Re: Walrus nuts and saddles.
- From: Ken Cashion <kcashion@xxxxxxxxxxx>
- Date: Sat, 24 May 2008 11:54:51 -0500
On Sat, 24 May 2008 12:32:54 -0400, "Kevin Hall"
Nut and saddle materials are bones of contention ( sorry) for many builders
and players. I believe there is a sound difference between various
materials, but it is slight. I do know for sure that a dull sounding
guitar can be livened up somewhat with a good hard saddle, and one which is
overly bright can often be knocked back a bit by use of a softer material.
I wonder if this would be true of 3/4-size and parlor size guitars. Or
would the treble be lessened with no gain in bass or volume.
A hard, well polished nut wears more slowly than a softer one will, and
will also tune more smoothly.
When I started building elephant ivory was still the norm. It's tough to
beat for sound, appearance, durability and the sheer mystique of 'old
I still have some pieces of the stuff around here. It was only after
I cut some way down to put a new nut on the cheapo 3/4-size Deans
(that lives behind the bar) did it occur to me that was waste of good
(Norm Draper thought it sound OK so maybe his critical ear picked up
on the fact that the $60 guitar [with gig sack] had a pachyderm goodie
for a nut. <g>)
These days I use bone almost exclusively, but recent shipments have been
inconsistent. Lost of it is coming in from China these days, and tends
to be roughly cut as well as porous. Not good for appearance, sound
consistency from string to string ( esp. with piezos) or durability.
Corian is a complete lost cause, micarta still too soft for me, and the
other synthetics I've tried over the years have been less than satisfying.
I have some bone around here and some of it was so porous, I just
threw it away. Besides it stinks while being worked. I have wondered
about granite and marble. Both of these can be worked pretty readily.
The walrus sample I have meets all my criteria. The only fly in the
ointment is it being ineligible for export to the US.
Lie. Call it "hard white stone."
There is a big difference between 'fresh' elephant ivory and fossil ivory.
Some of the fossil stuff is so soft as to be almost unuseable, and some is
so fossilized that it is nearly impossible to work. That makes buying it
by mail a real crap shoot. I suspect that the 'fossil' walrus may be a
I have worked with some fossils but I never thought about guitar nuts
when I was doing it. I was just measuring stuff.
I should be able to sneak time during the weekend to fit a walrus nut and
saddle to one of my D-18 clones built about 15 years ago. I'm very familiar
with the sound of that old box with new strings and old, so should get a
good idea of the performance of the new material. It isn't just the sound
boost that I'm looking for. I want good, durable fittings and good
appearance as well, and I'm hoping the walrus will fill that bill. So far
I sure like it better than any of the synthetic substitutes on offer.
When I've given it a fair run, I'll post my thoughts on it. In the
meantime I'm still interested in hearing from others who have tried it.
After you try it, you will be an expert on something else!
"Ken Cashion" <kcashion@xxxxxxxxxxx> wrote in message.
On Sat, 24 May 2008 09:24:12 -0400, "Kevin Hall"
No; not a kinky thread about animal abuse. Do any of you have
with nut and saddle blanks cut from walrus tusk?
Lately I've been searching for alternatives to the usual bone (
inconsistent, varying porosity, some suppliers providing very poorly cut
material etc.) and the various synthetics, which I strongly dislike.
I've managed to get hold of a small walrus tusk ( legal up here), and so
far it seems ideal. It is quite hard, takes a good polish and rings
nicely when you drop a blank on a hard surface. While it lacks the
distinctive graining of elephant ivory, it otherwise seems like a very
suitable replacement for it.
Back when Martin still used elephant ivory for binding, they tried
as a substitute but found it too brittle to bend easily and constently.
course that isn't a consideration when cutting nut and saddle blanks.
Canadian Inuit still hunt walrus for sustenance, and are able to legally
trade tusk and bone as well as carvings they make from them. I understand
US law will not allow importation into the country, but so far Canucks
still permitted to buy, sell and use the material.
I'd be interested in hearing about any experience other players or
may have had with walrus and/or narwhale tusk.
Kevin, do it. Then you can tell US!
Can you do an A/B? Tune the strings to pitch with the current nut,
play it some, and then switch to the walrus and leave the same strings
on it and tune it back up to pitch. I have a sneaky idea that there
will be little difference, maybe none.
If you take off old strings and replace the nut with walrus and then
put on a set of brand new strings, the walrus will sound so much
Ken, the Skeptic.
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- From: Kevin Hall
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