Martin Bone Saddle and Nut upgrade

There’s nothing really wrong with Martin Guitars, but pretty well any guitar can be improved.  A simple upgrade for any acoustic is to replace the Nut and Saddle with bone ones.

Martin acoustic guitar on the bench prior to the new bone nut and saddle being fitted

This Guitar seems to have some intonation problems.  I’m not sure quite why, the action is a little high, the strings are a little old and the saddle isn’t compensated.  All three of those things will be attended too.

Existing saddle on a Martin acoustic guitar

I’m going to use this bone blank to carve a new saddle.  I’ve already cut then end down to roughly the right length.

Bone saddle blank before being shaped to fit a Martin acoustic guitar

The blank was a little too thick so I ground it down roughly with the grinding wheel.


grinding a bone saddle blank to fit a Martin acoustic guitar

I Like to finish the job off by hand, It ensures a nice flat and even surface.

Hand sanding a bone nut saddle to fit a Martin acoustic guitar

Now it fits the slot nicely

Bone bridge saddle fitted into the slot on a Martin acoustic, before shaping the top.

Of course the top is very tall and square so it needs to be rounded off.

I use the old saddle to get a rough idea, it’s a starting point anyway.

Using the old bridge saddle to assess the shape of the new bone saddle blank

The grinding wheel is the easiest and quickest way to achieve that.

Grinding the top of a new bone guitar saddle blank

That’s a good starting point.  I’ll need to adjust the height later, once the strings are back on.

A new, hand cut and carved bone guitar saddle. Fitted to a Martin acoustic before having the top shaped.

I’m going to cut a new nut from a bone blank.

A bone nut blank beside the existing nut.

Once I’ve got it to the right thickness on the grinding wheel I need to get the right shape.  This one’s rather complicated so the first thing I need to do is get the angle of the bottom so it sits in the slot.

A bone nut blank, ground to size to fit the slot.

Now it sits into the slot I need to get the shape of the end correct.

A bone nut blank fitted into the slot on a Martin acoustic. the bottom now angled to fir properly

With slots cut the guitar is ready for a new set of strings.

Now I can assess the action and adjust the height of the new saddle and nut.

Hand cut bone nut fitted to a Martin acoustic guitar

With the neck relief set, with a truss-rod adjustment now I can see how much I need to take off the bottom of the new saddle.

Assessing the playing action at the 12th fret on a Martin acoustic guitar

The action needs to come down by a little bit.  By clamping the saddle in the sanding guide I can very accurately take just the right amount off the bottom.

Bone guitar bridge saddle blank held in sanding guide prior to sanding the bottom to achieve the correct height.

Since the sanding clamp has a roller bearing at each corner it’s impossible to grind it too far.  It also ensures that the bottom is perfectly flat and square.

Using the sanding guide to sand the bottom of a bone bride saddle on a Martin acoustic guitar

Now that the saddle has the right height I need to just sharpen up the top, to allow for the correct intonation of each string.

Using a file to hand cut the edge of a replacement bone guitar bridge saddle







That’s the new bone saddle completed….

A hand carved bone bridge saddle fitted to a Martin acoustic guitar

With that done now I can better assess the action at the first fret…

Measuring the action height at the first fret on a Martin acoustic guitar

To reduce the action height is a simple process of cutting the string slots a little deeper.

Cutting the string slots into a hand carved bone nut on a Martin Guitar

So there it is, better than new, and the intonation problem solved too.

A completed Martin guitar, with upgraded bone nut and bridge saddle

A word or two from the owner:

“Hi George,Just a note to say thankyou for the great job on my Martin.It sounds a lot better and plays really well.Might even learn to play it properly!

                         Thanks again”

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