Replacing a stripped truss-rod nut can be an inexpensive DIY repair—if you know how to approach it.
Recently a client brought a fairly new American Fender Strat into the shop. The neck had too much relief, but otherwise the guitar was in great shape. No problem, I thought. Tighten up the truss rod a bit and we’ll be good to go.
I unwrapped a new Fender hex key (more about the condition of your tools in a moment) and inserted it into the truss rod nut. But instead of finding a secure grip, I felt the tool spin around inside the nut. Oh, that sinking feeling: I realized the nut’s socket was stripped, which is very bad news for this particular Strat.
Why? The truss rod nut on this type of Strat is recessed into the neck and surrounded by wood (Photo 1), so when the socket that holds the truss rod tool is stripped out, you only have two options: perform major surgery to remove the stripped nut and replace it with a new one, or buy a replacement neck. Realistically, it would cost more to perform the extraction, so I advised my client to contact Fender about getting a new neck.
Fortunately, not all Fender guitars have a recessed truss rod nut—in fact, many guitars don’t. You can often replace a stripped truss rod nut, and it’s not a tricky repair if you know what you’re doing. Inexpensive replacement nuts are available from such suppliers as Stewart-MacDonald, Luthiers Mercantile, and Allparts.
Different types of truss rod nuts.
Before we discuss why a truss rod nut might fail and how to fix it, let’s explore several common types of nuts used on guitars. You adjust some nuts by inserting a tool into them, others by enclosing them with a nut driver or special socket wrench.
Using the wrong tool to adjust a nut is the most common cause of truss rod problems.
The nut placement varies too: On Taylor and Gibson instruments, for example, the truss rod nut is typically located at the headstock, under a plastic or wood cover. These are among the easiest to remove. Some Fender guitars have a “bullet” truss rod nut at the headstock; these are not recessed and can be removed without surgery. Older Fender guitars have a truss rod nut at the heel of the fretboard, and these are very easy to remove, once you take off the neck. Some modern electrics have an exposed “wheel” nut located at the heel, and these can be adjusted without removing the neck.
Some acoustics, such as Takamine and modern Martins, have a truss rod nut that you access through the soundhole by inserting the tool through a small hole in the upper top brace (located between the soundhole and neck block). In some cases, this hole is just big enough for a wrench to poke through, but not big enough to accommodate the nut. The brace can be removed, but that is considered a surgical procedure, which is why some luthiers opt to simply enlarge the hole to remove the nut.
Truss rod tools vary, as well.
Some require a hex key (Allen wrench), while others take a flathead or Philips screwdriver, a nut driver, a mini socket wrench, or a small metal rod. To learn more, read “Demystifying Truss-Rod Tools.”
Why truss rod nuts fail.
There are three main reasons why you might have a problem with a truss rod nut:
- Hardware defect.
- The wrong size tool was used in an attempted adjustment.
- The correct tool was used, but it was worn.
A manufacturing defect is pretty rare, but they happen. When you think about how many guitars are built (probably millions each year), there’s a good chance a few lemons are going to squeeze through. It usually comes down to poor quality metal or slight discrepancies in manufacturing tolerances.
Using the wrong tool to adjust a nut is the most common cause of truss rod problems. I’ve seen many nuts that were ruined because someone decided to force the wrong tool around or into them. Photo 2 shows a Fender bullet nut that suffered this fate. Once a socket’s edges have been rounded like this, the hex key can’t grip the nut to turn it.
Recently I removed the neck on a client’s vintage Tele to adjust the truss rod. The nut looked like Photo 3, which illustrates what happens when someone uses a screwdriver that’s the wrong size. The slots get deformed, and this makes truss rod adjustments difficult. The good news is these nuts are easy to remove, even when they’re butchered like this, but unfortunately it’s nearly impossible to find a “period correct” replacement. Sure, there are plenty of aftermarket parts available, but for a vintage guitar, it’s imperative to use period-correct parts to maintain its value. I mention this simply to drive home the importance of using the correct truss rod tool—one that fits snugly.
Worn-out tools will also damage a truss rod nut. For example, if the truss rod requires a hex key and its edges have become worn and rounded, it can in turn round out the inside of the nut. It’s important to check your tools to ensure they won’t damage your guitar.
A basic guitar tech principle: Replacing worn tools is much cheaper than fixing the damage they can cause.
Tools for removing a stripped nut.
There are times when you can use the specified tool to remove the nut, but often you have to be creative. Once when working on a Gibson electric, I had to remove a hex nut that was so stripped that a nut driver wouldn’t grip it. Fortunately, a pair of needle-nose pliers did the job, but you must be careful to avoid stripping the nut more than it already is as you remove it. An improvised tool can easily damage the headstock, so proceed with caution.
Important: Always slacken the strings before you remove the truss rod nut.
