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Thread: Installing a roller nut

  1. #1
    A Ficus ehdwuld's Avatar
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    Default Installing a roller nut

    ok the other day I was at Amazon for some other crap
    and ran up on the Fender LSR roller nut for 30 bucks

    the WD roller nut for 10 bucks

    and the Mighty Mite roller nut for 9 bucks
    being chea... thrifty as I am
    I got one of these


    so I got it because of the individual rollers
    unlike the WD brand that has two
    strings sharing a single roller

    the chrome blends in well with the couch




    as you can see here

    the break on top of the rollers will be back a bit from the regular front of the standard strat nut


    so with my handi-dandy digital calipers
    I have determined that from the front of the chrome
    (where the fretboard starts)
    to the center of the roller
    (the break of the string over the nut)
    to be 3.5 mm

    I would think that that would mean
    on the bullet strat, that I'm plannin on putting it on,

    once I remove the nut
    and shave a spot for it to sit
    I would hve to then remove about 3.5 mm of fretboard
    to get the scale back right

    would this be correct?
    or am I just totally wrong and
    the nut breaks at the rear ?

    also

    I have heard that the PRS and Washburn guitars with the Buzz Feiten
    have a compensated nut
    IIRC the nut is slightly forward on the high E side

    does anyone have PRS or washburn to confirm this?

    if tis true,
    then whilst the chisel is in hand............

    any thoughts?
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    Default Re: Installing a roller nut

    Tread carefully - this is easy to mess up.

    Yes, you need to remove material from the end of the board. That's the easy part. Not that it's really easy, but it's simple relative to setting the height, which is extremely critical to get right at least within a few thousandths of an inch (actually a thousandth or less to be ideal, but a few thousandths will at least yield playable results).

    Of course you can't easily set individual string heights on a roller nut, which is a big drawback to their design. If the radius of the nut does not perfectly match the radius of the first fret (hint: it won't), then the best you can do is set it so that the lowest two strings are as low as possible and live with the compromises across the other strings.

    Did I mention I really don't like roller nuts, and consider their design critically flawed in so many ways?

    As to compensation, the Buzz Feiten system is not any closer at the treble side than on the bass. On electric guitars the nut is simply compensated .030" all the way across, which of course is entirely unnecessary if the height is proper, but it serves as an okay bandaid for poor or high nut setup. PRS does not use this system, but rather compensate their nuts about .012"-.015" straight across. They started this long before Buzz ever got the idea, but it didn't stop him from trying to sue them over it. That didn't work.

    Many Washburn models do indeed have the Buzz Feiten system, or at least they have the Buzz Feiten logo on the back of the peghead. I've measured several, and yet to find a single one that actually has any nut compensation at all, but usually the sticker on the back is all it takes for most people to hear an improvement, so it works out okay I suppose.

    Once you start cutting, it's not that simple to go back. I personally find no need or benefit whatsoever to roller nuts, as a well cut nut of quality material such as bone, Delrin, Tusq, graphite, etc, will work perfectly fine, and not come burdened with the limitations of a firmly preset radius and difficult to fine tune height. If you do want to install it though, the center of the rollers should end right where the edge of the nut currently is, or within .010" or so forward. Again though, it's the height that is more difficult to set, and a string .003" or .004" too high will have greater impact on first fret intonation than the nut position being .015"-.020" out of place.

  3. #3
    A Ficus ehdwuld's Avatar
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    Default Re: Installing a roller nut

    well it is radiused
    I don't know what the radius is

    looks like it may work
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    Default Re: Installing a roller nut

    "whilst the chisel is in hand"

    I sense an expensive lesson soon to happen.

    I'd strongly suggest that you return the roller nut, and buy a pre slotted Allparts nut, then fine tune the slots with a file or folded sandpaper.
    The penalty for error is a new nut, not a new neck.
    Last edited by Gearjoneser; 03-17-2011 at 03:15 PM.
    If you play guitar chest-high, you play from your heart.

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    If you play guitar low, you play from your huevos.

