View Full Version : switching the nut and saddle

03-23-2009, 09:12 PM
how do you replace the nut and saddle? :confused:

03-23-2009, 11:47 PM
A for-dummies summary (coz I'm a dummy)...

Assuming you know which is which, but just in case...

Nut is the grooved plastic/bone etc thing at the headstock end. Saddle is the bridge insert that the strings go over.

First make sure you have replacement parts made from your preferred material - often plastic, bone or Tusq. If you don't have them then you can buy plastic parts on eBay, or oversize bone blanks that you file and sand to shape/size.

Remove strings or loosen and hold out of the way off to the sides with masking tape.

NB: Save your original parts in a safe place in case you screw up!


If the nut is glued in place then place the edge of a ruler or wood block against the side that faces the fretboard and tap the ruler/block lightly with a small hammer. The nut should be held with just the tiniest spot of glue and should pop right off.

Clean glue residue off the end of the fretboard, but be careful not to scrape/file/sand so hard that you spoil the flat end that you'll want to glue the new nut to.

take your new nut and make sure that it is the right overall height and width to fit where the old one came off. If it is, and if it isn't pre-slotted, then use the old one as a template to mark where to cut the grooves/slots for the strings. Make guide notches or cuts to mark where you'll file the slots.

Put a spot of superglue on the end of the fingerboard and carefully press the nut in place. Hold for 10 secs or so, pressing firmly.

When the nut is in place you can file the slots to the correct height. The slots should angle slightly down towards the headstock to give a good string break-angle and prevent rattling or buzzing.

I recommend the use of proper nut files for this. You can get them from any luthier supply outlet - StewMac for example. The sizes you'll need depend on your string gauges.

When you have your nut slots at the desired depth, you may choose to file away some of the excess nut material so the strings don't sit too deep.


A bit simpler!

The saddle is usually not glued and just sits in a slot and is held in place by the strings. Once the strings are out the way it'll just lift right out.

Compare your replacement to make sure it is the right length and thickness for the slot.

Adjusting height is simply a case of putting some fairly fine sandpaper on a very solid, very flat surface and sliding the base of the saddle lengthwise back and forth.

Be very careful to keep the saddle vertical as you do this so the base stays flat. If there is not good, consistent contact between the base of the saddle and the bridge then the sound vibrations won't pass properly to the uke's top.

You may need to check to make sure that the base of the saddle doesn't curve up in the middle a little. I often find that, due to the flex in the material, the pressure from my hand pushes the middle of the saddle down more than the ends and so the middle gets sanded a little more. If you stand the saddle on your flat surface you'll be able to sight under it and see if that's happenend. A bit more sanding with pressure applied more at the ends soon rectifies any variation.

Put the saddle in place, tune up and check your action. Repeat adjustments as necessary.

The first few times you make a new nut or saddle I suggest you have at least half a dozen of each, just in case!

Good luck.

EDIT: These are simple jobs and I've done both of them dozens of times without mishap. That said, it IS possible to cause accidental damage to your uke.

If you are in any doubt about your skills with the simple tools needed, or the steadiness of your hand, or the sharpness of your eyes, then don't risk your uke! Take it to a luthier or guitar tech instead.

03-25-2009, 01:57 AM
Just a caution: Saddles are a LOT easier to replace than nuts and even a klutz like me can do it without serious effort. You just have to make sure the replacement is a suitable length and height - usually some careful sanding does the trick.

Nuts are generally slotted, so your replacement has to have the slots in the proper place. You don't want to have a string positioned too close to the edge of the fretboard, or strings spaced too widely or closely.

Nuts have significantly less impact on the sound than the saddle. In fact, aside from cosmetic consistency, there's little reason to replace one if it's not damaged.

I am doing so experiments with saddle materials myself and just received some Tusq saddles to work with - this weekend I hope.