Tips on Creating an Acoustic Guitar Saddle

When creating an acoustic guitar saddle there are a few things that I have observed in creating them:

  1. Tune the bow of the neck with the truss rod first. Get the right measurements here first.
  2. Tune the nut after the truss rod.  Get the height of the nut (and/or string slots) fixed after you’ve adjusted the bow/recess of the neck second.
  3. Make sure the materials of your nut are good.  Some cheap plastic nuts are the worst! They’ll get shaped, but tuning the next set of strings will cause new ruts, new heights, and bad intonation is the result.
  4. Make sure the shape of your nut’s radius matches your neck. Some necks are compound radii. Get the radius of the end of the neck to compare to the saddle.
  5. Use a pencil to color the top of the nut so that what you’re shaping off with a file and sandpaper will be obvious
  6. Use a ruler over the top of the saddle to cast a shadow to emphasize the same shape. Together with the pencil you will be unstoppable!
  7. Watch this video from Susan Gardener.  This goes into the math.  That’s right: the math.  Watch this. Learn it.  Internalize it.  She’s a rocket scientist who happens to also do luthiery.  Don’t skip this step because it’ll make you a better luthier.
  8. Ease into it! Don’t speed your way through the saddle creation
  9. Don’t assume an already shaped saddle (AKA compensated saddle) is compensated correctly.  You may need to move the location of the saddle’s break point (AKA saddle/string front edge) to deliver what your guitar needs
  10. The point of contact (AKA break point) that the wound strings have needs to be relatively fine.  This means that if you have a wide ledge that the strings are sitting on you’ll get a buzz.  If you have slow angle down towards the front of the saddle you’ll get a buzz.  Buzzing [if it happens all the way up the neck on every fret] is a sign of a bad angle somewhere whether it’s flat or too shallow.  Take your time and shape the string’s breaking point in a way that isn’t too sharp, or too flat, but also has the right sharp point of contact.
  11. If you can’t adjust the saddle’s break point back far enough to compensate for the intonation your bridge may need to move.  This sucks. Figure it out, but you may need to move it.

The neck bow, the nut, and the bridge and saddle combo help create the guitar’s intonation.  If your neck is warped: replace the neck (and see a psychologist because this is not a minor fix and it may lead to stress). If your nut is wrong: get a new nut and the files to slot it properly. If your bridge is in the wrong place: reseat it (and see a psychologist because this is not a minor fix and it may lead to stress).  If your saddle is wrong: get a new one.  Shape it with care.  It will really make your instrument sing if shaped correctly.

I’ve made a few saddles and nuts now and the above really helped immensely. What other tips would you offer?

Sous Vide

I’d like to get a sous vide machine (immersion circulator) and then I can sous vide all the things.  But the problem is that I can imagine a situation where the following happens:

Daughter: “Dad, corn flakes don’t need to be sous vide.”

Me: “You don’t know that.”

Radius Dish Experiment

I’ve got this problem: I’ve got a bass guitar kit that has been sitting in my closet for a huge amount of time (it’s embarrassing) – and I really want to put it together.  So I’ve been working on learning about luthery (I even started a blog about it, but then killed it since I’m such a n00b) and I’m really stunned by how much awesome information is available on jigs, tools, and techniques available.  But I have a second problem: I don’t want to spend a lot of money and a lot of time making radius dishes, which are useful for making guitars, but I’d need to buy two of them, and I don’t really want to spend ~$100 per dish on a new one.  So I thought for a bit.  I examined what I needed, what I knew about materials, and what would help me get a radius dish without having to spend so much money (you need at least two for most guitars).  What I’m sharing here is an experiment that looks to accomplish ‘radiusness’ while also being a wee frugal and to my knowledge is untrod territory.

A dodedahedron
The starting radius dish circle.

Here you can see the dodecahedron (12 sided polygon) that I started by cutting a 24-ish inch polygon.  This will create the perimeter that my peg board will rest on and be stretched into it’s radius’ed shape with.  The pine is 2.5″ tall and it’s resting on a laminate piece of MDF that I got for a song at Ikea ($1.99? yes please).  The bevel on the ends is a 105º cut. Collectively it gives me about 77 inches of perimeter. I’d like to cut them down just a touch, but that changes the geometry. The middle of the radiused dish needs to be recessed down a mere 0.3 inches to create a 24 foot radius.

The sides and the center screw on the laminate
The Sides and the center screw on the laminate

So I cut the sides (as you already saw) and found the center of the piece of laminated MDF and then needed to mark my perimeter (just in case that would help me visually).  So I tied a string to the screw in the center and used the pencil to trace out a 24″ diameter.

The 24" diameter
the 24″ diameter

 

Then, with great fear and trepidation I put the 12 sides up and placed the screw through the center whole.

The screw through the center hole
The screw through the center hole

The sides have not been glued or anchored in any way other than through the natural tension provided through the pegboard.

I placed my level over the pegboard and measured down the 0.3″ (5/16) with my combination square and carefully screwed the screw into the laminated MDF.

The combination square over the level
The combination square over the level

You can see the end result here with the level floating over the slight concave of the radius dish.

