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View Full Version : Unusual materials for nut & saddle?



mailman
05-19-2010, 12:59 PM
What are the most unusual materials used for a uke nut & saddle? I know that material hardness and density is the issue, to better transmit vibration. But, beyond that, I know little about it.

Seems most folks prefer bone. I wouldn't have thought of bone as being dense, but rather porous. Does it matter what kind of bone? Is the bone processed or treated in some way? I've also heard of a synthetic bone substitute....can't recall the name....and of folks using Corian, the stuff countertops are made of.

Some builders use wood; notably ebony. I've heard some claim this is an inferior choice.

Recently I read about someone wanting to use abolone. Looks gorgeous, but wonder what it would sound like. Someone else wrote about wanting to try brass. Would that be a decent alternative?

My stepson does artwork with glass. Hard enough? Dense enough? What about stone? Like marble or granite. Porcelin, maybe?

Don't know what's got me thinking about this, but I'd be interested to hear what others think....

fahrner
05-19-2010, 01:15 PM
Just wanted to throw out a comment regarding one of your statements.
You said;
"Some builders use wood; notably ebony. I've heard some claim this is an inferior choice."
I don't think it's a matter of inferior choice. It's just a choice for it's tone qualities.
Just like string brands. I may remove a set of Aquila and replace them with a set of Worths. Doesn't make them inferior. I just like the tone of Worths better. Which is also a separate issue from loudness.
A very complex subject and probably lots of different opinions. Should be interesting.

Teek
05-19-2010, 01:52 PM
Interesting that all my old vintage ukes, 1920's -50s have ebony saddles, as does my Kamaka. The newer all have bone or corian or "Tusq" (I assumed it was the same thing). I have blanks of both to play around with some day. The ebony saddles are on ukes that are loud and woody. All but one of the "bone" saddles are on ukes that are softer voiced and more refined in their sound. I like both. I'm interested in comments, and hope the luthiers weigh in.

T-Rock
05-19-2010, 03:38 PM
I have several difiiferent nuts/saddles, but the best sounding is Tusq, I think its not genuine Tusq, but it gives more sustain to the instrument. The company is Graph Tech, Brittni Paiva and I played for them at NAMM 2007, I honestly didn't think it would make much of a difference, but I was really surprised at the clarity and resonence.
Tony.
www.myspace.com/killerukulele

ichadwick
05-20-2010, 01:56 AM
A lot of builders in the past used either bone or ebony because they really had little choice for dense material before synthetics were invented. Both are okay but inconsistent as any organic material will be. Bone especially can have pockets of less-dense material in it which lower its tonal output. A good saddle should be consistently dense. Grain in any wood will affect its transmission properties, too.

The purpose of the saddle is to translate the string's vibrations into mechanical force that transfers through the bridge to the top, which vibrates and creates the sound you hear. The best materials will allow the most fidelity - little lost in the process. Most materials will lose some frequencies, however, quite often a the upper end. That loss can be used to a builder's advantage to create a certain tone, since ukes are already at the higher tonal range compared with guitars. So bone and ebony can mellow some of the uke's propensity for brightness.

The nut has a significiantly lesser effect on the tone. The bridge material has much more impact than the nut because it filters the saddle's vibrations.

Synthetic materials like Tusq and Nubone attempt to provide both consistency and a wider pass-through for frequencies. This too can be used positively by brightening an otherwise muted or too-mellow instrument. They can alo add to the complexity of the harmonics.

The best material in terms of transmitting frequencies most completely is glass. But I have yet to find any glass saddles (a small piece of plate glass should work). Brass is also very good, but may be a little too bright. I'm looking for some brass strips to cut and experiment with.

Teek
05-20-2010, 06:37 PM
Ian, very concise, thanks for clarifying and illustrating examples of the impact of saddle materials on sound.

70sSanO
05-20-2010, 07:01 PM
I have 2 ukuleles made by Keith Ogata. They both have ebony nuts. His older design has an ebony saddle that fits into a 1/8" slot.

His newer design uses 4 individual round pegs for the saddle. Keith uses both ebony and fir for the round saddles pieces.

I prefer the fir to the ebony as it is louder and less bright.

I can't explain why the ukulele sounds so good with essentially hardware store type of material.

Both ukuleles have a tremendous ring and sustain.

If I never had an instrument with all natural nut and saddle materials, I would have never taken this position.

In light of another small high frequency 4 stringed instrument that uses maple, not unlike the material used for my kitchen cabinets for a bridge, maybe new material technology is not always best. If I recall some of these from a few hundred years ago can fetch quite a bit.

John

ichadwick
05-21-2010, 03:32 AM
Check Taylor's chart (http://www.taylorguitars.com/guitars/features/woods/Tone/) for frequency ranges of tonewoods. You'll see some interesting figures.

KevinV
05-21-2010, 01:07 PM
I haven't gotten to the point yet where I'm changing nuts and saddles on my ukes, but I experimented for years with them on my guitars. My order of material preference on the guitar is...


