Jump to content
Gibson Brands Forums

Need to lower my saddle on one of the guitars....


onewilyfool

Recommended Posts

I'm starting to do a little more setup work for myself, and am on to the lowering of the saddle...any advice, help, links appreciated!...thanks

 

p.s. One thing I'm particularily concerned about, is keeping the bottom of the saddle level and flat. Previous attempts have seen some rounding and un-even line across the bottom....

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'll tell you what I do I may get raked over the coals for this I dunno I mark the saddle before I take it out of the bridge I then measure the distance down to where I want it use 4 fingers and very slowly sand it off. But the part that I'm not sure is right I only loosen the strings to pull the saddle out and when I get to my line from sanding I put it in tighten the strings to check it then I replace the strings

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Go for it, Wiley! Not too difficult, just pay attention. I use 150-200 grit sandpaper and a piece of 3/8" keystock to hold the saddle against to keep it perpendicular to the sanding surface. Anything that's solid and square will suffice for a "gate", if you will. I usually run the side of a #2 pencil point along the lower edge side of the saddle so I have a starting/ending point reference for how much material is being removed. When in doubt, go slow. You might have to do the operation two or three times to get it down to where you want it, but better that than taking off too much and having to replace the saddle. What material is the saddle? Bone and ivory sand pretty quickly but TUSQ is hard as nails and very slow to sand.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm starting to do a little more setup work for myself, and am on to the lowering of the saddle...any advice, help, links appreciated!...thanks

 

p.s. One thing I'm particularily concerned about, is keeping the bottom of the saddle level and flat. Previous attempts have seen some rounding and un-even line across the bottom....

 

 

I would be tempted to make a little jig consisting of two thin pieces of hard wood, like teak or mahogany, maybe an inch wide each, and 1/8" or so thick. I'd screw them to a dead flat piece of very hard wood, like oak or maple. If you thought you were going to use it often, I'd put the two screws in one of the thin pieces in slots, so that I could adjust the space between the two thin pieces of wood for different saddle thicknesses.

 

I'd sandwich a piece of fairly fine sandpaper between my guides and the flat mounting surface, grasp the saddle between my fingers, and slide it back and forth in the slot between the two pieces of wood, keeping the pressure as even as possible.

 

If I were going to do this a lot, I would make the entire jig out of steel, with the thin pieces machine-screwed into holes tapped into about a 1/4" thick milled steel plate. If I were going all out, I'd even glue low-friction pads to the inside of my thin pieces to make it easier to slide the saddle back and forth.

 

The other thing I'd do is mark the two ends of the saddle at the bottom to indicate exactly how much I wanted to take off, rather than depending on measuring it as I went.

 

 

Of course, a professional would probably just grab the saddle, eyeball it, and rub it a few times across a sheet of sandpaper. I tend to over-complicate things.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Of course, a professional would probably just grab the saddle, eyeball it, and rub it a few times across a sheet of sandpaper. I tend to over-complicate things.

 

 

Don't forget the professional would also be doing it one-handed - the other hand is holding the phone he is talking to another customer on!

 

 

 

BluesKing777.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I get what you are talking about....especially if it is a hard materiel like Buc refers to, and you are using fine sandpaper.

 

Even if you are using a flat surface, if you are having to really work at it to remove materiel, the pressure will eventually be uneven, and the more 'strokes' you do with uneven pressure, the more it is no longer even. Same thing happens with different grains in wood...the more you sand a piece with fine sandpaper, the hard part of the wood like the top of the grain will stand up more and more, even if you apply the same pressure to all of it.

 

The key is to use the right sandpaper for the job. A very corse sandapaper will "cut" through quickly, but also cut through more differing grains and also allow differing pressure to have less effect. So, corse for shaping, medium for removing lines, and fine for finishing. It is also a lot faster.

 

Another good tip, always have a line drawn, and don't sand it away. I usually will hold the string where I think I want the action to be, eyeball the amount and draw a line at the top, then transfer that line to the bottom. Then, I widdle away toward that amount. Stop widdling WELL before you reach where you think it should be, and reinstall and check. (for some reason, it always seems to need less than I think it does).

Link to comment
Share on other sites

When in doubt, go slow. You might have to do the operation two or three times to get it down to where you want it, but better that than taking off too much and having to replace the saddle.
Many good tips here but this is a key one to me. Figure out how much saddle you want to take down, mark it, then take about 1/2 of that, try it and repeat until happy. Take your time, there is no hurry.

 

I've had good results on saddles that can be taken down from the bottom with a vise and a small file, followed by sanding. It is not hard to keep it straight if you mark it, measure, and have done some filing. It is easier IME than one that needs to be taken down from the top.