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    Ultimate Tone Slacker IanBallard's Avatar
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    Default Re: Installing a roller nut

    Most aftermarket nuts, rollers, locking Floyds, etc are 10" radii, which is workable. I mean, how many shred sticks with 16-20" radii necks are using Floyd bridges that are 14"? Obviously it's not a big deal.

    I put my locking nut on and did most of the work by hand, since I got nervous with the machinery after about 1/2 the material was removed. I actually think the action is hair too low, but it works fine. I'm no luthier and I managed to do it myself. I did take (accidentally) a very small amount off the edge which effectively shortened the first fret area (like the Feiton or whatever) and indeed, the intonation is better than before.

    Just take a little off at a time and measure the nut and check the action as best as you can. Take it SLOW.

    Pretty much any tool you need to do these jobs can be had from StewMac. They have radiusing gages and all kinds of things.

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    A Ficus ehdwuld's Avatar
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    Default Re: Installing a roller nut

    thanks Ian
    I was figuring on

    1)
    removing the existing nut
    not really hard seeing as a freak string change mistake ripped it off

    2)
    shaving the rosewood behind the nut to level for the screws

    3)
    measuring 3.5 mm into the 1st fret area
    marking with a razor blade
    and slowly whittling it away

    seems simple enough

    no one frets right at the nut anyways so if it does have a bit of a gap
    it should be ok

    btw

    how much of a tilt did you put on yours?

    I was thinking maybe .2 mm

    I really should do some math to figure out just exactly what the angle should be

    I was hoping someone with a PRS
    could measure the distance from the first fret to the nut on either side
    and just tell me

    wonder where I could find the formula to calculate the angle for a 25.5 scale

    seems like I saw a chart some time back
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    A Ficus ehdwuld's Avatar
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    Default Re: Installing a roller nut

    Quote Originally Posted by David Collins View Post

    As to compensation, the Buzz Feiten system is not any closer at the treble side than on the bass. On electric guitars the nut is simply compensated .030" all the way across, which of course is entirely unnecessary if the height is proper, but it serves as an okay bandaid for poor or high nut setup. PRS does not use this system, but rather compensate their nuts about .012"-.015" straight across. They started this long before Buzz ever got the idea, but it didn't stop him from trying to sue them over it. That didn't work.
    I don't quite follow what you mean by "straight across"

    do you mean the nut "leans" over the fretboard?
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    Default Re: Installing a roller nut

    It sounded from your original question that you were under the impression that these nut compensation systems were compensated more on one side than the other. By "straight across", I mean there is no change in nut compensation between one string and the other. The face of the nut is still parallel to the frets, but simply moved a small distance toward them evenly, compared to the nut's theoretical equal tempered position.

    Paul Reed Smith did have a patent for a system which included a nut with increasing compensation from treble to bass (1/64" high E, 1/32" low E), but this never made it in to production that I'm aware of. All of their nuts have actually been compensated just under 1/64", which is a good, modest amount of compensation.

    Actually I checked some of my records, and they average closer to about .010" compensation across all strings.

  9. #9
    A Ficus ehdwuld's Avatar
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    Default Re: Installing a roller nut

    the Wiki-Patent on the compensated nut

    according to the drawings on pages 3 and 4 of this patent
    the compensation is actually
    a groove in the front of the nut slot
    that moves the break angle "away" from the first fret
    as it moves to the higher strings

    just the opposite of what I was thinking
    EHD
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    Default Re: Installing a roller nut

    Ah ok Dave

    so you are saying the enitre nut moves closer
    level with the first fret
    EHD
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    A Ficus ehdwuld's Avatar
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    Default Re: Installing a roller nut

    dang futher scrutiny shows that each string in the Ernie Ball patent is slightly different
    and not gonna be a simple "tilting" of the nut to imitate

    dang it


    EHD
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    Default Re: Installing a roller nut

    That Ernie Ball patent is just one example of many, many different minute variations on compensated nut systems. Some move all the strings an equal amount, some varying amounts back and forth for different strings, some set on a straight slant relative to the frets, some on a curved shape, and many with a good deal of mumbo jumbo nonsense included to make their invention novel and patentable.

