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View Full Version : Seeking luthier for custom wood saddles and nuts (2 of each)



Warbulele
05-10-2016, 05:59 PM
Hi,
I'm looking for someone who could make a pair of nut and saddles for me and a friend.
The material would be African Blackwood, which I can provide.
If you think this is something you'd be interested in doing, please let me know how much you would charge, and when you think you could do it.

I'm not interested in being talked out of it, I'm aware of the reasons people use bone etc, I have reasons why I want to go ahead and try this.
Thanks

Doc_J
05-10-2016, 06:39 PM
Hi,
I'm looking for someone who could make a pair of nut and saddles for me and a friend.
The material would be African Blackwood, which I can provide.
If you think this is something you'd be interested in doing, please let me know how much you would charge, and when you think you could do it.

I'm not interested in being talked out of it, I'm aware of the reasons people use bone etc, I have reasons why I want to go ahead and try this.
Thanks

Since you have the wood, you should try your own hands at this. It's very hard to get a perfect fit and correct height without the instrument present.

Some files, sandpaper, and a nice caliper (.001" res) will do it. I've made a couple nuts and saddles from bone blanks and found it rewarding, time-consuming, but rewarding.

Michael N.
05-10-2016, 10:03 PM
That is the very problem. Unless you can give very detailed measurements it's unlikely to be an ideal fit. With digital calipers you can get the width, depth, height very accurate. It's the depth of the slots and the string height above the first fret that is the problem. Of course with the Uke present it's a whole lot easier.
BTW. I've done quite a few nuts/saddles with ebony, which is obviously very similar to African Blackwood. It works perfectly well, especially so for unwound strings. Plain strings are much less likely to wear the grooves. Sound has always been perfectly good, which might surprise some people.

PhilUSAFRet
05-11-2016, 04:57 AM
You don't have to be terribly "crafty" to make some. I have ebony on a few of my ukes and would never change out for bone. Lots of tutorials, check them out to see if it's something you can (or want) to do.

http://www.stewmac.com/How-To/Online_Resources/Learn_About_Guitar_Nut_and_Saddle_Setup_and_Repair/Making_a_Nut_Step-by-Step.html

http://www.sprucehouseukuleles.com/LUTHERIE16.HTM

http://www.frets.com/FretsPages/Luthier/Technique/Ukulele/CutUkeBridge/cutukebridge.html

http://crawlsbackward.blogspot.com/2011/06/marcy-marxer-ukulele-setup-pt-2.html

Michael N.
05-11-2016, 05:51 AM
I think a lot depends on whether you already own the required tools and whether you are going to get any further use from those tools. By the time you have bought saw, files and sandpaper it might actually be cheaper to have them made professionally. If you are prepared to 'mess around' with this stuff, make mistakes, spend time and some money then the solution is obvious. There are a lot of people who can't be bothered though.

PhilUSAFRet
05-11-2016, 06:32 AM
For each to decide for themselves. Professional luthier tools not required to make a saddle or nut except for the slots. Even then, many make them using alternative methods, most of which have demos on youtube. The OP already has the wood. It's the setup that's tricky, but it's not clear if they are replacing the original ones which would serve as a "model".....lots of tools for small wood crafts, of which there are many (modeling, doll houses, pen making, etc., will work well. There are special blades available for inexpensive coping saws and hack saws that would work well. Most people at least know someone who has and is reasonably proficient with a scroll or band saw.

Booli
05-11-2016, 07:15 AM
I think a lot depends on whether you already own the required tools and whether you are going to get any further use from those tools. By the time you have bought saw, files and sandpaper it might actually be cheaper to have them made professionally. If you are prepared to 'mess around' with this stuff, make mistakes, spend time and some money then the solution is obvious. There are a lot of people who can't be bothered though.


For each to decide for themselves. Professional luthier tools not required to make a saddle or nut except for the slots. Even then, many make them using alternative methods, most of which have demos on youtube. The OP already has the wood. It's the setup that's tricky, but it's not clear if they are replacing the original ones which would serve as a "model".....lots of tools for small wood crafts, of which there are many (modeling, doll houses, pen making, etc., will work well. There are special blades available for inexpensive coping saws and hack saws that would work well. Most people at least know someone who has and is reasonably proficient with a scroll or band saw.

Case in point (and maybe I'm preaching to the choir here...):

A few yrs ago, I bought a block of Rosewood from StewMac on clearance for like $5 that was sold as a 'blank' to make a single acoustic guitar bridge, and the piece was about 8" long by 3.5" wide by 1" thick.

Using a mitre box and it's included saw that I bought MANY yrs ago for like $12, I've been shaving off slivers to use as saddle and nut blanks. Once I cut off a sliver, I then cut that IN HALF again (along it's length, so I get two half-inch tall pieces for 2 saddle blanks or two nut blanks) using the mitre box, and then using various files, emery boards and sandpaper, manually and painstakingly create either a nut or saddle as needed.

I use the mitre box because

a) it holds the wood perfectly still, and

b) it allows me to make a perfectly straight and flat cut that is impossible to do free-hand, and

c) works well enough to save me from having to build some kind of jig

I've found that half of a hacksaw blade works great for cutting the initial nut slots, which I then customize further with a $6 set of welding tip cleaners that I got off Amazon.

Sure the first couple tries ended up in the scrap box, but now it 'only' takes me about an hour to make a single saddle or single nut that is 'perfect' for the intended instrument.

Why do I do this? Bone is a PITA to work with and file FOREVER to me, and this block of Rosewood I got from StewMac so far has yielded me about a dozen useful cuts of wood and there is still more than half of it left...

Would I do this for MONEY? Nope. It is what I do when I cannot sleep and am restless, and using hand tools lets me work in the middle of the night without waking anyone else.

Plus, like Phil and Michael N. above, I discovered that I really like the sound of Rosewood as opposed to bone, as it seems to lend a more 'woody' or earthy tone, but it can be quite brittle when it is down to 1/8" thick (yep, snapped a piece or two while holding it in my fingers and sanding it)...

So I mention this because I cannot imagine that a luthier is going to charge you less than $100 each for each piece you want made. Not only is it for their time, their knowledge but ALSO to pay off the investment in training, as well as the investment in tools, and you will still have to tweak whatever parts you get to fit perfectly and to intonate perfectly...

So why not just do the work yourself?

Sure you can invest more money in tools, but for me to spend $150+ for the complete set of nut files on Stewmac seems really pointless when I can quite easily (and infrequently) use other cheaper items.

I'm not doing this professionally nor intend to, but for that I'd think that one might consider more durable, and more precisely crafted tools such as those from Stewmac, LMI or Harbor Freight...

Michael N.
05-11-2016, 08:23 AM
Actually you can plane bone with a block plane. That makes it a lot quicker to work with hand tools. I can't say I enjoy filing or sanding the stuff.
I'd be doing cartwheels in the street if I was getting $100 for a saddle or a top nut, and that's on a guitar. More like $80 for both. I've seen some very high prices for this in the US. A LOT higher than the average in the UK. Hard to understand, lot's of things in the US are cheaper.

mvinsel
05-13-2016, 09:26 AM
...By the time you have bought saw, files and sandpaper...
And a dust mask, for ebony or bone both.
Learning this will open up options, like lowering the action, improving intonation, changing number of strings, etc.

-Vinnie in Juneau