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Rosewood adjustable saddle (vs bone)


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I recently picked up a 67 Hummingbird. The first thing I did without a second thought was to get one of those bone saddles from Philadelphia luthiers... The guitar sounds great - amazing bottom, loud, resonant, and brighter... The only quality I don't really like (and it might be because I'm not used it) is it has a raspy tone which also has a vintage vibe to it.

 

Well, I decided to throw the wood saddle back in out of curiosity and its definitely a softer sound as one might anticipate. The thing that surprised me was that the raspiness is gone. I think I like the tone better actually. No, it's not as pronounced, but I'm digging the woody dry tone. I guess I'm don't really like a bright guitar with that "zing" to it.

 

Everything I've read however tells me the opposite. Anyone here have any experience with wood saddles? This is my first and I'm no longer writing it off as an inferior poor design.

 

I would love to hear those that perhaps were around in the 60s on why Gibson would choose a wood saddle and what the opinion was at the time.

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I have found the same as you when I was trying out various saddles on my 62 Epiphone Texan. However I found that I preferred the Bone saddle over the Rosewood one, and have left that guitar as such.

 

I do however also have a McCartney reissue Texan (Terada, Japan) to which I did the same, and found the tone with the bone saddle more raspy than zingy, but by comparison the Rosewood one was dull sounding. The answer for me was to experiment with strings, and have found Martin 80/20 Bronze 12.5-55(Med-light) seem to have cured the raspy element(making it more sprangy for want of a better word), and balanced the tone out overall. The 62 Texan though seems to sound best with Gibson Masterbilt 12`s. So perhaps it may be to your advantage to try out some different strings, with whichever type of saddle you prefer.

 

Steve.

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An ever interesting topic. To me there's no mystery in wood sounding softer than bone or ceramic. It's the logic of the materials.

 

If you like the mellower voice of the rosewood, fine. A good choice and all up to the player. No truth regarding taste.

Keep it if as it is, but don't avoid further experiments up the road -

 

Tusq.

 

'Old vase' ivory.

 

Wood insert w. normal sized bone saddle.

 

Ceramic (which probably won't suit you).

 

More than once I have posted a pic of a double version used in my 1963 SJ.

High E and B all wood - the other 4, bone in wood insert.

See if you can find it, if interested.

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I've swapped these out and in a few times, but especially on my old '67 B25 which came with the rosewood saddle, I ended up making a rosewood insert that fit into the bigger space the wood saddle occupied that had the thin slot. Then I put a piece of bone in the slot and changed 'em out when I felt like a softer/sharper playing experience. I bought two small ebony shims from Colosi and placed them over the bolt holes so the new setup perched on the two 'feet' rather than flat across the top. It really brightened up the DR Sunbeam 12's. Now I've moved over to Dunlop 80/20 Bronze 12's and like them more. http://i1066.photobucket.com/albums/u406/Jedzep/000_0015.jpg

 

Crazy, I know, but it worked. You have to be careful not to make the insert so that it's too tight in the bridge slot. I cut mine out of a rosewood replacement bridge I got on Ebay, then shaped and sanded forever to get it to go gently snug into the opening. I think I improved the tone noticeably, but I'm easily convinced where my own 'expertise' is involved.

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This should be a fun controlled experiment. Switch between saddles using the same set of strings. Then, try a different type of string, repeating the experiment. Repeat until thoroughly confused. Remember to also try a variety of flat picks (if that's what you use) with each combination.

 

Seriously, the rosewood saddle generally has a more mellow tone and the bone a brighter tone, like the difference between a good mock-tortoise flatpick and a plastic one. The problem is, there are a LOT of variables here, and you have to find the combination that produces the tone you really like.

 

For some of us, this is a lifetime exercise, often involving multiple guitars as well. Generally speaking, the saddle/string/pick experiment is a lot cheaper--and no less rewarding--than the guitar/saddle/string/pick experiment.

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If I had to guess I would think Gibson went to a wood saddle because the ceramic saddle they were initially using was a heavy contraption in itself and did a good job of muting sound. I guess they just wanted to soften the sound. Or knowing Gibson maybe it was just a cheaper route.

 

I am not sure about the equation of a raspy sound and a vintage guitar unless you are talking about Son House and his National. Assuming your guitar still has the adjustable bridge what you might be hearing is all of that metal in there. The sound might be alleviated by the softer wood saddle which is not sending as much vibration to the bridge as the denser bone. Just a guess though - I don't build 'em, I just play 'em.

