Although if this post could speak you might be expecting a mezzo-soprano voice what I want to talk about is guitar nuts....

Over the years now we all have experienced a guitar that when restringing the nut may fall off...  It's been my observation that this seems to happen more so on certain brands such as the very fine Godin stuff that lacks a back-stop for the nut via the peg head overlay.

I'm also seeing it often, very often on individual Luthier built instruments as well.  To me a huge part of the value proposition of a Luthier built instrument is the pledge (and hopefully reality...) of superior quality, attention to detail, etc. and not just another f*ctory built instrument.

In the case of Luthier built guitars they often do have a back stop for the nut with a peg head overlay but nonetheless I'm still seeing nuts that were never either fitted properly, glued in place properly, or both.  I'll reserve the subject of chunky nuts, poor slots, uber high slots, and improperly spaced slots for another thread...

As such I find myself regluing nuts frequently... certainly more than I would wish to do.  More importantly is what I hear from clients who may have one of these hand crafted instruments and have also encountered the dreaded nuts falling off issue...  Seems to me that this is totally preventable but I also know that it's a question of individual standards as well.

As we all know with the further proliferation of the very concept of individual builders and the resulting instruments that they/we produce everyone most certainly must wish to do high quality work.  Since I keep seeing loose or poorly fitted nuts on many of these instruments it got me wondering if a discussion on fitting nuts and gluing nuts might be helpful.  I also would like to know where you guys see poorly fitted or loose nuts as well.

Personally I've always really liked the look of a nut that has been finished on the instrument and has perfectly transitioned sides.  They are a bit more of a pain to remove and preserve the finish but no biggie there just the need to score the finish and be careful in the process.

When I reattach nuts that are loose or have already fallen off... for me it starts with some very sharp chisels to clean up the nut slot, remove old glue, true up the fret board end, etc.  I may also reshape the nut a bit too especially the ends to try to get the finished-in look and super flush fit that we see on some guitars.

I'm also currently using slow CA for nuts to give me a bit of extra time to get everything right where I want it prior to the CA kicking off.

So my question(s) for you very fine folks is what's your process for fitting nuts and gluing them in place?  Also are there any guitars that you also see loose nuts on more so than others?

Many thanks.

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HI Hesh, 

I just remembered a procedure for removing a nut that has been "welded in" or epoxied or whatever - I think I saw it in "Stewmac Trade Secrets" maybe   Given that trying to remove a stuck nut is likely to cause all sorts of trauma to the surrounds (slipping/errant tool damage to the guitar comes to mind) the procedure involves breaking out the nut "gently".  

Take an old fret slot saw (or blunt your best one!) or a fine      blade or better still a cheap exacto saw and saw a couple of slots across the nut right to the bottom of the nut  and then collapse the front and rear edges inwards with a flat edge/punch.    With luck you can get the majority of the nut out without too much trouble and the rest can be cleaned up with a chisel and nut slot file.  

As is often the case I cannot confidently attribute this idea, except to say it wasn't mine.


Buffing is a somewhat lost art Hesh. I  apprenticed in band instrument repair 35 years ago and it took years for my boss to to finally be happy with my buffing. You tricked a jeweler so you have "arrived" 

I've been using my mill to thickness nuts and acoustic saddles to within 0.005" of the slot dimension.  It is pretty efficient as I can take up to 0.020" passes nearly as fast as this can be sanded on a belt sander (and with less dimensional distortion).  Final fit (and removal of cutter marks) is done with 220 grit paper on a sanding block.  IMO, making a precise blank facilitates a nice snug fit.  Two small drops of Med or Thick CA in the bottom of the nut slot prevent sideways motion but don't appear make removal too difficult.  I prefer this glue location as it lets me align the nut in the slot evenly before seating in the glue.   

I'll also note that emphasis on polish is placed on the visible areas of the nut.  Emphasis is placed on a slight friction fit in the slot on areas that do not show.  Trying to achieve a polished finish where the nut meets the slot removes material, which does not improve fit.  Also, a slightly rough surface results in more resistance to movement.

Not a big fan of finish over nuts.  I've seen a lot of steps taken to mimic the original finish, up to and including use of a sharpie.  Haven't formulated an opinion on what is the correct solution other than noting there are three obvious choices:

  • A clean removal that results in a neat installation with an exposed nut (which can be difficult)
  • A well executed touch up  (not Shapie) that is nearly (emphasis on nearly) the same as the original finish (with the risk of damaging the original finish in this area of the neck)
  • Leave the aftermath of the nut removal as is (definitely not my choice)

I have noticed PRS SE model guitar nuts just fall off frequently, likely because there is no veneer stop. Not a big deal just re fit it and glue it in. I think the Se models have plastic nuts. The MD made guitars I haven't had an issue with them falling off but they never look good. There is no smooth transition and I don't like it. Why does a 3k guitar have a "meh" fitting nut. I don't get it. Not sure how their custom shop stuff is maybe someone has some light they can shed on their "private stock" nuts and ifitting process.


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