I’ve resolved to play more acoustic guitar in the New Year — both because I have a lovely instrument that deserves attention, and because it’s a great way to build up strength and dexterity. There’s no reason most of what I’m learning jazz-wise can’t be picked on my Martin. Moreover, after long hours of practice on a set of acoustic 0.013s, I’ll be that much more fleet-fingered on my electric at band practice.
The ol’ D-28 was overdue for a new set of bronzewounds. With the old strings off, it also made sense to do some long-neglected saddle maintenance. As the pic above shows, years of heavy strings had worn some pretty deep grooves. Ideally, the strings on an acoustic should break cleanly across the ridge of the saddle; grooves are inevitable over time, but if they get too deep, tone and intonation can be effected.
I installed my Martin’s current saddle back in college; it’s made of fossil mammoth ivory, a material prized for strength, consistency, and (most importantly) tone. Mammoth ivory saddles are pricey, so I wanted to keep this one intact if at all possible. That meant pulling it from the bridge slot and carefully taking it down from the top with my trusty mill file. I was also aiming to lower the action a shade, which gave me some wiggle room to really get below the grooves. Slow and steady wins the race — I filed a little bit at a time, making sure to maintain the original radius and curvature (most good saddles are carefully shaped to compensate for intonation).
And voila! I was quite pleased with the final product; the saddle looks great and my guitar plays better than I can remember in a long time. You can see the saddle is getting low, which suggests this guitar probably has a neck reset in its not-too-distant future (an eventual requirement for every steel-string).