Steel Nut for P Bass?

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by Geroi Asfalta, Jan 9, 2013.


  1. Geroi Asfalta

    Geroi Asfalta

    Joined:
    Aug 23, 2011
    This has been in my head since seeing some long thread about zero frets...

    Is there a place out there where I can get a steel nut for my P? I've switched strings a few times and settled on Fender flats. They sound amazing except for open A, D and G, which sound like rubber bands.

    My P needs a fret level as it is, so I wouldn't mind paying a few extra bucks to have a steel nut put in.
  2. JLS

    JLS Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Sep 12, 2008
    Location:
    Emeryville, Ca
    Disclosures:
    I setup & repair guitars & basses
    Ask around. I'm sure the quotes for this will be breathtaking.
  3. BruceWane

    BruceWane

    Joined:
    Oct 31, 2002
    Location:
    Houston, TX
    Steel is going to rust, unless you use stainless, which is quite a bit harder than regular steel and thus a lot harder to cut and/or file. Anybody who would do the work would probably also charge you for the tools they're going to wear out making the thing.

    Brass nuts are very common. Brass is a lot tougher than plastic, but is quite a bit softer that steel (and stainless steel) so it is still relatively easy to work with.
  4. 202dy

    202dy Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Sep 26, 2006
    Oh, this one's easy. Take the price of a couple of Dremel cut off wheels, some sheets of wet or dry, the chunk of stainless, a couple of metal polishing wheels if there are no dedicated ones in the shop, and a new set of nut files; add to that the usual labor charge for a nut plus the extra hour or two for fabricating and polishing (to say nothing of frustration) the steel and there is the price.

    To the OP: Brass is the standard material for this job. Most techs are not too happy about cutting brass nuts, either.
  5. Geroi Asfalta

    Geroi Asfalta

    Joined:
    Aug 23, 2011
    I'll look into brass...thing is I haven't played a bass with a brass nut, so I don't know how it would affect the sound. I only say steel for now, because I'm pretty sure thats what the frets are. I'll look into it further
  6. SirMjac28

    SirMjac28 Patiently Waiting For The Next British Invasion Gold Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Aug 25, 2010
    Location:
    The Great Midwest
    By all means get your steel nut you will not be happy until you do I think your mind is already made up.
  7. bassclef112

    bassclef112 Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Sep 2, 2003
    Location:
    New York City, NY
    It just sounds like your existing nut is improperly cut. If you put a correctly cut bone nut in (for example) I'm sure that problem would go away.

    I have several basses with brass nuts and I only put them on for cosmetic purposes. Polished up they look good with gold hardware. Otherwise bone is my nut of choice though I'm sure the new plastic compounds work just as well.

    When a nut is properly cut you will not hear a difference in open strings between it and a metal one.
  8. Caca de Kick

    Caca de Kick Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2002
    Location:
    Seattle / Tacoma
    Frets are not steel on a P Bass, they're nickel. And since the 70's, anyone wanting a metal nut have been using brass ones...very easy to do.
  9. Arial Bender

    Arial Bender

    Joined:
    Oct 28, 2012
    Location:
    Largo Fla.
    I'm usually confused but I think you are confusedider. Zero fret, steel cause frets are steel?
  10. Geroi Asfalta

    Geroi Asfalta

    Joined:
    Aug 23, 2011
    Thanks, Ill see if a bone nut solves this first (I imagine the metal ones would be much more pricey)

    Subtle differences in tone between fretted and open strings. I know A on the E and open A are going to be a hair different. But this is like night and day. If I dig in, I get a nice "click" of metal to metal. It's more of a "thud" on the open strings.
  11. JLS

    JLS Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Sep 12, 2008
    Location:
    Emeryville, Ca
    Disclosures:
    I setup & repair guitars & basses

    They're not. You should.
  12. walterw

    walterw Supportive Fender Gold Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2009
    unless you paid a bunch of money for the bass or for a refret, the frets are not steel (and not likely even then, stainless frets are only just now starting to get popular on electric guitars);

    the fret material ("nickel silver") is actually kinda like brass; as such, a brass nut would theoretically come close to the characteristics of the frets.

    in reality, the nut makes little tone difference as long as it's hard enough and cut right.
  13. Dean N

    Dean N

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    Jul 4, 2006
    Location:
    Pittsburgh, PA
  14. landau roof

    landau roof Reupholstered User Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Jul 29, 2010
    Location:
    Downstate CA
    The fret noise you're describing doesn't come from the fret that's being fingered. It's from others higher up the neck, like the top few. Sounds to me like your nut slots are too high if there's that much difference in action between fretted and open notes.
  15. 202dy

    202dy Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Sep 26, 2006
    Nickel-silver or "German Silver" has been the alloy of choice for frets for many years. It is mostly copper with some zinc and a touch of nickel. Copper can be work hardened, but most techs will not spend the time to do this (or charge for it).

    Nickel is chippy and gummy when worked. A pure nickel fret wire would be a major pain to work.
  16. Pilgrim

    Pilgrim Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Jul 8, 2004
    Location:
    Fort Collins, Colorado
    There are a series of faulty assumptions in the path the OP is pursuing.

    In brief:
    -The frets are nickel, not steel.
    -Once a string is pressed down, a zero fret is irrelevant and no longer part of the acoustic system, since the string is fretted past it.
    - Steel is unrealistic for a nut due to labor involved.
    - Brass was once fashionable and is now less so, but would be a manageable alternative.

    IMO, a steel nut is one of those things that falls into the category of "Just because something is possible doesn't mean it's a good idea." It also doesn't mean that a steel nut would cause any audible change (especially as compared to brass) since once the string is fretted, the nut is out of the acoustic system on that string.
  17. anton72

    anton72 Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Apr 15, 2010
    Location:
    Moscow, in some traffic jam)
    Привет Героям Асфальта. Brass nut is what you need. Stuart Spector puts them on all his USA-made basses just for the same reason - to make open string tone match the fretted notes.. I have two Spectors both with brass nuts. Рекомендую!:)

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