Fossilized Walrus Ivory
Bone
Tusq


I really like the tone I'm getting from my ukes with the ebony nuts/saddles, but may try a swap for a bone or FWI saddle sometime in the future.

darkwater
05-21-2010, 02:52 PM
The combination bridge/saddle on Elderly's Konablaster electric ukes is a nickel-plated 30.06 bullet casing.

70sSanO
05-27-2010, 10:21 AM
ichadwick,

Thanks for the lead on Taylor's frequency chart. I have also done some research on difference sadddle materials and the Janka hardness chart.

Because one of my ukuleles has individual saddle pieces using 1/4" dowel material, I think I'll pick up a few pieces of different types of hardwood (Maple, Walnut, etc.) and see what effect I get. The individual dowels give a similar effect as the Yari individual saddle pieces.

You mentioned glass, I'm wondering how acrylic would work.

Anyway thanks again for the lead.

John

Tudorp
05-27-2010, 10:40 AM
This sounds like BS, and to be honest, I am not totally sure it isn't. But, I am fairly confedent it is true. I knew a guy back in the day that was in a car accedent. This is back when I played bass. We used to jam together allot. He played a Les Paul. Anyway. He was in a car accedent that did bad damage to his foot and toes. He had to have a couple toes grafted to each other, but in order to do the operation, so the toes would heal together, one of them, they had to remove the middle bone from it. He requested to get the bone from the operation which they did, and gave it to him. He bleached the toe bone, and dried it, then carved a nut from it for his Les Paul. Story was, the nut on his Les Paul, was in fact, his own bone from his toe. Again, I knew him when he had his accedent, but was not aware he did that, but knowing him, it was in fact something he would have thought about, and done, so I didn't doubt it. Kinda weird I thought..

KamakOzzie
05-27-2010, 05:17 PM
The combination bridge/saddle on Elderly's Konablaster electric ukes is a nickel-plated 30.06 bullet casing.

The internal dimensions of Lapua casings are somewhat different that Winchester. Has anyone done research on plain brass as opposed to the nickel plating?

Ukuleleblues
05-31-2010, 10:25 AM
This sounds like BS, and to be honest, I am not totally sure it isn't. But, I am fairly confedent it is true. I knew a guy back in the day that was in a car accedent. This is back when I played bass. We used to jam together allot. He played a Les Paul. Anyway. He was in a car accedent that did bad damage to his foot and toes. He had to have a couple toes grafted to each other, but in order to do the operation, so the toes would heal together, one of them, they had to remove the middle bone from it. He requested to get the bone from the operation which they did, and gave it to him. He bleached the toe bone, and dried it, then carved a nut from it for his Les Paul. Story was, the nut on his Les Paul, was in fact, his own bone from his toe. Again, I knew him when he had his accedent, but was not aware he did that, but knowing him, it was in fact something he would have thought about, and done, so I didn't doubt it. Kinda weird I thought..

That is weird and funny as hell. I guess that would make it kind of hard to sell that LP like selling a piece of yourself.

Tudorp
05-31-2010, 10:47 AM
That is weird and funny as hell. I guess that would make it kind of hard to sell that LP like selling a piece of yourself.

I thought so too, lol.. I never doubted the guy did that, because he was pretty warped, and I could see him putting himself into his guitar and music, lol.. I would assume who ever might buy it, might not know it is from his own bone. Or, maybe they did and was just as warped, assuming he ever sold it. But, I doubt he would have, or ever did. He had one hell of a guitar collection, and I am sure if he ran into hard times, many others from his collection would have gone before that LP. It was a vintage one, and worth 5 or 6k$ back then. Prolly worth twice that now (without his toe lol). He was an awesome guitarist, and actually had a couple opertunies to go big time with it, but wouldn't leave his "boys" and sell out.. Cool guy, but maybe not the smartest, lol.. He was pretty escentric too as you could imagine..

mailman
05-31-2010, 02:33 PM
Okay, now I've got pretty big feet....size 13 narrow. I've been looking at my toes; pretty long toes by most standards. I doubt I have any toe bones long enough to make a nut for a uke, let alone a guitar. But I'm just sayin'....

Hualani
08-02-2010, 03:02 AM
Speaking of unusual materials, I want to try some thing prettier like jades and agates. Hmmm, I guess this means I need to get more tools to carve stones. I may try some fused glass next time I fire-up the kiln.

bazmaz
08-02-2010, 03:55 AM
Okay, now I've got pretty big feet....size 13 narrow. I've been looking at my toes; pretty long toes by most standards. I doubt I have any toe bones long enough to make a nut for a uke, let alone a guitar. But I'm just sayin'....

youd be surprised, the second bone in (beyond the first joint) is really long and goes up into the foot.

Tudorp
08-02-2010, 07:00 AM
Yep, there are bones in your hands, finger, and toes plenty long enough. Still creepy none the less.. lol

mm stan
08-02-2010, 03:56 PM
How about animal Horns guys ....anybody ttried yet???HMM..