Are you experiencing a buzzing sound or poor tone on your guitar? It might be time to replace the guitar nut.
The nut plays a crucial role in determining string spacing and action on your instrument. Over time, it can become worn or damaged, affecting the overall playability of your guitar.
Luckily, replacing a guitar nut is not as difficult as it may seem, and with the right tools and techniques, you can get back to playing in no time.
With our step-by-step guide on how to replace a guitar nut, you’ll learn everything you need to know to ensure that your instrument sounds its best.
Check out this video for more details
When should you replace your guitar nut?
If you’ve been experiencing issues with uneven string spacing or poorly filed slots that cause tuning instability or fret buzz, replacing your guitar nut can rectify these problems once and for all.
But there are some other signs that it is time to replace your guitar nut.
The nut is too high
If the nut is too high, it can cause the strings to be too far away from the fretboard, making it harder to play and causing intonation issues.
The nut is too low
If the nut is too low, the strings can buzz against the frets, making it harder to play and affecting the guitar’s tone.
The grooves in the nut are too wide
If the grooves in the nut are too wide, the strings can move around, causing tuning issues and affecting the guitar’s tone.
The nut is broken
If the nut is cracked, chipped, or broken, it will need to be replaced. A broken nut can cause tuning instability and affect the guitar’s tone.
The guitar doesn’t sound so good anymore
If you’ve noticed that your guitar’s tone has changed or isn’t as good as it used to be, it may be due to a worn-out or low-quality nut. Plastic nuts, in particular, can wear down over time and affect the guitar’s sound.
What tools do you need to replace a guitar nut?
Here’s a list of tools you will need to replace a guitar nut:
- Guitar strings winder
- Heat gun or hair dryer
- Sharp craft knife / razor
- Wood block and small hammer or mallet
- Small brush
- Watered-down wood glue
How to replace a guitar nut – a step-by-step guide
When you have the needed tools, it’s time for work.
Follow the steps, and you’ll be ready in no time:
Use a micrometer to measure the length, width, and depth of the guitar nut to ensure that the replacement nut will fit properly. Then use a ruler to measure the string height compared to the first fret to ensure proper action.
Remove the guitar strings
Removing the strings to avoid damaging them during the nut replacement process.
Heat up the glue
Heat up the glue holding the nut in place with a hairdryer or heat gun. Be careful not to overheat the guitar’s finish.
Cut the glue from the edges of the nut
Use a sharp knife/blade to cut the glue around the edges of the guitar nut to loosen it from the neck.
Remove the old guitar nut
Remove the old nut with a wooden block and a small hammer or mallet. Gently tap the block to avoid damaging the neck.
How to remove a Fender© style inlaid nut
When removing the nut on a Fender© style guitar, you will typically find it seated within a channel. The nut is often installed before the finish is applied, particularly on maple fretboards that are typically lacquered.
While inlaid nuts require extra time and care to avoid harming the end of the fretboard, the removal process is generally simple.
- Remove the strings from the guitar.
- Use a razor blade to score the finish by running it down each side of the nut. Start with shallow passes and gradually increase with each pass. This will help break the seal between the nut and the neck.
- With a carpenter’s pincer plier or regular pliers, grip the nut near the center and gently move it back and forth until the glue seal breaks. This will enable you to remove the nut safely without damaging the neck or removing splinters from the channel.
- If the nut does not come loose with gentle wiggling, try tapping it out of the channel sideways using a lightweight hammer. Use something like a section of dowel or a scrap piece of timber to protect the headstock and neck.
- If the nut still does not come loose, heat up the area using a hair dryer. Be careful not to damage the finish on the neck. The heat can help loosen the glue and make it easier to remove the nut.
- Once the nut is removed, clean up the slot using a small chisel or razor blade. Remove any excess glue or debris from the slot, being careful not to scratch the surrounding wood.
- Install the new nut. Apply a small amount of glue to the bottom of the nut and carefully press it into the slot. Make sure to align it correctly and wipe away any excess glue.
- String the guitar and tune it.
Clean the guitar nut’s place
Clean the empty slot before putting on a new guitar nut to ensure a proper fit.
Sand the new nut
Use sandpaper into the replacement nut to make the measurements identical to the original. Make sure that the string slots are the correct width for your guitar’s string gauge.
Place the new nut without gluing it
Place the replacement nut is in place, but don’t glue it yet.
Restring the guitar
Restring your guitar or move the strings back into place. Make sure that the strings are properly seated in the nut slots.
Check the string height
Verify the string height to ensure proper action. Adjust the nut height if necessary.
Glue the nut onto the guitar
Using watered-down wood glue, glue the nut onto the guitar. Apply a small amount of glue to the bottom of the nut and gently press it into place. Be careful not to use too much glue or it may squeeze out and cause a mess.
Restring your guitar again
Restring your guitar and tune it up. Allow the glue to dry completely before playing.
How to choose the correct replacement nut
To choose the correct replacement nut for your guitar, you need to consider different nut types. There are various options such as plastic, bone, graphite, and Tusq.
