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View Full Version : Bone, ebony or other hardwood nut?



Henning
09-17-2016, 08:37 PM
Has anybody tried the difference of a setup with bone, ebony or other hardwood for the nut?
I have a banjolele that I made a new bone nut and perhaps I thereby got a little different tone.
Maybe the volume of the tone increased a little as well as it "hardened" too, as well as the warmth of the tone lost a little thereby.

Supposedly ebony or rosewood wouldnīt make a too much difference and the nut would have a very small impact of the tone compared with the saddle.

A further question: if you just keep the "original" plastic nut, compared to change it to another sort, how that would affect the tone?
If the original plastic nut supposedly is fit.

Michael N.
09-17-2016, 11:16 PM
I've done Ebony saddles and top nuts. They work perfectly fine. I've not done any direct comparisons with bone though i.e. on the very same instrument.
The thing is that ebony is much easier to work than bone, easier to plane. Quick to work the stuff, cheap. You may as well try it.
Any hard hardwood will do, especially on unwound strings. With wound strings you really will need something as hard as ebony. Somewhere I have a tiny bit of Lignum that I might try. Lignum may even be better because it's often thought of as being self lubricating, which is why they used it for bearing surfaces.

Ken Franklin
09-17-2016, 11:30 PM
Some use ebony nuts and saddles for initial setup and switch to bone when it's all dialed in. That would provide a good comparison.

PhilUSAFRet
09-17-2016, 11:33 PM
Using Aquila strings, I have compared ebony to bone nuts and saddles on my KPK solid acacia and to my ears, the ebony gives it a much richer, less harsh tone than the bone. I

Timbuck
09-18-2016, 02:05 AM
A lot of old Koa ukes have Koa nuts..and they sound ok... Has anybody ever tried coconut shell ??

Michael N.
09-18-2016, 02:31 AM
A lot of old Koa ukes have Koa nuts..and they sound ok... Has anybody ever tried coconut shell ??

I have. Sounded a bit hollow, like horses hoofs. . .
Nope. It's not the right shape is it? And don't forget, as soon as you fret a note the nut is out of the equation.

Henning
09-18-2016, 09:20 PM
the ebony gives it a much richer, less harsh tone than the bone. I

This is my experience with the wood/bone nut on the banjolele too.
But how much would you say is the nut and how much the saddle?
If we just consider the tonal qualities.

Michael N.
09-18-2016, 11:15 PM
If you think it makes that much difference, and you wish to even out the sound between open and fretted strings, you would make the nut out of metal.

Henning
09-18-2016, 11:26 PM
Any hard hardwood will do, especially on unwound strings. With wound strings you really will need something as hard as ebony. Somewhere I have a tiny bit of Lignum that I might try. Lignum may even be better because it's often thought of as being self lubricating, which is why they used it for bearing surfaces.

Thanks for your response. I just wonder about your opinion. If metal was good, it would be used, like in electric guitars wouldnīt it?

When considering acoustic guitars it is said that the top is about 60% of the sound and the back about 40%. I was looking for that sort of comparison though I understand that the comparison might be halting somewhat.

If any hardwood can do, then maple or oak might be suitable too?
Beg your pardon if the question is by an amateur. Most likely there are other like me out in the world who might enjoy what this might bring. ....

Michael N.
09-19-2016, 02:53 AM
The point I'm making is that on fretted notes the string is stopped by the fret. Frets tend to be metal. On open strings the string is stopped by the nut, which is usually a different material to the fret. Doesn't seem to me as though the material of the nut has such an impact on tone, otherwise we wouldn't be using dissimilar materials, surely?.
Oak will likely be OK on unwound strings. Maple might be getting a bit soft. I'm thinking in terms of wear rather than tone. You're free to experiment, wood is a pretty easy material to work in terms of top nuts, very cheap too.

cml
09-19-2016, 04:27 AM
Thanks for your response. I just wonder about your opinion. If metal was good, it would be used, like in electric guitars wouldnīt it?

When considering acoustic guitars it is said that the top is about 60% of the sound and the back about 40%. I was looking for that sort of comparison though I understand that the comparison might be halting somewhat.

If any hardwood can do, then maple or oak might be suitable too?
Beg your pardon if the question is by an amateur. Most likely there are other like me out in the world who might enjoy what this might bring. ....
Where did you get 60/40 from? From what I've read, its more like 90/10...a
But, the build factors in even more of course...

ProfChris
09-19-2016, 08:13 AM
Where did you get 60/40 from? From what I've read, its more like 90/10...a
But, the build factors in even more of course...

I'd say 90/10 as well. I think most builders would produce similar numbers.

I suspect the 60/40 comes from the guitar world, where buyers wax lyrical about the rich darkness of sound they get from rosewood sides and back, as opposed to the dry delicacy from mahogany. But buyers buy largely with their eyes, not ears.

ruby50
09-19-2016, 04:21 PM
How about ebony AND bone. I copied this one from an early Martin/Ditson

[URL="https://www.flickr.com/photos/ruby1638/27238116301/in/album-72157662606115293/"[/URL]

Dan Gleibitz
09-19-2016, 05:14 PM
... you would make the nut out of metal.

Challenge accepted!

Andyk
09-19-2016, 11:13 PM
How about ebony AND bone. I copied this one from an early Martin/Ditson

[URL="https://www.flickr.com/photos/ruby1638/27238116301/in/album-72157662606115293/"[/URL]

I always assumed those nuts were celuloid rather than bone/ebony. Although I have nothing to back up my theory as I have never seen any in the flesh.

Henning
09-20-2016, 02:33 AM
I always assumed those nuts were celuloid rather than bone/ebony. Although I have nothing to back up my theory as I have never seen any in the flesh.

And so they are, arenīt they
Celluloid or ABS though itīs called oxbone or what ever it isnīt! :mad:

I like the 90/10 better than 60/40 and it also seems more reaonable.

I did like this:
94446

Maple and ebony, oops! now I jumped to the other end of the strings.:rolleyes:

Dan Gleibitz
10-25-2016, 11:42 PM
Challenge accepted!

Still a week away from sound testing...

http://i.imgur.com/xZ6ohkn.jpg

Michael N.
10-25-2016, 11:54 PM
I didn't mean the saddle as well! That's going to add some weight, kind of the opposite of our understanding of the theory. Still, ukes aren't guitars and you may as well try it. It just might work out.

Dan Gleibitz
10-26-2016, 12:28 AM
Ha, I know. It's solid brass, and the minute I cut it I thought, 'oh, heck, heavy, bad!' There's still some to take off once the fretboard is radiused and for string compensation, but right now I've got a 7 gram bridge with a 20 gram saddle.

Figure nothing lost if it's a dud, plus it's probably the easiest thing to A/B with bone.

That said I've read of people gluing a coin under the bridge claiming the added weight increases sustain. And there's always the option of machining it, taking a bit out of each side or something more decorative like a violin bridge.

pritch
10-26-2016, 01:17 AM
I just wonder about your opinion. If metal was good, it would be used, like in electric guitars wouldnīt it?


Most electric guitars have metal hardware at the bridge end? My Fender came with a steel nut as well. So it's not unknown.

Dan Gleibitz
10-27-2016, 12:17 AM
I didn't mean the saddle as well! That's going to add some weight, kind of the opposite of our understanding of the theory. Still, ukes aren't guitars and you may as well try it. It just might work out.

I put it through a Jenny Craig program. Now it's only _twice_ as heavy as a bone saddle!

https://i.imgur.com/SWEJQeI.jpg