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.

Views: 826

Reply to This

Replies to This Discussion

Hi Hesh,

Our design spec is to have a significant edge formed where the peghead overlay buts up to the front of the nut - effectively providing a nut slot.

Secondly we form the slot to be slightly undersized and then finish the nut to the slot to get a snug fit.

The bottom edges of the nut  are slightly arrised to allow the bottom of the nut to make good contact with the bottom of the slot.

We brad drill two shallow indents into the bottom of the nut to form a cavity into which small dollops of yellow glue can set to grip the nut and stop any sideways movement and we also yellow glue the end grain of the fingerboard to the back of the nut to give it a further bedding, plus end grain does not tear out when the nut is removed.

I take a alternate view of finishing the ends of the nut and make it a design feature to have the nut ends bereft of finish with the edge taken off them - it means that my fellow luthiers can change out a nut with little trouble or risk of damage to the finish (and we've all done that) or the need to go with a hot blade or scoring the lines to remove the nut.   To me, burying the nut under lacquer is the same as welding on your wheel nuts - you know you are going to have to change the nut one day - why not make it easy to simply punch the nut out sideways in a second or two.

I don't see a lot of loose nuts these days but I see a lot of embedded nuts that do damage when they need to be removed.

Hesh, that's my take,

see ya. Rusty.  

I have to say +1 to  Russell,

but no glue on the bottom.

I find finished over nuts cheesy and annoying.

 The slot should contain the nut completely, leaving the tiny dots of glue to just keep it from sliding sideways.

Unfortunately rarely the case.

I almost never see nuts anchored too lightly.

Finished in over glued nuts.    grrrrrrrr.

I agree.  I often make a new nut, fit it as well as I can, get it all polished up, string and tune the instrument, and THEN glue it it, with a tiny drop or two of thin cyanoacrylate at the end of the fingerboard.  A judicious wipe with a bit of acetone cleans the little shiny spot off the fingerboard immediately.

I believe it's a bit of an old-time classical guitar tradition to leave the nut unglued, and while it works well that way, many players are confused or annoyed when it falls off as they change strings.  An unglued nut on some steel string guitars can present a bit of fun  when  you take off all but one of the outside strings and watch the nut flip out and across the room. . .

So that's why I frequently see loose nuts on classicals.... ;)

Thanks Frank and another vote from you for very little glue.

Thanks too David - so you are another one to not appreciate the finished in nuts and I can most certainly understand why as well.  Although scoring finish is no biggie old lacquer that flakes off when you look at it.... is a problem at times...

The worse nut that I have ever had to remove so far was a 40's Gibson L-4.  It was likely 80% "impacted..." with very rounded top and sides that the ole nippers could not get a purchase on.  Got it out driving it sideways....

Thanks for that Rusty and you gave me a couple of good ideas such as the two brad drilled indents.

On my own stuff since I use a head stock overlay providing a backstop for the nut  and I've always fitted the nut to "snap" in place and viewed the glue as insurance and not the primary means of holding the nut in place.

I also appreciate the serviceability aspect of how your nuts are installed without finish on the ends.  Serviceability is pretty important and often overlooked as we all know.

Great post Rusty - Thank You!

I had the "flipping nut" happen on one of my first guitars. It was a cheap plastic nut which was already cracked in the 2nd string slot. WHEN I found the nut, behind the bed across the room next to the wall, I realized that the part for the first string and 2/3s of the second slot was still on the guitar.  I knocked off the part that was left behind and it came away fairly clean...except for a  triangular chip from the face of the nut that remained glued to the neck. Since it seemed to want to stay there, I figured it would make a good registration point.

I glued the two pieces back together with Testor's model glue (the good, orange label, stuff) and then glued those to the chip on the guitar. I pretty much figured that the chip would keep it attached to the guitar. When I broke again, I made a nut from black walnut which did a fine job of holding the strings apart with spacing that was pretty near what the original nut had.   

It was some time before I needed to try my hand at replacing a "finished in place" nut but I'm sure you can see that my skills were up to it. 

Actually, I like both the finished and the unfinished  look but the couple of times I've needed to remove a nut that was finished in place I've "cursed" the builder for being so inconsiderate of my skill level, usually as I vainly try to make expert cuts through the finish with and Exacto knife and my amateur skills. I managed to make them look OK but the new nuts were NOT finished in.  


I guess it's been one of those "haven't-thought-about-it-much" topics, but (in retrospect) it's always been the nuts that are glued on the bottom that have caused me the most grief in terms of tearing-out chunks of wood.  

In thinking about it, there's no need for bottom-gluing. If there's a dot of glue on each end of the face, the nut won't slip side-to-side, and the string pressure (along with a minimum of face glue) should be enough to keep a well-fitting nut snug in it's slot.

Now if we can only spread that word around, we won't have to keep using hammers & drifts to break the nuts out!     BTW, count me in the "unfinished is better" camp. 

Good Point Mike and there really is no need for 1) much glue at all, and 2) glue in the bottom of the slot.  Sometimes because of the damage of too much glue most of my fitting time is actually spent truing up the bottom of the slot....

There is also the hump in the middle of the bottom of the slot that I see frequently that has to be leveled.

Thanks Mike.

It's interesting too Ned to see how others deal with the finished in nuts.  Some shops when replacing the nut will reapply a dab of lacquer onto the nut ends attempting to duplicate the original look.  Usually it looks like an attempt to duplicate and nothing like how a finished in nut looks when it goes through the entire finishing schedule of the guitar.

Just another thing to make our lives interesting and our language...... colorful..... ;)  Thanks for your reply!

No side finish, except if it's expected to be 'correct/original' for the instrument. Small amount of glue on install. I'd rather have it fall out when the strings are removed rather than cemented in place by an unknown strong adhesive substance. Left to my own choice; I like to buff them to a nice gloss, and keep the slot walls low.

Thanks Thomas - seems to be universal agreement (rare for forums....) to use very little glue and repair folks are not fans of finished in nuts.

+1 on the buffing and I have a Master Jeweler as a regular client who upon inspecting his new bone nut thought it was plastic because of the shine....


© 2024   Created by Frank Ford.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service