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Thread: Shimming a saddle.

  1. #1
    Join Date
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    Default Shimming a saddle.

    I have a couple of ukes with really low action and I was interested in raising that action anywhere from .4-.6mm by shimming the saddle.

    If you have shimmed a saddle before, what did you use to shim it with? I don't want to have to buy anything so I'd want to use something that would commonly be laying around the house. Maybe a business card? A playing card? An index card? Should I be seeking out something plastic rather than paper or wouldn't it matter?

    Would raising the action in this manner by .4-.6mm make a noticeable change in volume or would it have no effect at all on the volume?
    Money can't buy happiness but it can buy a uke which is basically the same thing.

    Ukes are a lot like potato chips. It's hard to stop with just one!

  2. #2
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    Oct 2015
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    Default

    Hey Mike, I am not a qualified luthier, however I have shimmed a few saddles. I recommend using the hardest material you can work with for the shim. Dense wood or plastic will work. The energy from the string gets transferred to the sound board through the saddle and bridge, you don't want any of the energy absorbed by something mushy.

  3. #3
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    Shimming with plastic or paper will likely have a substractive effect on the volume.

    Keep in mind that to raise the action at the 12th fret by .4 mm - .6 mm, you're going to need to shim the saddle .8 mm - 1.2 mm.

    If I were you, I'd laminate some thin paper (string pack paper, rolling paper, etc.) in superglue to the bottom of the saddle and shape it from there.
    "Who hears music, feels his solitude Peopled at once -- for how count heart-beats plain / Unless a company, with hearts which beat, / Come close to the musician, seen or no?" - Robert Browning, "Balaustion's Adventure"

  4. #4
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    Even a plastic credit card is only .6mm thick, so you'd need 2 shims cut from that to raise the action .6mm. Pretty easy to try, I did it recently to a cheap tenor, taking it from about 2.25mm to 2.75mm. I think I hear a bit more volume, tone didn't change much, but it could just be my old ears fooling me. I've always heard that raising the saddle height will usually increase volume.

    Better would be a 1mm thin piece of hardwood, but finding one is easier said than done. I'd just try the plastic, and get an idea of any change to the sound, then get a better hardwood shim later. I have a bunch of old bone and Tusq guitar saddles hanging around that would probably make great shims, but don't have the tools or skills to slice off shims that small. Even look in your recycling bin, there's probably some different thicknesses of plastic material lurking in there!
    Last edited by Ukecaster; 02-20-2020 at 10:38 AM.
    John

  5. #5
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    Default

    I wouldn't that concerned about the effect on tone, as technicians have reported finding the most amazing things used to shim saddles (paper, cardboard, plastic, tin can material, leather, wood), often without the owner even knowing they are there. And if anything the volume could increase if you raise the string height. A typical credit card is 0.75 mm, so one thickness wouldn't quite do it for you, but it wouldn't hurt to put in two thickness and see how well it works (which would raise the action 0.75 mm at the 12th fret). Or try using business cars, which are usually about 0.25 mm, so that four layers might just do it for you. It's quick and easy to try, as you don't even have to remove the strings, just loosen them enough to get the saddle out to use as a template and install the shims.
    Blackbird Farallon Ekoa Tenor
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  6. #6
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    Thank you to everyone that posted so far!

    After I posted the initial question and took off for lunch I was kind of thinking that a harder shim might be better than a softer shim which might absorb some of the vibrations. I also didn't think about needing to shim more than the actual amount I wanted to raise the string at the 12th fret. I have some used up plastic gift cards so maybe I'll try one of them for starters.
    Money can't buy happiness but it can buy a uke which is basically the same thing.

    Ukes are a lot like potato chips. It's hard to stop with just one!

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by mikelz777 View Post
    .....I have some used up plastic gift cards so maybe I'll try one of them for starters.
    Bingo! Let us know how it goes!
    John

  8. #8
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    Maybe strips cut from an aluminum can?
    Money can't buy happiness but it can buy a uke which is basically the same thing.

    Ukes are a lot like potato chips. It's hard to stop with just one!

  9. #9
    Join Date
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    I'll be contrarian and suggest you purchase a new saddle then cut it down. The reason is that I just discovered why one of my ukes sounded poorly: a shim under the saddle
    Tusq and Nubone are just two inexpensive solutions.

  10. #10
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    Sanding down a new saddle will be your best bet long term.

    If you have any old CD cases you can use them. I measured a thin case I have nearby, both halves measured 1.1mm thick. I'd use the back black plastic half, or insert on a regular CD case. half. It won't be quite as brittle as the clear top. Cases vary in thickness. The regular CD case I just measured measured 1.2mm. A newer flimsier one was 1.1mm. Insert as well as outer clear case.

    Good luck.

    PS: I hope you don't have a piezo pickup under the saddle. I wouldn't mess with that if it's working well with anything other than a new saddle.
    There is a subtle yet profound difference between the learning of something and the knowing of that thing.
    You can learn by reading, but you don’t begin to know until you begin to try to do.

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