I dabble in guitar repair and setup, for myself only. On rare occasions I will do something for someone else if I feel very confident I can do it properly. And I’ve made some mistakes in the past. At least one that I truly regret (on my own guitar). This time it’s something completely new to me.
I’ve installed new nuts a few times, including adding the grooves in. But never MADE one from scratch. I recently opened the case of my Giannini Craviola, which I’ve had since 1972 (bought it NEW), and discovered the 40 year old plastic (probably) nut had broken without provocation. My first thought was “I’ll order a new TUSQ nut from StewMac and put it on”. I did a little web surfing and found a video by a guy who had done exactly this on the exact same guitar model. So that was my plan. Until I came across some little tidbit about a CORIAN nut on a guitar! Corian? I have BIG pieces of that in my garage. Enough for THOUSANDS of nuts (they’re small after all). I read more about it and discovered that, while many purists prefer bone, TUSQ and CORIAN are an acceptable second choice, some even preferred them. So that was that. I’m going to cut off a slice of CORIAN and make my own nut for this old girl.
I found a tutorial on StewMac.com that explained pretty much everything I needed to know about cutting, grooving and shaping it properly. It’s a great site for tools and parts but Dan Erlewine also shares his, and others, vast knowledge of guitars with the public. So I started by getting the thickness of the blank to fit snug. I cut it on my chop saw, moving the blade down slowly so nothing went flying. After measuring with my cheap $10 Harbor Freight digital caliper, I started sanding with 100 grit sandpaper on a flat surface to get it close to the thickness I needed. Once it was close I test fitted it and moved to 220 grit, then to 400 grit and it fit perfect. I cut it roughly to the width of the fretboard, leaving it a good .25″ wider on each side. I have my blank ready to finish up. That’s all the further I have gotten tonight. Tomorrow and this weekend I will continue following Dan’s instructions and get the height set, then groove it, cut to finished width and shape it. I am anxious to see and hear how it sounds, assuming I don’t mess it up. I am being VERY careful not to go too far with any step and leaving the power tools unplugged. As hard as Corian is, it won’t take long to ruin it with a power sander. Not to mention a piece that small is very hard to hold onto.
By the way, CORIAN is a man made material primarily used in counter tops. It’s a fairly old formula by Dupont. Somewhere in the late 1960′s or so it came to be. There are companies using the material under different brand names but finding old counter tops tossed out is fairly easy. I don’t have a method to tell if it’s CORIAN or something similar like Meganite, but take a piece of sandpaper and see if it sands at all. If not then it might be something too hard to work. CORIAN sands very nicely and works with standard tools. It’s basically a very hard plastic. I even used some to make a stylized unicorn head for my daughter on the scroll saw. My pieces are all white but it comes in lots of colors. Making a blue or red nut could be interesting…