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View Full Version : Saddle material drop test- why I use Tusq saddles- VIDEO DEMO



Beau Hannam Ukuleles
12-10-2014, 09:18 AM
This is why TUSQ is the best saddle material, especially if an instrument has an undersaddle pickup.

Bone (or MOP, black horn) is a good choice if an instrument is overly bright and you are wanting to warm that sound up.

Materials tested- Tusq, MOP, Bone, Black horn


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qw2J59I8eMw&feature=youtu.be

Kekani
12-10-2014, 11:53 AM
This is JUST TOO SCARY!

First, you post "fretting a bound fretboard" after I do a class on it at the UGH.
Now, you post a Tusq vid after I'm in email conversation with another builder about me putting in another order for Tusq nuts and saddles (as a follow up to our LRBaggs Five.0 deal).

Guess you need to come to Hawaii again. . . soon.

Beau Hannam Ukuleles
12-10-2014, 11:59 AM
hahaha- i set up a secret webcam in your house while you were out. hahahhah

I added a new section on my website with a bit more info on this video-

http://www.beauhannamguitars.com/Videos.html

Ill probably do another video with Corian in it and explaining that bone is a good choice for too bright an instrument.

BlackBearUkes
12-10-2014, 04:03 PM
For what its worth, I have done this similar test years ago and found that dropping materials on a soild surface is no indication of quality in actual sound transference or wear longevity. Tusq is soft and wears fast but is better for saddle pickup electronics. I prefer bone. Just another opinion.

aaronckeim
12-10-2014, 05:36 PM
Good Demo Beau, and you have a good point. But my scientific method brain points out that the pieces look to be different sizes. You really need to do a video with blanks of the same size to show off Tusq's different tonal quality.
Cheers!
Aaron

Chih-Wei Liu
12-10-2014, 06:03 PM
I'm with BlackBearUkes. To mute/filter some specific frequency contributes to sound character IMO. One of my favorite sounding instruments has a ebony nut and a rosewood saddle. TUSQ sure has its special character but it's just that I'm not very fond of it especially on my own works.

Brian1
12-10-2014, 07:58 PM
I also noticed the sizes of the pieces are different. (like Aaron mentioned) I was wondering what type of Tusq you are using, being from out of the country it would not be legal to ship some types of tusq into the United States, I noticed particularly because of the picture of an elephant on the card you showed.


AFRICAN ELEPHANT: This is on the C.I.T.E.S. endangered species list. The importation, selling and buying of this ivory IS NOT ALLOWED INTERNATIONALLY. It cannot be exported or imported to the U.S. and most of the countries delegated to the U.N., BUT... it is LEGAL TO OWN, SELL, BUY, or SHIP within the boundaries of the U.S. and there are NO PERMITS or REGISTRATION requirements! *The majority of african elephant ivory is "old estate" ivory that was brought into this country since its' inception.

ASIAN ELEPHANT : Also on the C.I.T.E.S. Endangered species list and is ILLEGAL to buy, trade, sell, import or export anywhere internationally or INTERSTATE within the U.S.
http://www.ebay.com/gds/THE-LAWS-OF-IVORY-The-Truth-of-Buying-and-Owning-It-/10000000016709891/g.html

Edit: Feeling stupid I just noticed Tusq is man made ivory, not some sort of British spelling for Tusk

Kekani
12-10-2014, 09:48 PM
FWIW, I first saw Dave Dunwoodie to this exact exercise at NAMM a number of years ago.

I didn't put on my good headphones, but from what I know about how this sampling goes, it didn't do any justice to the Tusq, although the MOP sounded very interesting.

And you can cut the size of the Tusq in half, it'll still have that "ring", and no "thud".

If I had never actually met the staff at Graph Tech, I probably wouldn't go out of my way to try, much less buy Tusq. I like doing business with good people, and Graph Tech is definitely one of them. If not for them, I probably would've graduated from Corian to Bone eventually. Of course, most of my instruments have pickups installed, and the installs are usually uneventful.

Here's a list of manufacturers that may surprise some:
http://www.graphtech.com/who-is-using-graph-tech/manufacturers

Note: I think the manufacturers use Graph Tech from a "custom" standpoint, because they can make a profile exactly to order, so once the initial cost of setup is done (assuming they don't already have a stock item ready to go), eventually they get a ROI that makes it worth it. Actually, I know one case where this is exactly true - reduced cost in the long run.

