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Bridge Location

Total Topics: 24
Total Posts: 113
I'm ready to glue down my bridge, and am hoping for some clarification on location.

In researching the books and forums, I've heard that the distance from the nut to the center of the saddle measured at the middle point of the bridge should be:
a) scale length + 0.100"
b) scale length + 0.125"
c) scale length + 0.150"

Which is correct (or most often used) for a 25.4"scale OM? I've also read that 25.4 is an approximation and not the exact scale length. If correct, do I need to worry about this?



Aug 02, 06 | 3:03 pm
blues creek guitars Authorized Martin Repair Ctr

Total Topics: 52
Total Posts: 1011
this can be most confusing. ALot depends on the srting gage. I recommend 24.9 use a length of 25.0 and 25.4 use a compensated length of 25.5, The extra .1 will help intonation with the working length of the string.
Measure this from the nut to the point of the front of the saddle along the line of the 1st string. ( hi E )

Aug 04, 06 | 5:47 pm

Total Topics: 25
Total Posts: 113
blues creek,

Thanks for the help; before I commit glue to this, can you clarify one thing for me.

I use light gauge strings, and with the 25.4 scale you say to add 0.10 (25.5) at the high E string as measured at the front face of the saddle. OK.

Now, to be sure things are squared up, what measurement should I use at the low E string? Alternatively, should I get the bridge in position based on the high E string and then be sure the measurement from the nut to the front face of the bridge is the same at teh highe E and low E? Or should I measure from the front corners of the bridge to the corners of the end of the neck?

Appreciate you sharing your experience. I'm this far along and don't want to screw this up.



Aug 05, 06 | 5:27 am
Bill Cory

Total Topics: 158
Total Posts: 3584
Ed -- if you need more info, Stewmac's "Free Info" offers a scale length calculator that includes compensation, etc.

To answer you question about do you need to worry about this -- yes, absolutely.

The 25.4" scale length, for example, is the "nominal" scale length, and the actual scale length is 25.34" in some cases (but not all). If you were to set up your bridge so the center of the saddle slot between the D and G strings was exactly 25.4" from the edge of your nut, your guitar would be in tune only in the open position. It would not play in tune at all.

Also, the type of string you use will require a different amount of compensation. Compensation is an allowance for the stretching of the string when it is fretted; when it is stretched, it naturally sounds sharper than in the open position. The lighter the string, the more it stretches and the more compensation required. So, with your 000-28, depending on how you've braced it, you might have the choice of using medium strings instead of light strings if you want. If you go for the medium, the required compensation will be less because the metal is thicker and stretches less

Varying string thickness is why different compensations are published for the same scale length -- but the people who put them out there for us leave out the important part: Which gauges of strings these compensations apply to. More compensation than the perfect amount will give you strings that fret slightly flat, and the human ear does not hear flatness of pitch as easily as sharpness of pitch; that is, sharpness is more "irritating" to our ears (as in the sharp B string in a 1st position D chord, when the B string is perfectly tuned open). Also, since the guitar is an instrument that cannot -- can not -- be perfectly tuned, it is all an approximation. (Mike Doolin's website has a great primer on intonation explaining this. . At Healdsburg last year, he told me the main figure to remember is 15/1000's inch, which equals 1 cent on a 25.5" scale with a medium unwound string. Thats how exacting it can get. I can't begin to measure 15/1000's on the break point of a saddle!)

I wish string makers would publish their recommended compensation figures.

Basically, though, if you're using lighter strings, tend toward the greater amount of compensation. Measure the nut to 12th fret distance, then repeat that distance plus compensation from the 12 fret to the saddle. (And, the amount will vary depending on whether you are measuring to the center of the saddle between D and G strings, or measuring to the center of the saddle at the high E string. )

John, above, is measuring to the High E position, at the edge of the saddle slot. That's also how Martin does it, too. I have always personally thought that the intonation on Martin guitars pretty much stinks, and I'm not alone in that opinion.

Stewmac's instructions tell us to measure to the center of the slot between the D and G strings. Different strokes for different folks -- the trick is in discovering which point of measurement is being offered as "correct" before you do your own measuring, and which gauge of string set it is talking about.

Do lots of reading. The AG Mag Luthiers Corner has some good threads on this: search for intonation, scale length, etc.

Good luck!

Aug 05, 06 | 5:45 am
Bill Cory

Total Topics: 158
Total Posts: 3584
Ed, to answer your question about the High E string/Low E string distance ... You are going to want your bridge to be pretty straight on the top of the guitar. I say "pretty straight" with tongue in cheek -- you'll actually want it "straight." And, the straightness should correspond to it being exactly perpendicular to the centerline of the fretboard -- parallel to the frets. If it is straight in that way, the the single measurement for your compensation, say at the High E string, will automatically set the measurement for the Low E string.

Of course (you're gonna hate this), that's assuming the saddle slot on your bridge has been cut accurately for your scale length and your string gauges, since every string requires its own basic amount of compensation.

It isn't as simple as some people make it sound -- not if you want it to be "right on."

That's my 30/1000's worth, if Mike Doolin is right and 15/1000's equals one cent.

Aug 05, 06 | 5:51 am

Total Topics: 37
Total Posts: 676

You also have one more place to apply a 'fudge factor' after the bridge is located and that is in the saddle. Take a close look at where the break points for the individual strings are filed into the saddle. There is wiggle room to correct minor intonation problems there.

Bill's link to Mike Doolin's site is indespensible. I had to read that a few times and do some other reading in between before taking even two cents of clue away for me. I will do the best I can in locating the bridge, but I'm not going to seriously obsess on the first few ( worrying about the last 15/1000 of an inch). Besides, a Peterson Strobe tuner is a still a few articles down on my list!


Aug 05, 06 | 6:59 am
Ken Cierp

Total Topics: 58
Total Posts: 2262
Hi Ed, My Bridge setter tool is set up to put the bridge for a 25.4 Martin long Scale (25.34 actual) exactly as John Hall has indicated -- this is what Martin's C**py manual also indicates. I have found I can get very good intonation set up at this location. Just to add to the confusing --- my real preference is to use a 1/8" saddle!! If I experiment with strings the wider saddle can be helpful for fine tuning intonation. Even a cheap guitar with accurate intonation will sound to pretty darn good.

Ken ------ Kenneth Michael Guitars

Aug 05, 06 | 10:00 am
blues creek guitars Authorized Martin Repair Ctr

Total Topics: 52
Total Posts: 1011
I agree with ken. I like the .125 saddle and with acoutics action height variables the extra saddle allows for fine tuning the intonation .
john hall

Aug 10, 06 | 5:09 pm

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