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Thread: Made a Bone Saddle for my F4. Big Improvement!

  1. #1
    Mandolingerer Bazz Jass's Avatar
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    Default Made a Bone Saddle for my F4. Big Improvement!

    Thought this might be interesting to a few here like me who have recently bought F2s and F4s and not been completely wowed by the sound.

    When I first got my 21 it had this, with a major sag:

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    As soon as I could I replaced it with a basic ebony Stew Mac bridge - my first attempt at fitting a bridge to a top, which worked out pretty good. To me it still didn't have the zing I remembered my old A mandolin having.

    Next, bought a Cumberland bridge which improved the sound a lot - clarity and sustain improved. Good quality ebony no doubt. I found though after a few days the saddle was sagging, and I started thinking about bone as a more rigid substitute.

    Pretty quickly I found an Ebay listing for two blanks of the right size. $10, free shipping. Worth a punt for sure.

    Here's my efforts. Roughly copied the Cumberland saddle. Cut the bone with a hacksaw and used a small flat file to shape it. Onto the Cumberland base:

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    I just couldn't get my mind to accept the look of it (white saddle) on the mandolin. Some people like this look, but hey, it's mine to live with:

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    So I decided to dye it black. Found some instructions online. First attempt was dismal - turned a kind of blue and mottled. Second attempt, including leaving it in the dye over night turned out like this:

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    With two ebony saddles:

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    On the Cumberland base:

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    I am REALLY happy with what this has done to the sound of my mandolin. I was sceptical, and prepared to hear no difference, but I can quite obviously. More clarity, sustain and volume. Particularly when digging in to a strum, a big sound!

    More like I remember the A, but not as flubby in the bass.

    Glad I tried it
    Last edited by Bazz Jass; Sep-30-2021 at 1:15am.

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  3. #2
    Registered User mandrian's Avatar
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    Default Re: Made a Bone Saddle for my F4. Big Improvement!

    Hi,

    That was a nice job you did and it looks the part and you love the sound, so all’s well that ends well.

    I wonder why the saddle on the original bridge you had on the mandolin and the latest bridge both failed so quickly. Certainly the last one was Cumberland and from your previous thread the first one might have been to? I’ve never heard of the saddle on a quality bridge act like that and certainly not on that timescale. Did Cumberland have any explanation? It all seems very strange.


    Regards,

  4. #3
    Mandolingerer Bazz Jass's Avatar
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    Default Re: Made a Bone Saddle for my F4. Big Improvement!

    Quote Originally Posted by mandrian View Post
    Hi,

    That was a nice job you did and it looks the part and you love the sound, so all’s well that ends well.

    I wonder why the saddle on the original bridge you had on the mandolin and the latest bridge both failed so quickly. Certainly the last one was Cumberland and from your previous thread the first one might have been to? I’ve never heard of the saddle on a quality bridge act like that and certainly not on that timescale. Did Cumberland have any explanation? It all seems very strange.


    Regards,
    The original saddle was a 50s Gibson replacement, and the saddle was quite short. And rosewood, so a softer wood. Fully understand that would warp over time.

    The Cumberland had the short "lowboy" saddle. I went for this as I figured it would be easier to wind the wheels up to make the action higher than to remove wood to make it lower. Maybe it shouldn't have sagged so soon, but being in New Zealand, it was far cheaper to buy the bone blanks (Ebay, from China) than to ship the saddle back to Cumberland. I'm fine with how it all worked out.

    If I could go back in time, I'd have ordered the Cumberland with the standard height saddle - I'm sure this would have been more rigid.

  5. #4
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    Default Re: Made a Bone Saddle for my F4. Big Improvement!

    Bazz, that's really cool. And I must say you are a lot more ambitious then many of us, including me.

  6. #5
    Mandolingerer Bazz Jass's Avatar
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    Default Re: Made a Bone Saddle for my F4. Big Improvement!

    Quote Originally Posted by Denny Gies View Post
    Bazz, that's really cool. And I must say you are a lot more ambitious then many of us, including me.
    It helps that my city has been in lockdown for 7 weeks. WAY too much time on my hands....!

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    Registered User Cheryl Watson's Avatar
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    Default Re: Made a Bone Saddle for my F4. Big Improvement!

    That's a job well done! You have skills. I too like the look after you dyed it black. What kind of black dye did you use? It really soaked in nicely.

  8. #7
    Mandolingerer Bazz Jass's Avatar
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    Default Re: Made a Bone Saddle for my F4. Big Improvement!

    Quote Originally Posted by Cheryl Watson View Post
    That's a job well done! You have skills. I too like the look after you dyed it black. What kind of black dye did you use? It really soaked in nicely.
    Thanks! I'd read a few things on line about dying bone. This is what I could find at my local supermarket:



    I put the saddle in a small saucepan, put enough water to just cover the saddle, brought to a simmer, added a few tablespoons of salt and half the packet of dye powder.

    First attempt was very bad. I simmered for 15 minutes, took it straight out and rinsed it. It was blue, and uneven. Felt sorry I'd tried and wished it was bone coloured again!

    Second attempt. Mixed the second half of the packet of dye, salt, water bought to the simmer. This time I lowered the saddle gently into the pan so it would be standing up during the dying process. Simmered for longer this time, and I think most importantly took it off the heat and left the saddle in the solution overnight. Next morning I panicked a little as the solution had set like jell-o! Poured a little boiling water in and turned back to liquid again.

    Quick rinse and in the sun to dry for the morning. Seems very colour-fast at this point. The saddle won't be rubbing against anything, and it only contacts the adjustment wheels of the bridge and the strings, so no potential for colour bleeding.

    If fairly typical of me to try and problem solve things like this! There have been some trainwrecks. This was one of the better outcomes

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    Mandolingerer Bazz Jass's Avatar
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    Default Re: Made a Bone Saddle for my F4. Big Improvement!

    Here's a short phone clip with the bone saddle:



    And with the Stew Mac ebony saddle:


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  12. #9

    Default Re: Made a Bone Saddle for my F4. Big Improvement!

    Really good article and well done on the whole thing. Mandolin certainly has a big full sound. I have a 1919 F4 which I'm very happy with but I must say the sound from yours is BIG.

  13. #10

    Default Re: Made a Bone Saddle for my F4. Big Improvement!

    I really, really hate those rosewood bridges with the large adjustment wheels. Sound killers for sure imho.

    Len B.
    Clearwater, FL

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    coprolite mandroid's Avatar
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    Exclamation Re: Made a Bone Saddle for my F4. Big Improvement!

    Got a Fossil Walrus Tusk one for my '22 A4 , years ago .. Alaskan, Arctic Creatures.
    writing about music
    is like dancing,
    about architecture

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