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View Full Version : Wow! Bone is BRIGHT!



OldePhart
06-15-2013, 03:10 PM
So...For at least two years I've been saying that I needed to build up a double-thickness bridge saddle for my KoAloha longneck soprano so I could get the intonation on the C string closer to what it should be.

Today I went to Guitar Center (yuck) and bought a couple of bone acoustic saddle blanks. It took the better part of three hours but I cut and sanded and ground and glued and cut and sanded some more until I had a blank with a little "bump" on the top behind the E and C strings. Then another two hours or so of sanding and testing and sanding and testing and I finally have a bridge saddle that intonates tolerably well.

Just FYI - if one was careful one could get enough of the "bumps" out of one saddle blank to make six compensated saddles (of course six other blanks are needed to glue the bumps to).

But...the uke is a lot brighter now. I really wasn't expecting that because the old saddle was pretty hard (Tusq, or Corian, I think). It doesn't sound bad at all - but it's quite definitely brighter. I would say that now it sounds with the Alohi strings that are on it about as bright as it did with the fluorocarbon strings that came on it...maybe even a little brighter than that.

One other thing I learned about bone today - it's not much fun to file, grind, sand, or cut. I never would have got through this project without liberal use of the Dremel tool! (And...we won't talk about what my office smells like now...)

John

PereBourik
06-15-2013, 03:15 PM
Smells like...

Dental work.

hibiscus
06-15-2013, 03:18 PM
Such a lot of work~ glad you are pleased with it!

OldePhart
06-15-2013, 03:18 PM
Smells like...

Dental work.

Yep...if the wind is from the south you might smell it all the way up there in your neighborhood...

I used a vacuum to suck up most of the dust, too. I guess it doesn't suck up smell. :)

John

Pondoro
06-15-2013, 03:51 PM
I like to glue a bone blank to a Popsicle stick or a tongue depressor and shape it on a drum sander (keeps my fingers far away), then I drop it in a glass of water and let the water soak the glue away. And you are right, it smells like a bad day at the dentist's office.

hmgberg
06-15-2013, 04:54 PM
Bone is definitely bright. I use an old pair of artist's canvas pliers to hold the bone against the sander. It is stinky.

OldePhart
06-15-2013, 06:05 PM
I like to glue a bone blank to a Popsicle stick or a tongue depressor and shape it on a drum sander (keeps my fingers far away), then I drop it in a glass of water and let the water soak the glue away. And you are right, it smells like a bad day at the dentist's office.

That's a superb idea - if I ever have to do another saddle (crossing my fingers that I don't) I'm going to do that. I had a shop full of grinders and stuff out in the shed but avoided using them for fine work because I value my fingers. LOL

John

mm stan
06-15-2013, 06:14 PM
Bone is not healthy for you john..hope you was outside or a well ventilated place...I'd clean up that nasty dust too ASAP

Skinny Money McGee
06-15-2013, 06:21 PM
So...For at least two years I've been saying that I needed to build up a double-thickness bridge saddle for my KoAloha longneck soprano so I could get the intonation on the C string closer to what it should be.


A double thickness saddle? you mean wider then the saddle slot itself? I'm not picturing what your saying. Any chance you can post a picture?

I need to make a compensated saddle for a uke I have. (not my Kamakas) The G is way sharp, the C is a little less sharp, the E is a little flat and the A is way flat. I can fix the G & C, but not the E & A side without widening the saddle somehow. The saddle slot on the bridge of this uke should have been cut at an angle more like a guitar. (It seems to me)

OldePhart
06-16-2013, 12:58 PM
Bone is not healthy for you john..hope you was outside or a well ventilated place...I'd clean up that nasty dust too ASAP

Hi Stan, thanks for the concern. I was pretty careful to keep the vacuum hose up close to the work - I could see the dust flowing straight into it and there wasn't any dust hanging in the air or landing on stuff. I think even the hypo-allergenic filter in the vacuum wasn't enough to get rid of the smell, though. Fortunately the air has cleared this morning so I won't keep having flashbacks to dental chairs. LOL

John

OldePhart
06-16-2013, 01:11 PM
A double thickness saddle? you mean wider then the saddle slot itself? I'm not picturing what your saying. Any chance you can post a picture?

