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bone or plastic nut?

Rocks
January 1st, 2009, 04:01 PM
How can I tell if the nut has been changed to bone? My 2004 MIM tele I bought used appears to have been professionally setup by the previous owner or his tech. It was setup with super low action, the lowest I'd ever seen on any guitar and yet there was no string buzz anywhere. The nut is a dirty white color and I can't tell if it is plastic or if its been upgraded to bone. How can I tell?

mgwhit
January 1st, 2009, 04:20 PM
If it looks and feels like plastic it's plastic. In my experience the stock plastic MiM nuts look very yellowish (and a bit glossy) and frequently have poorly cut (e.g. too deep, irregular) string slots. Could be something else entirely like TUSQ or corian, too.

Rocks
January 1st, 2009, 04:23 PM
this doesn't have any yellow tint to it at all, like I said, dirty white, if anything its white with a touch of gray mixed in. It's also very well cut, string spacing, depth all perfect.

Wardpike
January 1st, 2009, 04:29 PM
sounds like bone. Picture please

charlie chitlin
January 1st, 2009, 04:35 PM
If it's good, it doesn't matter what it is.
If you're really curious, you could file a bit off (you could take it off the top...strings don't need to be deeper than about 3/4 their diameter) and, while you're filing, smell for that smell you get when the dentist is drilling your teeth.

RodeoTex
January 1st, 2009, 05:30 PM
You could do the Antiques Road Show approach and use a red hot straight pin to poke into the nut. If it smells like burning hair (protein) then it is bone.

AnthemBassMan
January 1st, 2009, 05:49 PM
Yep, bone smells like getting a tooth drilled when heated or sanded. I found that out making the saddle for my acoustic. Most of the bone I've seen wasn't shiny unless it's been polished.

L8R,
Matt

Soapbarstrat
January 1st, 2009, 09:19 PM
if anything its white with a touch of gray mixed in. .

From that description, my first guess would be Tusq, but certainly doesn't rule out it being stock Fender or something else.

tschommer
January 1st, 2009, 10:17 PM
Could also be Corian.

viking
January 2nd, 2009, 01:15 AM
Its very easy to smell the difference , when working on it....You can also use the soldering iron , or similar. Real bone wont be affected , plastic will....Never tried heat on a Tusq nut , will it react like plastic ?

PJ
January 2nd, 2009, 07:20 AM
AllParts sells pre-cut bone nuts in both flat and curved bottom that I've used with good results. Slots can be deepended to get the best set-up. As one of the earliers posts suggested, a set of nut files is required but they'll pay for themselves many times over if you're a project guy.

http://i215.photobucket.com/albums/cc200/pgazzara/BoneNut-AllParts.jpg

Rob DiStefano
January 2nd, 2009, 07:48 AM
As already mentioned the ONLY way to tell if it's bone is to lightly sand one side edge with perhaps 220 or 320 grit and sniff - you'll know immediately if it's bone, or if it's not. I polish bone nuts and saddles to a 12000 grit near mirror shine that can easily be mistaken for plastic.

FWIW ... There are only three materials I prefer for making nuts and saddles - unbleached cow or water buffalo bone (bleaching removes resin and makes the bone brittle), horn (black water buffalo, deer, cow, etc), Corian counter top plastic (created under enormous pressure, this plastic is way hard and very uniform in density and comes in a huge array of vintage cool colors - pick up some 1/4" x 2" samples for free at yer local Home Despot!).

jkingma
January 2nd, 2009, 08:39 AM
As already mentioned the ONLY way to tell if it's bone is to lightly sand one side edge with perhaps 220 or 320 grit and sniff - you'll know immediately if it's bone, or if it's not. I polish bone nuts and saddles to a 12000 grit near mirror shine that can easily be mistaken for plastic.

FWIW ... There are only three materials I prefer for making nuts and saddles - unbleached cow or water buffalo bone (bleaching removes resin and makes the bone brittle), horn (black water buffalo, deer, cow, etc), Corian counter top plastic (created under enormous pressure, this plastic is way hard and very uniform in density and comes in a huge array of vintage cool colors - pick up some 1/4" x 2" samples for free at yer local Home Despot!).

+1 on what Rob said.

I only use bone or corian and can micro-mesh them pretty dam shiny. Hard to tell from plastic just by looking.

Soapbarstrat
January 2nd, 2009, 06:18 PM
It's the "touch of gray" that makes it likely to be Tusq, because I notice that when looking at a new tusq nut or saddle.

And by Tusq, I mean the synthetic stuff with that exact name. Someone on another forum recently said they had used "fossilized Tusq".

Maybe he was from WAAAY in the future. LOL !

Dave_Strat
January 3rd, 2009, 10:12 AM
Somewhere I read about a luthier who uses bones from his backyard to make nuts. These are the ones that his dog has left for dead and have been sunbleached forever. He saws them into shape and files them to fit the guitar he is working on.

