Removing String Notches From Saddle?

Choice of classical guitar strings and technical issues connected with their use.
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Beowulf
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Removing String Notches From Saddle?

Postby Beowulf » Thu Feb 02, 2017 3:29 pm

I need to resurface to bass side top of my saddle as small notches have appeared after many years of use. When tuning this causes discontinuities in the tuning action as the string catches and then slips. I would also like to lower the action slightly and a bit more on the treble side. How is this best accomplished? I do have a saddle sander...so, hand sand the top to remove the notches and then use the saddle sander to drop the action height? Is it possible to use the saddle sander to adjust the slope of the saddle from bass to treble, or is it best to do this by hand on the top surface?
1971 Yamaha GC-10

MessyTendon
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Re: Removing String Notches From Saddle?

Postby MessyTendon » Thu Feb 02, 2017 4:19 pm

I think it would be better to make a new saddle. Take your time and find the sweet spot, a couple of saddle blanks is likely better than trying to get it all in one go.

You can use your existing saddle, but I'm not sure what you mean about slopes. Yes go ahead and carve some out and lower the action. But I think it's nice to have several saddle blanks to work with.

At some point the saddle is going to feel good and sound good, or optimal. I think it takes a few tries and one saddle might be close, but the small changes can't really be reversed, so I think having a bunch of bone blanks to find the sweet spot is much easier than fiddling with one saddle.

Make the adjustments by feel, rather than ear, the string height is a personal preference. Shaving small amounts of saddle where each string rests can help fine intonation, but there really is no need to have an extreme saddle with invidual compensation and materials cut out.

Once it feels right then make some intonation adjustments, or if it is to your liking leave it alone. Find the sweet spot, that's how you do it. Having a couple blanks makes it much easier.

JohnB
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Re: Removing String Notches From Saddle?

Postby JohnB » Thu Feb 02, 2017 4:31 pm

When I have adjusted the saddle I have always kept the old saddle and made a new one.

Interesting that you mention a saddle sander - I hadn't heard of that before (my ignorance) but I looked it up on Stewmac. What I have done is sand the thickness using various grades of wet & dry on top of a piece of plate glass (for flatness) *, then got a square edge by sanding while sliding the saddle against the side of a piece of wood which I previous checked is square.
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Beowulf
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Re: Removing String Notches From Saddle?

Postby Beowulf » Thu Feb 02, 2017 11:16 pm

MessyTendon wrote:I think it would be better to make a new saddle. Take your time and find the sweet spot, a couple of saddle blanks is likely better than trying to get it all in one go.

You can use your existing saddle, but I'm not sure what you mean about slopes. Yes go ahead and carve some out and lower the action. But I think it's nice to have several saddle blanks to work with.

At some point the saddle is going to feel good and sound good, or optimal. I think it takes a few tries and one saddle might be close, but the small changes can't really be reversed, so I think having a bunch of bone blanks to find the sweet spot is much easier than fiddling with one saddle.

Make the adjustments by feel, rather than ear, the string height is a personal preference. Shaving small amounts of saddle where each string rests can help fine intonation, but there really is no need to have an extreme saddle with invidual compensation and materials cut out.

Once it feels right then make some intonation adjustments, or if it is to your liking leave it alone. Find the sweet spot, that's how you do it. Having a couple blanks makes it much easier.


Thanks for the advice. I have some saddle blanks and made myself a saddle by hand 25 years ago. At time I simply put aside the original which was higher than I liked. I think the original might be ivory rather than bone...but I'm not sure. I used it for about 20 years and there are some small notches, but it has room to be smoothed and lowered to my preferred height. As a first go, I thought I would remove the notches and then adjust the height of my original. As for the slope (to decrease the height from the Bass side to the Treble side...perhaps 1/32"), I wondered if I could do this with the saddle sander on the bottom surface, rather than sculpting the top by hand?
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Beowulf
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Re: Removing String Notches From Saddle?

Postby Beowulf » Thu Feb 02, 2017 11:19 pm

JohnB wrote:When I have adjusted the saddle I have always kept the old saddle and made a new one.

Interesting that you mention a saddle sander - I hadn't heard of that before (my ignorance) but I looked it up on Stewmac. What I have done is sand the thickness using various grades of wet & dry on top of a piece of plate glass (for flatness) *, then got a square edge by sanding while sliding the saddle against the side of a piece of wood which I previous checked is square.


Righto...that is just how I made my first one years ago. Now I am wondering about the best way to slope the saddle surface 1/32" from Bass to Treble. Do the top by hand...or use the saddle sander to angle the bottom surface which should give the same result?
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robert e
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Re: Removing String Notches From Saddle?

