Acoustic guitar nut job: No fool’s play!

Gentlemen, when you get a suit stitched (yes, it is always advisable to get one stitched than to get a readymade one; ladies, think of a Western pant suit), the tailor will make a rough stitch and call you for a trial. At the trial, he will tuck in the garment at places, open the rough seam a bit at places, all this despite having taken measurements before.

And yet, what might look good on you, you may not be comfortable in! And so, the tailor tries to hit a mark where not only do you look good in the suit but are also comfortable in it. And that is exactly why you should get a suit stitched instead of picking one up off the rack.

What that ‘trial’ does, is give the tailor, and you, the perfect picture of how the garment is going to end up once it is finished. Then, when you don the finished suit, it is very, very rare that you don’t like how you look and feel in it.

Acoustic guitar nuts and saddles are pretty much the same story. Every nut and saddle slot on every guitar is slightly different. Nine out of 10 times, readymade nuts and saddles do not fit them properly, and need to be worked on for them to fit a slot.

It takes a lot of time and effort, and that is why most acoustic guitar repairpersons prefer to work with blank bone pieces to fashion nuts and saddles out of. If one has to put in almost the same effort and time, one might as well make a nut or a saddle from a blank piece and get the perfect fit, rather than fashioning one from a pre-cut nut or saddle and getting a passably good one. I, too, am slowly veering round to that view.

This post is an effort to make you understand that when I write in my posts that ‘I threw out the plastic nut and saddle and replaced them with bone elements’, the process is seldom as simple. It takes a lot of measurement, some cutting, much sanding and filing before a bone nut and saddle sit in their slot to my satisfaction.

Often, I have had to throw the bone piece that I had spent a couple of hours working on because I overcut, overfiled or oversanded. Time, effort, money, material, all wasted!  Result: Start again from scratch!

So, there was this Fender that came in recently with the plastic nut and saddle in bad shape.

I threw them out and the process of fitting in bone replacements is documented in the following photographs

In between the second and the third photographs came all the painstakingly slow process of sanding and filing. When I tried fitting in the the finished nut, it was short by about a millimetre. I made up for it by dipping the ends of it in superglue and dipping the wet nut-ends into bone dust. 

Another round of sanding and filing followed before the nut was finally seated to my satisfaction.

Here is the finished piece, with work in progress on the fretboard and the fretwires.

With the strings on, it was a whole new guitar. Meanwhile, take a look at the saddle end of it

And, of course, the compulsory long shot

Going back to the start, I was pleasantly surprised to see how the strings had been wound on the string posts: Exactly how it should be done, though I would suggest a turn less on each of the wound strings.

As for me making nuts out of bone blanks, I start the learning process today. First nut out on a guitar which I fashion from a bone blank will be in the New Year!
So, I have some time on my hands.

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:

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