Acoustic Guitar Community

Welcome to the Acoustic Guitar Community.

Okay in my quest for making my Maestro sound as good as it can, and knowing that when I cut a new nut out of bone how much the instrument improved-I was wondering if all y'all had any sources for saddle material?


I don't know a lot about TUSQ(?) vs. bone.  I understand TUSQ is a synthetic material but is it plastic-in which case I might as well stick with the plastic already in the guitar.  Also what about "compensated" saddles?  Certain catalogs and on line places have compensated saddles for Martins and Taylors, but nothing for Gibbies.  Finally will say a saddle for a Taylor or Martin fit a Gibson, as I can't seem to locate any cut for Gibson?



Tags: TUSQ, bone, nut, saddles

Views: 1323

Replies to This Discussion

Yes TUSQ is a synthetic material but it is not a plastic as such it is an advanced polymer material but I would advise you to upgrade to bone. The bone usually comes from cows. You can get bleached bone which looks cleaner, more white, or vintage bone which has been aged and looks distinctly yellowy but is much harder. You normally buy saddle blanks and shape them yourself although you can get pre-shaped ones now. Most important is that you measure the thickness before ordering (they come in 3/32", 9/64", 1/8" and even 7/32" for making your own compensated saddles) or better still get a Luthier to install it for you. The string heights are measured and the top of the saddle filed/sanded down to the correct to fit the radius of your instrument. You can do it yourself in fact there was a great article in AG which explains how to do it. You really need accurate gauges to ensure that your strings are the right height above the higher frets. Plastic does not transmit vibration as well as bone which is much denser. Vintage bone is harder still (more difficult to file) and will look yellow. Vintage instrument owner often prefer vintage bone because is matches the look of the guitar.

Stewmac supply saddle blanks. They have Micarta, TUSQ, Bone & Vintage bone.

Micarta Saddle
An excellent synthetic bone substitute, specified by Martin for nuts and saddles since the 1960s. Cream in color and a bit softer than bone, it files and sands easily and gives a uniform tone. Its uniform density is ideal for use with undersaddle transducer pickups. Each blank has a flat bottom surface; shaping and slotting required.

Tusq Saddles
TUSQ® is an advanced polymer material made with high levels of heat and pressure, to transfer string energy and sustain more consistently and efficiently. Used by leading guitar manufacturers for rich tone. Also great for use with undersaddle transducer systems. Final trimming required.

White Bone Saddles
Bone is traditionally preferred for making nuts and saddles on quality instruments. Its hardness and density contributes to good tone, it polishes well, and it allows more precise filing.

Vintage Bone Saddles
Bone is traditionally preferred for making nuts and saddles on quality instruments. Our "vintage style" bone is an unbleached, super-hard version with a mottled cream color that has an antique look. Its hardness and density contributes to good tone, it polishes well, and it allows more precise filing.

Check the width before ordering. They come in many different widths. is their size.

You can even use Ivory instead but it is difficult to obtain. It is still available from sustainable source or recovered from dead animals. Ivory was used by very early Martins and Classical/Flamenco guitars. It is slightly softer than cow bone. Some prefer the tone.

A saddle blank is normally compensated for individual string length by a professional Luthier when action and string guages have been decided upon and stabalised. A fraction of the sides of the saddle is graound off to compensate each string to ensure the fretted 12th note is the same as the harmonic created at the 12th fret.

Good luck.
Everything said below is true. Now as to what you are looking for, I suggest the following. Listen to your guitar. What is its current tone. Is it bright, boomy, balanced? Do you use a plectrum? What kind, and is it thick or thin? And what strings do you use? All of them add up to create your tone. Do you want your tone brighter, then a hard nut and saddle will take you in that direction and your bridge pins will multiply or reduce their impact.
On my Gibson L130, which I play both with a pick (V-pick acoustic mostly)I ended up needing to up the brightness and the following configuration did the trick. bleached (camel) bone nut, saddle & pins (from LMI) strung with light gauge Martin Special Phosphor Bronze (bronze core) strings. For my Worland OM which I use for fingerstyle, I settled on the same nut & saddle but used black horn pins. Strings remain an issue & I go back and forth with the Martings and John Pearse Lights.
On other guitars I have used everything from tusc to ebony in various place and even had one old box set up with vitum lignae at the nut.
Bottom line, focus on the sound you want to pursue, start with finding the right string, listen care fully and then have a luthier set up the instrument with a new saddle and pins. Listen some more and settle on your nut choice. It takes a while but I find the fussing to be fun.
Good listening,
Another source for ivory is a butcher shop; pigs have tusks. Shaping ivory for nuts and saddles is more difficult but, as written earlier, some prefer the tone. Compensated saddles are great but if you don't have the tools to measure your strings for optimum length, you're just guessing. Buying them already shaped is a compromise and you can lower the strings by filing the bottom of the saddle, but they are mass produced and are not exact. Companies like Stew-Mac sell the intonation tools but they are very expensive. Any good luthier will have the tools and should be able to make a precise, custom saddle for your guitar.
I think Stewmac has it all! PLUS great tech support! They are not cheap, but they have everything! See link on John's post below. Edward
As a follow up to this, I did indeed end up getting a TUSQ saddle for the guitar. Once sanded down and properly shaped (I had to buy a blank and shape it myself) the tonal improvement as well as improvements in playability were amazing. Sustain increased by about 6 X over what I had previously, Notes once strummed or picked just hang around instead of quickly dropping off-with the plastic that Gibson originally used for both the nut and the saddle sustain was virtually nill! Tonal quality improved as well once I switched out the nut and saddle. Instead of muddy, mirky sounds the instrument now has sparkling highs, rich deep bass and nice mid range.

And yes it was easy to trim and shape the TUSQ it comes with instructions for those who normally would not have a clue!

Wassup Janice?  This guy Bob Colosi has very nice saddle/nut stuff, and I think the saddle is more of a sound link than the nut, but check him out and open your wallet wide.  I just buy a blank bone piece from Guitar Plus USA and shape it.  He's at    Dave


Check Out the Latest in Acoustic Guitar

Free e-newsletter!

Sign up for Acoustic Guitar Weekly—the weekly e-mail newsletter that delivers coverage of players and gear, lessons and technique tips, and advice about performing and recording. Get it now!




Be alerted to the latest articles on, including lessons, CD, guitar, and gear reviews, how-to tips, and player profiles.

© 2016   Created by Acoustic Guitar.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service