    They all however move the strings forward toward the frets. Looks can be deceiving, as in that Ernie Ball Example. The entire nut is moved forward by a large amount, with the face around each string cut back to give individual varying compensation. Even when they are cut back though, they are all still at least as close or closer to the 1st fret than they would be in a standard nut.

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    A Ficus ehdwuld's Avatar
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    Default Re: Installing a roller nut

    Thank you

    the replacement thing seems doable
    the compensation thing looks like just another headache

    I'm gonna go ahead and replace the nut with the roller
    try to get it straight
    but if it cocks a bit I'll just call it compensated and not sweat it

    as far as height I can always shave it down or shim it up
    tip it left or right


    as I said earlier it doesn't have to be perfect
    (this is, of course, the $50 bullet I got last year for just this type of experiments)

    if it were a $1K American Standard it would be vastly different

    I think i may paint it red too but thats another thread
    EHD
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    Default Re: Installing a roller nut

    Compensated nuts are a pretty simple thing, and has nothing to do with the nut position at one string being different from another. If you have a 25.5" scale, and the face of the nut or peak of the roller is 1.431" from the center of the first fret, then it's a standard nut position. If it's less than 1.431", then it is a compensated nut. On a PRS or Taylor with a 25.5" scale, then the nut face (or roller peak in your case) would be around 1.42" from the center of the first fret. On a Feitenized guitar it would be 1.401", which is a bit excessive in my opinion, and can yield undesirable side effects as you move up the neck on some guitars.

    First main point is not to confuse a standard compensated nut (very old idea and method of moving the entire nut evenly in toward the frets), with an individual string compensated nut like Earvana, Ernie Ball, Stelling banjo nuts, Doolin style nut, and several others. They can be a straight line and look just like a normal nut, or slanted, or a series of staggered points, but if they are any different than the scale length divided by 17.817, then the nut would be considered compensated.

    Second point is to understand why nuts are typically compensated, and the main reason I feel is from people's lack of understanding of the influence of improper nut height, or inability to set them ideal. A nut cut proper, to within .0005" to .001" of the plane of the frets for each string will require little to no compensation for most playing styles, or perhaps .010"-.015" nut compensation at most. Slight as it may seem, three or four thousandths of an inch too high can have significant consequences on first position fretting. Rather than solving this underlying issue, many have taken what I consider the misguided approach of adding excessive compensation. In small doses this can be okay, but once you approach the threshold of .025" or .030" it can start to unnecessarily affect intonation on other areas of the fretboard.

    This is what I often emphasize as a the biggest downside to roller nuts. On a standard style nut, each string slot can be cut for that particular string referenced to the line of frets it lies over, and fine tuned to extremely accurate heights. Roller nuts do not allow for this, and all you can really do is set the two lowest strings across the nut's radius as low as they can go, leaving the rest to the odds of compatibility. Say the board radius is a bit flatter than your roller nut. If you are very good and very careful, you may be able to get the outer E's down to within a thousandth of an inch of the fret surface, but be left with the center strings two, three, maybe as much as five or six thousandths higher or more. This would leave you needing virtually no compensation for the outer strings, yet having notably sharp G and D requiring .030" or .040" compensation to bring them in tune on the first frets. Of course you can't stagger a roller nut compensation like this (nor should you have to if you could adjust the string height individually).

    What are the advantages to a roller nut over a well cut bone, graphite, tusq, or Delrin nut? I really can't think of any. Any of these materials, if cut properly, should have no problem staying in tune that would require a roller nut to fix. There are other issues I have with roller nuts as well, such as not providing a broad enough surface to act as a clear and reliable boundary point for the waves in a string, occasionally leading to other tonal and/or intonation issues as well. And even though they roll, they are usually not so close to zero friction as most would like to assume, meaning they often don't even provide any real benefit in this regard relative to solid nuts of other quality materials. And of course the modification you plan to embark on is neither simple to execute with great accuracy, nor easy to reverse should you find the results less than satisfactory.

