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Thread: Bridge thickness and saddle depth

  1. #1
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    Default Bridge thickness and saddle depth

    Again... first build...

    I am following the lmii plan for this tenor ukulele. I am making a bridge and working on softwood to practice. My question is: how deep should the saddle sit in the saddle slot in the bridge?
    The height of the bridge is 7 mm according to the plan with 3mm of the saddle in the slot and 4mm of wood beneath it. My bridge thickness is 6 mm. (I determined this thickness by laying a straightedge across the frets and over the bridge and reducing the bridge thickness until I got between 1 and 1.5 mm between the top of the bridge and the bottom of the straight edge.)
    And if I were to ever believe that this instrument would be worthy of amplification, how thick is the pickup that one would install in the bottom of the slot? If you set the saddle onto a pickup strip it is pushed up, so it would need to be reduced in height. What is the minimum saddle that must be in the slot for stability? My concern is that there doesn't look to be a lot of thickness of wood in this bridge.

    Also, best I can tell from the plan, the saddle is 2.5 mm thick. I don't have a saddle yet and need to order material for that. I see where somebody said they rout that slot at 3.2 mm and some more and some less. Is there any kind of a standard?

    Grateful, as always!
    "Why is it that you never have time to do it right the first time, but you always have time to do it right the second time??"

  2. #2
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    No idea about "Standard". I make my saddle slots 4mm wide for a couple of reasons. It gives me lots of room for intonation should I require. It is alsothen possible to drill a 3.5mm hole in the slot if a client asks for an undersaddle pickup. undersaddle pickups are generally 3.2mm wide and becomes very difficult to pull through the same size hole.

    I make bridges on my CNC and the slot is 2mm from the bottom of the bridge. They are alsto tilted back 7 degrees off perpendicular but that is probably too advanced for your first instrument.

    I make saddles from bone blanks so I can make them whatever size and shape that I like.

  3. #3
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    Thank you, Alan! Great stuff there. 2 mm... that would give me a little bit of wiggle room. So if I put an under-saddle pickup in I would eat up 3 .2 mm of height, right?
    "Why is it that you never have time to do it right the first time, but you always have time to do it right the second time??"

  4. #4
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    As a rule of thumb, I'd like 2/3 of my saddle in the bridge, 1/3 above. Or less above, but not more. I don't use an UST, but if I did I'd deepen the slot by that amount.

    Make the saddle a fraction wider than the slot, and then thin the saddle until it only just fits. You don't want the saddle to rock fore and aft.

    If you want to compensate the saddle you'll want it 2mm wide, 2.5 mm for a soprano. And if you make it wider, that gives you some leeway for fractional misplacement of the bridge or the saddle slot. Thin saddles look pretty though - look at Ken Timms' sopranos, whose saddles are less than 2mm wide. But on a soprano, 7th fret and above on the C string tends to sound pretty thuddy anyway, so intonation there is less of an issue.

  5. #5
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    Most ukulele saddle slots I see are 3/32". I do 1/8". Like Allen, this give me a lot of room for compensation for low g, and I use most of it. With the saddle slot 1/8", I actually drill 2x 3/32" holes in the saddle for two reasons - one to hold them in place when vacuum pressing, and two, the holes for pickups are already drilled, angled on the ends of the slot.

    50% is the rule for saddles, meaning, at least 50% of the saddle should be in the bridge. USTs that I install (LRBaggs Element or Five.O) are .050", so my saddles are naturally 50% plus .050" in the bridge. At 7 degrees as well - like Allen stated, that may be too advanced for a first build.

  6. #6
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    So... width of the saddle is a hair under the width of the slot. And saddle blanks are available for ukuleles at 3.2 mm but some, like Allen, cut their slots at 4 mm. I'm missing something.

    I'm also missing what I would use to cut the slot. I've a dremel and a 1/8" downcut spiral bit but cannot find anything that will fit the dremel in either 5/32" or 4 mm. Do people use a regular router? I thought I could make a cut and then reposition and widen the slot.
    "Why is it that you never have time to do it right the first time, but you always have time to do it right the second time??"

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by ChuckBarnett View Post
    So... width of the saddle is a hair under the width of the slot. And saddle blanks are available for ukuleles at 3.2 mm but some, like Allen, cut their slots at 4 mm. I'm missing something.

    I'm also missing what I would use to cut the slot. I've a dremel and a 1/8" downcut spiral bit but cannot find anything that will fit the dremel in either 5/32" or 4 mm. Do people use a regular router? I thought I could make a cut and then reposition and widen the slot.
    I buy rectangular shaped bone blanks that are 55mm x 6mm x 10m. I can make both nuts and saddles from this size.

    I cut my saddle slot with a 4mm bit on my CNC but in years past it was done with a 3.2mm bit in my laminate trimmer and template.

  8. #8
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    On the old Martins they only had a 1/16" narrow shallow slot, but they used to glue the saddles in..so depth didnt matter much.
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  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Allen View Post
    I buy rectangular shaped bone blanks that are 55mm x 6mm x 10m. I can make both nuts and saddles from this size.

    I cut my saddle slot with a 4mm bit on my CNC but in years past it was done with a 3.2mm bit in my laminate trimmer and template.
    All is cleared up.

    Thanks, once again, Allen, and forum! I'll get on it!
    "Why is it that you never have time to do it right the first time, but you always have time to do it right the second time??"

  10. #10
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    I see two choices: look at the parts on other ukes; follow the plans, although your bridge is 1mm too thin - if that really matters. I think the important thing is to have the channel deep enough to make the saddle secure. I've never made a bridge. I've always used ready-made bridges.
    Too many ukes, but I can't stop buying!

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