While all the usual dense materials that applied to the bridge also work well for the nut, bone, ebony, rosewood, corian, brass, etc...
I'll start by championing the "no nut" or "zero fret" approach.

What's known as the "zero" fret - a fret placed where the nut would normally be, can circumvent a lot of issues regarding action and set up. Then how you guide the string to your tuner is less critical. you can even have a carved out slot or a saw kerf that makes the string track to the tuner. As long as there is enough angle to the string as it leaves the "zero" fret, buzz should be no problem. Here's a sample on one of my octave dulcimers.

Now sometimes a kind of string spacer nut is used with the zero fret just to keep the strings in correct alignment - If I do that I use a piece of 1/8" Delrin [if you sand the black stuff down to 600 grit and steel wool is with 0000 it looks a lot like ebony] as it adds almost no friction to the tuning process. Another upside of minimal friction besides ease of tuning is you can push on the strings behind the zero fret and get a nice bending sound on your open strings almost like a wammy bar.

Also if your path to your tuner is at a slight angle, rather than a straight line, you can have the string turn around [meaning be slightly deflected by] a guide pin that maintains it's side to side position. This can be anything, but can also be Delrin to reduce friction.

[I know the traditional threaded bolts for nuts give you many choices of which groove to put a string in, but you're still stuck with hoping the groove you made for it results in the right height for the string.]

Whatever we choose to use here, the string wants a fairly clean break point with a back angle to the tuner. If it rests in the bottom of a filed groove or if by accident the groove is higher at the back edge of the nut - the edge towards the tuners - a pesky buzz or whine can arise. This can be interestingly sitar-ish but mostly un-welcome.

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Here's a pic of an instrument with a zero fret and a nut/spacer:

Most luthiers seem to favor bone for nuts. It's hardness allows for accurate tuning, as the string will not bind or cut into the hard material. (Provided the slots are cut properly) I've been using them exclusively; a big "doggie bone" from the pet store will provide material for many guitars.

I cut out the rough shape with a hacksaw, and then use a sanding wheel on the Dremel to shape.
I rough-cut slots with a hacksaw, then finish them with the torch-cleaning tool.
Please forgive me if this is not the forum to discus this issue. Tell me and I will re post it elsewhere.

I am an "old timer" Banjo/guitar player but even when I was looking at electrification (mid 50s) There were those Jazz guitarists who "Suspended" their pick ups as they though this provided better sound and less feedback problems. Seeing as our Piezos' are rather primitive devices (as were many pick ups in the 40s and 50s) I wondered if anyone has tried suspending their Piezo. I have to say that personally, the device does not theoretically lend itself to that approach.
But perhaps someone has tried it; if so could they give us their thoughts please?

Incidentally, many of the early electrified jazz guitarists were certain that their "f" holes caused feedback and taped them up! What is good for acoustic is often unnecessary for amplified guitars.
Hey Brian,
There might be a more pickup focused group or thread somewhere on the site, but all input is welcome here.
Piezos as I understand them don't function like microphones that have diaphrams, so wouldn't pick up enough vibration while suspended to do much goood. They count on the vibrations traveling through wood to get to them. Small condenser mikes - similar to lavaliere mikes have been suspended inside guitars often in combination with pickups to get more box sound in the mix. I know when using wound pickups - a la electric guitars - sound holes can become a liability and are sometimes shielded with inserts and such. I don't really know why that is. It's never been clearly explained to me by anyone, but I've seen it help.
Thanks for your input.
Do you find that the angle of the neck is critical? String clearance of those first few frets might be difficult?
I definitely favour a "zero-fret" arrangement if I want a low action. However if I need the strings a little higher to allow for slide playing then I still favour a more conventional nut. I make my nuts out of aluminium (or aluminum to the Americans here) - I can get 10mm square section bar from a local DIY store, which sells it for use in window frames. I attach the nuts to the neck with screws - so I can easily remove them to work on them or replace them. With zero-fret instruments the nut just has deep slots so it acts as a string spacer. In the case of the more traditional-type nuts for higher actions, I can raised the action a little, if needed, by using shims made out of kitchen foil.

For low action, a zero-fret really is a neat and simple way to get the string height perfect at the headstock end of the neck. I can't understand why more guitar makers don't use it.

In answer to Brian's question, I would say the neck angle is important, but no more so than when trying to get good string height on an instrument with a conventional nut. Actually, the main reason for angling the neck back a little from the line of the top of the body is to allow you to have the strings running higher over the body while you have them low over the neck (which can help with clearance height for pickups among other advantages).

When you mentioned neck angle were you thinking of the way necks bow under tension? That's probably not a consideration (or at least it's a hit and miss affair) on most CBGs as they have simple necks without truss rods. You really want to build that sort of neck straight.


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