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Plastic nuts/saddles

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by landolakethat, Oct 10, 2009.

  1. Maybe this only applies to acoustic guitars, but most nuts and saddles that I've seen are plastic.

    Why plastic?

    This is the first point at which vibrations are transferred from the string to the neck or face of the guitar. Why would you want that point to be plastic? Wouldn't it make more sense, acoustically speaking, to use wood?
  2. DSB1


    Mar 8, 2006
    Because plastic is inexpensive.
  3. That doesn't make sense. I've seen it on many high-end models.
  4. DSB1


    Mar 8, 2006
    I'm sorry, I meant to put a :D face on that.
  5. Hi.

    Plastic nails it close enough?

    Actually, bone is the most used material for saddles and nuts in the high end acoustics, but I'll be damned if I can tell the difference in a blind test.

    When I continue building instruments eventually, there will be zero fret so the nut is taken out of the equation.
    The material of the saddle(s) will most probably be metal on electrics and bone on acoustics.

  6. ByF


    May 19, 2009
    What do you consider a high-end model? A lot of mid-priced models (say, $1k +) DON'T use plastic nuts. The ones I know best are Carvins--they use Black Tusq for nuts.

    In my limited experience, the nut and saddle material will have more affect on the sound of an acoustic instrument than it will on a solid-body electric.

    I think DSB1 got it right--plastic is cheap. Most people won't know the difference. But I'd be extremely surprised to find plastic on a really high-end instrument.

  7. ByF


    May 19, 2009
    I missed your second point--there are people who use wood for nuts and saddles, but it is not as durable as harder materials like bone. You can use a bass string like a wire saw to cut through many materials--imagine what it would do to a wooden nut as you're tuning up and down.

    Having carved a few nuts and saddles from bone, I can tell you that it is extremely hard and durable. Without power tools, it can take hours to file and sand a piece of bone to the final shape--the last time I did one completely by hand, the muscles in my arms were sore a few days after.

  8. pilotjones

    pilotjones Supporting Member

    Nov 8, 2001
    To the the best of my knowledge, Tusq(R) is plastic. I think it's just a brand name for acetal (e.g.Delrin(R)), with whatever filler.
  9. Oceanstrat


    May 13, 2009
    I just replaced the nut on my "new" OLP Ray because the old one was broken at the E string. The shop I went to asked me what I wanted, plastic, bone or brass. I immediately picked a bone blank and then spent an afternoon/evening shaping and installing it...then, worked on the grooves. It took a while and I'm happy with the results.

    That said, would there be any benefit to putting a brass nut in (essentially making a zero fret) vice the bone one? I have a bone nut and pegs on my Gibson Hummingbird acoustic so, didn't think about anything else when replacing the nut on the bass. :D
  10. BLDavis

    BLDavis Master of Snarks. Supporting Member

    May 21, 2009
    Ellenboro, NC
    I tried brass a few times and never liked it for nut material. The open strings seem to have odd overtones when compared to fretted notes. Especially when using roundwound strings, the open notes would sound very "piano-ish" while the fretted notes sound normal. The difference is very obvious in the studio when isolating the bass track.
    These days I'm happy with bone or Tusq.

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