What Are Bone Saddles?
Among replacement parts on a guitar, after the strings, a bone saddle will have the most notable effect on a guitar’s tone. So, what are bone saddles? Bone saddles are a natural material that had been traditionally used on guitars and are now almost always used for higher-end guitars from the factory/builder. Guitars that come with plastic. Bone saddles used in guitars almost always are made from cow bone, although bone from other animals is sometimes used. The saddle is the strip of hard material set into the bridge that lifts the strings to the desired height. The saddle plays a key role in the production of tone because it transfers the string vibrations into the bridge, which then flows to the guitar top, which is key to the guitar’s tone.
Benefits of Bone Saddles
There are many reasons bone saddles are used, including the following:
- Increased clarity and sustain
- Better overtones
- Overall richer tone
- Longer lasting than plastic saddles
Furthermore, bone has a touch of natural fat content and has a slight self-lubricating aspect for the strings, which will slide smoothly during tuning.
Drawbacks of Bone Saddles
Bleached Versus Unbleached Bone Saddles
Unbleached Bone Saddles
Unbleached bone is a slightly harder material and will produce a subtly different tone from that of bleached bone. Many guitarists prefer the tone of unbleached bone as it will produce a slightly fuller tone than bleached bone does. Unbleached bone has a yellowish-brown color that is inconsistent not only from saddle to saddle, but within an individual saddle as well. Unbleached bone is often used for older guitars as it is a similar color to aged bone.
Bleached Bone Saddles
Although more properly called ‘whitened’ bone saddles since actual bleach is often not used for the whitening process, bleached bone saddles will have a consistent white color that is often desirable for newer guitars. The bone should be whitened with peroxide rather than actual bleach. The peroxide will make the bone slightly softer, but the bone is still solid. Lower quality bone saddles might have been whitened with actual bleach for the whitening process as actual bleach is much easier to whiten bone with. However, the bleach will also result in a bone that has a weak, chalk-like texture that results in poor tone and does not stand the test of time.