The Radius with the Level over it
The Radius with the Level over it

After all of this I used one of my screw counter-sinks and carefully by hand pulled out enough material for the head of the screw to be counter-sunk.

the counter sink
the counter sink

And now – I have to sleep – so I won’t know how well this works until later this week when I get a chance to work on this and use it.  The good news is that it appears to be stable (even without anchoring the sides) and pressing into the dish seems to be somewhat firm (with only a tiny bit of give).  With the sanding paper I bought I’m hoping to get a nice clean bracing and then that will help with the go-bar deck, which I will have to work on next 🙂

From inside you can see the bow
From inside you can see the bow

Covenants (part one of many)

There are two types of covenants: conditional and unconditional covenants.  God’s covenant with Abraham was unconditional after Abraham believed – it’s unconditional because after his belief nothing could reverse the promises God made.  God’s covenant with Israel through Moses [AKA “The Mosaic Covenant”] where He gave the Law was conditional on their obedience to the law in the land [Ex 20:1-31:18].
A covenant has several elements to be looking for:
a) participants [God and Israel through Moses]
b) provisions [The land, the seed and the blessing]
c) a state [active/inactive] if it’s conditional
d) a sign [a sacrifice on an altar, circumcision]
e) a token [the Sabbath] to remind the participants of the covenant
Covenants usually set up what theologians call a ‘dispensation’ or a period of stewardship where the provisions and tokens are observed.  However, covenants can come to an end.  When Christ came and was crucified, died, buried, resurrected, and then ascended God did away with the temple system by literally tearing down the temple through the Romans. The Law could NOT be fulfilled and was rendered inoperative. In the millennial kingdom the Law will be fulfilled again while Abraham possesses the land.

Thinking God’s Thoughts After Him

The phrase, “Thinking God’s Thoughts After Him, ” used to drive me bonkers. I wanted to be a free thinker after God’s image. The problem with my optimistic free thinking lies in the source of truth: not me. Good is the source of truth and if I’m to think on truth in going to have to be thinking about His revealed truth after Him.

I consider myself creative as my art and craft often reflect new-to-me experiences, but I’m also highly analytical and yet the truth I find is rooted in exploring God’s creativitt, His truth and then exploring creatively potential appropriations and then subjecting those to analytical comparison of God’s revelation and His approved appropriations as revelation preserves.

God’s Thoughts are perfect. They’re worthy of meditation. They’re worthy of thinking after Him.

Yessing and Knowing

I keep seeing or reading quotes and articles about saying yes to more things for experience and saying no to more things for time management.  This balance is crazy hard because you can’t say yes to everything and not become overwhelmed, but you can’t say no to everything or else life gets very boring 🙂

There’s actually something powerful about combining the two so that you say yes to only the experiences and opportunities that will truly add value. Then you’ll know when. To say yes and know when to say no.  It’s a longer term perspective thing.

Vulnerable

I’m Mr. TMI (too much information). It’s my defense mechanism. You see shame loses its power when you speak about something that might be embarrassing. The cat’s out of the bag. I’ve never been very popular and often growing up in public school I was ridiculed for various things: my faith, my hobbies, my idiosyncrasies, my love of music (I wasn’t a jock). So I over shared and over – informed so that I could reduce the fact that someone else would shine light on my ‘weirdness.’ I’ll just put it out there in the open.

All that to say when my friend Dave O’Hara told me about the book Daring Greatly the topic resonated with me. Vulnerability is a powerful tool for intimacy between people, but shame keeps us from committing to true vulberability. It turns out people use one of (at least) two techniques to handle the shame issue, both of which may hinder intimacy through vulnerability. One way is to over shared (like me), the other way is to strive for perfection. Perfection has no shame – except that no one is truly perfect and no one is going to escape from the shame of their eventual imperfection.

I’m learning a lot about vulnerability and shame as I read the book, but I’m finding that I am guessing the next chapter or point because the implications of these topics in the research is very, very real to me.

I want to be vulnerable and intimate with others, but I need to do that in a healthy way. I want to put shame away in my relationships. I want to rise up to the challenge of healthy intimacy. It’s  a great place to be at nearly 38. I haven’t been here before.

Where are you growing?

That One Subway Story

Some time ago – back when I lived in Texas – I had food allergies and was allergic to wheat.  One day my co-workers decided that we should go to Subway for lunch and I went along.  When we got there I saw their sign advertising that they’d turn any sandwich into a salad.  I really like philly cheesesteak, so I decided that ordering that cheesy goodness on a salad was worth the awkwardness.  Once the salad was paid for I sat down and chuckled to myself.  My co-worker Blader asked what I was laughing about and I told him that if I came back I’d order the meatball sub because that would be ridiculous.  We laughed and moved onto other conversation.

The next day someone asked, “Where do you want to go to lunch?,” and Blader quickly answered, “Let’s go to Subway.  Randy needs to order the meatball salad.”  So we went.  As I approached the counter I said, “This is going to sound weird but I’d like to order the meatball sub as a salad.”  The guy didn’t skip a beat when he replied, “That’s OK, yesterday some person ordered a philly cheesesteak as a salad.”