The angle that the strings make coming out of the bridgepin holes and as they pass over the saddle is referred to as break angle.
The bigger the break angle, better is the sound quality, for the strings exert greater pressure on the saddle, driving it into its slot, providing greater/better contact. Consequently, there is minimal loss of energy (sound) and the sustain and volume get amplified.
All this happens if there is a tall saddle installed in the guitar. But as most of us know, the height of the saddle is directly proportional to the action: more the height, more is the action. Only on exceptionally well put together instruments does one get to see a tall saddle and a low action, which is primarily due to a great neck angle: a rarity indeed!
The photograph above is of the tallest saddle and the best break angle that I have probably ever seen.
The best of guitars that come to me have ‘okay’ break angles, and some, though only a couple of years old, have the saddle sitting barely a hair above its slot. (Break angle? What break angle?)
But then, having strings run only just ‘touching’ the saddle is not how the experts proposed it should be. In such a situation one has to ‘create’ the break angle.
One such instrument came to me, recently – a Hummingbird Pro. Interestingly, the instrument was only a couple of years old.
That it already had neck issues, was indeed sad. The easiest treatment was to cut channels (ramps) from the bridgepin holes till the saddle, for the strings to ride in.
Easy, did I say? Try cutting a slot in a 6 mm hole!
Better still, try finding something that is small enough to fit that hole but able to cut a ramp for a 0.52″ – 0.53″ string!
Whateva! I had the tool, I did the job!
This is just the 6th string slot being cut and then the other five were cut too.
After the slots were cut, a fresh set of strings was installed, but, of course, first the fretboard was cleaned up and the fretwires buffed out to a new shine.
The saddle area looked something like this
Unrelated to the story till now, is the photograph below.
It is the famed Hummingbird pickguard offered for your appreciation. Notice how the edges ‘melt’ as it were, into the top. No possibility of your fingernail, or your pick catching on its edges.
The comment is in relation to last Sunday’s post where an instrument that came to me, sported a definitely amateurish recreation. If you would like to read about it, here it is.