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  #1  
Old 12-06-2019, 10:31 AM
TheLostArt TheLostArt is offline
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Default Alternative nut materials?

I'm a full time musician and I use capos to change the keys of songs a lot when I'm singing and I've found that it's causing some issues with the nut on my guitars.

My main acoustic is a Martin D35 and after 6 months of heavy playing, the nut slots gradually get a little worn from using the capo at the 1st and 2nd frets. This translates to intonation problems for the top e and b strings so that I eventually have to tune those two a little flat to compensate, but then I end up with out of tune open chords when I play without the capo.

We can discuss my lazy playing style I suppose, but I just find the fuller sound of open chords more pleasing when I'm performing solo, and changing the key quickly with a capo, rather than transposing is also helpful in looking after my voice when I'm singing every day!

It's not a big job for a repairer to fix, but sometimes I'm working away for months at a time as the problem gradually gets worse and it can be VERY frustrating! My frets get a lot of wear too, but I've had those replaced with a harder wearing material. I was wondering if there's a similar solution available for my nut? I realise that wear and tear is inevitable but if I could just reduce the trips to my repairer and the time I have to spend hearing my guitar's intonation get gradually worse, that would be a great improvement!

Any ideas? My repair guy is of the opinion that I'm just being overly fussy and that this can't be avoided and although I appreciate his skills, we don't always agree on how best to deal with guitar problems!
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  #2  
Old 12-06-2019, 10:36 AM
jonfields45 jonfields45 is online now
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Stainless steel zero fret nut.

https://www.stewmac.com/Materials_an...lide_Nuts.html
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  #3  
Old 12-06-2019, 10:57 AM
charles Tauber charles Tauber is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TheLostArt View Post
My main acoustic is a Martin D35 and after 6 months of heavy playing, the nut slots gradually get a little worn from using the capo at the 1st and 2nd frets. This translates to intonation problems for the top e and b strings so that I eventually have to tune those two a little flat to compensate, but then I end up with out of tune open chords when I play without the capo.
I'm trying to understand what you are describing.

What should be happening is that the strings exit the nut slots at the fingerboard-face of the nut. This is generally accomplished by angling the slot to be deeper towards the tuning machines.

The nut defines both the height of the string at the nut, by the depth of the slots in the nut, and the actual vibrating string length. As the slots in the nut wear, two possible things can happen. First, the depth of the slot increases, lowering the string height at the nut. This would cause buzzing of the open strings if the string height lowers sufficiently. The second thing that is possible, is that the breaking point of the string over the nut moves away from the fingerboard face of the nut. Doing so lengthens the vibrating string length, which can lead to intonation issues.

What you have stated is that you are experiencing intonation issues attributed to wear of the nut. That implies that the breaking point of the strings is moving away from the fingerboard face of the nut - it can't wear closer. However, you have not stated that the open strings buzz. That is part of what I'm trying to understand. Setup well, there is only a few thousandths of an inch clearance of open string and first fret. Even slight wear of the nut will cause buzzing of the open string(s). So what you are describing is purely movement of the breaking point, but no loss of height. I'm trying to imagine what situation produces that. What comes to mind is a nut slot that has little or no angle so that the front edge of the slot wears, moving the breaking point, but the remainder of the horizontal slot maintains the string height.

How have you determined that it is wear of the nut that is causing the intonation issues?

The next question is that you want a harder nut material to reduce wear. What material do you have now? Bone or plastic? Other harder options could be brass or steel.
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Old 12-06-2019, 03:23 PM
redir redir is offline
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First of all, there's nothing wrong with using a capo If it matches your style then go for it.

So are you thinking that the angle produced on the strings from the face of the nut to the capo are wearing groves into the face of the nut and essentially pushing the point of contact of the nut slot back?

I've not seen that happen but I suppose it could. But then I'd suspect it to do it on other strings too.

So starting from the beginning, if your guitar is in tune without a capo and then you put a capo on the second fret is it now out of tune? Assuming you put the capo on perfectly because they can of course make a guitar go out of tune.
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Old 12-07-2019, 08:09 AM
TheLostArt TheLostArt is offline
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Hi guys - thanks for the replies!

