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Custom Nut for Rickenbacker 12-String, Pt. 1

A while back I wrote about my Mapleglo Rickenbacker 360/12C63 guitar. At that time I adjusted the truss rods and put a 12-saddle bridge on it.

It played ok, but there was still too much relief in the neck which made playing above the 5th fret or so an adventure.

Not to mention that it suffered from the infamous 'strings-too-close-together' syndrome common to all thin hollowbody Ric 12s. Meaning, my fingers were damping adjacent string pairs inadvertently due to the stock string spacing.

After reading a lot of stuff on the interwebs, I decided to take a shot at making a new nut with revised spacing. And also get that nagging relief out of the neck.

One small mod I made right off the bat was to round off the edge of the name plate/truss rod cover. I love the look of this thing to death, but the relatively sharp edge is a recipe for sawing strings up when they're being tuned.

There are a few points (I think five...) where strings pass right over the edge of the cover. The pencil in the picture above shows one of these strings - see how the octave D string contacts the cover as it passes over it.

There's an easy fix and no one will even notice it.

With a fine file, I just rounded that square edge into more of a nice curve.

After the filing, I sanded it a bit with 600 grit paper.

It might be hard to see in this shot, but you should be able to see the new top edge. Looks dead stock from the top, but the edge is there.

Really easy to do and makes your Ric 'modded!'

It also makes it a bit easier to slide the truss rod cover under the strings when you put it back on. You still can't do it with the strings tuned to pitch, but you'll experience less string 'poink' and 'boink' when you slide it on.  Since I have muy expensivo Thomastik-Infeld strings on this puppy, I don't want to snag and break them.

Ok, let the real fun begin.

At some point, I had procured a replacement nut from the Rickenbacker factory (in the front in this picture) thinking that perhaps I could fill the existing slots and cut a new one from that.

However, after some thought, I decided to dispense with that idea and take the opportunity to plunk down $12 (!) for a gee-whiz 'modern' Tusq nut. It's in the rear in the picture. You will notice that it's black, just like a stock Ric nut. Now, there is no rule against using a white nut on a Ric (well, maybe there is...more on that later), I like the look of the black, especially on a maple guitar, so Tusq it was.

Now, most luthiers, including my man Dan Erlewine, will tell you that bone, hands-down, is the best material for nuts and saddles. I've made a lot of saddles and nuts out of bone, and I agree.  It's easy to work, yet it's dense, and it is far superior than plastic for a fine instrument. (Even a cheap instrument will benefit). Ivory is even better, but other than fossil walrus ivory, it's illegal, and for good reason. And the fossil ivory costs big money.

But the Graphtech people, who make Tusq products, say this about their material:
Bone and Ivory nuts and saddles have one inherent problem - they're made from organic materials, and therefore have inconsistent soft or dead spots because of their natural grain.  TUSQ nuts, saddles and bridge pins are precision engineered under high pressure and heat, specifically to govern which frequencies are transferred to your guitar top (tone), and which frequencies remain in the strings (sustain).
I am willing to give it a shot. I'm thinking, if it works well, I'll make some for my guitars with vibratos.

Before we get too much further, I want to show the stock string spacing on the guitar. You can see it on the left.

Note that to the naked eye, the spacing looks virtually the same between each of the string pairs - that is, the spacing seems to be the same between the two Es, the As, etc.

There is some difference in the spacing on the individual pairs; I'll provide more detail in the next post.

Clearly there is an issue with not enough spacing between adjacent  pairs (the B, G and D especially). Studying the stock spacing, and reading about it on the interwebs got me to thinking that the string pairs could be spaced closer together.

By putting each pair closer together, it would create more space between one string pair and the next. We're looking at small amounts here, but those small amounts should make a substantial improvement.

So I'm going to lay out the new nut. But first, we'll get the old nut off the guitar.  Using a wood block and with a tap from a hammer takes the nut right off.

Next we'll calculate the new string spacing and lay it out on the Tusq nut.


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