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Lots of great thoughts and opinions here - much appreciated. I haven't spent enough time with it to figure out which strings would go best with it yet, but that is a great point. The guitar currently has the string that came on it - they look like Martin SPs. I actually did a bit of restoration - reglued the bridge down properly. Believer or not, Gibson had not removed the finish under the bridge prior to glueing it.

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I replaced my double saddle insert Saturday nite and put the ceramic back in. Much louder and better sounding than before (maybe the new maple bridge plate is getting the vibe), but also a bit too sharp in the trebs. Will experiment further.

 

You should post some pics of the vintage Bird. And even spoil us with an audio test.

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  • 2 years later...

This should be a fun controlled experiment. Switch between saddles using the same set of strings. Then, try a different type of string, repeating the experiment. Repeat until thoroughly confused. Remember to also try a variety of flat picks (if that's what you use) with each combination.

 

Seriously, the rosewood saddle generally has a more mellow tone and the bone a brighter tone, like the difference between a good mock-tortoise flatpick and a plastic one. The problem is, there are a LOT of variables here, and you have to find the combination that produces the tone you really like.

 

For some of us, this is a lifetime exercise, often involving multiple guitars as well. Generally speaking, the saddle/string/pick experiment is a lot cheaper--and no less rewarding--than the guitar/saddle/string/pick experiment.

 

I've wanted to do it for awhile, and finally got around to it. In all my scouring for info on bone vs. adj saddles, i couldn't find a demo of the Philadelphia luthier supply bone vs gibson rosewood saddles. Here's my '68 with rosewood adj saddle and medium martin strings broken in over the past week or so.

 

Anyways, here's my hopefully halfway decent contribution. I started with rosewood and then bone- it switches around the two minute mark. Unfortunately it wasn't a completely controlled experiment- there was a huge thunderstorm during the recording and some cops flew by (you can hear the sirens right at the end of the rosewood playing. There's also some fret buzz and a clam or two for good measure, but hopefully someone finds this helpful. If the feedback is positive, I'll try it again on a quieter day when I have more time to be really really calculated, and am open to feedback and ideas!

 

https://soundcloud.com/thesouthseasmusic/bone-v-wood

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I've wanted to do it for awhile, and finally got around to it.

 

Arh, the good trend of reviving old threads - I have a weakness for it.

 

Have to say the guitar(s) come across exactly like one would imagine.

 

The rose is a bit more rounded and withheld where the bone shows a crisper edge (clarity/brightness) from the denser material.

 

Just wait till you hear original porcelain, , , tho the ceramics are very hard to find. A little task there - but you don't need it. Both voices sound fine*.

 

My guess would be that the difference is more accentuated live than on tape. I'm close to preferring w over b from what is heard. Good post ^

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I have an El Dorado & a Bard 12-string. Epiphone 1960's Kalamazoo. Both have ebony saddles in rosewood bridges. I tried a Tusq saddle on the El Dorado-it just sounded awful & I put the original saddle back straight away.

 

Yes, the tusq version is dull -

 

Are you saying the original wooden inserts are ebony ? Sounds reasonable as it is harder than rose.

 

In that case thanks - like groovadelic, I always thought it was palisander.

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I posted about this last winter when I got my 1965 J-50, it has the original wooden saddle. There was a lot of discussion about what these are made of, some said ebony others said rosewood. I really don't know myself. But I am keeping it just the way it was when I got it. I like the sound, but can understand why some people might not.

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I have a 61 Hummingbird with the first version of the adjustable saddle and bridge.The solid rosewood bridge has the two pearl dots at each end of string line,and a one piece porcelain saddle.

Had tried it briefly with a rosewood bridge,which changed the sound. Far less top end zing, and a somewhat smoother bass response from bass into the midrange,but the porcelain version offered more midrange/vocal that made the older Gibson's such a great accompianent singer instrument.

I plan to have a one piece rosewood and ebony insert made and leave the adjustable bridge as is.

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  • 5 months later...

Well here goes. I have had some experience with this. I have a 1971 Gibson Heritage with a Rosewood saddle. Not long after I got it new in 1972 a luthier said it would sound much better if he routed out the saddle and inserted a bone saddle.

It really is nice. Still mellow with a laid back sound, but with some extra clarity.