 

Give her a try.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Fine sand paper on a hard even surface - careful and slow, take a couple of strokes, flip the saddle around, take the same number of strokes, try to be consistent, reinstall, check, repeat until your action is where you want it.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

In fact it's a very groovy process and the ideal way to get closer to ones instrument – especially for beginners (not that I consider you of those Wily).

 

I've done it a lot and the receipt is all covered above. But recently I've been extra challenged. Have a fortress of a HD-28V here, but the action needed lowering. Thing is that the all through saddle is glued down and won't move an ants leg (did a little hairdryer heating without results). Ergo the solution was to sand the upper side and do that with utter precision to keep the right feel and curve within the strings. Boy did I go gentle. Did it over 2 rounds with approx. 45 days in between. Must have had the thing off 10-12 times each time. First it seemed I found the right height – then it dawned that I could go lower. Now it's where I want it – a slight buzz when played harder, yet clear and easy. Still it isn't the best set-up I've played. There is something undetectable uneven. Then again it was there before the surgery and I have doubts - is it the neck. Either I'm gonna live with it or else it'll hit the pro doc during the fall, maybe next winter. Sooner or later it'll reach second to none. The guitar deserves it.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 

But recently I've been extra challenged. Have a fortress of a HD-28V here, but the action needed lowering. Thing is that the all through saddle is glued down and won't move an ants leg (did a little hairdryer heating without results).

 

Em7, was this saddle glued in at the factory? I've never seen that before. Several of my guitars have through saddles, but none are glued in place. Generally, they are just a tight press fit, and you just have to pay attention when changing strings that it all stays in the right place.

 

Someone wasn't thinking very clearly when they did that one!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

My D-18V has the cut-through saddle also......I won't attempt adjustment on this one! Even if it could be removed and sanded from the bottom that would affect the fit of the long, thin ends of the thing. I had the tech lower the action before I left the store with it and he hit it right on the money. From the factory it was just straight across on the top but he intonated it a little to great effect, maintaining the radius and all. Good work on his part!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

My D-18V has the cut-through saddle also......I won't attempt adjustment on this one! Even if it could be removed and sanded from the bottom that would affect the fit of the long, thin ends of the thing. I had the tech lower the action before I left the store with it and he hit it right on the money. From the factory it was just straight across on the top but he intonated it a little to great effect, maintaining the radius and all. Good work on his part!

 

The ends of the saddle just get recessed a bit, so they don't extend all the way to the ends of the slot in the bridge. No big deal. You don't even notice it.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

whats a 'through saddle ' ??

 

 

Like this, where the saddle fits into a slot that passes completely through the bridge transversely: (1948 J-45)

 

J-45pins.jpg

 

 

As opposed to this, where the saddle drops into a routed recess in the bridge, but is essentially held captive. This is called a drop-in saddle. (2007 Martin 000-28 EC)

 

000-28ECpins.jpg

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Em7, was this saddle glued in at the factory? I've never seen that before. Several of my guitars have through saddles, but none are glued in place. Generally, they are just a tight press fit, and you just have to pay attention when changing strings that it all stays in the right place.

 

Someone wasn't thinking very clearly when they did that one!

Opposed to the other HD-28V, it was glued there when I got it.

 

Btw. you'll meet luthiers who recommends this as the better way of doin' it.

 

 

blindboyg you'll see this on different - f.x. banner - Gibsons as well.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

And now that we are in this territory - How do you prefer the upper side of the saddle and why ?? Curved, sharper curved, sharp etc. . .

 

 

Well, not sure exatly what you mean, but.....

 

The top radius of the saddle should match that of the fingerboard in section. The scale length of the string is determined at the point of contact of the string with the saddle, so small changes in saddle cross-section shape at the point of contact do impact on intonation, albeit in a small way.

 

Note in my pictures in the previous post the two extremes of approaches to this: the straight, non-intonated through-saddle on my J-45, and the fully-intonated saddle on my 000-28 EC. Both seem to work just fine, but this will vary from instrument to instrument.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Of course, if you're really concerned about intonation, you could always put one of these on your guitar.......

 

Hard to believe Gibson actually used this arrangement on some acoustics for a brief period.

 

032.jpg

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Well, not sure exatly what you mean, but.....

 

The top radius of the saddle should match that of the fingerboard in section. The scale length of the string is determined at the point of contact of the string with the saddle, so small changes in saddle cross-section shape at the point of contact do impact on intonation, albeit in a small way.

