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The only nylon-string guitar I've ever owned was about 32 years old when I bought it a few months ago. There are tiny notches under each string, even the unwound ones. Are those there on purpose or just an effect of years of wear on the bone? I would have thought bone could hold up to plain, smooth nylon indefinitely.

The reason I ask is that the 4th (D) string will easily "clink" in an out of its notch with minimal side pressure while the other five all stay firmly settled (when tuned up to pitch). I think that may be contributing to a bit of a harsh tone I get on that string from time to time.

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Hi, Brett. Even bone isn't forever. Classical saddles are never notched when new. It sounds like you're guitar is due for a new saddle, which is relatively trivial. Think of it as an oil change.

Cheers,
Bob
That's how it seemed to me but having no nylon experience I had to ask. It's probably evidence that, as I thought, this is the original nut and saddle on the instrument.

I actually have a Tusq saddle blank that with a little sanding will fit. I might put that in this weekend just to see if it helps the funky tone on that one string. But sounds like I need to order up a bone blank and get to shaping first chance I get. Couldn't imagine why the maker would have put notches there. Thanks, Bob!
Actually, you don't have to replace the saddle. Why not just take some fine sandpaper (600 is OK) and sand the top until you reach the bottom of the notches? Keep the rounded profile contour. Since the string is already sitting at the bottom of the notch, you are not lowering the action measurably. This should be even less work than getting the Tusq blank fitted, with a better end product.
A fine and practical idea, Greg. Where can I get one of those arrow transplants?

Bob
Thanks for the suggestion, Greg and I'm sure that would work fine. Even under the wound strings like that D it's a very shallow notch. And almost imperceptible under the plain-nylon strings. But in the mean while I had already swiped that Tusq saddle on some 320-grit and slid it in there (without removing the strings). It's too tall by at least 0.050" so the action is high but it does seem to have settled down the harsh sound of the 4th string.

So now I have (at least) three options: bring down the height of that Tusq saddle to restore the correct action, take a few thousandths off the original saddle and recontour the top as before and/or make a new bone one. The one advantage to the Tusq one is that it came with a set of compensations already built in to the top. The original saddle was just totally straight across with the high point along the very front edge of the saddle everywhere.

I do need to learn to make a saddle one of these days so the best thing is probably to study up on my intonation with the funky multi-compensated premade one and the un-compensated original and try to cipher out what's the best shape. Maybe after a couple attempts I can carve out a "perfect" one, wouldn't that be cool?
NO
If the string has a too small brake angle,
it is a preliminary fix to give it some notch,
preventing it from moving sideways.
I see this a lot. The strings are to high so they notch it to lower . Make a new saddle and adjust it the way it should be.

Ron
One followup question about my now-retired saddle with the little grooves in it. It seems to have developed a slight bow, maybe 0.005" or a little less. By "bow" I mean the middle of the saddle under the G and D strings is curves forward by that much when I pull it out of the bridge and lay it on a straightedge. Of course it's perfectly straight when it's in the bridge because the bridge slot is straight.

Does that mean it's something other than bone? I thought bone was too stiff to take a permanent warp or bow like that so I'm wondering if maybe this is plastic or something other than bone, in which case it's certainly not the original saddle from the Kohno workshop c. 1976.
Brett, are you sure that the saddle has ever been straight? The reason I ask is that bone saddle blanks are never perfectly straight. I have about 15 blanks bought from a reputable supplier and not a single one of them is perfectly straight. Not crooked beyond useablility by any estimation but just not perfectly straight. At 3/32" there is sufficient flexibility in the bone to conform to a straight saddle slot (makes a strong case for routing a damned well fitting saddle slot).

Bone is an organic material with a certain amount of oriented grain, microfine pores, and a finite water content. When the blanks are sawn, just the heat of the process can warp them slightly. I got a laugh the other day when I was sawing some waste off of an unbleached bone nut blank. I was using a bandsaw and, as I finished the cut, I actually saw some liquid bubble out ahead of the blade. Don't know whether it was water or liquified fat or what but it was rather strange.

Bob

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