Tilting saddles, while they are the perfect recipe for a bridge split, are also cause for much heartburn among (acoustic) guitarists.
Why? Because once the saddle tilts (almost always forward), the scale length changes and you can say bye-bye to intonation.
Case in point is this Hertz (HZA4900BK) that landed up on my counter some time back.
And yes, it had been strung exactly how you see it in the photograph. While I couldn’t help but smile, I gently pointed out to the owner that strings should travel FROM THE INSIDE of the tuning posts to their respective posts and NOT OUTSIDE them.
There was unfortunately a lot that was wrong with the guitar. The saddle was tilting dangerously and if that wasn’t enough, it had been chewed up some.
And if you couldn’t make out in the photo above, check this out.
Leaning saddle, chewed up and plastic crap to boot. What more do you need as argument to show it the wastepaper basket? And while you’re at it, chuck the nut as well!
The nut. Now that was another story. Usually, a gentle tap dislodges a nut from its slot. Not this one. The harder I tapped, the more stubborn it became, refusing to be dislodged from its seat. Finally, when I managed to shake it loose, I saw it had taken a fair bit of the wood with it. And why? Because super glue had been used to seat it!!
See that white deposit? That only happens when you use super glue. And because it was black plastic, it was apparent; any other colour and it would have gone unnoticed. Now, I could be wrong about the super glue, but I wonder what that white deposit was and how it was caused.
So, the nut slot was pared some to keep the surface level, and in preparation to receive the new bone nut.
A new, polished, bone saddle was measured up to replace its cheap plastic cousin.
I was just beginning to shave down the saddle to the requisite height when I noticed something lurking in the saddle slot. I slapped my forehead and uttered a profanity. A saddle shim!
It has now become almost customary to have shims seated underneath saddles. And just anything will do: card, plastic, any sliver of any wood…! And what was more, there were two of them in this one! No wonder the saddle was tilting.
If half the saddle slot is taken up by shims, how do you expect the saddle to stand erect in its slot?
When I tried on the new bone saddle, there was just a whisker that needed to be shaved off for the guitar to have a good, healthy action – even as it stood erect in its slot.
If you go back and take a look at the guitar when it came in, you will notice that the saddle, nut and the bridge pins were all black. Now that I was putting in polished bone, I felt the bridge pins should also be the same off-white/cream colour. I consulted the owner and he agreed.
And so I replaced the black bridge pins with cream ones.
Meanwhile, the nut end looked something like this
Yes! That is a fresh set of strings, and yes, I did give the fretwires a healthy rub, to make them gleam again.
But to be fair to the instrument, not everything was bad about it. It had an artifitial wood fretboard which was very pretty to look at. I have never played one for a long period of time to be able to comment on its playability/durability, but I suppose it does the job it is supposed to do.
Me? I am more of a purist. Given half a chance, I would prefer rosewood or ebony for a fretboard (Walnut will also do).
And the end product?