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Nut thickness for whammy bar

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by Rockin Mike, Mar 23, 2013.

  1. Rockin Mike

    Rockin Mike

    May 27, 2011
    I want to put a whammy bar on (another) bass.
    This means a Graphtech Tusq XL self-lubricating nut to help it stay in tune.

    The current nut is 6 mm thick front-to-back; Graphtech makes a lot of thinner nuts.

    I think a thinner nut would be better for a whammy because there would be less resistance to string movement.

    Would a thinner nut adversely affect intonation or anything else?
  2. megafiddle


    May 25, 2011
    A thinner nut will not affect intonation as long as the slots are cut correctly (angled downward towards the headstock)
    and the nut is located right against the fretboard. The take-off point for the strings will be the same regardless of nut thickness.

    If you use the same thickness nut, you won't have to add a spacer to make it fit tight in the slot and you can always relieve
    the back part of the slot to make it equivalent to a thinner nut.

    Some guitars and basses ship with slot angles that are so steep that the string only contacts the very front edge of the slot.
    With a vibrato arm, this would wear down quickly. Better to have a slot bottom that supports the string over the full length of
    the slot, or at least a portion of it.
  3. Rockin Mike

    Rockin Mike

    May 27, 2011
    Thanks, that's good info.
    Is there a rule of thumb for how deep the slots should be? I read somewhere that for 6-string guitars the method is to fret the string at the 3rd fret and the string should be a sheet of paper's width from the 1st fret. Is there a similar measurement for the bass?
  4. megafiddle


    May 25, 2011
    Measured like that, my basses are about .008 on the E side and .005 on the G side.
    24 lb paper is about .005". the more common lighter paper is about .004".

    I would start out at least .008" and check playability. You can always lower the slots
    if needed.
  5. Rockin Mike

    Rockin Mike

    May 27, 2011
    Can you help me understand why such small tolerances would make a noticeable difference?
    I imagine they would only affect the open string, right?
  6. grisezd


    Oct 14, 2009
    High slots cause you to push the string further to the fret, mostly in the first several frets, which adds tension to the string and causes the note to go sharp. It also makes my hand tired. And I'm lazy, so tired isn't good. If you go too low you'll get buzzing on open notes at best, and no open notes at worst (string rests on the 1st or 2nd fret, sounds like hell.) If you're not worried about high slots precision isn't needed. As you cut the nut deeper the difference between "almost there" and "oops, too far" gets very tiny! Best advice I've heard here is when you get it close and start thinking "just a few more swipes with the file and it's perfect" put the file away.
  7. Try it with the stock nut first.

    My old Aria has its original plastic nut & no-name el-cheapo tuners and holds tuning perfectly once the strings are played in.


    The only other time I get tuning drift is advance warning that a string is about to break. The movement over the rollers seems to be what kills them.

  8. Rockin Mike

    Rockin Mike

    May 27, 2011
    OMG that is so beautiful. I lurv a bass with a whammy.

    You have a nice straight path over the nut to the tuning pegs which helps too.
  9. She ain't so pretty up close:D


    True, but check out the godawful path from the saddles to the tailpiece. If your string spacing tapers from nut to bridge like a standard Fender that probably won't be an issue. Old Arias have nearly parallel strings, so it's a bit of a botch down there. Still works though.

  10. Johnny Crab

    Johnny Crab ACME,QSC,Fame/Hondo/Greco/HELIX user & BOSE Abuser Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 11, 2004
    South Texas
    Got the same whammy(factory) on a FAME/Hondo and a Ovation Ultrabass. Both have stock(original 1980's) nuts but I do put graphite in the slots when installing new strings. When all I had was the FAME and it was/is my primary bass now, new strings would go on it about every 10~12 as a way of preventing a during-the-show string break.

    You should also check with the whammy experts here:
  11. Rockin Mike

    Rockin Mike

    May 27, 2011
    I called the guys at GraphTech and they said the thinner nut would "not transfer the vibration to the neck as well as the original"... which sounds like superstition to me. I care about the vibration going into the PICKUPS :)

    Also discussed with a luthier who said it wouldn't make a difference, an opinion shared by some in this thread.

    So, as with so many things, it looks like opinions vary.

    It's becoming clear though that the thinner nut will definitely work although some would question how well it will work.
  12. Rockin Mike

    Rockin Mike

    May 27, 2011
    Just 'cuz she's won a few battles doesn't mean she ain't still pretty.

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