bone vs synthetic for nuts and saddles

Intonation, Compensation, Frustration
Post Reply
JLT
Posts: 212
Joined: Wed Nov 02, 2011 9:13 pm

bone vs synthetic for nuts and saddles

Post by JLT »

I'm not sure if this topic belongs here but I can't thing of anywhere else it might be appropriate. If John or Diane want to move it, feel free.

I've always been an advocate of bone saddles over synthetics, but recent experience has let me to start re-thinking this. I've heard that Corian and Tusq saddles and nuts are nearly identical to bone in transfer of vibration to the soundboard, and are more durable as well.

I've noticed that bone seems to wear out more quickly; I've seen a few of the string seats start to crumble. Is this a common factor of bone, or is it just a bunch of bad saddles I bought some time back?

Obviously, you're not going to get the same consistency in a natural product as you are in a synthetic product, but do you feel better about putting synthetic materials into your builds?

All responses gratefully accepted.

Stay safe.
Diane Kauffmds
Posts: 2441
Joined: Sun Mar 09, 2014 8:13 pm

Re: bone vs synthetic for nuts and saddles

Post by Diane Kauffmds »

There's definitely a quality disparity in natural products. First, bleached bone will be softer than unbleached. Also, bone increases in density and therefore hardness, depending on the weight of the animal. So, the heavier the animal, the harder the bone.

Having said that, I'm not so sure that harder materials sound better.

The hardest I've worked with is ivory (the real stuff). It's beautiful, but i thought it sounded brittle and tinny. I prefer bone. I have replaced the tusq nut and saddle, which were in my Martin dread, with Buffalo bone, which is what i prefer.

I've found that I like the sound of buffalo horn bridge pins, as much as I like bone pins. I want to try horn for my nut and saddle.
MaineGeezer
Posts: 1357
Joined: Wed Aug 13, 2014 12:14 pm

Re: bone vs synthetic for nuts and saddles

Post by MaineGeezer »

I've used Coarian on a few instruments, mostly on mountain dulcimers but also on a guitar or two. It seems to be a bit soft, but it sounds okay. I've usually used unbleached bone with the idea that it was "better." My recent experience with the last guitar I built, however, suggests that "best" for one instrument may not be best for another instrument. I could never get it to sound right with a bone saddle. I finally replaced it with a piece of moose antler, of all things, and the guitar finally sounds the way i think it should. Moose antler has a hard outer layer and a a less dense interior, which seems to be what that guitar needs for a saddle. So, I think "it all depends."
Don't believe everything you know.
Anything is possible if you don't know what you are talking about.
When things are bad, try not to make them any worse, because it is quite likely they are bad enough already. - French Foreign Legion
ruby@magpage.com
Posts: 1511
Joined: Thu May 24, 2012 8:03 am
Location: Chestertown Maryland

Re: bone vs synthetic for nuts and saddles

Post by ruby@magpage.com »

Maine

Do you use the hard part or the soft part for the nut? Or like an Osage Orange bow, half of each?
Ed M
MaineGeezer
Posts: 1357
Joined: Wed Aug 13, 2014 12:14 pm

Re: bone vs synthetic for nuts and saddles

Post by MaineGeezer »

I have the hard outer layer on top for the strings to rest on. That wouldn't be much of a problem with a nut, but because that outer hard layer isn't very thick, I had be careful when I sanded the radius on the saddle not to sand right through the hard layer on the ends. There was also the problem that the outer layer is not very flat. There are depressions and ridges. I had to try to line up the strings so they didn't end up in a depression. Here are a couple of pictures. I hadn't noticed before I took these that I still need to trim the saddle to final length!
You do not have the required permissions to view the files attached to this post.
Don't believe everything you know.
Anything is possible if you don't know what you are talking about.
When things are bad, try not to make them any worse, because it is quite likely they are bad enough already. - French Foreign Legion
tippie53
Posts: 6401
Joined: Fri Mar 03, 2006 7:09 pm
Location: Hegins, Pa
Contact:

Re: bone vs synthetic for nuts and saddles

Post by tippie53 »

there can be advantages of both. Bone for natural acoustic man made for under saddle pic ups
John Hall
Blues Creek Guitars Inc
Authorized CF Martin Repair Center
president of Association of Stringed Instrument Artisans
http://www.bluescreekguitars.com
Post Reply