In other cases, I’ve used a small flathead screwdriver to extract a nut when a hex key wouldn’t work. For example, by gently tapping the screwdriver into this stripped bullet nut (Photo 4), I was able to get it to catch hold. I turned the screwdriver counter-clockwise and voilà, the nut came off.
I’ve also used a screw extractor, a tool that looks like a drill bit, but with a twist: Screw extractors have tapered, reversed cutting threads designed to dig into a damaged screw and grip it tighter as you turn the extractor counter-clockwise while carefully applying pressure. The counter-clockwise movement backs out the damaged screw—typically its head is mangled or broken off—even as the extractor bores deeper into the screw shaft. I do this manually using a T-handle, but you can also use vice-grips with a screw extractor. I’d advise against using a power drill for extraction, but some techs do, running the drill at slow speeds. Using an extractor to remove a stripped truss rod nut takes a lot of patience, but it’s doable. The trick is to be gentle but firm.
Installing the new truss rod nut.
This is the easy part. Just slide the nut onto the truss rod threads and turn it clockwise. Tighten the nut until it’s just a little snug. Tune the guitar up to pitch and check the relief in the neck. Depending on your playing style, .010" to .012" should be plenty of relief. Check out “Time for a Neck Adjustment?” if you’re not sure how to adjust the truss rod.
A stripped truss rod nut is bad news, but it can usually be replaced inexpensively. However, if you strip the threads or nut at the other end of the truss rod—where it screws into hardware embedded within the neck itself—that’s a different story. Also, if the exposed threads on a truss rod are stripped, a replacement nut will not help. In either case, the truss rod itself would need to be replaced—a very invasive and expensive repair. At that point you have to decide whether replacing the neck makes more sense than spending a fortune on major surgery. The bottom line is simple: When adjusting your truss rod, don’t over-tighten the nut.
If you’re not comfortable working with your truss rod nut, consult a qualified repair technician. Guitar techs and luthiers deal with these issues all the time, and paying them for their expertise can be a wise investment.
- Guitar Shop 101: Tips for Buying a Used Electric - Premier Guitar ›
- Guitar Shop 101: “Decking” a Stratocaster Trem - Premier Guitar ›
- DIY: How to Adjust a Truss Rod - Premier Guitar ›
For these new recreations, Fender focuses on the little things that make original golden-era Fenders objects of obsession.
If there’s one thing players love more than new guitars, it’s old guitars—the unique feel, the design idiosyncrasies, the quirks in finish that all came from the pre-CNC era of instrument manufacturing. These characteristics become the stuff of legend, passed on through the years via rumors and anecdotes in shops, forums, and community networks.
It’s a little difficult to separate fact from fiction given these guitars aren’t easy to get your hands on. Fender Telecasters manufactured in the 1950s and 1960s sell for upwards of $20,000. But old is about to become new again. Fender’s American Vintage II series features 12 year-specific electric guitar and bass models from over two decades, spanning 1951 to 1977, that replicate most specs on their original counterparts, but are produced with modern technologies that ensure uniform build and feel.
Chronologically, the series begins and ends, fittingly, with the Telecaster—starting with the butterscotch blonde, blackguard 1951 Telecaster (built with an ash body, one-piece U-shaped maple neck, and 7.25" radius fretboard) and ending with the 1977 Telecaster Custom, which features a C-shaped neck, a CuNiFe magnet-based Wide Range humbucker in the neck position, and a single-coil at the bridge. The rest of the series spans the highlights of Fender’s repertoire: the 1954 Precision Bass, 1957 Stratocaster in ash or alder, 1960 Precision Bass, 1961 Stratocaster, 1963 Telecaster, 1966 Jazz Bass, 1966 Jazzmaster, 1972 Tele Thinline, 1973 Strat, and 1975 Telecaster Deluxe. The 1951 Telecaster, 1957 Strat, 1961 Strat, and 1966 Jazz Bass will also be offered as left-handed models. Street prices run from $2,099 to $2,399.
Fender '72 American Vintage II Telecaster Thinline Demo | First Look
Spec’d To Please
Every guitar in the series sports the era’s 7.25" radius fretboard, a mostly abandoned spec found on Custom Shop instruments—Mexico-made Vintera models, and Fender’s Artist Series guitars like the Jimmy Page, Jason Isbell, and Albert Hammond Jr. models. Most modern Fenders feature a 9.5" radius, while radii on Gibsons reach upwards of 12". Videos experimenting with the 7.25" radius’ playability pull in tens of thousands of viewers, suggesting both a modern fascination with and a lack of exposure to the radius among some younger and less experienced players.
T.J. Osborne of the Brothers Osborne picks an American Vintage II 1966 Jazzmaster in Dakota red.