Free guitar parts, (grin).

I need to replace the nut on my new Squire Butterscotch Blonde Tele. Several strings sound dead even after replacement. The same strings sound nice and live when fretted. I'm thinking bone. Any other suggestions?

jkingma
January 3rd, 2009, 10:30 AM
Somewhere I read about a luthier who uses bones from his backyard to make nuts. These are the ones that his dog has left for dead and have been sunbleached forever. He saws them into shape and files them to fit the guitar he is working on.

Free guitar parts, (grin).

Been there, done that. :grin:

I was doing a project and was under the gun to get it done and realized I was out of bone blanks. It was going to take a week or so to order one in from my usual supplier so I got one of the dog's old bones from the back yard and cut a few nut blanks from it. I know a couple other people with similar stories.

Manitou
January 3rd, 2009, 11:06 AM
I may find out that what I did is really unacceptable in the guitar world, but here goes....
I used some deer antler to fabricate a few nuts for my guitars. Since I never get very big antlered deer, there is less chance of getting the soffter inner core if you make sure to use the tips of the antlers. Larger antlers could be much easier to work on, I may never know.
Anyway, it's a way to personalise my instuments and I look at it as a tribute to the deer and a way to honor him (and they sound good too).
Manitou

jkingma
January 3rd, 2009, 11:17 AM
From what I've heard antler makes pretty good nuts and saddles BUT there are some pretty strict laws about its use and how it is obtained. You should check with your local authorities about the situation where you live. I have heard that in some places it is illegal to pickup shedded antler that you may find laying on the ground in the bush.

GuloGulo
January 3rd, 2009, 01:11 PM
easy way to tell bone from plastic. put your finger on the edge and try to pull your finger back. If your finger has resistance or there feels like some grip then its bone. Plastic nuts usually just let your finger slide right off.
Other composite materials will kind of be in between. Tusq is a good example of that as well graphite

Mike S.
May 8th, 2010, 11:52 AM
This is an old thread, but I wanted to chime in that I have made many a superb guitar nut from Stag and Deer antler as suggested above. I actually prefer it to camel or cow bone.

Great sound, increased sustain, helps keep strings in tune, and they have all held up VERY well in the wear and tear department as well. Plus, this material is easy to find in my neck of the woods.

Happy Tele
May 8th, 2010, 12:04 PM
I have only used tusq or cyclovak. That deer antler sounds interesting, I have a bunch of racks from hunting...should I use aged deer antler or newer ones? young antlers or old bucks?

Mike S.
May 8th, 2010, 03:53 PM
I'd simply look for material that exhibit a very dense structure without cracks, inclusions etc. Points are particularly nice, but I've been able to salvage good usable portions from all but the most decrepit examples. I think moderately aged (as opposed to straight off the donor :D) antler is likely the most stable to work with.

I use a Dremel tool for most of the cutting, shaping and polishing (make sure that you do this in a well ventilated workshop or garage....the smell is overpowering), and finish the string seats with a fine toothed razor saw, and fine Swiss needle files.

Colt W. Knight
May 11th, 2010, 11:32 PM
I also like brass nuts in some guitars. Ron kirn suggests silver in his tele book.

Nick JD
May 12th, 2010, 01:48 AM
Hardwoods (density > 1.0 specific gravity) make great nuts/saddles - especially for jazz guitars.

boris bubbanov
May 12th, 2010, 03:11 PM
This is a good thread, and so I am glad it is back. Three questions:

1) Which of the various bone/antler/tusk/horn substances smells the least bad?
I am trying to work with this bone material from Mojotone and the smell is not pleasant at all. Maybe for me in particular? Reminds me of stuff, you know. :sad:

2) What about ebony, anyone fooling with ebony nuts? and

3) Where can a silver nut be found in a premade form of some sort?


Much obliged.

Al Watsky
May 12th, 2010, 05:07 PM
Back when I was first learning trade skills the guy I was working for always used a grinder to make nuts, a bench grinder.
(BTW we never polished nuts up too much. When we did the customers always doubted it was "real" bone 'cause it was too shiny. I don't over polish mine to this day.)
When I set up my shop I got a horizontal belt sander and have been using that for many years. I don't much notice the smell any more, guess I expect to smell that.
In my experience grinding stinks more than sanding.
Some bone smells more the other bone . The heavily bleached stuff smells less than salvaged bone that is dried but not bleached.
Stuff with that marrow leached into it stinks up a storm.
If you need a large piece of bone you can go to a large pet store and get a cow leg bone for a couple of bucks , usually 9 inch long big enough to make a bone bridge for an arch top or what ever. Thats the cheap way to do it. You can cut about a million tele blanks from one.
You will need a band saw or you will really be "tinkering".
All the other stuff costs money.
Ebony works. Its been used on fiddles for years . Looks cool.
I have had folks request those from time to time.
Not very interesting to me.
More of a conversation starter than anything else.
Brass has binding problems with steel strings.
So some avoid it.
I always remove them when I find them.
Silver is available from jewelry supply houses. Can't think of any reason to use it though. I have never seen it preformed into a nut blank, but it works easily enough. Grinding and sanding and buffing.
My favorite nut material is ivory, but as we all know it is prohibited.
Ah well.
Don't want those elephants going around tuskless.

jefrs
May 12th, 2010, 06:27 PM
Bone polishes up like jewellery, very high shine, very pretty. 12000 grit (superfine flour paper) wet and then rouge. Polishing is optional, but you cannot get that shine on plastic.