    I'm always happy to provide advice on what to look for and how to best do the job should you decide to do it, but more than that, I still encourage careful consideration as to whether you should try at all. Obviously, I recommend against it. If you want to use this guitar to experiment with, I personally feel you would be much better served by using it to practice cutting standard nuts on of better materials. With enough practice the results will be equal to or better than a roller nut, and the skills you learn will prove much more useful on other guitars in the future.
    Last edited by David Collins; 03-17-2011 at 10:43 PM.

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    Ultimate Tone Slacker IanBallard's Avatar
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    Default Re: Installing a roller nut

    Well, a well designed roller-nut should solve the binding issue if you are a trem user and you don't want to do the locking thing. Not sure if that design is great, but some WD-40 should keep it rolling along. In my experience, only the TusqXL nut really prevents binding to a great degree, as far as non-rollers are concerned. I'm not a fan of bone at all. Too soft and the slots will never stay shaped over time.

    Compensated nuts are a great thing. If I wanted such a thing, I'd get the Earvana system because it compensates each slot individually and can retrofit any existing nut. To me, the Earvana nut works more like a piano, giving each string an individual length that is computer calculated. The other ones don't make sense to me. Heck, Earvana now offers a Floyd locking nut with compensation. Warmoth has an exclusive thing with Earvana and Graphtech and offer a TusqXL option with the compensated design. That would be the best answer I think, if you don't go locking.

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    Default Re: Installing a roller nut

    I have to say I find quite the opposite regarding material hardness and durability. I've replaced and made thousands of nuts, and good quality bone is harder and more wear resistant than any of the synthetics in my experience, including Tusq or Tusq XL. This is most easily demonstrated with how bone vs Tusq show wear in acoustic saddles, where the difference becomes clear quite quickly.

    Tusq is a great material, very slick, and certainly hard enough to perform the job quite well, but I still find good bone to be harder and more wear resistant. How low friction bone can be will of course depend on how well it is cut, whereas Tusq is much more forgiving of a slot cut less than ideal. When cut smooth and with proper angles and shape, it's friction can be more than low enough to meet the demands of most instruments, and for even more demanding cases like floating tremolos there are lubricants like GraphitAll to improve this even further. I have nothing against Tusq, but simply prefer bone.

    I also have quite different opinions of the Earvana system, but that's probably a different discussion that no doubt has come up before.

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    A Ficus ehdwuld's Avatar
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    Default Re: Installing a roller nut

    Thanks Dave and Ian
    your opinions have been most helpful
    I'll try and post pictures of the process and results
    EHD
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    Default Re: Installing a roller nut

    Quote Originally Posted by David Collins View Post
    I also have quite different opinions of the Earvana system, but that's probably a different discussion that no doubt has come up before.
    I have an Earvana installed in my #1 guitar, a 1980 MIJ all-maple 335 copy.

    It works as advertised, which is get some strings closer to the 1st fret, so when chords in the 1st position are played, they stay in-tune better.

    This is particulary effective when playing C, E, D and A chords, which are the biggest offenders.

    What do you think?
    Pepe aka Lt. Kojak
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    Default Re: Installing a roller nut

    Quote Originally Posted by LtKojak View Post
    What do you think?
    Do you really want me to answer that?

    Okay, I'll start by saying that in spite of what I view as a significant amount of ignorance on part of the inventors when they first came up with the idea, it can still manage to work out just fine in the end for some instruments and players. The majority of my issues with systems like this are perhaps a bit more idealistic than practical, in the sense that it drives me nuts how they spread so much misinformation about how it works, why it works, what exactly it does, and what styles or instruments it may be appropriate for and which it may not be. With that in mind...

    First issue is that it ignores the underlying problem - string height at the nut slots relative to the frets. If a nut is cut so that it set the strings no higher than if it were a fret leveled with the rest, there would be no need for such drastic compensation. Because this can be a difficult task for many to master, this cause of intonation issues is often ignored in favor of only treating the symptoms by heavy amounts of nut compensation.

