Guitar repair & setup workshop in Manchester, UK

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Stonebridge Acoustic for bone upgrade

Full bone nut and saddle upgrade - Max Hing's Stonebridge

My good friend Max bought his superposh Stonebridge acoustic to me complaining about the tone that the stock Tusq nut and saddle were producing. I advised him that bone is a really nice replacement due to its natural qualities and would really bring out the tone that the old nut and saddle were holding back.

Here's the steps I took to replace the Tusq nut. There's detailed information about each of the steps underneath.

Firstly I removed the old nut carefully using a scalpel and my special nut bodger. It's quite a delicate operation because you can damage the finish around the nut when removing if you're not careful.

removing old nut

Next I carefully measured the new bone blank and the old Tusq nut. It's important to get the fit perfect - the more bone in contact with the wood, the better the tone transfer to the guitar!

Careful measuring

I gradually worked the nut down by grinding it on 80 grit paper always checking the fit against the empty nut slot.

slowly making the bone smaller

I made sure I had a tight fit not only for tonal reasons - it looks much better too when there is no gap at all.

Creating a tight fit

Once the new nut was seated perfectly within the nut channel, I carefully chopped the excess bone off the sides, testing it in situ as I went.

sorted, a lovely fit

When the nut is seated perfectly - no less will do! - I roughly measured out the camber of the nut against the camber of the fretboard. This is so that the top profile of the nut matches the fingerboard and frets. This will also be a rough marker for the height that the string slot will be.

the special half a pencil comes out

Then I coarse file the bone's top profile to suit

putting a nice curve on the bone

I rounded the edges of the nut then polished the bone being careful to remove older file or wet/dry paper marks and scratches. This brought the bone to a high shine which looks great!

its coming together now

I then applied two tiny dabs of superglue to the bottom of the nut and pressed in. The nut will sit in its slot fine as it is but a little superglue always helps to transfer the all important vibration of the string to the wood of the neck.

I also drafted out the nut slots with pencil then scored the bone with a gauged nut file enough so that the strings would stay in the slots when strung to pitch

seating the nut

I strung and checked the string spacing. If the strings are too close to the edge of the fingerboard, they will fall off when being played. The strings have to be spaced properly to get a level playing feel.

seating the nut

I tuned the strings to concert pitch. This is very important as it sets the neck tension versus string pull. If the guitar was not tuned it would be impossible to cut the nut slots to the right depth.

strung to pitch

One by one, I very carefully lowered the string slots using specialist gauged nut files (expensive!) making sure that the slot was both wide enough and the right “fall away” was angle is applied. The fall away angle in which the slot is cut is extremely important because it is cut wrong, it can either buzz, not let the strings slide through easily enough (very important for tuning reasons) or not have enough contact with the bone resulting in loss of vibration.

fine tuning the nut slo depths

I re-checked the nut slot depths by fretting the 3rd fret and checking the tiny distance between the bottom of the string and the top of the fret - the lower the easier to play. If I went too low it would cause the string to buzz when an open note is played.

I then tested the feel of the nut by playing it

Lastly I applied a final polish then lubricated the bottom of the nut slots quirkily named “Big bends Nut Sauce” which acts as a tuning stability agent.

Set the instruments action – bridge height, (nut heights already set), final truss rod tweaks then I thoroughly checked for any buzzes, polished it up then…

a quick action check

Tagged it and bagged it!


The tonal difference when I had finished the job was really good to hear. It just freed the guitar's sound right up! I was surprised at how much of a difference it made. The bone gave it more clarity than I had imagined, the sustain of notes all over the neck were astonishing and the harmonic qualities of the instrument became much richer - the guitar just sang – I didn't want to give it back…

No surprise that max was very pleased!

“...Jack has done work for two of my guitars, the first he replaced a plastic nut with a bone nut on my electric. The bone upgrade gave my guitar a much richer and classier sound and since has made it even more of a delight to play.

The second was a replacement of a nut and saddle on my Stonebridge acoustic. The Stonebridge originally came with a crappy Tusq nut and saddle and although it was setup at the factory, it always felt like it had something missing. Jack’s managed to beat the setup on Stonebridge’s factory setup and make the guitar even more fantastic than it already was; again making the tone much warmer, the sustain much better.

To summarise, Jack’s Instrument Services are very professional and affordable.
5 Stars!

-Max Hing