 

Note in my pictures in the previous post the two extremes of approaches to this: the straight, non-intonated through-saddle on my J-45, and the fully-intonated saddle on my 000-28 EC. Both seem to work just fine, but this will vary from instrument to instrument.

Yes sure, you should see my '53 45's saddle. It's a miniature-sculpture. But in a slightly rougher scale the saddles often are softly rounded, maybe with some sort of compensation for the B-string. Just wondered if there were any thoughts about the top-side of the bone. Now that I've been sanding like a, , , , , sandman.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Maybe I'm doing my saddle work wrong, but I had learned to mark saddle, and remove double what the wanted drop in action is. I use bone saddles and fine sandpaper just won't cut it for me. I use a double cut file and get it down to about 1/16" of where I want to be then fine finish for a glass smooth surface. Of course keeping things square and in proportion to the reference line. You can use a small stainless square to keep up with that easy.

 

It seems like, maybe theory only, that you'd want the most surface contact from the saddle to the bridge (smoother finish on both) to contact & transmit the most sound vibrations.

 

Maybe with a plastic saddle you can sand with fine sandpaper. It just cuts too slow for me.

 

Aster

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Maybe I'm doing my saddle work wrong, but I had learned to mark saddle, and remove double what the wanted drop in action is.

Aster

 

 

You are correct, in that whatever you take off the saddle translates into half that amount at the 12th fret. I think the general point was that you should work the saddle down less than you really think you need to at first, as it's easy to take it down more if necessary. If you take it down too far without checking the result, you're sort of screwed.

 

A file is generally faster than sandpaper on a hard material like bone. A lot of people don't really know how to work with files, however, and they can mess up in a hurry if they aren't careful.

 

To use a file, you really need to hold the saddle upside down in a vise with padded jaws. I pad mine with thin strips (1/4" thick) of teak, held in place with masking tape. Works a treat, and can't damage the sides of the saddle.

 

It's impossible to over-stress how important it is to mark exactly how much you want to remove at least at both ends of the saddle, and preferably by drawing a line completely down the side of the saddle. A small steel ruler and an ultra-fine Sharpie marker work great for this.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 1 month later...

This is what I do, but this is strictly for my preference.

I do not strum as hard as I used to and prefer low action.

When I get a new guitar, I usually set aside the original saddle to keep as a reference and work with a new saddle.

You can get some fairly cheap ones to practice with then get some nice ivory ones when you're more confident.

- adjust the neck with the truss rod so that when you capo the strings at the 1st and 12th fret the gap at the 6th fret is only .001"-.003"

- (with capo's removed) I take feeler gages and measure the current gap at the 12th fret.

- loosen strings, remove saddle. If tight I use plastic tipped pliers

- determine how low you want the strings. I currenlty target .055"-.065". Experiment on your own to find what you like. The harder you strum or bend the higher you'll want it. Also make sure your guitar stays constant. Humidity will affect it and sometimes age.

- remove twice the amount you want to lower. e.g. If the gap is currently .110" and you want to get it down to .06" there's a .05" difference so remove .100" from the current height. Measure the current saddle at both ends and do your math. I use 4" digital veniers I bought @ harbor freight for $15. I tried some of the methods mentioned above but the best one I found is using a small aluminum hobby clamp I bought at harbor freight for about $10 (I'm hanging out there too much). What I like about is that I can lightly snug the saddle, use the end on the verniers to measure the hangout and move it to the amount I want to remove. This method has worked perfect for me. I use 80 grit silicon carbide paper to get the stock off then take 600 grit to polish it and break the edges.

 

All my acoustics are set up this way and do not buzz.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I don't think Ive noticed this in the previous suggestions so here it is..

 

*Before lowering your saddle, check that the neck is straight... If it has too much relief in it , your action will feel high.

 

An easy way to check this relief is..

Put a capo on the second fret..Press & hold down the Low E string at the fret where neck meets the body.

The fret midway between these two points...the distance between top of the fret and bottom of string (low E) will tell you neck relief.

This distance should be an almost non noticable amount but not quite touching.

Maybe 4 slices of decent guage paper is a safe amount..

Mine are even less than that as I play very low & very light.

 

If this is fine then proceeding to saddle, I usually put a fine sandpaper,no more than 220,as more agressive grit makes it harder to control, on a flat surface (a marble 12X12 tile is usually flat)

and I take off little by little..

I would suggest do some at next string change till you are satisfied, play, if you need more, at next string change again etc..little by little.

 

For keeping it straight..I "aim at even" ..do a little..look at it along sides as I go along..little by little (and I ask God for help while doing it,as I am a perfectionist) : )

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Archived

This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

×
×
  • Create New...