Yeah, I probably wasn't entirely clear but most of you seem to have worked it out: the wear I described is only really on the fingerboard-facing side of the nut, so that the headstock side still keeps the strings at the correct height, but the intonation is slightly off.

I've no idea why it only seems to affect the top two strings! Those do seem to exhibit the most fretwear too, and I'm pretty sure it's down to my capo use and not just some weird way I fret chords! My repair guy originally couldn't correct the problem and didn't believe me when I felt like I had deduced the culprit, but then he had a look through a magnifying glass and saw that I was right and was then able to fix it easily!

The Martin website tells me that they use bone for the nut. This steel zero fret nut looks like it could do the job! I imagine that would at least last a LOT longer than the plastic and bone alternatives.
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Old 12-07-2019, 08:19 AM
TheLostArt TheLostArt is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by redir View Post
So starting from the beginning, if your guitar is in tune without a capo and then you put a capo on the second fret is it now out of tune? Assuming you put the capo on perfectly because they can of course make a guitar go out of tune.
Yeah, the guitar would then be out of tune, but it would also be out of tune as soon as I fretted any chords that use the top strings.

What I ended up doing was tuning up the guitar with my tuner and then fretting a D chord, before retuning the top two strings until that chord sounded in tune. I figured that I was probably fretting those strings more often than letting them ring open, and then just had to avoid playing those strings when fretting an open E or something.

I should also point out that right now both of my acoustic guitars are playing just fine because I've had the nut slots fixed. I'm just trying to avoid it becoming a problem again in the future. I was once stuck on a 4 month cruise contract with a guitar that was having this problem and you can probably imagine how frustrating that was!
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  #7  
Old 12-07-2019, 10:21 AM
redir redir is offline
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Ok well since the nut slots are angled back from the very edge of the fretboard face to the back of the nut on the tuner side then if they are indeed filing the front face notch down then your action at the nut would go down too as that point of contact moves back down the ramp so to speak.

The zero fret option might work out better for you. If you don't do that then you might consider having a luthier make two nuts for you and don't glue them in so that when you are out on a cruise and it happens you can swap it out.

Like I said I've never seen anything like that, there's always something new and interesting that comes up. But I am still wondering if something else is going on, just can't think of it. If I had the guitar in my shop then I would look very closely at the nut slots with a 10x lens and I would be able to see what is truly going on. If you have such a thing you might have a look. Maybe even a close up pic that you could blow up on your computer screen may reveal something too.
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  #8  
Old 12-07-2019, 01:43 PM
TheLostArt TheLostArt is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by redir View Post
Ok well since the nut slots are angled back from the very edge of the fretboard face to the back of the nut on the tuner side then if they are indeed filing the front face notch down then your action at the nut would go down too as that point of contact moves back down the ramp so to speak.

The zero fret option might work out better for you. If you don't do that then you might consider having a luthier make two nuts for you and don't glue them in so that when you are out on a cruise and it happens you can swap it out.

Like I said I've never seen anything like that, there's always something new and interesting that comes up. But I am still wondering if something else is going on, just can't think of it. If I had the guitar in my shop then I would look very closely at the nut slots with a 10x lens and I would be able to see what is truly going on. If you have such a thing you might have a look. Maybe even a close up pic that you could blow up on your computer screen may reveal something too.
I'm surprised that it's not a more common thing - maybe it's because of the amount that my guitar gets played and with the capo use?

I had considered getting spare nuts but I assumed there must be a solution that involved slightly less work! I'm going to give the zero fret nuts a try and see how they turn out!
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  #9  
Old 12-08-2019, 01:44 AM
mirwa mirwa is offline
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Zero fret is the path for you by the sounds of it.

Unless you can get a zero fret conversion kit, its actually a pretty decent sized job to fabricate from scratch.

This is a Taylor I converted to a zero fret, took me a good 2 plus hours to fabricate

Steve

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  #10  
Old 12-08-2019, 08:59 AM
redir redir is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TheLostArt View Post
I'm surprised that it's not a more common thing - maybe it's because of the amount that my guitar gets played and with the capo use?

I had considered getting spare nuts but I assumed there must be a solution that involved slightly less work! I'm going to give the zero fret nuts a try and see how they turn out!
I believe so yes. Especially if you are using a capo on the first fret a lot. I could definitely see that happening over time.
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