I’ve raved and ranted about bone nuts and saddles but in all those mentions, I don’t think I’ve ever said this so unequivocally: using just a bone saddle or just a bone nut, with the other element being some other material, is just half the fun! You want to see what your acoustic guitar can really do, use both the saddle and nut made of bone.
The best of guitars in the Indian market do not carry a bone nut and saddle set from the manufacturer – or at least that has been the case in the guitars that I have had the occasion to study. The reason for that, partly, is that there is not much awareness about (and consequently a demand for) the use of bone as nut and saddle material, in these parts of the world. And then there is the cost-to-the-manufacturer factor.
At best you will have a bone saddle, as if that is supposed to take care of all your tone issues. Just as it was in this Epiphone Hummingbird Pro. It had a bone saddle but a plastic (or some synthetic material) nut.
Plus, the fretboard had a fairly healthy amount of DNA, dust and grime deposition on it which would not go with just a hot-water bath. A fresh set of strings was also desperately needed, and then there were those general things that had to be looked into and rectified, if needed.
I started with the fretboard because that was a ‘big’ eyesore staring at me. I had to use a scraper and, naturally, care had to be taken not to scrape out more than was necessary.
That done, I took a look at the done fretboard and though I was pleased with the results, I thought I could see a bit more relief in it than was required. As it is, the owner had complained about a higher-than-comfortable action. I measured it and, indeed, it was a little more than was needed. So, I dialled the right amount of relief in.
And yes, that is the new bone nut installed. I got lucky as far as the nut-sizing was concerned. The bone nut sat near perfect in its slot and just a touch of the sandpaper took care of the excess material.
Then it was the turn of the hardware on the headstock. It was loose and just my trustee right-sized spanner did the trick.
When I did put the fresh set of .012″ – .052″ strings, I was happy to see that I did not need to untune the guitar, pull out the saddle, shave it some to get the action right. Just taking out that extra relief from the neck was enough to get the action where the owner wanted it.
The last photograph was taken in my bedroom: proof that I played it some. I enjoyed playing the instrument. The action was good, the response of the guitar was good, the sustain was good. It was all good!
And the owner thought so too!