ebony nut failures

Ask your wood and other materials questions here. Please DO NOT post pictures and ask us to identify your wood, we have found that accurate ID is nearly impossible, and such discussions will be deleted. Thanks.
Post Reply
Brian Evans
Posts: 913
Joined: Sat Aug 30, 2014 8:26 am
Location: Tatamagouche, Nova Scotia

ebony nut failures

Post by Brian Evans »

Just thought I would post and ask for feedback. I made two guitars with ebony nuts - I really like the black appearance of ebony. The ebony used was quite old - probably 20 - 50 years cut, and in small pieces (I got it from a knife maker who used it for handles). Both were set up normally with the bare clearance over the first fret when fretted at third fret, and both lost clearance after around 12 - 18 months. The second, third and fourth strings would buzz out on the first fret. All I can really do is replace with bone, for long term reliability, yet I know that ebony has been a useful nut material for centuries. Any ideas? Frankly, I wonder if the fretboard swelled or something equally mysterious. Rosewood on one, birdseye maple (which has proven to be a really unstable choice, I have dressed the unbound fret ends at least 6 times) on the other.

Clay Schaeffer
Posts: 1521
Joined: Fri Jan 06, 2012 12:04 pm

Re: ebony nut failures

Post by Clay Schaeffer »

You could try building up the ebony with ebony dust and superglue as is done with bone when the slots are too deep. If the color is what you want then using a synthetic (richlite, micarta, etc.) might be another way to go.

User avatar
Barry Daniels
Posts: 2716
Joined: Thu Jan 05, 2012 10:58 am
Location: The Woodlands, Texas

Re: ebony nut failures

Post by Barry Daniels »

Early on in my career I tried a few ebony nuts and didn't like the softness or the tone. Been using bone ever since.
MIMF Staff

David King
Posts: 2689
Joined: Sat Jan 07, 2012 10:01 pm
Location: Portland, OR

Re: ebony nut failures

Post by David King »

Ebony is fine for violin family nut and just ok for fretless basses. At the very least get ahold of some African blackwood for a fretted instrument nut. If you want extra hardness align the grain vertically. Lignum will also do but it's not nearly as dark.

Alan Carruth
Posts: 1029
Joined: Sun Jan 15, 2012 1:11 pm

Re: ebony nut failures

Post by Alan Carruth »

Round wound strings will saw through ebony over a fairly short time. Violins and electric guitars tend to use flat wounds, so it's not a problem for them.

Bill Raymond
Posts: 365
Joined: Fri Jan 06, 2012 5:37 pm
Location: Red Bluff California

Re: ebony nut failures

Post by Bill Raymond »

I have an old Gibson C-1 with an ebony nut/string spacer and zero fret. If you like the look of the black nut, perhaps using it as a string spacer nut with zero fret would give the look you desire on future construction.

Post Reply