Monday, June 29, 2009

Making an Ebony Nut and Saddle

I may have mentioned a while back that a friend of mine generously donated a couple of nut and saddle blanks – one set in Corian and one set in ebony. I already used the Corian nut blank to make a raised nut for playing slide guitar (as seen HERE). Now it was time to put the ebony to use.

My acoustic only came with a plastic nut and saddle, so I was keen to see what sort of a difference this would make (to be discussed later).

The ebony blanks:

The first thing I should mention here is that ebony is a very difficult wood to work with. The only thing I can compare it to is frozen chocolate. It’s extremely hard, but it’s still possible to chip bits off the edge quite easily, so you have to be very careful, patient, and have very sharp tools.

First thing to do was to remove the old nut and saddle to use as a template.

These were then traced around on the nut and saddle blanks.

Let’s look at the process of making the saddle first.

The tracing:

Cutting to length:

Initial, quite rough, shaping, using a file (shown below):

Then final shaping and smoothing using fairly smooth sandpaper, to give the finished saddle shown here:

And finally, fitted to the guitar:

Now the nut


Again, rough shaping, only this time starting with a little plane (shown below), then a file, then sandpaper:

Despite taking care, a bit chipped off, as shown below. No problem, I need to add a curve anyway:

The nut also needed to be thinned to fit into the nut slot. This was done in the same way as the Corian nut HERE.

With the slots cut:

Finally, fitted to the guitar:

The sound is definitely different. The wound strings appear to have more depth and seem to have more sustain too, whereas I was a little disappointed with the unwound strings initially, though they seem to have come to life now. Overall I like the sound, though I would like to also try bone, so don’t be surprised if you see another similar post somewhere down the road.

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