Guide to Gibson Adjustable Saddles for Acoustic Guitars

From the late 1950s and into the 1970s, some Gibson saddles and Epiphone saddles were height adjustable saddles with cutout edges, either in ceramic or wood. That saddle type resurfaced in later years on reissue models, although the factory saddles are now made of Tusq. At first glance, these saddles appear to be the same, and are often interchangeable, although minor spec and shape differences do appear. You will hear tonal differences from the different materials, and may find minor intonation differences due to subtle shape differences. In this article we will discuss the common cutout edge height adjustable saddle types, and how to find a replacement.

This article only applies to cutout edge saddles. Please see our article on How to Find the Correct Height Adjustable Saddle for information on flat or round edge height adjustable saddle types.

High Gloss Ceramic

From the late 1950s and into the 1960s, Gibson used high gloss ceramic saddles. These saddles were made with a cut out section in the bottom to rest the saddle on a metal plate, which had a corresponding bulge to fit into the saddle. The high gloss saddles have a rising mound shape for the section where the strings sit. Pattern was center line non-compensated.

Please see the following link for images of an aftermarket saddle: Gibson Style High Gloss Ceramic Saddle

Finding a replacement high gloss ceramic saddle, whether original or aftermarket, will prove difficult. Try Ebay.com or Reverb.com. Expect to pay over $100 for an original, and perhaps much more. Aftermarket options are also difficult to find.

Matte Ceramic

During the mid-1960s, Gibson used a matte finish ceramic saddle. These saddles had an elongated pyramid shape where the strings would sit. Later saddles made of Tusq or bone often have this same elongated pyramid shape, as in the below images. 

Adjustable Bone Guitar Saddle for Gibson Guitars
Gibson-style Height Adjustable Saddle - Pyramid
Adjustable Guitar Saddle Side View
Pyramid Side View

Shifting from a pyramid saddle to one of the rounded profiles, or vice versa, might result in a small scale length change, which could produce subtle intonation changes.  

Pattern was center line non-compensated. Finding an original will be slightly easier than finding a high gloss version, but will still prove difficult. Plan to pay over $100.

Wood

Later in the 1960s, rosewood adjustable saddles appeared. These saddles often had an inverted U shape where the strings sat as in the below images.

Gibson Rosewood ADJ Saddle Angle View
Gibson Style Rosewood Adjustable Saddle
Gibson Rosewood ADJ Saddle Side View
Rosewood Side View

The pattern was typically center line non-compensated, but rare instances of center line B compensated adjustable saddles appear, although we do not know whether these are aftermarket or not. 

Wood saddles may be 1 to 2 mm taller than their ceramic and Tusq counterparts are, so be sure to measure your height before ordering a replacement. You can find original wood saddles, but these will typically be worn, and might have deep gouges for where the strings rest. Expect to pay over $70 for an original. 

Tusq

Gibson reissue models use a Tusq adjustable saddle, which has a similar elongated pyramid shape to what the matte ceramic saddles had. Note that these Tusq saddles have a 14 inch radius, and have a 0.7 mm bass to treble edge height difference.

Bone

To our knowledge, Gibson has never used bone height adjustable saddles from the factory, although you will find aftermarket options online.

Tonal Differences

As expected, the different materials will produce different tones. For a video demonstration of different materials, please see this video.

What Adjustable Saddle Does Your Gibson or Epiphone Need?

Still wondering which adjustable saddle your guitar needs? Please send us all of the following information.

  • Saddle Edge Type
  • Fretboard Radius
  • Current Saddle Length, Maximum Height, Thickness – Must be measured with a caliper
  • Bass to Treble Height Difference
  • Guitar Saddle Slot Length, Thickness (if different from saddle specs) – Must be measured with a caliper
  • String spacing at the bridge
  • Current Saddle Compensation Pattern (please send a picture if you are not sure what type you have).