Bringing back the polarizing 7.25" radius across the entire series is a gamble, and it’s been nearly five years since Fender released year-specific models. But Fender executive vice president Justin Norvell says that two years ago when the Fender brain trust was conceptualizing the American Vintage II line, they decided the time was right to “go back to the well.”
“We’ve been doing the same [models], the same years, over and over again for 30 years,” says Norvell. “We really wanted to change the line and expand it into some new things that we hadn’t done before and pick some different years that we thought were cool.”
“It takes a lot of doing to go back in time and sort of uncover the secret-sauce recipes.”—Steve Thomas, Fender
To decide on which years to produce, Fender drew from what Norvell calls a “huge cauldron of information” from Custom Shop master builders to collectors with vintage models to former employees from the 1950s and 1960s. The hands-on manufacturing of Fender’s golden years meant guitars produced within the same year would have marked differences in design and finish. So, the team had to procure multiple versions of the same year’s guitar to decide which models to replicate. Norvell says some purists would advocate for the “cleanest, most down-the-middle kind of variant,” while others would push for more esoteric and rare versions. Norvell says that ultimately, the team picked the models that they felt best represented “the throughline of history on our platforms.”
Simple and agile, the Fender Precision Bass—here in its new American Vintage II ’54 incarnation—earned its reputation in the hands of Bill Black, James Jamerson, Donald “Duck” Dunn, and other foundational players.
Norvell says the American Vintage II series was developed, in part, in response to calls to reproduce vintage guitars. Just like with classic cars, he says, people are passionate about year-specific guitars. Plus, American Vintage II fits perfectly with the pandemic-stoked yearning for bygone times. “For some people, these specific years are representative of experiences they had when they were first playing guitar, or a favorite artist that played guitars from these eras,” says Norvell. “These are touchstones for those stories, and that makes them very desirable.”
Fender’s electric guitar research and design team, led by director Steve Thomas, dug through the company’s archive of original drawings and designs—dating all the way back to Leo Fender’s original shop in Fullerton, California. They found detailed notes, including some documenting body woods that changed mid-year on certain models. Halfway through 1956, for example, Stratocaster bodies switched from ash to alder. That meant the American Vintage II 1957 Stratocaster needed to be alder, too. That, in turn, meant ensuring enough alder was on hand to fulfill production needs.
Among the series’ Stratocaster recreations is this 1973-style instrument, with an ash body, maple C-profile neck, rosewood fretboard, and the company’s Pure Vintage single-coils.
Thomas and his team discovered another piece of the production puzzle when researching how pickups for that same 1957 Strat were made. “We realized that if we incorporated a little bit more pinch control on the winders, we could more effectively mimic the way pickups would have been hand-wound in the ’50s,” says Thomas. “It takes a lot of doing to go back in time and sort of uncover the secret-sauce recipes.”
Thomas proudly calls the guitars “some of the best instruments we’ve ever made here in the Fender plant,” pointing to the level of detail put into design features, including more delicate lacquer finishes which take longer to cure and dry, and vintage-correct tweed cases for some guitars. New pickups were incorporated in the series, like a reworking of Seth Lover’s famed CuNiFe Wide Range humbuckers, which were discontinued around 1981. Even more minute details, like the width of 12th fret dots and the material used for them, were labored over. Three different models in the line feature clay dot inlays at unique, year-specific spacings.
Ironically, modern CNC manufacturing now makes these design quirks consistent features in mass-produced instruments. While the hand-crafted guitars from the ’50s and ’60s varied a lot from instrument to instrument. “Everything needs to be located perfectly, and it wasn’t necessarily back in the day,” says Norvell. “Now, it can be.”
Don’t Look Back
With this new series so firmly planted in the rose-tinted past, Fender does run the risk of netting only vintage-obsessed players. But Norvell says the team, despite being sticklers for period-correct detail, sought to strike a balance between vintage specs, practicality, and playability. The 1957 Stratocaster, for example, has a 5-way switch rather than the original’s 3-way switch. Norvell also asserts that the “ergonomic” old-school radius feels great when chording. “It might not be [right for] a shred machine, but it feels great and effortless.”
The 1966 Jazz Bass is also represented, shown here in a left-handed version.
Norvell also pushes back on the notion that Fender is playing it safe by indulging nostalgia and leaning on their past successes. He says that while the vintage models are some of the most desirable on the market, the team “purposely did not stick to the safe bets,” citing unusual year models like the 1954 P Bass and the 1973 Stratocaster.There’s a good reason why anything that hails back to “the good ol’ days” hits home with every generation. We’re constantly plagued by a belief that what came before is better than what we’ve got now. But with the American Vintage II series, Fender makes the case that guitars from the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s can very easily be a relevant part of the 2020s.
The Red Sea was born out of the vision to provide complex signal routing options available to the live/performing musician, that up until now, are only found in a studio mixing environment.
