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Nut replacement

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by cdaniel, Dec 5, 2003.

  1. cdaniel


    Nov 29, 2003
    So what is involved in replacing a nut? Do you get them pre made or is it a custom fit from raw material?
  2. http://www.allparts.com/

    Click search and then Nuts and you will see what ever part you need. I assume this is for your 5 string bass?

    Here's the scoop on each: (originally posted by HAMBONE):

    1. Aluminum - Easiest metal to work, excellent for "all chrome" color schemes, very dense but lighter than brass, passes high frequencies more readily than any others. Polishes nicely

    2. Brass - Fairly easy to work, traditional choice for bass instruments, extremely dense, excellent choice combined with high mass bridge for increased sustain. Polishes nicely

    3. Corian - modern engineered polymer, extremely dense and hard, nice color reminescent of ivory (off white/beighe), very easy to machine, good look with bound bodies, great general replacement for plastic. Polishable

    4. Phenolic - extemely hard but easily worked material made from compressed layers of resin impregnated cellulose sheets. Very slick like graphite without the cost. Black, polishable

    Each of these materials make good, long lasting nuts in any variety.

    Remember though, that no nut - no matter how exotic or expensive - will have any noticeable effect on notes that are fretted. The fret acts like the nut and takes any tone difference gained from the the nut, out of the loop.

  3. Hrmm...

    I want a Brass Nut(4 string) replacement for my Ibanez GSR190...

    Now,If I got that,and took it to my local GC...do yuo know how much G's it'd cost me?

  4. cdaniel


    Nov 29, 2003
    I doubt there would be anyone capable of this job at a GC (guitar center?)
  5. really? it seems pretty easy...a knife to pop the old one out...and just put the new one in w/ the screws...
  6. Chasarms

    Chasarms Casual Observer

    May 24, 2001
    Bettendorf, IA USA
    Even nuts prefabricated require some fitting in order for the bass to play right.

    If too high, the first fretted note on any string will always play sharp. If too low, it'll buzz low on the neck no matter how high you crank the action.

    It isn't something as simple as pop on, pop off.

    If the nut is damaged or otherwise failing to function, obviously, fix the bass. Otherwise there is no good reason replace a nut.

    The tonal differences between types of materials are so subtle, it is pointless.
  7. Oh...well,I appreciate that...thank you:)
  8. ebozzz

    ebozzz Supporting Member

    May 17, 2001
    What about bone as a nut material? I've got a bone nut on a few of my basses and I feel that they do just fine. Bone is hard on nut files though.
  9. I don't quite agree with all of that Charles. I do agree that the tonal diffence between hiqh quality materials is extremely subtle. The greatest change will be noticed when going from a simple cast plastic nut to one of the ones mentioned even bone. But I believe that anything that touches the string - and this includes hands - has an affect on tone and other characteristics of the sound. In my understanding of how the neck and it's components couple with the body, I think it's fairly clear that a different nut can be a noticeable factor. To take your point to the ridiculous, it shouldn't matter then what the saddles are made of since they duplicate the function of the nut on their end. But we all know that isn't true at all.

    Having said all this, I would agree that most TB'ers would not be able to discern the difference in nut materials from their tone. But there's always us oddballs that hear things that no one else does anyway...you know - voices and stuff :eek:
  10. Chasarms

    Chasarms Casual Observer

    May 24, 2001
    Bettendorf, IA USA
    IMO, the real advantage to the solid material nuts over the cast plastic is the ability to work the material. It can be shaped and sculpted to insure maximum fit and best possible playability. Where I better educated, I might argue that this is the more likely reason you see such materials on finer instruments.

    I have never done and A/B testing with nut materials, so I can't comment completely intelligently about it. Nor do I have a great deal of interest in a great nut debate. (Short of exchanging discourse with those such as yourself) But there have been several aspiring players that have posted on TB in the past couple of years who want to change out a prefectly good nut on a $200 bass with the idea that it will somehow impact the tone.

    If the tonal differences are subtle at best, I argue that the cost of paying a tech for the mod is money poorly spent on such a bass.

    If you are doing it yourself, I wanted to stress that shaping and fitting a nut is more precise than one might think. If you don't get it right, the bass may play much worse than it did with the plastic one.

