How to Adjust Saddle Height on One Side More than the Other

Upon receiving a new saddle, you may find that one side needs to be reduced more than the other. For example, in the picture below, a factory Breedlove Atlas Series plastic saddle not only needs the overall height reduced, but also the treble side reduced more than the bass side. Note: This results in the factory saddle having the appearance of a tighter top radius; however, in the below picture, both saddles have a 12-inch top radius.

Breedlove Guitar factory and bone saddle replacement
Breedlove Factory Saddle on Left with Bone Saddle on Right

If this is the case with your saddle, then your saddle height was likely adjusted at some point to produce a lower action height for the treble strings. As such, if you wish to get the same action with your new saddle, then you will need to take more off the treble side saddle when adjusting. You can do this using just sandpaper, a ruler, and a good deal of patience. Below are the steps.

Match Saddle Tops and Draw Line

The first step is to place your old saddle on your new saddle. Match the saddle top radius. Use a pencil to draw a line on your new saddle where your old saddle’s bottom appears.

Plastic Guitar Saddle on Top of a Bone Saddle

Next, use a pencil to draw a line on your new saddle where your old saddle’s bottom appears.

Pencil Line Showing Material to Remove on Bone Guitar Saddle

Sand More of One Side

Once you have the line drawn, place a piece of sandpaper on a flat surface. On top of the sandpaper, place a straight edge, such as a ruler. Place the saddle on top of the sandpaper flush against the straight edge. Only place the treble side on the sandpaper. Do fifteen strokes on the treble half, then five strokes with the whole saddle to keep the bottom flat.

Bone Saddle on Sandpaper for Height Reduction

Flip Saddle

Flip the saddle 180 degrees, then place it on the other side of the sandpaper, again with only the treble side on the sandpaper. Your downward finger pressure while sanding will vary, and so flipping the saddle will help obtain a flat bottom. Do 15 strokes again only on the treble side, then five strokes with the whole saddle to keep the bottom flat. Adjust the number of strokes as needed, then repeat this process until the line is reached. This will take time and patience, but for most people should take about 30 to 60 minutes.

Adjust Height on Bone Guitar Saddle with Sandpaper

Other Methods

Vise

You can clamp the saddle in a metal vise just below the pencil line, then sand away most of the material. Use either a sanding block or a Dremel sanding drum mandrel and coarse band. Do final sanding by hand with the method mentioned earlier as vises often are not flat.

Belt Sander

To speed up the process you can use a belt sander to cut away the bulk of material, then do final sanding by hand to ensure flatness. However, go slowly as bone will cut more quickly than wood does.

Saw

We advise against cutting your bone saddle with a table saw, bandsaw, jigsaw, or any other type of saw. This will result in an uneven and jagged cut, and likely take off more material than you’d like. In our experience, to accurately cut small bone parts via saw requires a high precision desktop table saw along with a 90T blade with a .03 kerf or thinner. Additionally, to dial the process in will require numerous passes and is thus only economical for luthiers or guitar technicians who wish to take the same amount of material off numerous saddles.

Questions?

Have questions on how to adjust your acoustic guitar saddle? Please visit our blog for more articles or contact us.


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