Introducing the Red Sea, an all-analog signal routing matrix, designed for countless stereo and mono signal path routing options. The Red Sea was born out of the vision to provide complex signal routing options available to the live/performing musician, that up until now, are only found in a studio mixing environment. The Red Sea has accomplished this in a compact, easy-to-use, and cost-effective solution.
Wet | Dry | Wet
The Red Sea gives you the ability to run a FULL Stereo wet dry wet rig using only 2 amps or just 2 signals to the FOH, while also giving you complete control over your Wet & Dry mix! Use the Blend knob to control the overall mix between stereo wet effects and mono dry/drive signals.
Stereo Dual Amps
Run dual amp modelers if full stereo w/ stereo effects. Gone are the traditional ways of one amp in the Left channel and another in the Right channel. Now use the Red Sea to seamlessly blend between two separate amps in true stereo. Think of this as a 2-channel amp where you can blend anywhere between both amps.
Stereo Parallel FX
Red Sea has two independent stereo FX loops. Use each FX loop to run stereo delay's and reverb's in parallel, where each effect does not interact with each other. Huge soundscapes can be achieved with washy reverbs and articulate delay repeats while being able to blend between each FX loops mix level.
The Red Sea can also do the following routing options:
- Wet | Dry utilizing a single amp
- Clean Wet | Dry | Wet (drives DO NOT run into wet effects)
- Wet | Dry | Wet with dual delays (one in the L channel & other in R channel)
- Parallel Dual Amps (run dual amp modelers in FULL stereo)
- Convert a tube amp's serial FX Loop to a parallel FX Loop
- Stereo and Mono analog dry through (avoid latency in digital pedals)
Stardust V3 was designed to capture the sound and response of 3 distinct amplifier models.
Stardust V3 was designed to capture the sound and response of 3 distinct maxed-out amplifier models. An all-analog signal path with discrete gain stages featuring MOSFET transistors provides juicy overdrive tones with great note separation that clean up to that sparkly sound that we all love and heard in recordings of the past. Set gain and tone and control everything from your guitar. Sparkly clean to crunchy mean are all there.
You can select the amplifier voicing via the onboard toggle switch.
BSM: Voiced after a blackface amp head that was primarily targeted for bass guitar players but got famous for electric guitar classic rock tones.
VLX: Voiced after a chimey 2x10” combo offering the perfect amount of controllable crunch
DLX: Voiced after one of the most popular low wattage 1×12″ combo amps that have found their way in countless recording studios and clubs around the world.
Stardust V3 now comes with top-mounted jacks and soft-click true bypass via a high-quality relay. The pedal has loads of output volume and enhanced headroom provided by 18V DC (boosted internally) so that it can also be used as a preamp going straight into your Power Amp or AudioInterface when combined with a separate speaker simulation device.
Street price: 199 Euro / 199 USD.
For more information, please visit crazytubecircuits.com.
The Sunn O))) Life Pedal circuit has been meticulously tweaked from the original and includes a third footswitch.
Sunn O))) present an enhanced version of the Sunn O))) Life Pedal Octave Distortion + Booster, in collaboration with their comrades at EarthQuaker Devices. The Sunn O))) Life Pedal circuit has been meticulously tweaked from the original to squeeze every last drop of heavy crushing tone available. The octave section has been fine tuned to make it more pronounced without losing the bottom end and we added a third footswitch, utilizing Flexi-Switch Technology, for the octave to allow an additional method of quick and radical tone shaping.
“Working on this new version has been a great continuity of this collaboration which feels so right, and sounds so right,” says Stephen O’Malley. “It’s a really beautiful pedal and it’s also a beautiful art collaboration. I think we made something really interesting that people can enjoy to use for their own music, but also, it makes a lot of sense to release a piece of distortion as a release for our band. We’re really happy that this is a trilogy now.”
The Sunn O))) Life Pedal is designed to represent the core front end chain used in those sessions, to drive the tubes of the band’s multiple vintage Sunn O))) Model T amplifiers (or take your fancy) into overload ecstasy. This is a 100w tube amp full stack’s holy dream, or its apostate nightmare.
Sunn O))) Life Pedal is a distortion with a blendable analog octave up and a booster
- Features 3 different clipping options: Symmetrical Silicon, Asymmetrical Silicon & LED, and pure OpAmp Drive
- Distortion and booster can be used independently
- Expression and footswitch control over analog octave up
- Octave blend allows total control over how much Octave is mixed into the circuit
- True bypass with silent relay based soft touch switches
- Features EarthQuaker Devices’ proprietary Flexi-Switch® Technology
- Lifetime warranty
- Current Draw: 15 mA
- Octave Distortion: Input impedance: 1 MΩ / Output impedance: <1 kΩ
- Booster: Input Impedance: 500 kΩ / Output Impedance: <1 kΩ
- List Price: $299 USD