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Thread: Saddle height

  1. #1
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    Default Saddle height

    On one of my vintage Martins, the saddle seems low, only 1.25 mm showing above the bridge (edit...got out the micrometer, and it's only 1.08 mm showing). Is this too low, and could tone/volume be improved with a higher saddle, perhaps 2.0 - 3 mm? Saddle appears original, as I can see see finish on the sides of the bridge, which also covers the portion of the saddle in the slot. Did Martin typically apply finish after the saddles were installed? Action is great on this one, about 2 mm at 12th fret.

    The reason I ask is that my 2 other vintage sopranos have saddle heights of 2.5 and 5 mm. Those, like this one, also have straight necks, no cupping, correct nut height and action 2.5 - 2.75 mm. Maybe it's a neck angle thing?

    Probably not going to mess with it, since it is all original, except for this saddle, which was probably shaved from the top, but wonder if a slightly higher saddle would make it sound even better or louder?

    Saddle1.jpg
    Bridge.JPG
    Last edited by Ukecaster; 02-20-2018 at 09:54 AM.

  2. #2
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    Default

    A saddle height at the 12th of 2mm is pretty low, or at least is on the low end of “normal”. A taller saddle might give you some more volume, and if you are a hard strummer, might give you some more ability to play strongly without buzz.

    However, if you are happy with the instrument and there is no buzzing...there is no issue.
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  3. #3
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    Default

    With guitars the rule of thumb is that we like to see a minimum of 1/8" of saddle above the bridge, as there does need to be a minimum break angle over the saddle to maintain tone and volume. But I've not seen a similar discussion about uke bridges. I would think with the greatly reduced string tension this would not be as much of a concern with ukes, but yes, a taller saddle can improve tone and volume in general. It certainly is a neck angle thing. On guitars it is sometimes necessary to shave down a bridge to allow lower action when the saddle can't be lowered anymore, but since your action is where you want it to be I wouldn't mess with it (especially on a vintage Martin!) just to possibly improve tone. Though it would be a simple experiment to remove the saddle and install a taller new one to see what you think of the change in tone. You'd need to use a razor blade to cut away the finish to get the older saddle out. I'm not a Martin expert, but I've never heard of finishing the top AFTER the saddle in installed.

  4. #4
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    Aug 2017
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    Default

    My saddle height could be like 2 mm on A string at 12th fret. It works fine for me, but I maybe notice something when I play solos with my thumb. I can't recognize buzz the same way as with a steel string. And it sounds nice all along the fretboard. Still I sometimes wonder if a slightly higher action would sound more clean. But it is not a biggie.

    We all maybe would need a winter and summer bridge saddles. They are quite easy to make as long as we keep the original as a reference
    Last edited by Jarmo_S; 03-10-2018 at 06:11 AM.

  5. #5
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    Default

    Some instruments have the necks fitted at such an angle that there is no choice but to have the saddle really low to achieve the preferred action. You see this a lot with inexpensive import instruments. IMO it is one of the most common shortcomings of otherwise excellent imports. It's also seen on older instruments where the neck joint suffered from "creep". Soundboard "bellying" can also cause the issue. It makes the break angle thing a real headache and can certainly screw up the volume and tone.

    I don't know how one would fix bellying but neck resets are possible where that's the solution. Not a quick or cheap fix though. Lots of heat/steam and patience required.
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  6. #6
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    Default

    Yes its a neck angle thing and in fact its expensive US/Hawaiian and hand-built instruments that are most likely to need very low saddles.

    Traditional ukulele construction involves NO neck angle. Guitar builders HATE this with a passion and will insist that your instrument needs a neck reset to give it some angle.

    The neck doesn't NEED angle. Its just the ukulele way for it to be set flat but the downside is that you will have very low saddles. Cheap instruments and those built by guitar makers are much more likely to be built with some neck angle.

  7. #7
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    Default

    A well respected luthier, who makes sopranos told me: "I try to aim for the saddle just above the bridge at about 1mm-1.5mm & string height at the 12th = 3mm max". That's where my uke is now, 1.08 mm saddle height above bridge and 2 mm string height at 12th. I just kept wondering if adding 1 - 1.5mm to saddle height would improve volume/tone, but it seems the uke is in a good place, so I guess I'll just leave it alone.

  8. #8
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    Default

    Putting a new slightly higher saddle on this uke is not going to improve the tone or volume. This is an older uke, volume and tone are a function of the aged and well played wood, not a minute height of the bridge saddle. I would leave it alone.

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