Michael N.
12-10-2014, 10:27 PM
A better test might be to make 4 'mini' saddles from 4 differing materials and string the Uke with the 4 same strings. Then do a blind listening test.

hammer40
12-10-2014, 10:41 PM
A better test might be to make 4 'mini' saddles from 4 differing materials and string the Uke with the 4 same strings. Then do a blind listening test.

Yes, then we can see what, if any, difference the material actaully makes.

Beau Hannam Ukuleles
12-11-2014, 03:35 AM
"Softness" of Tusq- I've not found Tusq saddles to wear any quicker on steel string guitars then bone- The first guitar I made in 2002 has a tusq saddle and its fine.
On a uke with nylon strings, it simply isn't nor ever will be an issue.
I think Tusq nuts would wear quicker on a steel string instrument (as the strings constantly slide back and forth over the nut) but I like the look of polished bone, MOP or black horn for nuts.

Size of demo material - Yes the size of the Tusq was much longer then the others but the sound difference is not diminished when it is the same size. I have an older video on facebook doing the same demo with same sized pieces with the same tonal results:
https://www.facebook.com/video.php?v=310793952342658&set=vb.100002361680367&type=3&theater

Blind test - It would be interesting to do so- I'll try next year.

Size Blanks- I buy the 4" long x 1/2" high rectangles as they are the same price as the shorter ones and cheaper then the pre shaped ones. I then compensate each to within 5 cents but this changes if the owner changes strings brands, tension etc.

Where to buy- I Called Graph Tect and got a luthiers discount (also, if you buy 10 you get 10% off) but the price happens to be about the same as buying 6+ or 12+ from Stew mac!!!!!
I usually get my black Tusq saddles from ebay, one at a time for around $8 free shipping.
http://www.stewmac.com/Materials_and_Supplies/Nuts_and_Saddles/TUSQ_Saddles.html

Saddle and Nut Buffing- I polish and buff my nuts with this cheap set up- it works GREAT for $4.50!!!!!!
http://www.harborfreight.com/4-piece-buffing-kit-43657.html

sequoia
12-11-2014, 06:00 PM
Yes, yes. I heartily agree that stringing up the same instrument with the different saddles would be interesting. However, as a former scientist but not in acoustics, I see problems with control in the experiment. The "player" should literally be blindfolded to eliminate bias. Also strums should be exactly the same which would be difficult to pull off. Worth a shot however... I actually go back a ways in the great Tusq debate. As a guitarist we embraced it and then people started dissing it and we went all negative on it without a shred of evidence either way. This is called bias.

Just my commonsense thoughts and I know very little about accoustical science: Obviously the stuff is acoustically "live", but might this not color the sound of the instrument? The question is: in a good way or a bad way. I wonder whether there might be some really high tones that would create some "sibalance" (characterized by a hissing sound; noting sounds like those spelled with s) tones to the treble sounds. I have NO evidence that this happens, thus I would love to hear some experimental sounds in a controlled experiment with bone as the control. Go for it I say.

Michael N.
12-11-2014, 11:52 PM
Yes, the double blind test. But you will need at least 3 willing participants. It's extremely difficult to devise the perfect test, someone always has an objection as to it's validity. I prefer to take what I term a 'weight of evidence' approach. Do enough of the same test, with a spread of different Players/listeners and eventually you may see a certain consensus, one way or the other. It probably still won't convince everyone but at least one is armed with something to support a theory.

Beau Hannam Ukuleles
12-12-2014, 08:22 AM
Also, Tusq does not possess an seemingly important element which is a factor in peoples decisions-
Simply put, Polished Bone sounds more romantic then a plastic product (Tusq), further evidence being that Graph Tec themselves called their plastic product after a natural one (Tusq/ivory). The irony is that Tusq sounds nothing like real ivory when dropped. Ivory exhibits a thuddy tone similar to bone- (that is, thuddy compared to the glass ring of Tusq).

It is similar to CF bridge plates and "hand made" over "factory". Hand made isn't necessarily better, similarly to a natural product "polished bone" being better then Tusq.

I bet my equipment isn't good enough to show a big enough difference in tone quality to warrant such debate, but when i FINALLY manage to send a uke to HMS i will be sure to include saddles in 3, 4, or 5 materials so their high end microphones can discern the differences.

Moore Bettah Ukuleles
12-12-2014, 08:36 AM
Graph Tec themselves called their plastic product after a natural one (Tusq/ivory). The irony is that Tusq sounds nothing like real ivory when dropped. Ivory exhibits a thuddy tone similar to bone- (that is, thuddy compared to the glass ring of Tusq).

