How to Replace Martin Guitar Saddles

Written by rick waugh
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How to Replace Martin Guitar Saddles
The saddle fits in a slot on the bridge. (Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images)

The saddle is the piece of bone, plastic or ivory that fits into a slot in the bridge on a guitar. The strings pass over the saddle just before they are anchored in the bridge or tail piece. The saddle provides one end of the vibrating string. The other end is either provided by the nut, which sits at the end of the neck by the headstock, or a fret, when a string is pushed down by the player's finger.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Pliers
  • Hacksaw
  • Small file
  • Coarse and fine sandpaper, 320 and 220 grit
  • Sanding block

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  1. 1

    Choose a saddle blank. It is sometimes possible to buy an exact saddle replacement for an acoustic guitar based on model, but this is rare. Most often when replacing a saddle a blank is purchased which is close in size to the original, and it is then cut to size.

  2. 2

    Remove the strings. Remove the old saddle by grasping it with the pliers and pulling upwards away from the guitar. The saddle should slip out of the slot fairly easily.

  3. 3

    Trace the outline of the old saddle onto the blank. To raise string action, make the new saddle taller. To lower it, do the opposite.

  4. 4

    Cut off large amounts of excess saddle blank with the hacksaw. Ensure there is enough left to file and sand down to shape.

  5. 5

    File the saddle blank close to its final shape, then sand with first the coarse then fine sandpaper. Note that the bottom of the saddle must be absolutely flat. If it is not in perfect contact with the bottom of the slot on the bridge, it will create dead notes for the string or strings in that area.

  6. 6

    Check the top of the old saddle for variations by string. In many cases the second or "b" string has its contact point with the saddle moved towards the rear of the guitar. This is to solve intonation issues that occur on this string around the third fret. Sometimes other strings will also contact the saddle at different points. Use the file to replicate these contact points on the new saddle.

  7. 7

    Slip the new saddle into place and string up the guitar.

Tips and warnings

  • Bone is most commonly used for acoustic guitar saddles, and Martins rarely use anything else. Plastic is used on cheaper guitars. Tusq is a synthetic material used on many fine instruments and has the advantage of never having the dead spots that organic material such as bone possess. Walrus ivory and fossilised walrus ivory are also used, but whether they actually sound better and are worth the money is open to debate.
  • It is possible to buy blanks directly from Martin, but there is nothing about the bone blanks they sell that distinguish them from those available at your local store.

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