View Full Version : Compensated saddle for tenor/baritone ukes?

05-05-2016, 04:45 AM
I've been playing a few years and am starting to work with chords and melodies "up the neck." I'm not happy with intonation as I move up, and I know that ukes have chronic issues with this due to the short scale (well, that and the inherent acoustic things about fretted stringed instruments, etc. etc.).

Guitars often incorporate compensated saddles to address this, and most of you know that Lanikai introduced TunaUke adjustable saddles a couple of years back. GraphTech makes Tusq compensated saddles for guitars and it occurred to me that it should be possible to adapt one of their products for use on a uke.

Here's what I'm considering. I play linear tuning (low G tenor / DGBE baritone).

GCEA tenor (wound low G): the string weights are comparable to the top 4 of a classical guitar nylon set. Should be possible to trim off the left 2 positions of a guitar saddle, leaving a 4-position saddle.

DGBE baritone (wound low D and G): string weights are comparable to the middle 4 of a classical nylon set. Should be possible to trim the leftmost and rightmost string positions, again leaving 4 positions.

They make an "Acoustic Classical Low" saddle that I'm considering for this purpose, http://graphtech.com/products/brands/tusq/product-detail/pq-9208-00-tusq-saddle-acoustic-classical-low?id=a5e21dc0-7a6b-40a2-b5ac-55aec4dee58c.

Any thoughts on this approach? Or are there other makers that have uke-specific saddles that I don't have to cut and sand?

05-05-2016, 05:12 AM
I doubt you will get satisfactory results that way.
On a guitar the scale is much longer, so the amount of compensation on those saddles is larger. Also guitar saddles tend to be mounted at an angle.

A uke being shorter scale is much more sensitive.

If you want a compensated saddle on a uke.. you're best off making one for the particular uke with a particular string set. It can be off not just because of the stiffness of the string ends, but also because the saddle might be glued on slightly wrong or at a tiny angle. Also... the same saddle, might bring one set of strings into better tune, but not for another. Like.. you say you like linear tuning. But the G may need to be compensated differently for a thin wound string vs a fat nylon low G.

05-05-2016, 08:12 AM
I doubt you will get satisfactory results that way.
On a guitar the scale is much longer, so the amount of compensation on those saddles is larger. Also guitar saddles tend to be mounted at an angle. A uke being shorter scale is much more sensitive.

So I might end up with an OVERcompensated saddle, eh? ;-)

I put the same question to the great folks at GraphTech and they came back with an incredibly prompt and helpful response. They do make compensated uke saddles!


This particular classical saddle may work for your uke, but we actually do make some compensated uke saddles. They are just not readily available on our website. If you can provide me with some basic height, width and length measurements, I would be glad to help you find one of our bulk stock uke saddles that may fit.

Although we do not offer these compensated uke saddles in a "packaged" version, a custom order could be created if desired. The standard pricing of $13.65 USD + shipping would apply. If an order interests you, please provide a complete shipping address and I will generate a sales quote for your evaluation.
We accept Visa, MasterCard & PayPal.
I hope this is helpful Aaron. Please let me know if you have any questions.
Thank you and best regards

05-05-2016, 08:42 AM
GraphTech does indeed compensated saddles for ukes. I have a couple, one in Tusq, another in their black ebony-like product (forget the name of it). HMS knows about them, they set up that latter uke for me. :)

05-05-2016, 11:21 AM
Well.. they have saddles that have compensation.
But.. I do wonder what it will do on your particular instrument, since they know nothing about where it's off or why.
I suspect if you use a pre-fab generic compensated saddle on a uke.. you may end up more off than with a straight saddle.

For instance.. a standard uke is re-entrant.
But you say you want linear.

How is that going to work out?

05-05-2016, 11:34 AM
I've compensated saddles on ukuleles for years. The prerequisite is a basic understanding of shorter-sharper/longer-flatter, string height, and all the patience in the world. Your really want to make sure the string height at the nut is set correctly before compensating the saddle.

But within a somewhat reasonable amount you can compensate almost anything. I have a ukulele that has a saddle slot that is 1/8" (3mm) and the top of the saddle width has been compensated up to 5/16" (8mm) on one string.

Do you have digital calipers? Do you love to spend hours filing and sanding? If so, you are well on your way to perfect intonation... well at least at the nut and the 12th.


05-05-2016, 04:59 PM
You can buy Micarta, Tusq or Nubone UKULELE saddle blanks in 5mm, 6mm and 7mm heights from many places online for ~$4 each.

(I used to get mine from Kala when their storefront was on Amazon, but I think that Roy T. Cone has them also on his http://ukuleleworld.com site still. You can also get them from StewMac and LMI.)

Then you compensate it yourself with a file. It's not complicated, but takes time to dial it in just right.

A saddle compensated for thicker gauge strings MAY NOT have proper intonation if used with thinner strings, and VICE-VERSA - I have tested this myself, and have made different saddles for different string sets to get as perfect intonation as possible, as well as for linear vs. re-entrant tunings...

Unless you are using the EXACT same strings, on an instrument with the exact same neck geometry as the factory reference used by a maker of pre-compensated saddle, buying a pre-compensated saddle is either not going to work at all or still require further tweaking if you care at all about intonation.

A big factor in this is that 99% of the pre-compensated uke saddles that I've seen are for a re-entrant or HIGH-G tuning, whereby the 4th string, the G string is compensated SHARP compared to the C or E strings, and if you want to use a LOW-G or linear tuning on such as saddle, you are (pardon the harsh) 'pissing in the wind', since a LOW-G saddle compensation would go in the OPPOSITE direction, and you cannot magically add material back once it has been shaped and filed off...

so you might want to consider the above.

I would not pay $13 for a saddle, ever - unless I was going on stage right away and could not make my own in time due to not having the tools on hand (like a stupid $2 diamond-grit metal nail file, or pack of emery boards), and having said that, if the intonation of a pre-made saddle was off by more than 4-5 cents, I simply would be completely tortured by the intonation being so warped, like fingernails dragging on a chalkboard, and likely could not play that instrument at all...

But that's just me...YMMV :)

05-05-2016, 11:08 PM
When it comes to intonation I am just as fussy as you are.

First things first. There is no point fitting a compensated saddle to your instrument if the basic placement of the saddle is incorrect in the first place. Incorrect placement of the saddle is unfortunately COMMON.

See, https://www.stewmac.com/FretCalculator

You need to measure your instruments to see how accurately they are built. Saddle misplacement is common. Nut misplacement is common. I measure instruments with steel rules and vernier callipers.

To be honest. If the saddle was correctly placed in the first place then you would unlikely be that concerned about the intonation. The good news? You can correct intonation at the nut too which is easier than adjusting a saddle that's in the wrong place.

Measure up your instrument and see what the results are.