Material Science of Guitar Building -The Nut


ben150

So, of course what we are all after is the ultimate tone, of course that changes for each guitarist and each guitar and even each part of each guitar.  One of the most annoying things about my training as a builder of baroque instruments was the incessant whittling on about how builders like those working in the Stradivari workshops got the sound they did, was it the varnish? the wood? The sunlight.. it goes on, and it gets very boring after a while, the fact is that as wood ages the moisture and resin left in it slowly crystallises and the tone of the instrument changes, as you watch the video below you’ll see how this one fact has a very real and direct effect on the tone of the violin and how this is applicable to your guitar in general and specifically the nut.

Despite our natural proclivity towards chaos in everything we do these days, a rule to live by in guitar building and design is simple.. simplicity!  Just as the varnish undoubtedly does have an effect on tone you can break this tone down into two basic sounds which you can then ‘shade’ using minor changes in timber, hardware or finish.  The rule is thus, a hard material will create a bright and sustain-full tone, a soft material will produce a mellow and less sustained sound, a guitar made entirely of soft woods with an oil finish and a graphite nut will ‘thud’ rather sound out, a guitar built entirely in rock maple with a hard lacquer finish and a brass nut will ring and sing ‘til Christmas. Neither is ideal and it is the guitar builder’s job to combine the wood, finish, nut material and hardware materials to create a sonic pallet that you will love and want to live with….and that is before you even start to think about the pickups and wiring.

All my best,

Ben Crowe

Crimson Guitars

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To find out more about Ben, click HERE

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