I've always thought the name was odd. I've work a lot with different ivories. It rates between 2 and 2.5 on the MOHS scale (similar to fingernails). Bone on the other hand rates a 5. Just from hearing it on your test I assume Tusq is even harder.
(BTW, they'll probably outlaw Tusq anyway because it sounds too much like and endangered product! ;))

BlackBearUkes
12-12-2014, 09:26 AM
How a saddle sounds when it is dropped in irrelevant in the overall sound of uke IMO, except wood will sound more mellow than bone. If you are depending on the saddle material to make or break the sound you are after, good luck with that. Tusq is not a hard material, it breaks easily and sands like butter, and in my experience as a repairman for years, it wears much faster on guitars than bone or ivory. The only reason I have used Tusq is if the guitar or uke had an under the saddle pickup system. Personally, I like the sound of gold hitting a hard surface more than Tusq, but I don't use either.

Beau Hannam Ukuleles
12-12-2014, 11:44 AM
Consider a 15" x 5" x 1/8" sheet of Tusq and sheet of bone (ie, the dimensions of a set of uke tonewood)

When struck, the Tusq rings like glass and the Bone less so.- Which would you use for back n sides and top wood???

Michael Smith
12-12-2014, 12:23 PM
A sheet of bronze would likely ring even better, doesn't mean I'm going to start making brass saddles. I agree with Black Bear a drop test while a nice idea has no bearing. And most especially when the dropped objects are different sizes and shapes.

Nickie
12-12-2014, 05:44 PM
Someone mentioned glass. Are glass nuts and saddles feasible? I wonder how they would sound?
I found out that the NuBone nuts and saddles are very closely related to Tusq, or maybe the same. I love the black NuBone ones on my Kala.
http://www.graphtech.com/products/brands/nubone

DennisK
12-12-2014, 06:51 PM
That tusq certainly is the stand-out of the bunch! Really sounds more like metal than glass. I'll have to give it a try sometime and see how it sounds on steel and nylon string instruments.

Next time you're doing a drop test, make some wood saddles too. I used African blackwood on my harp guitar just because nobody sells bone blanks long enough, and it sounds great. But I also tried an Indian rosewood saddle on a steel string guitar once, and bone was better, so I do need to try bone on the harp guitar eventually to compare. Honduran rosewood and pernambuco are both very glassy sounding, so I want to try them too.

Kekani
12-12-2014, 07:04 PM
This thread sort of reminds me of the ones on TalkBass that reference fEARful cabs (and the new fEARless cabs).
After building and playing through a fEARful design, all the 410 cabs I hear sound distorted. Of course, most likely operator error.

There's a term called "drinking the Kool Aid."

Well, I did. And I did with Tusq as well. Although I disagree with Beau that Tusq doesn't "sound" as good as polished bone from a literal perspective. I think its more than a good selling point. If people don't know what it is, they can check out the website. The marketing support from Graph Tech is there.

As Duane mentioned, it machines easily, but I've not have breaking issues, especially with nuts blowing out.

I think Tusq, not unlike fEARful cabs, will have it's users, and naysayers. I'd probably be using bone if I didn't use Tusq. For me, it works. Again, not just the product, but the people behind the product is a major factor for me, just like LRBaggs, my wood suppliers and my distributors, et al.

Is it THE best? I wouldn't say yes. It is best for what I do, personally.

Steveperrywriter
12-13-2014, 08:46 AM
Like so many things, the proof is in the pudding. If somebody uses something for builds and the resulting instrument sounds terrific? Seems easy to play? Looks good? Hard to argue with that, isn't it?

So much of this is subjective, and even in those cases where there are ways to actually measure something, what the lab says and what one's ears say might have little to do with each other. If I go to a luthier whose instruments sound, feel, and look good to me, I'm not the guy to tell him (or her) how to build the thing. That's why I went there. My answer to my luthier's queries about what kind of strings or saddle or nut I want? Hey, you are the builder, which do you think makes it sing the best?

Before it is my uke, it's his. I want the luthier to be inordinately pleased when it's strung up. If somebody came along and asked him, "Which instrument would you hold up if somebody wanted to know what you considered an outstanding example of your work?" I want him to hold up the one he just made for me ...

hawaii 50
12-13-2014, 01:52 PM
Like so many things, the proof is in the pudding. If somebody uses something for builds and the resulting instrument sounds terrific? Seems easy to play? Looks good? Hard to argue with that, isn't it?

So much of this is subjective, and even in those cases where there are ways to actually measure something, what the lab says and what one's ears say might have little to do with each other. If I go to a luthier whose instruments sound, feel, and look good to me, I'm not the guy to tell him (or her) how to build the thing. That's why I went there. My answer to my luthier's queries about what kind of strings or saddle or nut I want? Hey, you are the builder, which do you think makes it sing the best?

