Replacing the stock corian nut on a 2011 Les Paul Traditional (Gold Top) with a custom fit unbleached bone nut for my friend Rob
Many people find that corian doesnt make for a good nut. I’m one of those people 🙂
Corian is too soft, and the slots tend to wear deeper over a relatively short time, and also being less hard they can negatively affect the tone and sustain. Unbleached bone is much harder than corian and also has a much more vintage look to it, so it offers improved aesthetics as well as tone, and the slots wont wear deeper nearly as quickly.
Aside from that, corian nuts are white, and look cheap, and dont match well with the binding, inlays, or rings as it aught to.
One of the difficulties in replacing them is that Gibson tended to use too much glue, and they can be difficult to remove cleanly without causing damage to the finish which actually extends over the ends of the nut on either side of the neck.
First mask off everything to prevent any damage to the finish.
Then, using a scalpel I carefully cut the lacquer at the seams between the nut and the neck and binding. This will keep bit pieces of the finish from chipping out when you remove the nut. Then, using a fret saw I cut the nut down the center nearly all the way down to the neck (but not quite), and then using a plier I grab the top edge of the nut and pinch the two halves together. This (if you are lucky) will cause the nut to crack loose and you can remove it. In this case most of it came out cleanly leaving a few stubborn chunks in the slot that I needed to use chisels and files to remove
Clean up remnants of the corian nut with chisels and files leaving a perfectly flat, clean surface.
Its not shown here, but once in the slot I use a pencil, which has been ground flat, laid on top of the frets, to draw a line that follows the fret radius onto the fretboard facing side of the nut, and also mark the edges. I then use my disk sander to grind away most of the excess material and bring it roughly to final shape.
Jumping ahead to the finish line. I cut the slots with nut files sized appropriately for each string, each file is the right size for the specific string gauge that will be used. Slots that are too big or too tight wont play well and can affect tone and sustain. In this case its a standard D’Addario EXL110’s that go from .010″ – .046″
Rob stated at the outset that he liked the string height with the original nut, so before I removed the strings and the nut I measured the height of each string at the first fret so I could cut the slots for each so that they would be at the identical height as the original.
Once the slots are cut and depth finalized, I polish up the nut with 3000 grit sand paper until its smooth and has a bit of a glossy sheen, and re-glue it. I dont use nearly as much glue as on the original. A couple small drops of CA are more than adequate to hold the nut firmly in place, and should the nut ever need to be removed again for any reason the process will be a LOT easier and cleaner.
Install a new set of strings and shes good to go, looking and sounding much better than before.