Tusq is a loaded plastic. Plastic melts, bone burns, try a red-hot needle to make an inconspicuous mark.

Another material is box wood (buxa sp), it's as hard or harder than ebony, it sinks in water, it's white. I've seen it used on antiques, viols etc. I've got a fair size bush in the garden. I have to use metal-working tools on it. I have not considered it for the nut but am making a saddle for the jazzbox.

An easy way of quickly breaking up that 22-in long marrowbone into usable size pieces is to pass it over to the dog. The problem is swiping a few big bits.

I've worked cattle bone, stag antler (red deer), cow's horn, ram's horn. The bone and antler are bone, the horn is not (modified hair, keratin?). Bone pongs a bit, horn stinks. The dust from any of these is harmful, use precautions.

Stag antler is grown during one season so it is probably not as hard as cattle bone but it is of fairly uniform density. Horn is a pretty useless fibrous material. A marrowbone is best from a large bull rather than from young beef, the bone becomes massive and dense on a full grown beast. These are rare nowadays as breeding bulls are not sent to slaughter but are generally allowed to die gracefully of old age.

Al Watsky
May 12th, 2010, 09:17 PM
"Quote"
An easy way of quickly breaking up that 22-in long marrowbone into usable size pieces is to pass it over to the dog. The problem is swiping a few big bits.


My dog is a Chihuahua this will not work for me.
Mice bones are to small for guitars.
Doubt he would be tackling anything with antlers any time soon.
Back to the pet shop for me !

Ronkirn
May 12th, 2010, 09:20 PM
Sterling has become prohibitively expensive. You must usually buy a minimum amount to get any kind of a discount, and it is raw material, so it must be hand worked to produce the nut blank, then proceed from there. I don't even suggest them anymore.

I have used Rosewood laminated to nickle silver which makes a beautiful nut as well as Ebony and other hardwoods.

However, remember, despite the constant hype applied to esoteric materials, the nut can only offer anything approaching a noticeable sound change on 6 notes, (assuming you're playing a 6 string guitar) every other note played on a guitar has a finger, slide or a capo between the nut and whatever is happening to the string. therefore is is pretty much sonically isolated from the tone producing end of the string. Thus the nut is just guitar "Bling".

Ron Kirn

rewind
May 12th, 2010, 09:51 PM
Vietnamese Pho restaurants use beef shanks. Just saying.

Slepperer
October 2nd, 2010, 07:09 PM
EDIT : ignore this

Slepperer
October 2nd, 2010, 07:10 PM
This may sounds stupid, but I just bought a graphite nut (http://cgi.ebay.co.uk/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=150467147968&ssPageName=STRK:MEWNX:IT) on Fleabay and when it arrived it looks to me like plastic.... Am I being really thick? I know what Graphite looks and feels like, and I can see moulding marks on the bottom, and it's hollow. But before I go leaving negative feedback, I just want to make entirely sure that I'm not an idiot.
http://i738.photobucket.com/albums/xx28/slepperer/_MG_2398.jpg?t=1286060896
http://i738.photobucket.com/albums/xx28/slepperer/_MG_2389.jpg?t=1286060923
Just a couple of quick pics, the bottom then the top.

Soapbarstrat
October 2nd, 2010, 07:32 PM
Apparently sometimes a graphite blank is made up of chopped bits of graphite molded together.

Ronkirn
October 2nd, 2010, 07:38 PM
Graphite is typically molded in a poly carbonate (plastic, but a high grade) substrate.... a graphite impregnated nut is usually only advantageous when a tremolo is used...

You can buy a sheet of 1/8th inch thick graphite impregnated polycarbonate from McMaster-Carr and make a few hundred for 20 bux...

If someone is telling you Graphite yields better tone, ask ‘em what’s the tone baseline…then just slap ‘em… :wink:

Ron Kirn

Nick JD
October 2nd, 2010, 10:06 PM
Plastic inpregnated with pencil leads! So shlippery.

Slepperer
October 3rd, 2010, 07:24 AM
Cool, thanks guys, at least I wont have to ruin his feedback now!
I only got the Graphite nut 'cause I've got my eye on a B5 in the local rag ;)