Before it is my uke, it's his. I want the luthier to be inordinately pleased when it's strung up. If somebody came along and asked him, "Which instrument would you hold up if somebody wanted to know what you considered an outstanding example of your work?" I want him to hold up the one he just made for me ...

for me up to this point...my MB sounds the best to my ears....and I have tried many nice ukes,too many maybe...:)
but Chuck uses bone so that is how I would go....

on strings, if the builder is honest...some do not have time to do strings test like I can and they will listen to your suggestions and try different kinds of strings...

my 2 cents

Moore Bettah Ukuleles
12-13-2014, 03:11 PM
for me up to this point...my MB sounds the best to my ears....and I have tried many nice ukes,too many maybe...:)
but Chuck uses bone so that is how I would go....

on strings, if the builder is honest...some do not have time to do strings test like I can and they will listen to your suggestions and try different kinds of strings...

my 2 cents

While it's true I do use bone, not all bone is created equally. Most of the wholesale sources of bone I've seen is pretty poor quality. Some years ago I picked up 500 saddles of the purest whitest, most consistent bone I've ever seen. It is as smooth as silk and almost looks like a composite. (Unfortunately I have forgotten what kind of bone it is.) I have had no problem at all using this n=bone with UST pickups. My point is, like wood, some bone makes poor saddles while others are excellent. Up until now I've stayed away from synthetic materials on principle but I'm thinking it may be time for me to at least try Tusq again. The one time I did try it the saddle broke on me while I was checking it for stiffness so while it may be hard it is also somewhat brittle (as evidenced by the sound test.)

Steveperrywriter
12-13-2014, 04:14 PM
for me up to this point...my MB sounds the best to my ears....and I have tried many nice ukes,too many maybe...:)
but Chuck uses bone so that is how I would go....


Well, if I ever get an MB, I'll go with whatever saddle Chuck wants to use; his instruments, his choice. But since I'm having somebody else build one for me, and he likes Tusq, then that's his choice, and I'm good with it.

Kekani
12-13-2014, 04:45 PM
I'll throw this one out there, and this is just a guess - I think if a builder uses Tusq, and continues to use it, its because of:
1) They've been through most everything else already and have decided to stick with Tusq
2) They've learned to use it from someone else
3) They happened upon it, and it fits their builds
4) fill in the blanks.

My guess, #1 above would apply to most builders, #2 &#3 is basically an extension of #4, with all other reasons being far less.

Again, just a guess, but I'll stick it out there that Beau has been through bone and other materials & composites and now uses Tusq.

Again, I may be wrong, but this is my guess. And I appreciate guys like Steve that leave some of the build process to the builder.

Beau Hannam Ukuleles
12-13-2014, 05:34 PM
We used Tusq saddles and bone nuts at Gilet guitars (in sydney) , but if an instrument came in for repair and already had a bone saddle, for a customer asked for a bone saddle on a new guitar, we would do it- we were in no way evangelists about it all.

Also, I would never question the results or building practices of other builders that use bone.

Assuming the drop test is an indicator of a materials conductivity of vibrations (which it might not be!), then bone is a better material for certain applications, just as much as brazilian rosewood isn't the better material for certain applications.

Obviously, bone is a darn good material for nuts and saddles (good bone, not bad bone as Chuck pointed out). I would invite people to try it though-it CERTAINLY isn't worse then bone. Shame it doesn't polish up as nice :(

I'll just have to do a test of both materials on the same uke to put the subject to rest- i'm always willing to eat my words in the pursuit of a better path. Indeed, a simple drop test isn't proof of a superior product, but it seems like a reasonable (even logical) start. Time will tell

Beau Hannam Ukuleles
12-14-2014, 10:33 AM
I was just looking through the Big Red Book of American Lutherie Vol 6 and there is an extensive Tusq review, p473

Paul December
12-14-2014, 01:30 PM
Is there a case where one might want a material that doesn't conduct as well?
If a uke is too bright, can the nut material be used to filter out some of the higher end?

Beau Hannam Ukuleles
12-15-2014, 03:46 AM
Is there a case where one might want a material that doesn't conduct as well?
If a uke is too bright, can the nut material be used to filter out some of the higher end?

Yes indeed, and I make sure to say that on my website.
Bone is a way better choice for an overly bright instrument, such as a new instrument (uke, guitar) with sitka top and rosewood back/sides which can be bright at the beginning.