I need to make a compensated saddle for a uke I have. (not my Kamakas) The G is way sharp, the C is a little less sharp, the E is a little flat and the A is way flat. I can fix the G & C, but not the E & A side without widening the saddle somehow. The saddle slot on the bridge of this uke should have been cut at an angle more like a guitar. (It seems to me)

Yes, what I did was cut a little strip from one saddle blank to glue to the back side at the top of the main saddle blank behind the E and C strings. I honestly think the bridge on this uke may have been placed about 1mm ahead of where it should be. The typical case is for the A and G strings to tend to be a tad flat and the E and C a tad sharp (or sometimes the E spot on and the C a tad sharp) and if the saddle is tall enough you can improve all four strings by making the outside strings break over the saddle at the front (towards the soundhole) and the inside strings break at the back.

This uke was a little strange - with an uncompensated saddle the outside strings were about on, the E was pretty sharp, and the C was very sharp. I tried a variety of strings and all gave pretty much the same result. With the new saddle the A and G strings are breaking about over the middle of the main saddle (like on an uncompensated saddle), the E is breaking about where the back edge of the original saddle was, and the C is breaking about as far back as I can put it on the extra blank glued to the back...and is still a bit sharp.

The intonation up the neck is decent now, though. Not great, but I'm starting to fall back in love with it. It's always had absolutely the best tone of any of my ukes but as my ear improved over the last couple of years I found playing the KoAloha less and less satisfactory because the intonation was bad enough on that C string that barre chords at the 4th fret were off enough that it just made me want to play something else instead. I played it for a few hours last night and it was nice to be able to barre as high as I wanted to (I rarely go above the 9th) without having to tolerate chords not being quite as sweet as they should be.

Here's a quick snap with my cell phone. Not a great picture but good enough to show the idea. Note the pen marks - I'm still not completely satisfied that the job is finished. I think I need to move the G just a little further back. I'm going to wait until the next set of strings, though. I don't want to get it perfect for this set of strings and then find out that they were atypical. :) When I'm completely satisfied I'll put a polishing wheel on the dremel and pretty everything up.

54640
John

Skinny Money McGee
06-16-2013, 02:48 PM
Ok, I get it. Thats basically what I have to do except widen the saddle on the E & A side forward instead of back. I have micarta saddle blanks, so I guess epoxy will have to do for glue. The saddle slot is almost 1/8th inch thick, so I have plenty of wiggle room for adjusting the G & C side.

Thanks so much for posting this, it's been a big help.

The intonation on my 2 Kamakas (hf-1 & 2) are quite good, the soprano is the better of the two. Both have compensated saddles. I am continually amazed though, at how excellent the intonation is on my Martin OXK. I've played several of the new Martins & Kiwayas at Elderly and they were all excellent intonation wise, using "Pitch Lab" to check. (combination strobe and needle)

ukegirl
06-17-2013, 04:14 AM
You did a nice job crafting that! Ditto on bone being bright..tusq makes blanks as well, but a pair of them would be pricey...

OldePhart
06-17-2013, 07:51 AM
You did a nice job crafting that! Ditto on bone being bright..tusq makes blanks as well, but a pair of them would be pricey...

Thanks! But...fuzzy cell-phone pictures hide a multitude of flaws :)

I had planned on using Tusq - but the only blanks GC had in stock were the bone ones. One of these days I'm going to remember to stop by a local cabinet shop and see if I can get some Corian scraps. That's supposed to be basically the same material as Tusq but in a variety of colors and patterns. Jade green bridge saddle, anybody? :)

After getting over the initial shock of the brightness I find that I really like it. It makes the uke sound more like it did with clear fluorocarbon strings even though it's presently strung with Ko'Olau Alohi strings.

John

OldePhart
06-17-2013, 07:57 AM
Ok, I get it. Thats basically what I have to do except widen the saddle on the E & A side forward instead of back. I have micarta saddle blanks, so I guess epoxy will have to do for glue. The saddle slot is almost 1/8th inch thick, so I have plenty of wiggle room for adjusting the G & C side.


