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The Graph Tech TUSQ Nut is a simple fix for sticky cheap nuts. for the money there may not be anything better you can do for a guitar.
Click image to enlarge

Graph Tech TUSQ Nut

A cheap and easy way to better tuning, tone and sustain

Text, photos and video by Tom Hintz

Posted – 10-9-2012

When I bought my used Fender Stratocaster I knew that I needed to replace the nut because I could hear the strings "ping" while tuning. Since I am intent on using first rate pieces on my guitars I opted for the Graph Tech TUSQ Nut because of its reputation for being both tough and slick. The last thing I wanted was to cripple a great guitar with a sticky nut!

Installation

While this Strat had the factory nut I could not be sure that it had not been modified or just worn out. As with many factory nuts all I had to do was knock the original nut out of the slot with a piece of wood and a mallet. I used an old wooden shim to deliver the mallets force to the nut to be sure I did not ding the fretboard. After removing the old nut I cleaned the slot out to be sure I had a clean flat surface for the Graph Tech TUSQ Nut.

While the Graph Tech TUSQ Nut has listed dimensions of 1-11/16" x 3/16" x 1/8" that match the slot I did have to fine-tune it. The instructions call for specific clearances between the string and first fret so we have to dial in the overall installed height of the Graph Tech TUSQ Nut as well.
I rubbed the face and bottom surfaces on a strip of 180-grit sandpaper laid on a flat piece of wood. After making several passes on the 180-grit I changed to 320-grit paper to “finish” the surfaces before trying the Graph Tech TUSQ Nut in the slot. It took two tries but I got the Graph Tech TUSQ Nut sized so that it slipped into the slot with a little friction to hold it.

Before installing the Graph Tech TUSQ Nut permanently I installed the outside strings to measure the height according to the instructions. With the strings tensioned I placed a capo ahead of the second fret and then measured the clearance between the top of the first fret and the bottom of the string on both the bass and treble sides. The spec calls for 0.010” clearance on the bass side and 0.006” on the treble side. I needed to remove just a little more from the bottom of the Graph Tech TUSQ Nut to hit those dimensions so went back to the sandpaper sequence once more time. Checking it the second time showed that I had the right height.

Having to sand a face and or bottom of a nut (left) to fit it to the slo9t is easy and not unusual. After installing the Graph Tech TUSQ Nut temporarily I checked the height using the method prescribed in the instructions. You want to get this right!
Click images to enlarge

The final installation is no different other than adding a couple small drops of regular woodworking glue to the slot to help hold the Graph Tech TUSQ Nut in place when all of the strings are removed. When I set the Graph Tech TUSQ Nut in place I worked it back and forth in the slot a bit to make sure that it was fully seated and that the glue was dispersed evenly. Then I added the strings and tuned the guitar.

When first tuning the guitar it pays to watch the positioning of the Graph Tech TUSQ Nut because the excessive movement of the strings during the first tensioning could pull the nut a little off of vertical. Once full tuned tension is applied the Graph Tech TUSQ Nut is rock solid in the slot. And, there are no more “pings” made by strings sticking in nut as they did with the earlier plastic version.

Conclusions

After installing the Graph Tech TUSQ Nut I noticed that the guitar was a bit louder and clearer than with the cheap plastic nut. It seems like sustain has increased as well but none of these changes are unexpected. The quality of the Graph Tech TUSQ Nut materials and manufacturing are key to its performance.

With a street price of about $12.95 (10-3-2012) I can’t think of a better or cheaper way to step up the performance of your guitar. Installation was very easy and from there on, the performance is automatic so you can literally put the Graph Tech TUSQ Nut in and forget it! However, I doubt that you will forget the difference in your guitar.

 

Video Tour

Visit the Stewart-MacDonald Graph Tech TUSQ Nut page – Click Here

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