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  #1  
Old 12-10-2018, 11:41 PM
arluk3 arluk3 is offline
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Default Teflon tape at the nut

Would somebody please replicate my experiment (to be described) and share the results? My strings were sticking in the nut slots on my Ibanez AC240-OPN acoustic guitar. I tried lubricants (pencil lead, lip balm, etc.) with poor results. So I decided to use some plumber's Teflon tape under each string in the slots. The tape is approximately .0015" thick. The strings no longer stuck in the slots, so that part was successful. But things happened that I did not expect. The guitar now stays in tune better, whereas it had been problematic. It is also much easier to tune. The guitar rings like a bell, with improved loudness and sustain. The strings play better together. It just sounds like a different, much better guitar.

I have a theory about how this happened. Before using the Teflon tape, I think the tension from the tuners to the nut was not equal to the tension from the nut to the saddle. What I mean is, the friction caused tension to build up in the headstock area until the string slipped (an squeaked often). I am guessing that the increased tension resulted in a less-than-ideal transmission of acoustic energy to the headstock, and to the body of the guitar via the neck. I believe that the increased tension of the string changed the freqencies which had propagated from the guitars strings, spoiling the stew. Once the tensions were equalized, using Teflon tape, the energy from the guitar strings passed into the headstock unadulterated, thus improving the sound of the guitar. It's only a theory. Would somebody please shed light on this? And, please, would somebody try this and report the results?
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Old 12-11-2018, 04:09 AM
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srick srick is offline
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It's easy enough to try and I'm surprised that no one has done this before. There's very little down-side.

One property of the tape that may be coming into play is that it likely compresses into the windings of the strings. This would create a smooth solid bearing surface. When compressed, the teflon becomes pretty firm.

BTW - your next experiment is "tefloning" the saddle

best,

Rick
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Old 12-11-2018, 08:11 AM
packocrayons packocrayons is offline
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I'm impressed that the teflon tape didn't get cut in half or slide out of the slots.

I have a sticky guitar and I'm not too happy with the tone. I'll give this a go and report back.
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Old 12-11-2018, 03:12 PM
lar lar is offline
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I use a product called Nut Sauce. It works. Before when I tuned the strings they would creak into tune. IOW - I would turn the tuning peg a little and nothing would happen. A little more, nothing would happen. A little more and 'CREAK', the string would change tune- all at once. Tuning in this way is a discrete event, instead of the smooth process that it should be.

What I think was happening is that when tightening the peg, although the string tension increases in the string up to the nut, it doesn't after the nut due to the friction of the (wound) strings against the nut. I think this is exactly what you are describing. When I kept turning the peg, the string eventually slips in the nut and transfers the tension all the way to the saddle.

With Nut Sauce, what I described above doesn't happen.

I've never tried teflon tape - although I use it all the time. Interesting idea. The only drawback of the tape is that it may raise the strings in the nut. Playability is VERY sensitive to string height at the nut, and even .001 is too much. However, if the tape is .0015 thick uncompressed, it may compress to much less than that and not be an issue. Also, the Nut Sauce is pretty easy to apply - probably easier than teflon. But something tells me the teflon tape is cheaper, especially since I have lots of it in the garage already. The Nut Sauce is not cheap, but a little goes a long way.
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Old 12-11-2018, 03:42 PM
yellowesty yellowesty is offline
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The problems that arluk3 describe are not uncommon in guitars with Martin-like headstocks where several strings are required to take sharp turns as they progress up the fretboard and through the nut to the tuners. Headstock designs that maintain a straight path from the bridge to the tuning machines are fairly effective in dealing with these issues. With or without teflon.
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Old 12-11-2018, 06:27 PM
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This was easy enough to try. The guitar is a Bourgeois 00 Country Boy. I finished the nut myself (under magnification) earlier in the year . And I can say conclusively, that the teflon made very little difference in the action and tuning on this guitar. However, the highs are slightly muted.