Postby robert e » Fri Feb 03, 2017 2:52 am

Do I understand you correctly? You want to sand down the bass side of the top of the saddle to smooth it, as there are notches in it. Then you want to sand down the treble side to lower the action there.

You don't say how deep the notches are, but if they're not too deep, it seems to me that the simplest and easiest thing to do is to uniformly smooth the whole top of the saddle to the same degree. You'd be getting rid of the notches and lowering the action on the treble side at the same time, while preserving the slope. Mark with a pencil so you can tell that you're removing material evenly, and also know when you're getting close. (Note--if the top of the saddle was shaped with a slight curve or hump, it's best to follow that shape. Also note any sanded-in compensation.).

Then try it out. You may like it just fine at that point.

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Re: Removing String Notches From Saddle?

Postby Beowulf » Fri Feb 03, 2017 1:53 pm

robert e wrote:Do I understand you correctly? You want to sand down the bass side of the top of the saddle to smooth it, as there are notches in it. Then you want to sand down the treble side to lower the action there.

You don't say how deep the notches are, but if they're not too deep, it seems to me that the simplest and easiest thing to do is to uniformly smooth the whole top of the saddle to the same degree. You'd be getting rid of the notches and lowering the action on the treble side at the same time, while preserving the slope. Mark with a pencil so you can tell that you're removing material evenly, and also know when you're getting close. (Note--if the top of the saddle was shaped with a slight curve or hump, it's best to follow that shape. Also note any sanded-in compensation.).

Then try it out. You may like it just fine at that point.


Ahh...thanks Robert. That does "sound" more straightforward, and easier! I'll give it a try.

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robert e
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Re: Removing String Notches From Saddle?

Postby robert e » Wed Feb 08, 2017 5:36 am

How did it go, Douglas?

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Re: Removing String Notches From Saddle?

Postby Beowulf » Wed Feb 08, 2017 3:16 pm

robert e wrote:How did it go, Douglas?


I'll let you know...but right now I'm preparing for a seminar presentation: "Dying to Live: The Alchemy of Mortifactio." Once I'm done, I will mortify the notches. :mrgreen:
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Beowulf
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Re: Removing String Notches From Saddle?

Postby Beowulf » Tue Feb 21, 2017 5:39 pm

Okay...I smoothed out the small notches on my original saddle and removed about 1/32" from the bottom using the saddle sander. At the same time I changed my strings from D'Addario EJ46 HT to Augustine Regal/Blue HT. I did not like the D'Addario EJ46 HT as they felt too floppy and did not drive the top very well. The D'Addario EJ46 strings result in an average string tension on my 662mm SC guitar of 14.96lbs. I had been playing previously (15-20 years) with D'Addario EJ44C which gave an average tension of 16.02lbs. The Augustine Regal/Blues are at 16.38lbs.

My first impression was that the action was too high (at least with the Augustine strings) and that I did not have a good sense of connection with the guitar and tone production. So...I removed the saddle and took off another 1/32".

Wow...the guitar sprang to life! I have never experienced such an enormous and immediate transformation. The action is now about 3/16" (E6) and 11/64" (e1). I can now play "into" the instrument rather than "on" it. I can feel the responsiveness of the soundboard and a much greater tactile sense of relationship to the guitar. I suppose this might be referred to as improved "playability," but it is more than that and difficult to put into words. Certainly,the string response to my fingers is much better and the recovery from "digging in" is close to optimal on the 1971 Yamaha GC-10. This makes it easier to vary tone and dynamics and bring out different voices in the music. However, the sound has also opened up and the character of the guitar is much more apparent.

The original Yamaha action height was around 15/64" (6mm) and 7/32" (5.5mm) and while this was okay with lower tension strings, it did not allow the soundboard to sing and dynamics were somewhat limited.

I wonder if I may bring the action down even further? However, I am going to play at this height for a while...and if I do lower it further, it will be a very tiny amount as I do not want to go too far. I wonder how many parameters are involved: string tension, string character, action height, soundboard stiffness/responsiveness, etc.?
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Laudiesdad69
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Re: Removing String Notches From Saddle?

Postby Laudiesdad69 » Wed Feb 22, 2017 1:00 pm

When I set up a guitar, at least a 650mm one, I aim for about 7-8/64 on the treble E and 9-10/64 on the low E. I found that on one of my guitars, my Ramirez George Harrison, I got the optimal string height at 6-7/64th one the high E and 8/64th on the low E. I also lowered the nut, but did that just by feel and strobing it so that when I pressed the string at the first fret, the note was true, and I set it up with D'Addario EJ45.