I meant to mention previously that that uke sounds like a strange case. I wonder if maybe the bridge didn't get put on angled just very slightly - and opposite of the way you'd want to angle it if you were going to do it intentionally...

Generally, angling bridges on ukes, like is sometimes done on acoustic guitars, doesn't work very well because the reentrant tuning puts thin, high tension strings on the outside and thicker, lower tension strings on the inside. If you angled the saddle on most reentrant ukes the G string would probably end up being really flat. At least one small builder uses a two-piece saddle with the longer section for the C-E-A strings angled and then the smaller section for the G string in a separate slot. (I can't remember who at the moment, I just remember marveling over the ingenious design a few months ago.)

John

PereBourik
06-17-2013, 08:52 AM
I meant to mention previously that that uke sounds like a strange case. I wonder if maybe the bridge didn't get put on angled just very slightly - and opposite of the way you'd want to angle it if you were going to do it intentionally...

Generally, angling bridges on ukes, like is sometimes done on acoustic guitars, doesn't work very well because the reentrant tuning puts thin, high tension strings on the outside and thicker, lower tension strings on the inside. If you angled the saddle on most reentrant ukes the G string would probably end up being really flat. At least one small builder uses a two-piece saddle with the longer section for the C-E-A strings angled and then the smaller section for the G string in a separate slot. (I can't remember who at the moment, I just remember marveling over the ingenious design a few months ago.)

John

I remember that. Was it Timbuk?

Lime
06-17-2013, 10:23 AM
Are ukulele components ever made out of antler or horn?

Skinny Money McGee
06-17-2013, 11:21 AM
I meant to mention previously that that uke sounds like a strange case. I wonder if maybe the bridge didn't get put on angled just very slightly - and opposite of the way you'd want to angle it if you were going to do it intentionally...


The bridge is put on perfectly straight. Also it measures out from the nut correctly. Tried 3 sets of strings. I'm going to mess with the saddle. Bought enough saddle material from Stewmac to make several.

OldePhart
06-17-2013, 12:18 PM
The bridge is put on perfectly straight. Also it measures out from the nut correctly. Tried 3 sets of strings. I'm going to mess with the saddle. Bought enough saddle material from Stewmac to make several.

Hmmm, what about the nut? If either is angled then intonation is going to be off...

OldePhart
06-17-2013, 12:19 PM
Are ukulele components ever made out of antler or horn?

I don't know of any that are but that is basically bone so I don't see why it wouldn't work well. As long as it is very dense and doesn't have large "pores" like some antler I've seen...

John

Rick Turner
06-17-2013, 12:35 PM
If you're set up for this kind of work, it's less than a half hour job, and you can get wide and thick bone blanks from LMI if you want to go that route. If you just want to superglue a bump on, then you can use the cut off from the end of a guitar saddle blank to do that.

I use a jeweler's vice to hold nut and saddle blanks while shaping them; no need to glue and then unglue.

OldePhart
06-17-2013, 12:53 PM
If you're set up for this kind of work, it's less than a half hour job, and you can get wide and thick bone blanks from LMI if you want to go that route. If you just want to superglue a bump on, then you can use the cut off from the end of a guitar saddle blank to do that.

I use a jeweler's vice to hold nut and saddle blanks while shaping them; no need to glue and then unglue.

Yeah, I know it would take a pro no time at all. Me, I'm slower than pond water in December at anything requiring "crafty" moves. Just one of the reasons you guys will never see me hanging my shingle out and trying to compete with you in the custom ukulele market. LOL Even if every uke I made was stunning and perfect (and that's blessed unlikely) I'd starve to death because it would take me about ten years to build each one...

John


John

Skinny Money McGee
06-17-2013, 04:16 PM
Hmmm, what about the nut? If either is angled then intonation is going to be off...

It looks straight to me. Going to work on it this week, I'll let you know what happens

Pondoro
06-17-2013, 05:03 PM
I bought a bone, I believe it was once part of a cow, at a pet food supermarket. It has furnished both nut and saddle for four ukuleles. But I am not attempting to make a living at this. Still it is a fun way to obtain parts for an instrument.

The gluing of an extension is a brilliant way to move the saddle farther from the nut, I have always widened the slot and installed a thicker saddle, a rather tedious process and fraught with risk to the bridge.