Each material has its benefits, and you must select one that suits your playing style and guitar model.
Additionally, make sure to measure the size of your current nut accurately before ordering a replacement to ensure it fits correctly on your guitar.
Choose the type of guitar nut material
- Bone guitar nuts – made from dense bone material, they provide excellent tone and sustain and can be precisely shaped to fit the strings.
- Steel guitar nuts – not as commonly used as other materials, but sometimes used in specific types of guitars.
- Wooden guitar nuts – a classic choice for a warm and mellow tone, but require careful consideration when used.
- Brass guitar nuts – appreciated for their durability, wear resistance, and ability to produce a bright and snappy tone.
- Ebony guitar nuts – offer excellent aesthetics and sound quality, but may soften up quickly. Still an affordable option with exceptional tonal sound.
- Titanium guitar nuts – a strong and versatile material that offers many benefits for guitar nuts.
- Fossilized ivory guitar nuts – a legal alternative to traditional ivory, with similar tonal quality to bone, but difficult to obtain and work with compared to other materials.
- Graphite ivory guitar nuts – an increasingly popular synthetic material with stable tonal characteristics and low friction, ideal for heavy string gauges or tremolo use.
- Plastic guitar nuts – a widely-used synthetic material known for its affordability, availability, and consistency.
- TUSQ guitar nuts – a synthetic material gaining popularity for its ability to replicate the tonal qualities of natural materials like bone or ivory.
Here you can read more on the different types of guitar nuts.
Choose the correct nut size
Now that you’ve got a better understanding of the different types of nuts available, it’s important to choose the correct size for your guitar.
The most common nut width on 6 6-stringlectric guitars is 43mm (1 11/16”), but 41mm (1 ⅝”) is also common. It’s crucial to measure the nut width on your guitar first before ordering a replacement to ensure that it fits perfectly.
If you need a wider nut width for greater string spacing, or are left-handed and require a specific type of nut, companies such as Graph Tec offer bone or graphite nuts that can be easily sourced online.
However, if you’re not confident in shaping and filing a blank nut, it’s best to order pre-slotted replacements from reputable suppliers like Allparts UK.
By choosing the right size and type of nut for your guitar, you’ll be on your way to improving playability, tuning stability, sustain, and tone.
In conclusion, replacing a guitar nut may seem like a daunting task, but with the right tools, patience, and attention to detail, it can be accomplished by guitarists of all skill levels. Whether you are looking to upgrade your guitar’s tone, fix a damaged nut, or simply customize your instrument, the process is well worth the effort.
By following the steps outlined in this article, you can ensure a smooth and successful nut replacement that will enhance your guitar’s playability and sound.
Remember to take your time, measure carefully, and seek professional help if needed, and you’ll be enjoying your newly replaced nut in no time!
Can you use any type of glue to secure a replacement nut?
When replacing a nut on your guitar, it’s important to use the right type of glue. While some people may be tempted to use any glue they have on hand, it’s best to use a specialized wood glue specifically designed for instrument repair.
This will ensure a strong and long-lasting bond between your guitar’s nut and neck. Avoid using superglue or other types of permanent adhesives, as these can damage your guitar’s finish and make future repairs more difficult.
Applying only a small amount of wood glue to the channel where the nut will sit is all you need for a secure fit.
How can you tell if a replacement nut needs to be flat or curved on the bottom?
To determine if a replacement nut needs to be flat or curved on the bottom, first examine the original nut. If it has a flat bottom and there are no issues with string height or buzzing, then a replacement nut with a flat bottom should suffice.
However, if the original nut has a curved bottom or there are issues with string height, then a replacement nut with a curved bottom may be necessary. It’s important to note that Fender-style necks require nuts with either flat or curved bottoms depending on the radius of the fingerboard.
Take measurements and consult with a professional if you’re unsure about which type of replacement nut to use for your guitar.
Are pre-cut nuts always the correct size for a specific guitar model?
When searching for pre-cut nuts, it’s important to keep in mind that they may not always be the correct size for a specific guitar model. This can lead to a frustrating and time-consuming process of sanding and adjusting the nut until it fits properly.
It’s always best to measure the dimensions of your guitar’s current nut and compare them to the dimensions of potential replacement nuts before making a purchase. Additionally, consider consulting with a professional luthier or guitar technician who can provide expert advice on finding the right replacement nut for your specific guitar.
Do you need to adjust the truss rod after replacing a guitar nut?
If you’ve replaced the nut on your guitar, it’s important to check if you need to adjust the truss rod. This is because changing the nut can affect the action and intonation of your guitar.
If the new nut has a different height compared to the old one, it might cause the strings to sit too high or low, which can lead to fret buzz or difficulty playing.
To adjust the truss rod, use an appropriate tool and turn it in small increments until you achieve slight relief in the neck. Remember that this adjustment should be done carefully and gradually, as over-tightening can damage your guitar’s neck.