Wait, what? Guitar nuts are made out of bone? That’s right! However, it’s not that they’re all made out of bone. Still, we’re pretty sure many folks wonder: why’s there a chance that a piece of my instrument might be made of bone?

If you’re one of those curious folks (and there’s a good chance you are since you’re reading this), we reckon this text’s basically made for you. In it, we’ll explain why some guitar nuts are made out of bone. Additionally (and traditionally), we’ll expand the topic and cover some interesting info surrounding its core. Stay tuned!

Some guitar nuts are made of bone because this allows them to be much denser and tough than other types of guitar nuts. They’ll transfer the sound vibrations with great efficiency, without absorbing them. Also, they’ll cause longer sustain and improve the overall quality of the sound that’s coming out of your guitar. 

Stopping right there won’t do you any good. Only by reading the whole thing will you grasp the complexity of this theme! (Okay, that might be too much.)

Table of Contents

Guitar (bone) nuts 101

First things first, let’s have a little talk about what are guitar nuts, what are they made of, what’s their purpose, and so on. That way, we’ll have no trouble (or obstacles) on the road to understanding why some guitar nuts are made of bone. So, shall we start?

What are guitar nuts?

Okay, we’ll begin with a disclaimer: here we won’t try to explain a certain demographic group known as guitar nuts (folks who absolutely love the instrument or who’ve absolutely gone mad because of it). Guitar nuts that we’ll be talking about aren’t people.

Anyway, a nut is a little piece of hard material (bone, too) on a stringed instrument. Where’s it located? You’ll find it at the end nearest to the headstock of your guitar. Also, the nut is used to finish off the so-called vibrating length of every open string. Additionally, it keeps the strings at the correct height from the fingerboard. Lastly, a guitar nut will, among other things, define the scale lengths of the strings, together with the bridge.

What are guitar nuts made of?

Besides being made of bone, guitar nuts are usually made of plastic, brass, or graphite. So, why these materials and not some other? Well, the thing is: since the guitar nut is one of the two points that direct the string vibrations to the wood, its density is very important to the sound your guitar will produce. Also, there ain’t such a thing as the best type of nut material. In most cases, it’s just a thing of personal taste and preference. Each one has its own benefits in relation to the price, durability, physical appearance, and friction.

Should you glue a guitar nut?

There will come a time when changing your guitar strings will become an absolute necessity. You might want to use that chance to obtain a new guitar nut. Why would you want to do that? Well, there are many reasons why a guitarist might want to replace the nut:

  • your old nut’s damaged and cracked. 
  • you’re upgrading to a better material for the sound you’re planning to get out of your instrument.
  • the fell off by itself once you’ve tried to replace the strings. 

Anyway, one might wonder: should you glue the new nut in place? You’ll want to know that’s not totally necessary. Because? Because the pressure of the strings and nut/neck friction will hold the item in place. Still, it’s highly recommended you put a few drops of white wood glue on the nut and fix it in place. Just so you don’t experience any issues the next time you change strings.

Can I use super glue for a guitar nut?

Now, you’re able to super glue for a guitar nut. However, it’s not recommended so much since it might damage the instrument and make it hard for you to remove it next time you’d want to replace it. If you still want to do it, you’ll want to use the same amount of glue as we’ve described above: just a few tiny drops. Once your trusty instrument‘s stable, pour the mentioned amount of glue on the underside of the nut, fit it inside the slot and fix it. Simply leave it like that for 24 hours.

Okay, that’s all about guitar nuts and related info! It’s time we take a closer look at what’s our today’s main subject: why are guitar nuts made of bone?

A man holding a guitar, with fingers placed next to where the guitar nuts are.

Why are guitar nuts made of bone?

Well, there are many advantages to playing with a guitar that has a bone guitar nut. Some even go that far to say that’s the best material a guitar nut can be made of. Luckily, we won’t venture further into the discussion on the best type of guitar nut, just as we didn’t do that earlier on. Instead, let’s take a look at some advantages bone guitar nuts have!

They’ll greatly affect the way your guitar sounds

In order to show you just why guitar nuts are made of bone, we’ll compare nuts that were from bone to the ones made from plastic. Okay, so bone guitar nuts are much tougher and denser than your average plastic nuts, there’s no doubt about it. What does that mean? Well, it just means they handle the transfer of sound vibrations with greater efficiency. Therefore, they cause longer sustain and improve the quality of the tone that’s coming out of your instrument, without absorbing the vibrations.

Oh, and did we mention that plastic guitar nuts are softer and hollow? They’ll make your guitar sound dull, as you’ll notice if you ever switch from bone to plastic. Needless to say, unlike bone nuts – they absorb a lot of sound vibrations.

Here’s the best way to test the difference in the sound of various nuts: simply ring the guitar with open notes. Refrain from fretting or forming chords altogether.

The four advantages of bone guitar nuts

As if the lines above weren’t enough, here we’ll talk about additional advantages a bone nut will provide your guitar with!

  • You’ll produce a fuller tone by using them. There won’t be a single problem with your highs and lows being heard.
  • You’ll produce longer sustain by using them. As we’ve said, they’re not hollow and they don’t absorb the vibrations. Therefore, they let the sound ring longer.
  • They’ll last you longer than any other type of nut. Don’t expect them to get worn out easily since they’re pretty hard and durable. Even if you were to use a lot of tremolos, where the string frictions aren’t so uncommon.
  • They’re great for tuning your instrument. The little cuts these nuts possess are ideal for string placement. That way, you can be sure your strings will stay in tune.

Okay, so we’ll try not to praise bone guitar nuts anymore. Instead, let’s see if there’s something we’ve missed talking about!

What kind of bone are we talking about?

At last, some interesting trivia! So, many of you might wonder: exactly what kind of bone are guitar nuts made of? Nowadays, the most popular bone used in the production of nuts for high-end guitars is the cow bone. It’s typically from the so-called femur and humerus bones. However, it’s not rare to find bones that were cut from the pelvis, tibia, or even – the forelegs radius. Manufacturers go by this principle: the denser the bone, the better.

What happens if guitar nut is too high?

First of all, know that you’ll want to avoid the situation in which the guitar nut is too high. Because? Because the nut slots that are just too high will make your instrument pretty difficult to play in the first place. Also, you can forget about proper tuning and intonation. What about nut slots that are too low? Well, they’ll create what many guitar enthusiasts call the sitar effect (it’s not that hard to guess how your guitar will sound, right?).

Now that we know why bone is a good material for a guitar nut, read a little on why a coin can serve as a good guitar pick.

Is TUSQ nut better than bone?

Oh, it looks like we’ll have to say what’s better (but not what’s best): the TUSQ nut or the bone nut? But, first, let’s see what’s a TUSQ nut. They’re nuts that are made from top-notch, high-quality polymer. The material is formed by good amounts of heat and pressure, thus allowing the nut to direct guitar string energy and produce more sustain. 

The main difference between TUSQ and bone nuts is that the first one is a synthetic material, while the latter’s a natural one. Therefore, a TUSQ nut will create a brighter and cleaner sound, while the bone nut will produce a warmer and fuller tone.

Final words

That’s about it, dear guitar nuts! This was a thorough answer to why are guitar nuts made of bone. We hope you’ve had some fun reading this one and that you’re not offended by us calling guitar enthusiasts – guitar nuts.

For more tips on various music-and-instruments-related topics, check out the rest of our blog page.