OldePhart
06-18-2013, 04:37 AM
The gluing of an extension is a brilliant way to move the saddle farther from the nut,...

Thank you, thank you, autographs available, line forms to the right. :) Seriously, I can't even claim credit for it. I have a classical guitar that has a synthetic saddle with a "bump" on the back for intonation and that's where I got the idea.

John

Doc_J
06-18-2013, 08:38 AM
John, you inspired me to fix the last little 1st fret buzz and off intonation on my $25 gambler LU-21B baritone. I had to get rid of the plastic junk they used for a bridge. Measured the slot at 3mm and 50mm long, and at least 12mm high. Found some bone blanks that size at $8 for 10. Marked it and 20-minutes of filing and sanding it was done. Sounds better now, no buzz, and near perfect intonation. The sound quality is even improved. It did help to have a belt/disk sander, files, and a nut/bridge vise. And yes the sanding smell reminded me of having cavities filled at the dentist. Not a pleasant memory. Still, that was the most effective 20-minutes to fix/update a uke.

Thanks John!

Before: 54701
After: 54702

OldePhart
06-18-2013, 01:12 PM
@Doc_J - nice! Man, that original saddle wasn't even the right thickness! A touch of forward lean is pretty common, but that was crazy!

John

ichadwick
06-19-2013, 02:12 AM
...the old saddle was pretty hard (Tusq, or Corian, I think). It doesn't sound bad at all - but it's quite definitely brighter.
Tusq and Corian are very different materials. Tusq is a denser plastic, and will transmit more sound energy than Corian. I've experimented with both and much prefer Tusq. Drop a piece of each on a table and listen to the sound. Tusq chimes; Corian clinks.

In general, denser material transmits more energy to the bridge. However, that's not always wanted. Brass and glass will transmit more than bone, but both allow higher frequencies to get through, which can make a uke too brash.

I've never experimented with a dual-material saddle, but I've often though putting Tusq under the third and 4th string (or just 3rd on a re-entrant tuning) and ebony or bone under the others could balance it.

Bone is great, but not all bone is equal. Some is softer, and being organic, can have areas of different density within it. I've been told bone from older animals is better because it's denser and more consistent (but also that most bone today comes from younger animals).

If you can find old ivory, it's even better. You can sometimes find bits of ivory in antique stores, and it's legal to buy/sell mammoth ivory, but it's damned expensive. You can often get thin slices of ivory from old piano keys, but they need to be carefully laminated into something wide enough for a saddle.

I found that it's best to carve the saddle so the string gets as much surface area as possible. That requires a bit more finesse than I expected.

It takes a lot of experimentation to get the right saddle size, shape and material for a particular uke. I did a bit a couple of years ago, but haven't done any more since. Might try again this summer.

The saddle plays a huge role too, because the energy from the saddle gets passed through the saddle and onto the to. Saddles have to be dense too: some woods absorb more energy than they transmit. And they need to be the right size. Too small and they don't excite enough of the top; too large and they dampen it too much.

Although I haven't been able to measure it, my observations suggest that a larger saddle is more important for a baritone than a smaller uke, because it has more surface area to excite.

But what the optimum width and thickness is - I don't know.

The top wood is also important, of course, because it's what will generate the sound after the energy gets translated from string to saddle to bridge and finally top.

jefrs
06-19-2013, 03:24 AM
Something I've noticed on acoustic saddles is that real bone is usually too bright and that cheap plastic (shock!) or wood (ebony or box) often sounds better. Tusq etc are plastics. Real bone can itself be quite variable in sound quality depending on grain and density.

Also observed that the saddle wants to be a good sliding fit in the bridge, it must not be tight (or the entire bridge then acts as the saddle). Nor does it want to be a sloppy fit or it tilts over, its foot must bear down against the base of the slot not the side wall.

The thickness of the saddle changes the timbre. If you take a slice out of the bridge to fix intonation then you can fit a thicker saddle, but I am getting better results by putting a 'rosewood' insert (veneer) into the slot and mounting a thinner standard saddle behind.

A much lower saddle than supplied will usually fix intonation issues without having to butcher the bridge base.