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Nuts. Just How Big are They?

 

This 62 ES-335 has a very average nut width. This one is measure below the nut whereas I usually measure across the nut. As you can see there would't be much difference. Everyone would call this 1 11/16" but its actually a few hundredths of an inch less.

In 1944 during the siege of Bastogne, Belgium, the American general, Anthony McAuliff was given an ultimatum by the Germans who surrounded the town:¬†“To the USA Commander of the encircled town of Bastogne. . .There is only one possibility. . .the honorable surrender of the encircled town.” The now famous one word response? “Nuts.” That ends todays history lesson. Now we can talk about nuts. Guitar nuts. No, not guys like us who are nuts about guitars but the little white plastic thing that the strings go through at the top of the neck. I wrote about the basic stuff but recently, I started paying more attention to the measurements of these little pieces of plastic (what nuts did you think I was talking about?). What’s really interesting is that the width of the neck at the nut is the single most important feature that makes the 58-early 65 ES models the most expensive and the most desirable. Yeah, nickel parts and the stoptail are a big part as well but I believe that if the nut width stayed at 1 11/16″ through ’66, they would be included in the “Golden Era.” It’s worth noting that the 65 ES-335 with the wider 1 11/16″ nut is worth $2000-$3000 more than the one with the narrow 1 9/16″ nut. The conventional wisdom (is that even wisdom?) is that the nut measures either 1 11/16″ (58-early 65), 1 5/8″ early to mid ’65 or 1 9/16″ mid ’65 – 69 and later. There are two things to consider. First, where do you measure from? I’ve always measured across the nut itself-after all, we’re talking about the nut width, not the neck width where it meets the nut. But there are folks who feel the width of the neck where it meets the nut is more relevant. Be that as it may, the measurement is rarely exactly 1 11/16″ on a 58-mid ’65 no matter where you measure it. There is a range and, interestingly, the actual nut width on these 1 11/16″ nut guitars is almost always slightly less than 1 11/16″. Let’s do the math using decimals (I know, you were absent that day). 1 11/16″ equals 1.6875″. The most common measurement I get (after about 150 measurements) is around 1.6535. Now 1 5/8″ is equal to 1.625″, so the common 58-65 measurement of 1.6535 is actually closer to 1 5/8″ but since we always seem to round up instead of down, we call it 1 11/16″. ¬†Fair enough as long as we’re consistent. The range is pretty big. The smallest from the 1 11/16″ nut era that I’ve come across is 1.6425. The largest was 1.71″ which, to be fair, should be rounded up to 1 3/4″. These differences are hundredths of an inch and you’d be surprised how easily you perceive them. You may not feel 1/100″ but I’m pretty sure you’ll feel 3/100″. I sure do. Just an aside, the difference you’ll probably get measuring the actual nut vs the neck at the nut will be around 2/100″ or less. I would suggest that if you are very sensitive to the nut width that you ask for a measurement made with calipers in decimal mode. Most people are going to answer 1 11/16″ when you ask and if that “ballpark” is good enough for you, then so be it. But if you really want to know what you’re getting, especially when you can’t play the guitar before you get it, the insist on the more accurate measurement and specify if you want it measured across the nut or across the neck. That way there will be no surprises (which is generally a good thing when buying a vintage guitar unless the surprise is double white PAFs).

This fat boy is a 65 SG. I'm sure there are 335s that are its equal but this is as fat as I've seen from the era. I also measured it across the nut which came out to 1.7135. I had a 330 with the same measurement a while back. I know of others in the same ballpark.

3 Responses to “Nuts. Just How Big are They?”

  1. RAB says:

    Gulp! Interesting but too obscure a topic for little old me to comment on!

  2. bill says:

    Thanks for confirming what I’ve thought for a long time!

    I have problems with my left wrist, so I’m pretty sensitive to wide nuts and fat necks. (So many different sizes of 1 11/16″!)

    Last year I bought a Larrivee dreadnaught called-out as 1 11/16 and I’m still trying to adjust to it… including strain and pain.

    My fingers are long enough, it’s all in the wrist.

    Even more frustrating is that I like a 1 5/8 nut though Fender isn’t my first choice. Gibson guitars are my my preference and tougher to match.

    Thanks for a great article!

    Bill

  3. cgelber says:

    Try a later 335 with a narrower nut and see how that feels. Or maybe a 60-62 with the wide nut but a thin profile front to back. I play a Larrivee acoustic and the nut is closer to 1 3/4″

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