How to Change the Nut on a Les Paul or SG

How to Change the Nut on a Les Paul or SG

Are the notes on the first fret of your guitar buzzing out? Are you having tuning issues? Or, are you looking for an inexpensive, but highly effective way to improve the playability and sound of your guitar? If so, then it’s time to get rid of your old nut and put an upgraded version in its place. Plus, depending on what guitar you own, a new nut could well vastly improve the tone and bring it a whole new lease of life.

But it must be difficult to change a nut? Well no, in fact, it’s probably far easier than you think. So, if you have a Gibson or Epiphone Les Paul, an SG, or most other Gibson/Epiphone guitars - a Flying V, an Explorer, ES-335, most Gibson acoustics, or even a Les Paul/SG copy - it’s time to find out how to change that tired old nut and replace it with a shiny new one that will perform better as well as improving your sustain and overall tone.

What Tools do I need to change a Les Paul Nut?

Changing the nut on a Les Paul, an SG, or most other Gibson guitars requires the same tools - a ruler, a craft knife, a wood block, a small hammer, 800- or 1000-grit sandpaper, masking tape, wood glue, and a little bit of patience.

Let’s get started…

Remove the strings

Carefully remove the old strings, then use a craft knife with a sharp new blade to lightly score around the bottom of the nut two or three times. This will help loosen the nut from the glue holding it in place and should ensure that the guitar neck’s lacquer coating does not stick to the nut when it is removed. Take your time with this step to ensure a professional-looking job that won’t need any touch ups.

Guyker 43mm Adjustable Stainless Steel Nut for LP Guitars

Remove the nut

Now, place a wooden block that is approximately the width of the guitar nut on top of the first few frets, pushed against the edge of the nut that is closest to the fingerboard. The wooden block will help distribute the pressure as you hit it with a small hammer which should ensure that no damage is made to the wood around the nut or to the lacquer on the headstock.

It’s now time to gently hit the wood block two or three times to release the old nut. If the nut has not moved after three gentle taps, score around the base of the nut again with the craft knife. Repeat this process until the nut becomes free.

Next, check to see if there is any glue or anything else unpleasant on the headstock underneath where the old nut was, if so, carefully remove it using the craft knife.

Getting a perfect match

It’s now time to measure the height, length, and width of your old nut and find out how it compares with the new one, also be aware of the curvature. In an ideal world, both nuts will be almost identical. However, this is rarely the case, if the new nut is a little bigger, that shouldn’t be a problem because you can gently sand it down with 800- or 1000-grit sandpaper, but, if it is a little smaller, then you will probably have to order another nut.

Guyker 43mm Adjustable Stainless Steel Nut for LP Guitars

How to shape and fit your new nut

If your new nut is a little too big, then the best way to get a professional finish is to secure a piece of sandpaper to a flat surface, such as a workbench with some masking tape. Now sand the edges of the nut carefully and slowly until they are as close as possible to the old nut. Also regularly place it back on the guitar to see how it fits.

You need to get the new nut to exactly the same height as the old nut, while its length needs to be completely flush with the sides of the fingerboard. You’ll need patience to get this right, so take things very slowly, you can always sand a little more off, but you can’t put the shavings back on.

Now it’s time to see how your new nut looks in position. Does it fit perfectly in terms of length and width? If so, congratulations! If not, it’s time for a little more sanding.

Time to glue it in place

If you’re happy with its height and how it looks then place two small drops of wood glue underneath the nut and press and hold it in place. Clean off any excess glue if you need to, but you probably won’t, because you don’t need that much glue to hold it in place. Then leave it to dry for at least a day.

Don’t use superglue or anything similar, these make it far tougher to remove the nut in the future. A few small spots of standard wood glue will do an excellent job, there is no need to use anything stronger.

24 hours have passed and it’s time to restring the guitar and find out how much difference your DIY skills have made to the guitar. But before you do, it’s best to place a little graphite (pencil lead) into every groove of the nut. This will help lower the friction as the string moves through the groove as you bend it, therefore increasing tuning stability and extending the life of your strings.

There’s one final check you can do for peace of mind, press down on the third fret of the top E string and measure the gap between the string and the first fret, it should be approximately 0.01 of an inch (0.25mm).

What nut should I choose for my Gibson Les Paul?

This decision will depend on what guitar sound you are going for. Options include plastic, bone, various metals, graphite, and other materials. Plastic is dull sounding and is probably the reason you are actually changing the nut in the first place, therefore is not recommended.

Most guitarists' favorite nut material is bone, such as the excellent Guyker 42/43*6mm Bone Nut. It’s a massive improvement over a plastic nut, and you’re sure to notice the difference as soon as get some new strings on your guitar. You can expect a clearer, more defined tone, longer sustain, improved intonation, and greater playability. All that for a few dollars and half an hour of your time!

In terms of metal nuts, there are a few different choices, one is stainless steel, such as the Guyker 43mm Adjustable Stainless Steel Nut.
Or how about Brass with the Guyker Height Adjustable 43mm Brass Roller Guitar Nut. Metal nuts give more tonal consistency between fretted notes and unfretted notes. Therefore if you are playing an open chord, all the notes being heard will have a metal surface underneath them, either a fret or the metal nut. They are also renowned for improving the clarity of every note played, and both have a subtle sound all of their own. So if you’re SG or Les Paul needs a certain something to stand out from the crowd, a metal nut could well be the answer.

Both these nuts are fully adjustable, allowing you to adjust to your perfect string height after you have fitted the nut, plus make any changes in the future if you change string gauge, etc.

Or, if you’re after something more high-tech, how about getting a Titanium nut, such as the Guyker Guitar Nut Height Adjustable Bell Titanium Nut. It’s available in either 42mm or 43mm widths so should fit any Les Paul, SG, or other Gibson guitar from any era. It’s also fully adjustable to give you the exact string height you need per string. The titanium will give you all the top-end sparkle you could want from an SG or a Les Paul as well as the ultimate in tuning stability and durability for years to come.

Wrapping it up

Congratulations, your new nut should now be sitting proudly on your guitar, so get ready to hear the improvement in the way it sounds and performs. Enjoy the tone!

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