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Saddle Repair Descriptions

What are saddles made of?

Saddles are made out of a myriad of materials. Some popular synthetic materials are: micarta, tusq and graphite. Some natural materials used in saddle fabrication are cow bone, ivory, ebony, pearl and various animal horns. Our default Saddle material here at Finger Lakes Guitar Repair is bone although we frequently fabricate saddles from other materials when requested or in order to maintain historical authenticity on collectable instruments.

Repair or replace

We commonly repair saddles either when there are budget constraints or in cases in which maintaining an instrument’s original factory parts is a priority.  From a functional and aesthetic point of view it is just about always best to replace a damaged saddle as saddle replacement will out last most saddle repairs.

When should a saddle be replaced?

A saddle should be replaced when it is cracked, broken, too low and sometimes when it is worn.  Especially with synthetic materials, saddles will sometimes wear faster than frets.  As this happens the instrument can develop fret buzz, lose tonal clarity and develop tuning and intonation problems.

Saddles sometimes must be replaced in conjunction with other repairs.  Resetting a neck, for example, requires the fabrication of a new saddle.

It is best to replace the saddle during a set up. This will allow us to ensure optimal playability when the saddle is completed. At the very least, however, a truss rod as well as a nut adjustment are necessary to establish proper saddle height.  We highly recommend bone as a replacement material in most cases.

Why bone?

Bone is an excellent choice for saddles because of it’s high polished beauty and resistance to wear. Bone is also inexpensive, readily available and environmentally sustainable.

What does bone sound like?

We abstain from debates regarding which materials for saddles have the best sonic advantages. However, we can say from experience that bone resists wear better than any material we’ve used. That said, some popularly held opinions regarding the tonal characteristics associated with bone are: clearer tone, more volume and an increase in sustain. On the other hand, synthetic materials such as tusq are commonly believed to be better suited for saddles because they lack inconsistencies sometimes associated with bone.

Bleached vs. Unbleached Bone

The particular appearance of the bone saddle blank is important.  Our stock material is unbleached bone though we’re happy to use bleached bone upon request.  Some customers prefer to use bleached bone on contemporary instruments and unbleached bone on vintage instruments.  Unbleached bone gives the appearance that the saddle is itself quite old.