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Diy nut blank...

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by friedtransistor, Jan 7, 2014.

  1. I know this isn't really for bass, but at some point I would like to do this. I was gonna cut a piece of deer bone for a nut blank, but given the < -20 degree windchills, I'm not gonna dig through our yard yet. So I was gonna make a plastic blank to just get me by. I made a mold out of modeling clay shaped by a 1x6 lego brick, which is slightly larger than the nut on my Les Paul, and also larger than my bass nut. My mom like to make cards, so she has plenty of embossing powder in her craft room. Before I bother asking her for some, would it be hard enough to use? I was thinking of putting some powder in the mould and heating it with her heat gun. I was originally thinking of melting down water bottles in an old pan I found buried in our yard, as that plastic is quite hard even though it's thin. Ever tried drilling a hole in that stuff? But being that it has a melting point of about 500 degrees, that is quite inconvenient. Any thoughts?
    Oh, and the only reason I thought to use plastic to make a temporary (or permanent, depending on how well it turns out) nut is because two nights ago I dreamt that I was looking for spare bits of plastic to melt into a nut until I could get my hands on a bone. It's amazing the things you can come up while dreaming. I actually have a small bass riff written down somewhere out of a dream. If I can find it I'll post it for you six string players to test out. I would try it if I had a sixer, when you got a four banger, you can't do much.
  2. Lo-E


    Dec 19, 2009
    Brooklyn, NY
    Deer bone should work just fine, but I doubt you'll have a lot of success melting down plastic to make your own nut without knowing the properties of the plastic.

    I'd just order either a plastic or bone nut blank and use that until the deer bone is available. If you use a bone blank, it will give you some practice before using the deer blank.
  3. Hopkins

    Hopkins Supporting Member Commercial User

    Nov 17, 2010
    Houston Tx
    Owner/Builder @Hopkins Guitars
    Just get a bone blank and be done with it.
  4. 202dy

    202dy Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2006
    Bone out of the yard:

    No. It will not work. At least without treating the material.

    The bone will have to be dried first. Then it will need to be bleached because when it is dry it will be a mottled brown color. Think ugly. Real ugly.

    The other problem with deer bone is that they are relatively small. The interior of the bone is hollow when dried. The outside of the bone is relatively thin. Maybe, if you have an entire femur, you may be able to pull it off. Probably not. This is why the folks who process bone for luthiery usually rely on cow bones. Much larger and thicker.

    Buy a blank. They're cheap. You'll be putting money into the economy. Some one else will get a paycheck because you did the smart thing. It will take several weeks less time.
  5. So I really should just buy a nut blank? I guess I don't think $2-5 is cheap, especially for a little chunk of material. I have $60 to spend, yes, but I also want to have enough to make a dod fx86 and the valve wizard sine wave generator. Plus get new brakes for my bike. And get a pack of strings for my guitar. Every penny counts to me. Heck, if I go to McDonald's, I will use a calculator to get the cheapest meal with a side and a drink, down to the nearest cent, including tax. And after going to Tayda for electronics, I have a hard time getting parts elsewhere, because of the huge markup. I mean, is there any way I can make my own with little effort? I don't care if the bone is bleached, plus they all sit outside under the hot sun. When the weather warms up, our dog will probably drag up a dead deer that's been laying who-knows-where, and I know last year they (one of our dogs died this fall) had been chewing on some deer legs, so I know I have those somewhere. If not bone or plastic, could I mix up jb weld or glue and powdered graphite to form a blank? I have a half a box of graphite powder just begging to be used.
  6. Hopkins

    Hopkins Supporting Member Commercial User

    Nov 17, 2010
    Houston Tx
    Owner/Builder @Hopkins Guitars
    Give it a shot, whats the worst that can happen?
  7. coughiefiend


    Nov 12, 2013
    I agree with Hopkins; what's the worst that can happen? It doesn't work? Oh well... nothing ventured, nothing gained.

    As for deer bone, you might have better luck with a bit of antler. We buy antlers for our dogs to chew on b/c they destroy everything else (the store calls our dogs 'power chewers')
  8. Well, last night I bit the bullet and actually started before I had time to change my mind. I mixed about a tablespoon of regular glue with enough graphite to get it just to the point where it started getting too thick to stir. I then put a glob of it into the mold, let it settle, and topped it off. Later today I'm gonna break open the mold and let the blank finish drying. Idk how well this'll work...
  9. 202dy

    202dy Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2006

    Good thinking out of the box. Antler should be harder than bone and more or less solid throughout. It can be oven dried overnight and ready for sawing into blanks. That said, it is still organic material. So it is porous and less dense than Corian or micarta. More important on acoustic instruments, but still a consideration.
  10. fhm555

    fhm555 So FOS my eyes are brown Supporting Member

    Feb 16, 2011
    Don't know about other antler material, but whitetail deer antler is soft and porous. I'd never try to make a nut out of it. Granted the surface is hard, but peel that off and it's full of tiny holes and soft. local guy makes pipe from whitetail antler and he finishes scraping out the stem with a fire hardened sharp stick.

