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Post new topic New Nut on Ozark Reso.
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Author Topic:  New Nut on Ozark Reso.
Dave Seddon

Leicester, England.
Post Posted 16 Dec 2017 10:57 am     Reply with quote

I bought this resonator as a left handed guitar (square neck) and have converted it to Right handed which is easy enough except for the nut. I decided to make a new nut but only have brass as opposed to the plastic original. First question is, Will a brass nut be OK and second regarding the grooves for the strings, do I use nut files which will give me flat bottom grooves or do I use a triangle needle file?? If anyone can give me some good advice I would very much appreciate it. Thanks, Dave.
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James Hartman

Pennsylvania, USA
Post Posted 16 Dec 2017 11:49 am     Reply with quote

Brass will work. But my preference on an acoustic reso would be to obtain a large enough bone nut blank from a luthier's supplier to replicate the original plastic nut. Sometimes you'll end up gluing two blanks together (cyanoacrylate works well) to get enough height for a reso.

Not sure what sort of "nut" files you have that would create a flat bottom groove. Typically nut files (of the sort used by luthiers) are rounded. Ideally you want to create a rounded bottom groove that matches the string diameter - the depth doesn't need to be more than half the diameter of the string. You can use a small razor saw (Xacto, for example) to start the groove, and then size and round it for larger strings with needle files if you lack the specialized nut files. The critical thing on a steel guitar is that the top surface across the strings is in line, with no high or low ones.
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Jack Hanson

San Luis Valley, USA
Post Posted 16 Dec 2017 12:24 pm     Reply with quote

It's relatively easy to make a decent nut given the proper tools. Most folks would agree that bone is the material of choice on a reso. If you have the wherewithal and the tools, go for it. If not, you probably can't beat buying the finished product direct from Beard:
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Dave Thier

Fairhope, Alabama, USA
Post Posted 16 Dec 2017 4:23 pm     Reply with quote

I'll also recommend the slotted nut from Resophonic Outfitters. I've never used brass for a reso nut, but my guess is that it would not sound as good as bone.
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Jim Sliff

Lawndale California, USA
Post Posted 16 Dec 2017 4:26 pm     Reply with quote

Personally I would not use a brass nut on a squareneck (or on anything, for that matter). They do exactly the opposite of the usual intended purpose, reducing sustain and deadening the sound of open notes. They negative effect is even more significant on acoustic instruments.

In most cases even a half-decent plastic nut would be better - but it makes far more sense to use bone. It sounds better and is much easier to work with. Guitar shops that do minor tech work usually have them or they're easily ordered online.

They were popular on many types of guitars in the 70's but as instrument testing became more sophisticated they were found to be counter-productive - the reason they are rarely seen nowadays.

And I also have never seen flat-bottom nut files. If you have flat ones, they
just aren't nut files. I'm a long-time instrument tech and every real nut file I have ever owned (or seen) has been "gaged" for specific strings (there's a little leeway with files for wound strings) and has a rounded edge.

Real nut files are also not cheap. The cheapest properly-gaged ones I've seen are sold by Stewmac for around $15 (I use so many I buy double-edged ones with 2 gages per file - they're less expensive per "edge"). If the flat "nut files" were inexpensive that would explain it - somebody selling plain needle files or similar and misrepresenting them.

Also - I recommend using the same nut files to notch spider-bridge saddles. Many "Dobro" use this method: file the rear of the (usually) ebony saddle surface starting about halfway-up. Thin it to a triangular shape with the top 1-1.5 mm thick. The flat surface should always be at the front. The purpose is to reduce the string contact area, which helps reduce dead sounding strings and the chance of buzzing. It also increases sustain.

Once the saddles are thinned each string slot is filed towards the tailpiece with very little depth at the front.

It's also critical on a squareneck to *not* use a nut slot guideline of "half the string diameter". While fine for roundneck setups, on a squareneck it will cause the player to have to use more bar pressure than necessary to get clear notes.

At both nut *and* saddle the depth needs to be very precise such that a straightedge will lay dead flat across the string tops with no pressure. A professional squareneck setup includes this type of nut and saddle "cutting" and makes a very noticeable difference to most experienced players.

I've done them this way fo at least 30 years, and all techs I know do he same. Most also use proportional string spacing, which takes string diameter into account (rather than just spacing strings on center), especially at the saddles. Many players say it feels more natural when picking. None of the experienced players I've done work for prefer on-center spacing.

That's a large part of the "topside" setup work. Other important details like saddle height, spider truing and cone fitting would take far too long to describe here. If anyone wants those and more setup details feel free to email me.

Hope that helps -
No chops, but great tone
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Dave Seddon

Leicester, England.
Post Posted 16 Dec 2017 11:37 pm     Reply with quote

Thank you gentlemen for your replies, there is obviously a lot more to this than I thought. I am a complete novice when it comes to reso's so I shall take all your advice and buy a bone ready made. Thanks again. Dave.
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Jim Sliff

Lawndale California, USA
Post Posted 17 Dec 2017 10:53 pm     Reply with quote

It may be a bit tough to find a "ready made" bone nut - and if you do it will still need fine tuning (if it fits at all). Slot widths, lengths and depth can vary, as does string spacing depending on the specific instrument.

The slot depth also will probably not be correct with a ready-made nut - unless you get lucky enough to receive one that happens to be made using the exact same string gages you use. AND was designed for a precise "no-buzz" setup.

I've never seen a pre-sized/pre-slotted one that fit without modification and was made taking all the important details into account.

if you're not sure about handling a raw one yourself it would be best to find a qualified tech to do it. Incorrectly made nuts and saddles,incorrect spider bridge truing/adjustment, cone seating etc all need to work together or the volume, tone and sustain can be seriously affected.

Installing a squareneck resonator nut/saddles and setting the spider screw correctly is roughly the equivalent of installing a nut and saddle on a Martin dreadnaught *and* doing a full fret dressing. I've been guitar tech since the 70's but it took me until about 25 years ago to find a qualified Dobro tech that would teach proper setup.

You can buy a setup video from Beard Guitars but it still takes decent tech experience (and quite a few tries) to finally fine-tune your setup chops. I hav players bring guitars to me every month or two that have had "DIY" attempts made and about half need new cones because the screws have been over tightened or spiders pressed down by hand - both wrong methods - and all need the nuts and saddle replaced.

I'm just cautioning you not to waste time and money if you don't really know what you're doing.
No chops, but great tone
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