    There are players who prefer their nut slots to be a bit higher, sometimes because they also dabble with slides on their guitar, or perhaps because they use extremely aggressive pull-offs which can demand more of the open string than fretted. Combine these needs with someone who has a very aggressive left hand grip, and you may have a suitable candidate for a nut compensation such as this. Of course they fail to ever notice that it can have drastically different results on a Les Paul than it would on a Strat, but that's another story.

    Some of the most blatant errors in their marketing claims can be demonstrated by this chart.



    The top two charts are taken directly from Earvana's claims. The first being an example of intonation errors in a guitar before their system was installed. Note that the amount of sharpening at the first fret, as much as 3 and 4˘ is indicative of a nut slot cut grossly too high, or a player with a left hand iron death grip. No properly cut nut should see this amount of sharpening in the first position with the average player's style.

    Rather than address this issue, they push the nut forward to compensate. The second chart shows their reading of how intonation was improved after their system was installed. How exactly they managed to fix the errors on the 2nd and 4th frets on the high E without changing any of the frets around is truly astounding. This would have to indicate that they are somehow bending the laws of physics and mathematics, or perhaps more likely that the reliability of testing procedures through which they arrived at these results should be flagged as questionable.

    I'm not saying they intentionally manipulated the results, but whether intentional or not, manipulated them just the same. If you are looking at a tuner when testing something, if something deep inside wants to find results as positive, you are going to bring the note further in tune, whether consciously aware of it or not. If you may have some underlying goal in proving a system to be poor, then you will influence in the opposite direction. Human nature. Intonation is a flexible system, subjective both in playing and reading the results, and it takes an awful lot of planning and care to rule out these variables and be sure you are gauging changes due directly and only to the variable you modified and are testing for. They clearly did not come close to doing this.

    The third chart shows exactly, undeniably, irrefutably, how the results would end up if the guitar from chart 1 were modified with the Earvana nut, and all other variables from setup to playing style were kept exactly the same. Of course they did not include any data above the 12th fret in their original example, so the results shown in chart 3 are displayed if we were to assume that intonation read at 0 on all of these notes. If they read other than 0, then these numbers above the 12th would simply indicate how much and in which direction those results would change.

    That marketing chart is just one example of issues I have though. Another would be the fact that they seem to say that their system will work just fine, the same way on a Fender or a Gibson. In fact, if you were to install an Earvana nut on a Fender guitar, this is how your intonation would end up different relative to a standard 12TET fretboard (calculated through 24 frets, though the upper few can be ignored on most instruments).



    On a Gibson Les Paul however, this is how the intonation would end up sounding relative to a standard 12TET board.



    So how do they manage to not notice these differences, and say that the results will be equally effective on either? I'd say this serves to demonstrate what many players have known for centuries, that the human hand can have a great deal of influence on how a guitar intonates. If they are testing one system and they want to believe it is good, then conscious of it or not, they will make it sound good. It's actually quite hard for a human player not to do. At the very least however, it should bring in to question the reliability of their methods of testing and development of this system, if not the honesty or selective choosing of data for their marketing purposes.

    So to recap -

    A) Source of the problem is usually nut height, not nut position.

    B) Proper solution is typically to address the source rather than the symptom.

    C) Though most players and instruments will intonate fine after nut height is cut proper, there will still be some instruments and styles which will benefit from some amount of nut compensation.

    D) Any compensation to help first position intonation does not come entirely without side effects in other areas.

    E) These side effects should be considered and minimized where they may cross a threshold of creating noticeably negative results, often meaning compromise must be split throughout different areas.

    F) There is no one-size-fits-all setup of nut height and compensation. Systems like the Earvana nut attempt to deliver exactly this, though they push toward the most extreme levels of compensation which very, very few players should ever need in my opinion. Best results for any player or instrument should be tailored fit to their particular circumstances.

  20. #20
    Mojo's Minions LtKojak's Avatar
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    Default Re: Installing a roller nut

    To David Collins:

    I thank very much indeed for a very enjoyable reading.

    Much appreciated!

    Yours very truly,
    Pepe aka Lt. Kojak
    Milano, Italy

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