    The distinction I would make about the saddle argument is that the saddles serve as witness points on all strings at all times, whereas the nut is limited to the open strings.

    It also seems apparent the saddles do much more to transfer resonance into the guitar body than does the nut. Using the model of an ebony nut on a DB for durability and a straight-grained rock maple bridge for maximum tone transfer as an example. Were their functions the same, I would expect luthiers to use the same materials.
    Personally, I will only play an open string if I have no choice. I prefer, as a rule, to use its fretted counterpart on the lower strings for consistency in tone. Perhaps this is why some builders stilll prefer a zero fret model.
  11. ebozzz

    ebozzz Supporting Member

    May 17, 2001
    If I may, I'd like to offer a comparison of a recent bass (Peavey Millennium Plus 5) on which I replaced the stock plastic nut with a bone version. It's not ideal but here goes.

    On the instrument in question, I felt that a nut replacement was necessary as the previous owner had filed the slots to the point where they were too low IMO. The way that the strings were seated in their respective slots also concerned me. The width of the slots were not sized properly and the strings were not being held snuggly in place. the fact that the slots were too low also made it difficult to create a proper break point across the nut. Not enough down pressure.

    The action of the instrument was set fairly low without any buzzing but it's voice was not well defined especially in the lower registries. It fact it sounded somewhat muddy when you went down low to me. There was a lack of definition in the upper registries also but but it was not as apparent as the opposite end of the spectrum.

    Once the bone nut was installed all of the lack of definition issues were resolved. It's simply a much more articulate bass now and it seems to have a little more zing on the high end. Most of the improvements after the replacement can probably be attributed to just having a nut that is properly sized/cut but the bone does have some impact IMO. Here's why I feel that way.

    I also own a Millennium Plus 4 that still has a stock topnut and I've compared the performance of the EADG strings to the EADG of the Plus 5.

    1. Both the 4 & 5 are 35" scale.
    2. Both are strung with D'Addario Slowounds of the same gauge.
    3. Both have the same body woods (flamed maple top/alder body/rock maple neck) with the exception of the maple fingerboard on the Plus 4. The Plus 5 has a pau ferro board.
    4. Both have the same hardware.
    5. Both have the same electronics.

    The 5 just speaks so much better across the entire spectrum since the nut change than it's little brother. The performance is so much better that I'm planning to modify the Plus 4 in the same manner. Again, this comparison is not ideal as the nut on the Plus 4 is in good condition but is not as well cut as the bone on the Plus 5. The enhanced performance as well as the fact that bone is more rigid leads me to believe that bone is a better product for my needs than plastic. Not very scientific, I know. :)
  12. Ebozzz and Chasarms - Thanx for the great discussion!!

    I agree with everything said and I don't believe that there is any argument over the "relative" improvements one can get from this alteration. I especially like this observation:

    That statement really goes to the heart of the issue. Music is like a lot of other activities - it gives people from all talent levels an opportunity to participate. And as we get better our ears follow. As ebozzz illustrates, a trained ear will hear the subtle differences stemming from small alterations to the tone package of an instrument. I know that I can. I'm not saying that replacing a perfectly good nut can do anything for a $200 bass. You are correct, it likely won't. But if that nut has provided a spark of interest in listening closer to the subtleties of their tone and gets them to thinking about what tone is and how it can be altered, then it's probably a harmless thing to attempt a nut change.

    That small nut has other magical properties as well. I believe that a nut replacement is a perfect "starter" project to break the ice with folks that are scared to death of setup. It's inexpensive to replace if you screw up, it requires some planning and decently precise handwork so it challenges their abilities, and it can look good when done. Most important when bragging about it to your friends!:D And if someone wanted to tackle this project only for those reasons, I'd give it my blessing all the way.

    And finally, the observation about the workability of the materials is fascinating! I've never considered this as a sole reason to use any nut material, even though I list these working characteristics in my rundown. But that could very likely have been the driving force for the use of some of these materials. Obviously, a lot of how basses are made is carried over from much older, traditional luthiery practices. Without plastics and other modern materials, those guys used what was available and that's where we get the bone, horn, and ivory. Those materials were just the "plastics" of the time. No Charles, I think your education has served you well and if you won't argue this point I will!

    This was fun! :p