View Full Version : Glass saddles

06-16-2010, 07:32 AM
Finally got a local glazier to make me two small saddles from glass. Just using 3mm standard glass for testing - probably better if they were plate glass, but not sure if I can get it that thin. Shouldn't be a problem with breakage given the modest tension on my tenors.

Had them sand the edges so they weren't sharp, but may need to finesse them a bit more to get the height and edges right. Will try them on a couple of my ukes this weekend. As I understand it, glass is one of the best materials for a frequency pass-through. Might end up being too bright, but will experiment a bit to see.

I am still looking for a suitable piece of brass to test. I have some thinner sections I can cut, but nothing quite as wide as a saddle. However, I might pair the thinner brass with, say, bone or ebony and see how that works.

06-16-2010, 07:39 AM
I would think that glass would give you a very CLEAR tone yuk yuk yuk
I hope you don't need to ajust the compensation. That would be a real PANE yuk yuk yuk
I'll be SHATTERED if it doesn't work out
OK...I'll stop now

06-16-2010, 08:45 AM
I would like to hear how this turns out Ian, please post the results of what works out! I have thought of trying out a glass saddle as well.


06-16-2010, 09:17 AM
I look forward to hearing about your results. I've wondered about glass. I've also wondered about saddles made from polished rock.

06-16-2010, 09:30 AM
The glass saddle sounds interesting. Seems like a brass saddle would be a bit heavy.

06-16-2010, 09:40 AM
I look forward to hearing about your results. I've wondered about glass. I've also wondered about saddles made from polished rock.
Rock will filter frequencies and likely deaden the tone, unless it is highly metallic. Even so, a lot of metals are very restrictive filters. Brass is an exception.
Here are the glass saddles, with a bone saddle in comparison.

06-18-2010, 04:33 AM
I'm actually going the opposite direction in trying diffferent woods. Even though ebony is frequently used because it is so hard, I have tried maple and walnut because the ebony seems a bit too bright.

I would be very interested in the effect glass has on the tone. I'm no builder but my first guess is like yours, that the result would be a brighter sound. If the sound is also thinner then there may be a loss of volume.

I applaud you for your efforts!


06-18-2010, 06:12 AM
Hope to try it on a couple of ukes this weekend. My wife broke her wrist in a bicycling accident last weekend, so my time has been mostly spent helping her do normal two-handed things. I might be able to get the time to tinker Snday, though.

06-18-2010, 06:39 AM
Has anyone tried obsidian? How about petrified wood? This all sounds very interesting.

06-18-2010, 10:23 AM

Sorry to hear about your wife.

I broke my wrist a couple of years ago after my boys talked me into lacing on the skates again and shooting the puck around.

I hope she gets well soon.


Pete Howlett
06-18-2010, 11:19 AM
I have this recurring word in my head when I read stuff like this - why? The improvements you can make to this highly developed instrument are so infinitesimally small that apart from genuine curiosity and too much time on your hands, I honestly can't see the point.

06-18-2010, 11:45 AM
Curiosity leading to experimentation leads to discovery and knowledge, considered by some, the highest form of learning.
It's not a question of having the time but having the motivation to make answering the question a priority.
Knowledge gained first hand is never forgotten.

Steve vanPelt
06-18-2010, 11:51 AM
genuine curiosity and too much time on your hands

Guilty on both counts

Pete Howlett
06-18-2010, 12:05 PM
Nope - doesn't do it for me.... tried to think about it again and I'm pretty sure this time... same as before :(

06-18-2010, 12:21 PM
I learned when I was a kid that glass stuff breaks when it falls on the floor. Our ebony and santos saddles have survived many falls, so I think we're going to stick with them. Or is this Duralex we're talking about?

06-19-2010, 04:47 PM
I think I can answer this...

...hopefully not too controversial.

Point 1...
Except for those on this board who are really talented and proficient at building ukuleles... if most people, including myself, spent that same amount of time working they would make enough money to buy a better ukulele than they possibly could ever make. But no one, including myself, will ever discourage someone from spending whatever time and money necessary to build that ukulele. Everyone, including myself, will encourage that person even though it may take a pile of scrap wood to build a good one. And everyone will applaud that person for the success.

Point 2...
There are thread after thread on this string and that string, I'll bet you can stretch them around the world, and while I do understand how strings can make a difference... on a really good instrument, say a Golden Era Martin guitar, does it really make that much of a difference between Diaddario, DR, Martin, etc., strings.

Point 3...
One of my ukuleles uses 6mm dowels as saddles. Really cool. It came with douglas fir and extra ebony ones. It sounds rich with the fir, got a lot of compliments, and a lot brighter but thinner with the ebony. I don't know why it sounds better with the fir, I have been given an explanation ourside of this board, but I doubt anyone here will embrace douglas fir saddles. I am now using walnut and it is a really good blend with a bit more brightness. On my other ukulele I've gone from ebony to a hard maple, not a lot of difference, I'll probably try a softer maple and see whatr happens. I have walnut, yew, cherry, wenge, bubinga, etc. waiting if I want to keep going.

Point 4...
It's fun. Let's face it whether you are building a ukulele or tinkering with one it is just plain fun regardless of the time spent.

Thank you.


PS... I don't want to be disrepectful to anyone. I am pond scum on the food chain of luthiers. I admire anyone who is able to take bits and pieces of wood and create music and smiles that provide a wonderful distraction from the everyday grind.

Vic D
06-19-2010, 05:34 PM
I think snowflake or black and mahogany obsidian would make beautiful nut/saddle sets. Interesting thread.

