond the lower end of the photo on the left above, lay the problem that needed to be addressed. Though a comparatively new guitar, the strings had managed to break the (plastic) nut on the guitar.

Sadly, the owner had failed to find a place in town to replace a nut for a 12-string guitar, leave alone a bone 12-string nut! It was then that the guitar came to me.

As I inspected the instrument, it was apparent that it had not received the initial set-up so necessary for it to function best. It had all the tell-tale signs: loose hardware on the headstock, dry fretboard and bridge, and tarnished frets. The action too was on the higher side and could have been much better.

Further, it did not make sense to just replace the nut and leave the (plastic) saddle in place. So, out came both and were replaced by bone elements.

As I pulled out the saddle, I was shocked to see something in the slot. A SHIM!!! And not just one, but two! After I prised them out, I noticed that they were nothing but visiting card strips. I remember thinking unconsciously, ‘That should take care of the high action’. And it did!

Replacing the saddle was the usual grind – pun intended – getting it to the same dimensions as the plastic one that had long been chucked.

The new bone saddle (the one on the right) was just a wee bit longer than the plastic one. Once the dimensions were met, I tried putting the saddle in its slot and was surprised to find the saddle rocking in it, as if there was a high spot in the slot.

In all my years of guitar repair and working on very inexpensive instruments too, I have never come across an instrument that had an uneven saddle slot cut into the instrument. I looked at the slot intently but I could not see anything wrong there.

Then I took my special saddle-slot chisel and tried scraping the bottom of the slot and sure enough, the chisel scraped up some pieces of wood that had been left when the slot must have been routed.

With this out, the saddle sat proud and straight in its slot. Perfect!

And as I have pointed out before, if you wish to determine whether it is a bone nut or saddle, or a plastic one, just look at its underside. If you see holes there, believe that it is synthetic. Some time back, I had talked about other ways as well to figuring out whether what you’re holding was plastic or bone.

If you wish to read about those, here it is:

Happy 2020, and let’s bone in on nuts and saddles!

That done, I looked at the hardware and gave it a gentle tightening. Remember, it is part of your monthly instrument upkeep: going over the hardware on the headstock. Using the right-sized spanner, test the nuts on the face of the headstock. They should be as snug you requiring just a little bit of force to loosen them. While tightening them, don’t mistake them for nuts on your car wheel, on which you use all the force you can muster to tighten! Just snug enough, and just like this:

Now, turn the guitar over, and  still concentrating on the headstock, take the right-sized screwdriver to tighten the tuning machine screws. Again the rule of thumb is snug and not overbearingly tight. Just like this:

With that out of the way, it was time to let the ‘Love Potions’ work their magic: one for the fretboard and bridge and one for the fretwires.

Look at how pretty the wood looks now. In fact, look at how pretty the whole guitar looks now, dusted, polished, tightened and oiled.

It wasn’t a forbiddingly expensive instrument but as I played it, sweet sounds emanated from it. I hope the owner thinks so too!



Amit Newton

An experienced guitar tech with over 10 years of experience working on acoustic Gibsons and Martins in the Gulf region. There is nothing that cannot be repaired; the only consideration is the price at which it comes. And yet, if there is sentiment attached, no price is too high! WhatsApp/Call me: 7080475556 email me: guitarguyhelp@gmail.com

2 thoughts to “A shattered nut makes this 12-string a dull boy!”

  1. Amit you’ve done a great job with this one. 12-strings are the most difficult to handle. I especially loved the way you have cleared out the slot for the saddle. I really got mad at whoever would have left those wood scrapings in that place. And what about the cheap nut!!! That too in a 12-string? Are these guys “NUTS”? Keep up the good job. You’re the only one of a kind around with seamless love for the instruments and the capability to make them sing like never before. Cheers!

    1. Thank you, Deepak!
      You’re most kind.
      Yeah! Clearing the place where the nut or the saddle will sit is most essential. After all, since it’s the job of those two to transfer sound, anything that comes between them and the actual area that they should be in contact with, only hampers sound transmission.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *