Making a compensated bone saddle

Greetings from the Leading Tone repair bench. We get lots of requests for installing compensated bone saddles in steel string acoustic guitars. The bone saddles sound much more articulate than the plastic material commonly used on today’s guitars, not to mention they also play in tune. In this blog post we’ll go over the basic steps of shaping and fitting a compensated bone saddle. So let’s get started.

Step 1: The first step is pull a bone saddle blank and cut it to length so that it will match the saddle slot of the bridge in question.

Step 2: Once the saddle blank has been cut to length, the saddle blank is carefully sanded to match the width of the saddle slot using a flat sanding stone. It is extremely important that the saddle when fit is a slip fit which eliminates issues with leaning, compensation, and under saddle pickup systems.

Step 3: Now that the saddle is ready to shape, the radius is first sanded into the blank followed by carving the rough compensation into the saddle. The compensation is determined by several factors including bridge location, saddle slot angle, and string gauge. The basic formula for locating the strings in regards to the saddle is to add 1/16″ to the scale length under the high E string and then pivot the saddle from that point back towards the low E at a ratio of 1/8″ for every 3″ of saddle length.

Step 4: The roughed out saddle is ready to install and to set the final action. In this photo you can see the compensation carved into the saddle. When setting up the guitar and adjusting the saddle height, the excess material is removed from the bottom of the saddle. Once the saddle is completed it is buffed and polished in preparation for the final installation.

Step 5: The completed compensated saddle!

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