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Thread: Saddle Fail

  1. #1
    Registered User BeanJean's Avatar
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    Default Saddle Fail

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    Last year I assembled a Saga kit to have a campfire/travel mando. It was serving its purpose nicely till one day I removed it from its case to find a broken saddle. I’d like to know why this happened. Installing the bridge was part of my first experience to setup a mando. I used Rob Meldrum’s book and followed the instructions carefully. I could have done something wrong but I can’t think what that would be.

    If you look at the bridge photos carefully there are arrows pointing to the damage.

    Was there a flaw in the rosewood? Was it fake rosewood? Was it caused by seasonal humidity change? I had humidifiers in the case and the hydrometer was a 41%. Some other cause?

    I’ve ordered an ebony bridge to replace it. In an effort to look at the bright side of things I’m trying to look at this as another opportunity to practice setting up a mando.

  2. #2
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Saddle Fail

    A whole lot of the older Harmony saddles failed the same way. Just the luck of the draw. These kits have been around for years and I don't recall a huge number of failed bridges, in fact I don't remember any.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Saddle Fail

    I'm far from an expert, but I would say it's just a flaw in rosewood. What might appear to be a dark grain line could have really been a very tight crack or separation that gives way over time. Rosewood and ebony are used for bridges because of their density (I believe), not because they're stronger than other woods. Such failures are not uncommon.
    Mitch Russell

  4. #4
    Teacher, luthier
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    Default Re: Saddle Fail

    Saddles sometimes crack. It doesn't matter whether they are rosewood or ebony, newer or older, cheap or expensive. They crack because there's around 200 lbs. of string tension on a bridge saddle. That's a lot of force to bear, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

    The only outside factors I can think of that would cause a split would be shock or compression. Make sure your case is not too tight a fit, and replace the saddle.

    If you like to putter, you can make a new bridge yourself from scratch. You can use the adjusting screws from the old bridge.

  5. #5
    Confused... or?
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    Default Re: Saddle Fail

    A hard-core engineer would tell you that it's a flaw in, yep, the original design! That 90-degree angle concentrates that 200-lb stress of the strings pulling down right at the corner, which is, almost by definition, the weakest spot on the bridge. It where the majority of all (arch-top) bridge failures start.
    - Ed

    "What our group lacks in musicianship is offset by our willingness to humiliate ourselves." - David Hochman

  6. #6
    Registered User amowry's Avatar
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    Default Re: Saddle Fail

    Yes. The bridges should really have radiused corners there.

  7. #7

    Default Re: Saddle Fail

    As noted, it’s a piece of wood. Worse, supported only at the ends. Worse still, pretty minimal. All to make it adjustable. One of the reasons we don’t make too many planes out of wood anymore. Or bicycles. Obviously, it’s acoustic properties are nearly meaningless in this design, so make your own, as suggested. Use anything that will machine to an edge that resists crumbling. Or add an edge insert out of something hard but machinable. Bone from an ex-boss is good.

  8. #8
    Adrian Minarovic
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    Default Re: Saddle Fail

    The problem is that there was way too much wood removed from the saddle above the thumbwheels. 99% of failed saddles I've seen were 1/4" or less high above the wheels and often the grain doesn't go parallel with saddle. This one looks just like that.
    I would never remove material from that spot when the base has lots of meat that can be safely removed from bottom of the feet. DIY'ers seem to prefer the simple filing off some wood from bottom of saddle instead of more involved base refitting, ocassionaly with failure over time as we see here.
    Adrian

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Saddle Fail

    As HoGo says, I too would rather take wood from the foot first and not the saddle.
    THE WORLD IS A BETTER PLACE JUST FOR YOUR SMILE!

  10. #10

    Default Re: Saddle Fail

    I built a kit this past summer. My saddle failed 2 days after first string up.

    I replaced it with a Cumberland Acoustic.
    Last edited by Chinn; Jan-12-2020 at 6:55pm.
    Chinn A-style
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  11. #11
    Registered User Steve Sorensen's Avatar
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    Default Re: Saddle Fail

    It happens. No big deal. Replace it.

    Steve

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  13. #12

    Default Re: Saddle Fail

    Sharp inside corner = stress riser. I have not seen a saddle break anywhere else. When I make saddles for archtop instruments, I always radius the corner.
    John

  14. #13
    Registered User amowry's Avatar
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    Default Re: Saddle Fail

    Yep.
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  15. #14
    Kelley Mandolins Skip Kelley's Avatar
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    Default Re: Saddle Fail

    Quote Originally Posted by Steve Sorensen View Post
    It happens. No big deal. Replace it.

    Steve
    Just like Steve said, no biggie, just get a new one.

  16. #15
    Registered User Aaron Bohnen's Avatar
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    Default Re: Saddle Fail

    You can easily enough replace the bridge. If you're worried about the new one splitting the same way, the Montana Lutherie bridges that Bruce Weber makes have a brass bar embedded in the bottom of the saddle piece, intended to prevent this problem. Bruce often answers the phone himself if you wanted to call and get more information.

    Enjoy!
    Gavin Baird F4 & F5
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  17. #16
    mandolin slinger Steve Ostrander's Avatar
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    Default Re: Saddle Fail

    I had one fail on my Kentucky a few years ago. TMS replaced it and I was back in business. No big thing.
    Never say "bouzouki" to a TSA agent...

  18. #17

    Default Re: Saddle Fail

    Weird solution: once the action is set, I stick a small piece of wood in the center, between the saddle and the bridge to provide extra support in the center.
    This certainly prevent the saddle to break at its weakest point.
    Flat top mandolin with a flat saddle (no bridge) which never breaks as there is no weak point.

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