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Filing A Saddle


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I just got a new martin Hd-28v. The setup on it is marginal.

It plays in tune, but the action is pretty bad. I am using medium strings on it and it just doesn't play comfortably.

I put some light gauge on there and it feels great, but I have a problem playing with light gauge strings.

So i guess i have to file the saddle down a little bit. But I am not too familiar with what i need to do.

I was planning to file the back/bottom of the saddle down just a little bit. But I don't know how much it will mess up the guitar's intonation. Please advise me as to what I should do. thanks

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lowering the saddle shouldn't change the intonation at all so i wouldn't worry about that. just remove the strings and draw a line with a sharp pencil across the saddle where it enters the bridge. then draw another line exactly parrallel to that one say 1/16th of an inch from the bottom. lay some 120 grit sandpaper on a flat piece of wood or metal and sand to the first line moving the saddle over the sandpaper, not the other way.. try it in the guitar and if you're happy with the string height you're home free..if not draw another line, sand and so on 'til you get it where you want it.

good luck

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  • 2 weeks later...

I'd do pretty much as described, except that you should check the neck relief first, then the nut, and then the saddle height.

The way I adjust the relief is to adjust the rod such that if I hit the B string (it usually has the least tension) hard enough to buzz, it does so equally from the 1st fret up to the 7th fret or so. If it buzzes more easily near the nut you have too little relief and vice versa. However, if the rod doesn't tighten easily with the guitar tuned to pitch, you may not want to mess with it if you aren't experienced with that sort of thing. One thing you really don't want to do is overtighten the rod. In fact, the first thing you should do is loosen it. It may be tightened all the way now.

I don't do nut work myself ... it's fiddly (a few thou doesn't make a difference at the saddle but certainly does at the nut) and, frankly, I can get a whole new nut made by a professional for less than what nut slotting files cost. If you're not going to take this step, when you're measuring the action put a capo on the 1st fret and measure at the 13th fret instead of the 12th.

As for the saddle, you didn't specify how high the strings are off the frets. The thing about doing this sort of thing yourself is that it's pretty straighforward to do a lot of it, but the trick is being able to tell what you've got to work with. If you want low action you'll have to have a level fretboard with controlled relief and without uneven frets. It'll also be more sensitive to humidity changes. And you may very well get a change in tone.

BTW ... IMO 1/16" is a bit much to shave off at first. Start with 1/32". That's be lowering the action by 1/64" at the 12th fret, which is quite noticeable. Unlike electrics, it's a lot easier to lower action on an acoustic than to raise it.

One more thing ... when lowering a saddle I freehand it until I'm close to the line and then use a small square to finish sanding. It's fairly easy to stay parallel to the line lengthwise (it's about 3" long but 1/8" or 3/32" wide) but not crossways. It's extremely important the bottom be square and it's not easy to do freehand. I guarantee your tone will suffer if you don't get the bottom flat.

Edited by Hoser Rob
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