Now, I have tried the Graph Tech replacement and I didn't like the sound. I have now put in a ceramic saddle (I was lucky to fine 3) one for the Heritage, one for the Paul McCartney Texan and one for the Gibson J160. The sound is much better than the Graph Tech for sure, more full. It is a little bright, but very even across the board, and it is a nice sound. My wooden saddle has cracked so I am getting one made and a bone insert put in like the original. This way I can change back and forth as my daily ear requirements require :-)) Some say to get rid of the adjustable bridge and the guitar will sound better, more open. Maybe so, but I like the advantage of adjusting the action easily whenever I want. Also, guitars are built with all components in mind. You change something that is irreversable and you are stuck with it, and you may Not like it. I changed the tuners on an Epiphone EJ200, from the Heavy Metal (In weight) Gold Grovers to the Light Tuners (In weight) with Keystone buttons and it changed the sound of the guitar, not as much bottom end. I guess the weight difference on the headstock made the difference. I am rambling a bit, but I just wanted to state that any change, will change your sound.

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I once got a beautiful 1967 Gibson Southern Jumbo on a trade - it had a rosewood adjustable saddle and despite being gorgeous it just sounded dead, so I sold it. For some reason, it never once occurred to me back then to simply search out a ceramic saddle and replace the POS rosewood. Man I wish I had that guitar back.

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It really depends on the guitar. I've had three bridges and four different saddles on my '48-'50 J-45. The original was the standard belly-up bridge with slot-through saddle. Unfortunately, we didn't pay much attention to those things back in the 1960's, so I don't know if the saddle was bone or plastic. That guitar (even though it was only 20 years old back then), had that dry, old sound and note separation you expect of a J-45.

 

When Gibson re-topped the guitar in 1968, they put in the then-standard belly-down bridge with rosewood adjustable saddle, and the big laminated bridgeplate that was standard at the time. The guitar became relatively dull and muted to my ear, but I don't know how much was the bridge/saddle with all its heavy hardware, and how much was due to the new top with its un-scalloped bracing.

 

A couple of years later, maybe 1971, I put a bone insert into the rosewood saddle. This is what that looked like (photo taken after that bridge was removed a few years ago):

 

boneadjustablesaddle.jpg

 

The guitar brightened somewhat after that, although it was still a bit too mellow for me.

 

Five years ago, Ross Teigen replicated the original belly-up slot-through bridge, and made a bone saddle for it:

 

bridge.jpg

 

The tonal change was pretty dramatic: better note separation and presence while still retaining good balance, a crisper tone across the board.

 

Of course, there are many variables that aren't accounted for here: aging (both of the guitar and my hearing), scalloped vs un-scalloped bracing, different string choices, new maple bridgeplate.

 

But on my vintage J-45, the original-style fixed bone saddle gave me much more of that distinctive J-45 character than the adjustable rosewood saddle ever did, even after modifying it with a bone insert.

 

Your experience may vary.

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Thanks again for that. I used it as a blueprint for my Aaron Lewis SJ. It took a lot of the unwanted "zing" away.

 

Hahe, , , just came here from playing the old SJ, which has the original ceramic in now. Third rebirth of this vintage thread.

 

However something tells me it could have been born with a plastic bridge back then in '63. It was replaced shortly before I bought it (new maple b-plate also). Fine job.

 

I use Martin Flexcore 12's and they mellow out what might be left of the somewhat hollow g-string heard after the restoration.

 

But of course you still experience this as a square guitar - roomier compared to the slopes, willing and able, , , luscious (as I once learned here).

 

Really dig it - we go symbio after 10 minutes or so.

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I recently picked up a 67 Hummingbird. The first thing I did without a second thought was to get one of those bone saddles from Philadelphia luthiers... The guitar sounds great - amazing bottom, loud, resonant, and brighter... The only quality I don't really like (and it might be because I'm not used it) is it has a raspy tone which also has a vintage vibe to it.

 

Well, I decided to throw the wood saddle back in out of curiosity and its definitely a softer sound as one might anticipate. The thing that surprised me was that the raspiness is gone. I think I like the tone better actually. No, it's not as pronounced, but I'm digging the woody dry tone. I guess I'm don't really like a bright guitar with that "zing" to it.

 

Everything I've read however tells me the opposite. Anyone here have any experience with wood saddles? This is my first and I'm no longer writing it off as an inferior poor design.

 

I would love to hear those that perhaps were around in the 60s on why Gibson would choose a wood saddle and what the opinion was at the time.

 

 

I would think that wood would be softer than bone when being hung on two screws mounted to to Nuts on the top.. I do find that the wood saddle does give a deeper dark tone.. the 65 texan I own is the same way..

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  • 1 year later...

Let's dig up an old topic. I took the wooden saddles out of the Frontier and the Eldorado & put in Tusq, Decided improvement in both - they sound like they should at last. I tried the same with the Bard 12-string and didn't like that at all. Too bright & trebly.

So I'VE GOT A SPARE! Might try it on a MIJ Texan Paul McCartney, Does anyone know what they used? It looks like Tusq if maybe a little smoother. And what exactly is ceramic?

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