    If you have a local butcher shop you might be able to beg a cow bone, or at least get a cow bone cheap enough to make it worth looking in to.

    Beyond that I'd try a mix of JB weld and graphite before I'd put in a bunch of time whittling a piece of whitetail antler.
  11. Well, I'm still waiting for the glue to harden up. So I started to carve a wood blank just to practice on, but now I'm gonna have to stop the whole project for a few days. Just slashed open my left thumb about a half hour ago, so I can't use my hand very well, and definately can't hold onto a 2"x1/2"x3/8" piece of wood while carving it. This'll also be interesting as I have band practice after bible study tonight, and I now have to cradle my bass like an oversized violin, without moving my thumb.

    Let this be a lesson: if you have sharp object on your workbench, don't just shove your hands in a pile to retrieve something. Move slowly and carefully...
  12. Well, I went ahead and ordered a nut blank from ebay, one of the few I could find in the right size with free shipping. $5.21 though. It's insane, but seeing as the glue nut is still drying and too small, and not waiting for my thumb to heal, I sawed the wood blank too small. I have another piece of wood to try on, plus I found a decent sized deer leg in our burner barrel, but I just threw in the towel and was like, **** this, I'm gonna just buy a blank, and know it'll be the right size, and just focus on making the slots. So now I trying to make a violin. That seems to not require much of my thumb, plus I've always wanted a violin but just can't justify the cost.

    A little ot, but I ordered some new strings when I ordered the nut last night, and they both should be here within a week. Should I store the box that the strings are in somewhere and wait for them to come up to temp, or can I just be my impatient self and open them up to look at them and feel their crispy steel tone? I ordered Ernie Ball Stainless Steel Power Slinkies. Dunno if the brand or type makes a difference... But I love the price. $3.99 from Musician's Friend, with free shipping. Beats the $5 I pay at GC for plain old Power Slinkies, plus since I'm not in Omaha much, I can have the strings brought to me. :D
  13. Yay, my thumb is functional again! :D The wood is almost to size, and the glue has hardened up ok, so I am almost there. But graphite sure makes a mess when sanding. Not as bad, though, as when I sharpened a screwdriver. The dust made me sick enough to require antibiotics. I had forgotten (or rather, ignored) my own warnings that aluminum dust is hazardous to the immune system, and didn't wear a mask... :/ I swear, one of these days I am gonna seriously injure myself. Between solder smoke, lead blocks, saw dust, metal dust, sharp objects, and high heat, I am a disaster waiting to happen.

    So, who wants to contribute to my KNO3/sugar fund?
  14. Ooh, this wood is nice sounding... Finally cut the wood to the right size, just need to shape it down to remove the edges. I got the high e, low e, a, and d slots cut already, and they aren't too bad. I love the way the wood makes the strings sustain better, even though they are old. In fact, I snapped the high e while testing a bend. Curse .009's, I now remember why I switched to .011's. Oh well, I now have a string to use on the violin I'm making...
  15. If I am posting too much, let me know...

    Anywho, I have had my wood nut on my guitar for a few days now, and I am lovin the tone. Kinde has a strat twang to it. Really nice, and brightened up my old strings. I did cut the slots a bit too deep, though, so now I know how far to cut them. I have a temporary shim in it right now until I can glue one in. Now, what I find really odd is that the b string slot is kinda rounded accidentally, so the string makes contact farther back in the nut. But now when I play chords, they sound a lot sweeter, even though I didn't change the intonation at the bridge, and my tuner shows it a little off. Anyone experience this before? Did I accidentally make one of those mystical compensated nuts? I want to flatten the slot, and I will make sure I do my real nut (which should be arriving today) properly, but I kinda like the sound. I definately will keep this nut as a backup. Also, I measured a little more space (again by accident) between the a and the d string, which feels really nice, but looks kinda bad. Should I copy the spacing if it feels good, or should I measure out how the stock nut was, for an even appearance? I use this guitar at home, and I might at some point bring it to church for our guitarist to play, so it's not like people will probably notice. Should I ease my ocd, or ease my fingering? Very tough decision...
  16. Damn, bone is some tough shiz. It came a couple days ago, and I ground away at it for a few hours with 100 grit sandpaper to get it to width. Would have cut then sanded, but the hacksaw was so much slower, plus I didn't want to chip it. I am almost done with the slots, but they seem to be slowing down. Measured out the 1/8" gap on either side, then measured out the 9/32" spacing. Started each slot by indenting it with a bare box cutter blade, then file a groove with a rattail file, then worked to slightly higher than minimum with a hacksaw blade. Slow work... Then work the rest of the way with the rattail, shaping the slot to the string. This is hard stuff, considering I didn't have a belt sander to grind down the length, and I don't have nut files. For the high strings I might try just 220 sandpaper folded in half, to get the width smaller than what the file can give.
    Now I get why this is something most people leave to the pros...

    Ob, and could one of you kind mods move this thread to Luthier's Corner? I have no clue why I decided to post under this catagory, especially after reading what I have posted.