Quantcast Ryan's Guitars: Music Man Sub1 Gets a New Nut

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Music Man Sub1 Gets a New Nut

Well, I finally had the nuts to make a nut. ;) After all this time of thinking about it, planning and imagining how I would do it I finally got some basic nut making tools and just did it! I had so much fun in the process, too. I ordered a very affordable set of 8 nut files from Warmoth, part #NFS8 for only $64.00. These would have cost a fortune on Stew Mac, so do some shopping for things like these before just assuming (like I do most times) that the only place you can find luthery equipment is Stew Mac. ;)

I also purchased the String Spacing Rule (this time from Stew Mac) that is simply incredible. Click here to go to the product page and view the video on how this thing works. It really is a time saver and makes it easy for even a novice like me to cut a perfect nut the very first time! Awesome. I also bought a bulk of six "Slip-Stone" nut blanks from Stew Mac... Slip-Stone is my favorite nut material. It has a more mellow sound than bone, but it cuts easily and is extra "slippery" making it perfect for tremolo equipped guitars and players that bend a lot (I fit both categories). It also has a cream color instead of black like Graph Tech, so these are great if you prefer the appearance of the original stock plastic or bone nut your guitar came with.

Armed with these tools, a sheet of 180 grit and 1500 grit sandpapers (plus my trusty Dremel tool) I was able to fashion a nut for my Music Man Sub1 out of a Slip-Stone blank. I started by loosening the strings on the guitar and laying them off to each side of the neck. I then lightly tapped the old nut out with two screwdrivers... one with the handle end on the end of the nut like a chisel, and the other to tap the screwdriver held in place. The nut loosened and slid out of the slot a tad bit and I then was able to get it out completely by pulling it like a "tooth" with a pair of needle nose pliers (it did break in half in the process, however). Once the old nut was free I was able to examine it carefully and use it as a template to copy for my new nut. ;) I thoroughly cleaned and trued up the neck slot with sandpaper to remove old glue, lacquer and any other debris that might prevent my new nut from fitting snugly.

I started sanding on the nut blank to reduce thickness (so it would fit in the slot on the guitar neck) by laying the blank down flat on my 180 grit sheet of sandpaper and sanding it evenly (I double-sticky taped the sandpaper to my workbench for a makeshift sanding block). Once I had the thickness reduced enough for a nice tight fit in the slot, I then laid the old nut on top of the blank and marked in pencil how much to sand off vertically to get the overall height of the blank down closer to that of the old nut. Once the overall height was reduced I placed the blank back on the neck and made sure it was pressed firmly and evenly in the slot. This neck slot was curved to match the neck radius of 10"... so I needed to add that curvature to the bottom of the nut in order for it to fit properly. So, with the blank firmly and evenly pressed in the slot, I drew the neck radius right onto the nut using a pencil. This gave me the exact shape I needed to sand away the excess from the bottom of the nut to create the curve. I used my Dremel tool for this and it worked beautifully. Once I was done I cleaned and trued up the Dremel work with a small sheet of 180 grit sandpaper followed with 1500 grit. I had a perfect radius that fit the slot exactly!

I was now ready to mark the string slots. Here is where the Spacing Rule I just bought saved me the aggravation of marking slots with formulas. I marked my two E strings at the recommended 1/8th inch measurement from the two outside edges of the nut. I measured and discovered that this is where the previous nut had the two E strings slotted, as well. Once this was done I lined up the ruler marks until I found a set that matched my outside slots, and then I marked the four inner strings with pencil... perfect string spacing! :) How easy was that?

From here all I needed to do was slot the marks with my new nut files and then take up any remaining nut length so I didn't have any overhang... then I Dremel'd down the height and shaped the nut until it looked attractive and had a nice form. All this was very quick and easy work. Caution must be taken when cutting slots, however, as it is very easy to over file a slot and ruin a nut. And believe me, after doing all that work you'd be very upset if you got all the way to cutting slots and then ruined the nut by going too deep! ;) After the nut was completed and I tested the strings in place and was pleased with the spacing and slot height, I placed three small drops of water diluted wood glue in the neck slot for the final bond. I pressed in the nut and placed the remaining strings (that hadn't broken in the process) into their respective slots and tuned them up to keep pressure on the nut while the glue set.

I am very proud of my work here, and now feel like I could make a nut for any guitar. For about $100 in tools and materials I just saved myself $50 - $60 on a nut job by a pro. With the next job I do on my Deluxe Strat I will break even on my monetary investment in tools. There's nothing like being your own guitar tech! :)

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