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choosing the right nut

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by Captain_joe6, Aug 16, 2005.

  1. Its come time in my build up process to choose the nut I want to use. Really it comes down to two choices: teflon-impregnated graphite, such as Graph Tech makes, or bone/ivory. Price aside (i'm eyeballing the mamoth ivory blank on allparts.com), which would you guys recommend, given that I'll be using the following

    TI flatwounds
    Hipshot bass tremolo
    Hipshot extender

    I was thinking that because of the tremolo the strings might bind in the ivory nut, but then again, I'm using flatwounds and I could always go (ever so slightly) wide on the slots and maybe put a pinch of graphite powder in each one. Really, though, what do you guys think?
  2. relayer66


    Oct 10, 2002
    Zushi, Japan
    Does anyone have any experience with / opinions on stainless steel nuts?
  3. JimmyM


    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    I think metal nuts are horrible. I remember when everyone thought tonal nirvana was a brass nut. But it made little difference in tone, and what little difference it made was not an improvement. Non-metal nuts are the way to go. Easier to work with, and makes open notes sound warmer.
  4. Whoa up there sir! Let's take your statements one at a time...There's opinion here but it's offered as fact and I want to flesh out your basis for both.

    Metal nuts are horrible - You make this statement of opinion and offer as support, the point that a brass nut made "little" difference in tone. And then you say the "what little difference was bad". Can you describe how something can make a "little" difference in tone but it can go from acceptable tone to bad tone with just a "little" difference? Is that ALL it took to take the performance of the nut from acceptable to "horrible"? C'mon - you're overstating the conditions and that doesn't do any good to the poster in answering his question.

    Non-metal nuts are the way to go. Easier to work with, and makes open notes sound warmer. - If non metal nuts are the only way to go, the builders of high end instruments like Alembic and Warwick would need a good talking to to get them to understand your point. They use metal nuts almost exclusively. Second, what is meant by "easier to work with"? If you mean easier to make, carve, and slot, you might be right. But that means little to the average player and even less to the skilled builder that isn't thwarted by material differences. Third, why is "warmer" better? What if I don't want "warmer"? Is "warmer" the ONLY tonal color I can achieve from selecting a different nut material? Take if from someone that uses at least 6 different nut materials on a regular basis, including 2 different metals, 2 engineered polymers, and 2 natural products, that there are lots of reasons to use any of these materials ranging from tonal adjustment to pure looks. None of them is superior over the others in all characteristics and none is totally lacking in all of the desired characteristics. To make blanket statements like that is simply ignorant of the facts. Hey, I just thought of something - would you go so far as to extend your opinion to frets too? Hell, if a metal nut is so horrible why aren't metal frets bad? When you fret a note, the string is in contact with metal on both ends - no nonmetallic nut involved at all. How does that square with your theory?

    As far as stainless steel - I don't think it would be much of a step above other softer and more maleable metals to make it a more desireable choice. It would certainly look good and hold up well but it would be time consuming to make. I've found that 6061-T6 aircraft aluminum is a great silver metal for nuts and would be a bit easier to make. Trev Wilkinson makes his high end bridges and saddles from this aluminum and I've used them to great success.

    Besides, keep in mind that, for the most part, the nut's contribution to tone is taken out of the equation when the string is fretted. Open notes and open harmonics are directly affected by the nut material but fretted ones aren't so much.
  5. Craig Garfinkel

    Craig Garfinkel

    Aug 25, 2000
    Hartford, CT
    Endorsing Artist: Sadowsky Guitars
    Personally, I think the left nut is greatly underrated and deserving of just as much love as the right nut seems to get.

  6. Hats off to you...I was wondering who was going to take the shot! :D
  7. JAL


    Dec 15, 2004
    Cleveland, Ohio
    Hambone; no disrespect meant, but doesnt warwick use synthetics now?
  8. JimmyM


    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    You again, huh? OK, let's do this, but this time, don't go whining to the moderators because I disagree with you and take exception to words you use like "ignorant."

    Metal nuts ARE horrible---what does it sound like when you fret a note and play it? Pretty good, so good that the majority of bass players nowadays will always play a fretted note instead of an open note unless they have to. But when you play an open note, you can still get a semblance of that warmth of a fretted note with a non-metal nut. But when I play a bass with a metal nut, it sounds like there's two different instruments. The difference, while being slight, is still there. Maybe it's good for players who do a lot of harmonics, but I sure didn't like it.

    Bear in mind that Alembic was probably the first maker to use brass nuts, so it doesn't surprise me that they still stick with them. As for Warwick, I thought they weren't using brass nuts anymore. Either way, I can't stand either of those instruments, and the brass nut is just one of many reasons why.

    As for your statement about frets being made of metal, don't even try it. Your hand is still warming up the tone on the other side of the fret by pushing the string down and shortening it. So that's why it sounds warmer fretted and doesn't matter as much as a corian or graphite nut does vs. a brass nut. Sure, it's only one note per string, but I want that note to sound like it at least comes from the same bass.