06-21-2010, 01:32 AM
I have this recurring word in my head when I read stuff like this - why? The improvements you can make to this highly developed instrument are so infinitesimally small that apart from genuine curiosity and too much time on your hands, I honestly can't see the point.
Because it's there. Sorry, that was Mount Everest.

Because there's something to be learned and when I stop learning, I start to die. Because it hasn't been done before. Because there are worlds of knowledge waiting to be opened up and all we have to do is step through the door. Because without trying, one never accomplishes anything. I'll stop before I become a motivational poster.

I disagree with your point that improvements might be "infinitesimally small." Since the saddle is possibly the most important component on the instrument, changing it can have significant effects on the sound. Saddles are acoustic filters, so any change will affect how the vibrations are transmitted to the top. Changing from bone to Tusq on two ukes made a noticeable difference to their sound. Replacing a rosewood saddle on a vintage uke with ebony did, also.

It stands to reason that if glass proves the material I have been led by research to believe it is, then it too will make a difference to the sound. Whether this sound is better or worse might be subjective, but I believe the difference will be audible. Unfortunately I don't have an oscilloscope to measure it whenI make the change, but the acoustic properties of glass are very different from traditional saddle materials - closer to the Tusq material, in fact, but perhaps with a wider spectrum.

In a similar fashion, many guitar players replace their end pins (usually plastic but sometimes bone) with brass pins to help the sound. I've picked up a few small brass pieces to experiment with as potential saddle material, too.

I have to do a little careful sanding to reduce the height and improve the fit before one will work. Unfortunately my time is a bit constrained - my wife broke her wrist and I have to do a lot around the house and help her with day-to-day things, so I don't have a lot of free time to work on it right now. But as she mends, it gets easier to grab an uninterrupted hour when I can tinker.

Garry Petrisic
06-21-2010, 01:33 AM
Used brass on one of my guitars. Rings like a bell. Brass nut and brass saddle. Made then myself. Building an arch top tenor Uke at the moment.
Regards Garry Petrisic.

06-21-2010, 01:34 AM
I think snowflake or black and mahogany obsidian would make beautiful nut/saddle sets.
Yes, and they might have reasonable acoustic properties too, since obsididan is a form of glass. Just have to make sure you remove all the sharp edges.

Pukulele Pete
06-21-2010, 02:34 AM
I've been saving this to do on my own but won't get to it till this winter. Actually this was my wife's idea but I'm taking credit for it. Who knows ,maybe even Pete Howlitt might like this idea. I bought a banjo bridge made of maple, ebony , and bone. I thought this would look great as saddle material and maybe even a nut . Pete , this would look great on a " Le Noir " I'm going to try it on a Stew Mac kit this winter.

08-17-2010, 01:24 AM
Well, I finally got around to trying my glass saddle. And the results were interesting and informative. First the background:

I picked up a well-used Lyra baritone from a woman in Toronto last month. It was purchased by her in Texas, back in 62(?) or thereabouts, and been in the family ever since. Not bad condition, given the years she and later her kids, played it. I have some pics and initial comments on my web site. It needed some cleaning and new strings, but not much else.

I wanted to change the saddle, though, since the Lyra's original saddle was a credit-card thin slice of something (plastic? bone? can't tell).

This weekend I widened and deepened the slot so I could test both a glass and a Tusq saddle. Okay, not a perfect job and my hands slipped with the file once. Or twice.

Glass and Tusq have similar properties in frequency response, it seems. Both add a lot of brightness and volume to the uke's sound. Glass just adds more of the same. In fact it almost seemed too good in its reproduction, since I could hear more of my finger scraping on the wound strings with glass than with the Tusq. I can hear a difference between glass and Tusq, but it's not as much as, say the difference between the Tusq and the original saddle.

But the difference between the original and either is incredible. This uke sounds like a steel-stringed acoustic guitar now. It's LOUD, bright, and rings like as 12-string. It's truly remarkable and so very different from any other uke I've owned. It is so different from my Pono baritone that they seem like different types of instruments, not merely different brands of the same scale. Both are mahogany but you couldn't tell - the Lyra now sounds more like spruce.

Did I mention this thing is LOUD? You can hear this thing across the street. Seriously. This little lightweight, bargain-brand uke has a powerhouse voice.

Right now I have the Tusq saddle in place because both unaltered were too tall, creating an unacceptably high action mid-string. I could not really deepen the slot any more, so I started to reduce the saddle itself. Tusq is easy to work with, glass is not. I was able to reduce the height of the Tusq saddle in a few minutes. I suspect it will take a lot longer to get the glass piece down to a more acceptable height. I'll work on that over the next week and see what I can do. I also need to shave the Tusq down a hair because, while the action is now playable, it's still a trifle taller than I prefer.

But what was picked up as a beater has taken on a whole new life. I love this sound. Reminds me of my old Yamaha acoustic guitar (http://www.ianchadwick.com/ukuleles/images/ukulele/ian_stan_sepia.jpg) from the 70s. I want to wail into so Bob Dylan or Fred Neil piece every time I pick it up.

08-19-2010, 02:26 PM
Good job!

Adding brightness to a baritone can be a good thing.

Do you think it would be too bright for a smaller size?


08-20-2010, 03:37 AM
Do you think it would be too bright for a smaller size?

I previously put a Tusq saddle on two tenors and they both improved the tone (to my ears) by adding brightness. These were a mango and a cigar box uke. I would not put a glass saddle on a uke with wound strings because it's very sensitive: I can hear my fingers scraping the wound strings more with the glass. But with smooth strings it should be okay.

I have done the final adjustments for the Tusq saddle, but have not got around to filing down the glass. That will take more time and I may need to go back to the shop for that, or to get another, shorter piece. Still need to do some fret filing, too, but I'm almost there.