It's an easy mod to try and reversible. YMMV. Thanks for the interesting experiment!

best,

Rick
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Old 12-11-2018, 11:01 PM
arluk3 arluk3 is offline
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Thanks, Srich, for your replication of my experiment. I imagine that only people with sticking strings will have a chance of getting the results that I did. Incidentally, I described the Teflon experiment to a friend who plays second violin in an orchestra and has a PhD. in physics. He said that he moves the bridge on his violin to a point (a variable distance between the bridge and the string terminations) where that short piece of string forms a harmonic with the rest of the string. This tells me that the transmission of energy from the main strings is modulated by the short strings below the bridge, and I would assume that this should be the case at the headstock too.
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Old 12-11-2018, 11:58 PM
lar lar is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by arluk3 View Post
This tells me that the transmission of energy from the main strings is modulated by the short strings below the bridge, and I would assume that this should be the case at the headstock too.
Which is why some people tie scarves/bandannas/hair-ties/etc... around the strings on the headstock. To mute that energy transmission.

The frequencies 'below the bridge' must be pretty high because of the short distances involved. My saddle-to-bridgepin distance is roughly 1/3". I'd calculate the frequency but I don't know what the string density is and I'm too lazy to go weigh a string. But the frequency must be very high - probably above human hearing. My guess is that it's so high my dog couldn't even hear it - if I had one, which I don't.

Which brings up something interesting, how does a dog (that I don't have) hear a guitar differently than me? Must be a HUGE difference. When I had one (a dog), he liked listening so it must not sound horrible. If only they could talk.
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Old 12-12-2018, 11:05 AM
arluk3 arluk3 is offline
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Srick, I just did your experiment, placing Teflon tape at the saddle. I used a double thickness, because I noticed that the Teflon tape at the nut had been perforated by the strings (as I think you expected). I also doubled the tape at the nut with fresh tape. The resulting sound was muddy and weak, with reduced sustain. I repeated the experiment with single thickness tape at both the nut and the saddle, with substantial improvement in sound. Then I tried it with a single thickness of tape at the saddle only, with good sound but perhaps a bit less low end. Next I tried a double thickness of tape at the saddle only, with some degradation in sound quality. Then I tried a double thickness of tape at the nut only, and it sounded good. Finally, I went back to a single thickness of tape at the nut only, and it sounded best of all the configurations, IMO. During none of these setups did I hear the strings squeak while tuning, which was the problem in the first place. I noticed that the tape at the nut was always perforated by the strings, which might be expected to nullify the presence of the tape, but I am convinced that my results are not due to my expectations. I have a HP 3561a spectrum analyzer that I could use to detect any differences that result from using Teflon tape, and maybe I will do some experiments when I have more time.

Lar, I believe that animals do appreciate good music. My previous cat loved to listen to Puccini. My current cat always leaves the room when I pick up my guitar, so he too has sensibilities when it comes to music, and he is completely lacking in empathy with respect to my feelings.
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Old 12-12-2018, 11:11 AM
RustyAxe RustyAxe is offline
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IMO the only "correct" fix is to have the nut properly slotted for the guitar and strings.
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Old 12-12-2018, 11:40 AM
Edgar Poe Edgar Poe is offline
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They make Guitars nuts made from Teflon.

Ed
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Old 12-12-2018, 11:56 AM
Monsoon1 Monsoon1 is offline
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This seems like a great idea. I'll probably try this along the way.
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Old 12-12-2018, 12:13 PM
bausin bausin is offline
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>> how does a dog (that I don't have) hear a guitar differently than me? Must be a HUGE difference.

The difference is not that much. IIRC, their hearing drops off around 23 KHz compared to humans 20 KHz.
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Old 12-12-2018, 12:21 PM
bausin bausin is offline
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>> he moves the bridge on his violin to a point (a variable distance between the bridge and the string terminations) where that short piece of string forms a harmonic with the rest of the string.

Seems like that would only work for the open string and maybe a few more points, like the octave and the 5th. Doesn't sound like a recipe for consistency of volume and tone.
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  #15  
Old 12-12-2018, 04:57 PM
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Earlier this year I purchased a set of StewMac files. I have very good magnification available and a very good light source. And Iíll tell you, even on a Bourgeois guitar, the nut needed some tweaking: in particular, I had to angle off the slots (to follow the string directionj that were closest to the tuners and provide a little steeper ramp. And polishing the cut surface requires patience and a fine touch.

IMO, learning to cut\tweak a nut is one of the best improvements that you can make to any guitar.
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