Guitar Nuts Made From Moose Shin Bone
While I was at the 2010 NAMM Show I got to meet up with Juha Ruokangas and play his amazing guitars. This was a definite highlight for me. I also got to interview Juha and he told me the most interesting story about what he uses to make nuts for his guitars and how he makes them. Here is the story….
Well, I’m always thriving to find the best materials for every single part of my guitars, and the nut of a guitar is a most significant little part that contributes to the tone, playability and tuning capabilities a great deal. If the nut is placed a few thousands of an inch wrong or the slots filed just a tiny bit too low or high, the guitar will never play in tune. If the string spacing is not right, the playability sucks and if the nut slots are poorly finished (too tight, sharp edges, bad shape…) you won’t be able to even tune up the guitar… So, the nut is Extremely Important! Material-wise – the nut material needs to be hard and durable, slippery and such that it contributes the vibration of the string in a balanced and harmonic way to the neck of the guitar. The traditional nut material is bone. Some feel the best bone would be elephant ivory but that’s illegal to use, and for a good reason. The “standard bone” commercially available nowadays would be cow bone, and the quality varies a lot – sometimes it’s ok, but other times it can be very porous with varying density from one spot to the next – no good. The major manufacturers use today mainly different synthetic substitutes, some better than others… But to my experience, there’s no substitute for a premium quality bone.
I have chosen moose shin bone to be the nut material for my guitars. Moose is a big wild animal with strong legs. Their shin bones develop to be very dense and hard. The challenge is naturally how to get the material..? In Finland we have lots of wild moose in the forests, and every autumn we have hunting season to take down a certain percentage of the moose population. One reason is the moose meat, but another important reason is also to control the population so the moose wouldn’t become too much of a problem causing car accidents on highways etc… So – I don’t hunt personally, but a few friends of mine do, and we get the moose legs from them, and we skin them, chop them into pieces and boil them on an open fire to remove grease, mar and all that from the bones! Then we saw the bone chunks into nut blanks. We don’t bleach the bone, since that would take too much grease out – we want the strings to slide well in the nut slots! A moose shinbone nut lasts for very long time. It can be finished smooth and slippery because of the natural grease content, and the surface is very hard and dense. Tone-wise – a moose shinbone nut acts harmonically with the guitar, sounds focused and natural. It’s the best material I’ve ever tried – and that’s why we’re willing to go through a bit of a trouble getting and using it.