Fitting a new bridge saddle...

Discussion in 'Acoustic Instruments' started by MartyFuncum, Dec 12, 2017.


  1. MartyFuncum

    MartyFuncum Member

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    I just bought a beautiful new Yamaha LS-TA (the one with the built in reverb, which is just great!)

    Unfortunately, I don't like 12 gauge strings (which I'm not here to debate;)) and in my eagerness to fit some 11s and alter the action I went and sanded the bridge down about half a millimetre too much on the treble side and ONE note (the tenth fret on the high E) is buzzing when I play it (just that one!), which is a real pain as otherwise it feels great. I also went and tweaked the truss rod a little to try move it back a touch, but with no luck.

    So I ordered a new saddle, which will be custom cut (including appropriate difference in height between high and low Es) and am wondering the best way to fit it?

    Am I best fitting the saddle and then adjusting the truss rod to achieve the right action? Or would it be better to leave the truss rod where it is and sand the saddle? Or a combination of the two approaches?

    It just seems like a balancing act between getting the saddle height right and the truss rod adjustment correct although it's obviously way more complex than that so any tips would be greatly appreciated.

    I know I could take it to a tech but I spent my last bit of spare cash on this little beauty so I'd rather try do it myself - as it ain't getting done otherwise :confused:

    Thanks in advance:)
     
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  2. Outlaw

    Outlaw Member

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    While you’re waiting on your new saddle to arrive, you could install a shim under your old saddle, and tweak your setup while waiting. I wouldn’t use cardboard, but a sliver of plastic cut to fit would work. This is temporary in this instance, but a lot of guitars out there have ebony shims in them...and their owners probably don’t even know it.

    Additionally, everybody has different likes when it come to setups, but the general “consensus” is that 2/32” (high E) and 3/32” (low E) is fairly standard as far as action goes.

    I prefer to start at the nut. Place a capo ON TOP of the first fret and measure. I measure, but also do this by feel. If the nut needs work it’s important that it’s done first, in my opinion.

    After that is correct I move on to relief. I prefer little to no relief...or a relatively flat fingerboard. Press on fret 1 and fret 14 and check your measurements at the 7th fret. You should be able to slide a business card in.

    The measurements I gave above are taken at the 12th fret. Measurements are to the bottom of the string. It’s important to note that while the saddle is at full height to use a pencil to draw a line on the saddle while it’s inserted fully in the bridge (without shim). This will give you a visual reference when sanding. You can take more off...but you can’t put it back on. It might take a couple of times of inserting the saddle, bringing strings to pitch, and checking. It’s worth the trouble.

    Look up Frank Ford’s setup tips online. He’s the man.
     
    Last edited: Dec 12, 2017
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  3. Outlaw

    Outlaw Member

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    You also should use a cutting board, piece of ceramic tile, etc that your sandpaper can be affixed to using duct tape. This ensures a flat bottom. You need to make certain that you are sanding perfectly flat. Use equal pressure when sanding.

    I personally only sand in one direction. I hold the saddle with both hands and apply equal pressure while sanding.

    There are probably a million YouTube videos on this. It’s not rocket science, but you want the bottom of the saddle flat.
     
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  4. MartyFuncum

    MartyFuncum Member

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    Many thanks Outlaw, that's incredibly useful! I know I can get this right, I just got to take my time etc. The tip on keeping it flat was especially useful as I've botched that before and that will really help me keep it flat. I also found some Frank Ford articles which are really helpful. Thanks again, really appreciated :)
     
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  5. MartyFuncum

    MartyFuncum Member

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    I've actually realised, after reading some Frank Ford stuff, that the nut is too high. I'm also pretty sure I'll do a botch job if I attempt to do it all myself as I have no tools etc. Best call the local guitar repair guy. I've gone without food before and goddammit I can do it again (and it'd be good to lose a little weight!) Cheers :)
     
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  6. 84superchamp

    84superchamp Silver Supporting Member

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    I always try to avoid truss rod adjustments on acoustic. My little Martin DR did more "moving" than any of the others, summer to winter and vice versa so i made a different bridge for each, one a little higher than the other and changing when needed. I too am not good enough to cut a new nut but so far, the bridge insert change has done the trick. Good luck!
     
  7. walterw

    walterw Gold Supporting Member

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    that makes zero sense.

    the truss rod is the one key adjustment you really have for an acoustic.

    the winter vs summer saddle thing makes sense as long as you're still controlling for humidity in the winter and not just letting the top shrink down to the point of splitting, but along with that you're gonna need to keep that neck at the right (minimal) relief.
     
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  8. walterw

    walterw Gold Supporting Member

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    always do the truss rod first!

    the neck needs to be at its correct minimal relief before you can take any other measurements.
     
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  9. 84superchamp

    84superchamp Silver Supporting Member

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    I guess we all have our preferences but i have never had to touch the truss rod on this Martin. A saddle switch seems much less drastic than yanking on a truss rod. Makes perfect sense to me and considering this guitar has a very minimum finish (flat) on a rosewood body and i have had absolutely no finish problems in the 12 years i have owned it (other than streaking as it ages, which looks very cool) tells me i'm doing ok. I don't hesitate to adjust the rod on my electrics but on a very lightweight acoustic, i hate to do it and so far it has worked out very well. Thanks for your .02.
     
  10. walterw

    walterw Gold Supporting Member

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    this still makes no sense, a truss rod tweak is a 10-second job, it's the least "drastic" thing there is.

    also, the two things don't substitute for each other, you can't do one instead of the other. a guitar needs the neck to be right and it needs the saddle height to be right.
     
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  11. 84superchamp

    84superchamp Silver Supporting Member

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    My system works out just fine, replace saddle at string change. Couldn't be easier. Expert accounts i have read equate truss rod adjustments with bowed necks, something i don't have. It's just a very thin top moving with temp/humidity changes, an extremely gradual change that is no cause for alarm. This very fragile Martin is still in very good shape, i'll stick with my system.
     
  12. Tony Done

    Tony Done Member

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    Get the neck relief right first, then adjust saddle height to suit your preference. If you press down on the 1st and body frets, the gap between the crown of 5th fret and the string should be very close to the thickness of a business card.
     
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  13. snakestretcher

    snakestretcher Member

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    The truss rod is NOT for adjusting action but for neck relief, and it only works over the central part of a fingerboard anyway, and has little or no effect at the extremes of the neck. All it does is correct for back or forward bows. If your action is high at the nut or saddle the truss rod won't help at all. I always aim for a dead straight neck FIRST, before addressing the saddle and nut.
     
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  14. Outlaw

    Outlaw Member

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    Bro, you know I love ya, but a proper setup almost always include a truss rod tweak. May be a lot, may be a little, but nevertheless it includes a truss rod tweak.
     
  15. 84superchamp

    84superchamp Silver Supporting Member

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    I've heard that. It's just a rare experience for me on acoustics. Strats and teles (bolt-on necks), all the time.
    Not saying i would never do it, it just seems some people need the experience moreso than i do.

    And i've had my say and just beating a dead horse, but had to acknowledge my ol' bud @Outlaw 's input.
     
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  16. Seorie

    Seorie Member

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    I advise folks who want to do minor guitar work to get a (decent) ol' beater - say '70's / '80's Japanese or the like and practice on it.
    Takes the pressure off diving in and doing it to u'r main instrument.
    Yeah - Frank Ford's site if a good place to start.
     

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