An acoustic guitar’s saddle is one of the most important parts of the guitar. The guitar’s action, radius, intonation, and tone are directly directly influenced by the saddle, so it’s important that it’s perfect. Unfortunately, not every guitar enjoys this luxury:
This poor Ibanez had lost it’s original (most likely plastic) saddle somewhere along the way, and so somebody attempted a quick fix by buying an off the shelf replacement, which obviously doesn’t quite fit. It’s very tall, causing the action to be extremely high, and it’s leaning forward at a bizarre angle – which throws off the intonation, and can sometimes even cause the the bridge itself to crack. Clearly, a replacement is needed.
Much like making a bone nut, there’s much to making a saddle that is somewhat unquantifiable. I take measurements where I can (length, height, width, & radius), but much of the final shaping is akin to sculpture: file a bit away here, sand some there, and viola! A beautiful bone saddle!
It takes a great deal of patience and skill to carve a square piece of bone into a compound shape that fits exactly into a bridge slot. Somehow, I find this process ridiculously fun. I think the best part is shaping the top, and carving in a compensated angle to allow the strings to intonate properly. It’s not easy to see in these pictures, but it makes a zig zag between the wound and plain strings, which is just plain cool:
I usually make acoustic guitar saddles out of bone (cow bone, but unicorn is available by request), which I I think is far superior to synthetics. Most manufacturers have largely abandoned using bone in favor of using corian, plastic, and other unpronounceable polymers – so a real good, inexpensive way to improve the tone of your instrument is simply having a new bone saddle made for it. You will generally experience more volume, more snappy low end, and extended treble response with a bone saddle over a synthetic. Plus, if your old saddle isn’t compensated, you’ll gain a bit more accurate intonation with a new compensated saddle on the plain strings. Better sound, better intonation, and cheap! What’s not to like?