A customer just dropped off a nice T28 Martin tiple complaining about poor intonation. He says he heard that Frank had done an intonated saddle for one of these. I can't seem to find any information on the web site about this, so am asking what Frank or anyone else has done in this regard. As I am sure most of you know, the original saddle is a tiny mando fret, and the bridge is pretty delicate so I am leary of cutting any of it away to accommodate a saddle slot. Anyone have a great solution?

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can you get a photo and post it PLZ thank you

I did one once, but memory is flagging.  For sure, you'd have to mill out a slot wide enough to accommodate the fore-and-aft positions of the strings.  Before you start the project, you'll want to know how far to move each string, so read this piece:


Then consider telling the customer what I usually try to do - tiples don't exactly play in tune.  It doesn't cut much ice with most modern players, but it is the truth.


Indeed those bridges are too delicate, so be sure there's no crack between the pin block and the saddle area. . .

Along the lines of "tiples don't play exactly in tune", the second and third courses have an octave string. So there is going to be a conflict there, as well.



I have forwarded the "They all do that Sir!" advice to my customer. We will see what his response is. He plays the entire neck, so I imagine he is going to want a solution.  Although I can easily mill the slot to accomodate a saddle, and it shouldn't be tall enough to cause undue stress to the bridge (remember current "saddle" is a tiny mando fret about .035" above the wood), I really hate to cut the bridge as it is a dead mint mid '60's Brazilian T-28. I will let you all know what happens and post pix if I do get medieval on it. Thanks for the reply's!

Perhaps you could pop out the fret, and take the widest fret you can find, shape the top to be intonated, and then put that in place?


But it's a tiple - these are not fine tuning instruments, you just tune them as close as you can and play until you give up and get a ukulele. :)

In this and similar situations, I've made a replacement bridge with a fully compensated saddle and put the original bridge in the case.  I've never been satisfied giving a customer who wants their instrument to play in tune the explanation "this is how they were made and the way they were intended to sound."  Of course one may well argue that Martin made this Tiple such that it cannot intonate properly, and that would be true.  It's a conundrum.  I say do it right the second time.  Always save the original parts and as much as possible make your replacement bridge look as if it might have been the original.  I love these kind of jobs.
I used Frank's clever method to calculate the proper saddle placement. The answer was move the saddle back .31". Must be wrong I thought, it can't possibly need to move that far. I put a 1/16 drill bit under the 7th string (the major offender in the intonation problem) and moved it back .3 inches from the saddle....perfect intonation. That puts the saddle just in front of the string retainer block on the bridge--unacceptable. So it looks like a same footprint replacement bridge is going to be the only fix that will give my customer the proper intonation he wants. I won't be able to make it look like a Martin bridge as the string tie block must move back to make room for the saddle, but at least as Robert said the original can always be reinstalled so the instrument will be once again original...just not playable if you have an ear. I pitched the idea to the customer and he is thinking it over. Will report the outcome. Thanks!

Turns out you can intonate a tiple! Here is a photo of the new bridge I fabricated before it was installed:

And here is a photo of the tiple with the new bridge installed. I intentionally made it a tiny bit smaller than the original just in case someone wanted to reinstall the original bridge. I was shocked to find that the plain and wound strings in each course intonated the same!

In order to intonate properly, the third course of strings was almost 3/16" back from their original (Martin-calculated) position!

Wow! that looks great! Is that fret wire for the saddles? If so, how did you slot for the tang? once again, great job!


Yes it's fret wire just like the original Martin bridge's just that it takes four pieces put in the correct positions if you want to play in tune and not a single piece. I installed the bridge without  the saddles, put on the strings one at a time and used a 1/16" drill bit shank as a moveable saddle. Tuned the string with my strobe and moved drill bit until the string was in tune at the octave, marked the spot and moved on to the next string. As I said I was amazed that the wound and unwound strings in each course of strings were within a couple of cents of each other, so the fret wire worked fine. I originally intended to make four little bone saddles that I could individually compensate for each string but I didn't feel this was needed and the fret wires are more like the original bridge. After all saddle locations were spotted, I drilled two small starting/ending holes where each of the saddle slots needed to be cut and then routed the slots for the tangs with a Dremel and a small dental bur (a 557 dental bur is just the right size for Dunlop 6230 fret tangs) and then I epoxied the saddles in the slots ala Don Teeter. The owner plays the entire neck on this Tiple and now that it is properly intonated the instrument sounds fantastic. And I feel the new bridge even looks like it could have been made in Nazareth. Best part--the owner was happy enough with the job that he bought me a very fine bottle of single malt Scotch as a Thank You gift!

That... is just brilliant. Could someone (Hello Frank?) please put this on a website for the 3 other people who may ever deal with one of these things?


Beautiful work!!



Wow! What a coincidence. I'm visiting Gryphon Strings (hopefully Frank Ford) with my 1930 T17 Martin Tiple on Wednesday. When I first acquired my tiple a few years ago, the intonation was deplorable.  Then I had Larry at Thin Man Strings in Alameda work on it.  He did a very gentle and good job. It is a serviceable instrument. He did not cut the bridge.  I think he worked on the nut mostly. (I'm a player, not a luthier.)  I have a neat arrangement of Cat Steven's "Moon Shadow" that kids love. However, the lower strings past the 10th fret are still not worth playing.  In truth, I only play up to the fifth fret on all 4 courses of the strings -- and to the 14th fret on the first two courses for chord/melody etc. I still have a sense this tiple could do better. It is also very uncomfortable to play a barre chord past the 5th fret (F major- across the 5th fret). These tiples require much patience!  I'm glad you got that T-28 up to it's full potential.  It would also be nice to get a audio soundbite of the T-28 using all of the finger board.


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