    And BTW, I will make my opinions known on whatever subject I feel like, and I don't care if you like it or not. My opinion is that metal nuts suck much butt, and whether you think it's ignorant or not, I really don't care. I don't care how many different nuts you've cut out of whatever materials. I have 30 years experience playing professionally, and in that time, I've come to the conclusion that I do not like brass nuts. Sorry if that's ignorant.

    And apparently you need the obvious spelled out...yes, it's my OPINION that metal nuts suck. Sorry, I didn't think I needed to place a big "WARNING---OPINION COMING" sign on my post. I thought most people could discern that on their own.
  9. No disrespect taken - I don't keep up with Warwicks products. 2 months ago I completed a bass using a Warwick neck that the owner ordered a replacement adjustable nut from Warwick. It was brass from stem to stern. If they use synthetics now it's no indictment of their use of brass earlier and isn't a condemnation of metal nuts now. The question remains and Mr Jimmy hasn't answered it yet - Why doesn't all of the metal at the bridge make him break out in a sweat? He's worried about a 1/2 ounce on the neck and not the 1/2 lb. on the body.

    I have a $100 bill sitting in my Paypal account right now for Mr. Jimmy if he can identify a brass nut 3 out of 5 times in a blind fold test. I pick the 5 instruments - he can pick the terms.

    Oh, and Mr. Jimmy, you were reprimanded because you broke the rules. I didn't contact a moderator or report you. Josh will bear me out on that. Everything you did was in public and was pretty obvious. If you don't play by the rules you get burned. You'll get used to it after awhile.

  10. You know what Mr. Jimmy, You could have said exactly that up there but you didn't AND you usually don't. That's where I'm going be all over you every single time you do. Every time you come on THIS forum and start spouting your opinion and personal tastes as fact without stating them as such I'm going to call you on it loudly and publicly. Just stop for a moment and make the attempt to understand where I'm coming from. THIS corner of TB is an educational forum. Unfortunately when people are as uncommunicative as yourself and don't bother with the proper caveats and warnings about how their experiences might differ from those experienced by a poster asking a question, the posters can take a single piece of bad info home to bed. When I offer advice, it comes from my personal experience BUT, I always leave room for the experience of others and the fact that I don't know everything there is to know out there. You on the other hand make blanket, sweeping, statements like:

    without regard to ALL of the cases where this might not be appropriate or desireable. There are many you know! When I moderated this forum and now as a civilian, I was careful to allow subjective topics the possibility of another view. Conversely, matters of hard science like the wives tales surrounding string tension are to be corrected quickly and decisively. I believe that to be the only true way to participate in a forum like this. And you'll notice, I didn't disagree with your opinion of liking non metallic nuts. I disagreed with your opinion that there is NO OTHER choice for a nut than a non-metallic. There is a huge difference in the argument and if you are not capable of discerning that difference, then please admit it now so that I can get you on the proper list and we can avoid these silly skirmishes.
  11. Not another bloody nut fight...YIK!

    Now time for my opinion

    Any nut is good, but plastic...because plastic tends to crack...

    a nuts purpose is to support the string and provide a reference point for open notes...

    I have brass nuts, graphite nuts, corian nuts, and yes even a "plastic nut" (STBR ... soon to be replaced).

  12. Hear Hear!

    Now, with that said...how about a brass nut on my wishbass? :D :D

    BTW...organic nuts are the way to go ;)
    less harmful chemicals than the other variety...someone please pass the cashews...
  13. Are you finally weary of the Corian? or is it the creative spacing and alignment? :D (I'm just pokin' fun PB) I've got some big chunks of brass if you need one!
  14. JimmyM


    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    If you ever see me give bad advice, then by all means call me on it. Rare are the times that I give bad advice, though. And I still stand behind my OPINION that metal nuts suck. I don't think it's bad advice at all. I think it's darn good advice.

    As for the bridge, the difference between that and the brass nut is that the bridge affects all strings and notes pretty much equally and the nut only affects open strings or harmonics. So when picking out nut material, I prefer something that isn't metallic so the open notes don't sound as out of place as they do with brass nuts. Really, I would prefer a bridge with non-metallic saddles (I think), but I also live in the real world and I know that there are strength and wear issues with them.

    Hammy, I must admit that it does my heart good that you think so much of my posts that you are going to follow them. But please confine your stalking to internet only.
  15. TheEmptyCell

    TheEmptyCell Bearded Dingwall Enthusiast

    Jul 16, 2005
    Belfast, UK
    IMO, a Graph-Tech nut would be the way to go with the D-Tuner and Trem (what an unholy combo!).

    I actually prefer a metal nut or very hard material, or even a zero fret on a fretted instrument. I'd rather have my open notes and fretted sound have the same timbre.
  16. JimmyM


    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    Not so unholy. Dave LaRue has Hipshots and Kahler whammies on his 4-strings. I thought he'd have tuning issues but he doesn't. Don't think he plays much 4-string these days, though.

    Funny, though...I don't want a metal nut because I want the open notes to have the same timbre, and you want one because you want the open notes to have the same timbre. Not quite a Mexican standoff but interesting nonetheless.