When that one was done, there was a sufficient amount of bone dust from the saddle. I really dialed it in. I removed enough material to significantly lower the action (It was 12/64 on the Low E) and had just enough saddle left so as not to screw up the break angle at the bridge and the intonation was spot on. All octaves were perfectly in tune to the 12th fret on all strings.

And as it has no truss rod, when I put Hard tension strings on it (like for recording) the action is still at 9-10/64 on he low E. This change didn't have any noticeable effect on the intonation. All octaves still sounded right. I keep it strung with medium tension as the action is super playable that way.

I did have to do some re-fitting of the nut and saddle to get it to that point though. Like you say, one doesn't want to go too far.

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Re: Removing String Notches From Saddle?

Postby Beowulf » Wed Feb 22, 2017 3:35 pm

Laudiesdad69 wrote:When I set up a guitar, at least a 650mm one, I aim for about 7-8/64 on the treble E and 9-10/64 on the low E. I found that on one of my guitars, my Ramirez George Harrison, I got the optimal string height at 6-7/64th one the high E and 8/64th on the low E. I also lowered the nut, but did that just by feel and strobing it so that when I pressed the string at the first fret, the note was true, and I set it up with D'Addario EJ45.

When that one was done, there was a sufficient amount of bone dust from the saddle. I really dialed it in. I removed enough material to significantly lower the action (It was 12/64 on the Low E) and had just enough saddle left so as not to screw up the break angle at the bridge and the intonation was spot on. All octaves were perfectly in tune to the 12th fret on all strings.

And as it has no truss rod, when I put Hard tension strings on it (like for recording) the action is still at 9-10/64 on he low E. This change didn't have any noticeable effect on the intonation. All octaves still sounded right. I keep it strung with medium tension as the action is super playable that way.

I did have to do some re-fitting of the nut and saddle to get it to that point though. Like you say, one doesn't want to go too far.


Thanks...very helpful. The intonation is not spot on at present and I think this also has to do with the fact that the saddle does not appear to have been compensated originally, except for the G string which has a cutback notch. I will play for a while and then drop the saddle by 1/64" increments. I will also see if an extra 1/64" drop on the treble side is desirable. At present, the bass strings sound slightly sharp at the 12th fret when compared to the harmonic. Once I have the height just right, if that is still the case I'll adjust the top curve of the saddle to set the contact point for those strings slightly back.
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kefroeschner
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Re: Removing String Notches From Saddle?

Postby kefroeschner » Sun Feb 26, 2017 1:26 am

Note that the saddle blanks you get from Stew-Mac are about 4 1/4" long. When making a new saddle leave them long. File sand or whatever to get the shape and slope (from E to e') right and the action about right with the blank centered in the slot. Now you can easily fine tune the action by sliding the overlong saddle left or right in the bridge slot. Its a neat trick. Some travelling guitarists leave it that way so they can quickly adjust to changing weather. Or if you finally decide you have it right, you can mark and cut off the ends.
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Re: Removing String Notches From Saddle?

Postby Beowulf » Sun Feb 26, 2017 4:23 am

kefroeschner wrote:Note that the saddle blanks you get from Stew-Mac are about 4 1/4" long. When making a new saddle leave them long. File sand or whatever to get the shape and slope (from E to e') right and the action about right with the blank centered in the slot. Now you can easily fine tune the action by sliding the overlong saddle left or right in the bridge slot. Its a neat trick. Some travelling guitarists leave it that way so they can quickly adjust to changing weather. Or if you finally decide you have it right, you can mark and cut off the ends.


A fine method of "fine" tuning the saddle. I now know without a doubt that I will lower the saddle: after one hour of playing/practising, my left hand was a bit tired and sore. That has not happened before and I know the action is still too high.
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Laudiesdad69
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Re: Removing String Notches From Saddle?

Postby Laudiesdad69 » Sun Feb 26, 2017 4:35 am

I don't know if this is right anymore, but I was taught by my luthier friend (he apprenticed under Dan Earliwine) that when testing the intonation to check the 12th fret fretted note with the open string note. Not to check the 12th fret harmonic note to the 12th fret fretted note because of the distance of string travel to the fretted note will cause the note to be off (sharp). The 12th fret harmonic is on a flat plane that doesn't require string deflection to sound the note. Without being able to adjust the string length, all you have to work with are the saddle, nut, and thickness of strings. Unless you have a truss rod like on an electric or steel string.


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