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Steve Carmody Guitar


By Steve Carmody

Removing current production Martin guitar vintage style "long saddles" can be a technical challenge for the luthier. At the factory, they are glued in with super-glue, which makes future removal, for either replacement or under-saddle pickup installation, more difficult than removing the more common drop-in style of saddle.

long saddle prep

The only sure method of cleanly removing them is by first routing most of the material and then extracting the rest. Actually, the first step is to reduce most of the height of the saddle down to the ebony bridge by either sanding or filing until it has a low flat profile. As an apprentice I was instructed to cut away most excess material and sand only to refine these larger definitions. Indeed, I still believe that as a general rule, for efficiency when sizing parts, it is best to remove the biggest amount of material with the biggest practical tool, before executing detail work. So in this case a coarse rasp efficiently brings the saddle down to a low flat profile.

long saddle prep

Then, using a routing jig manufactured by the Stewart Macdonald company, a rotary router made by Crafstman tools and Dremel Engraving cutter #106 ( a 1/16" diameter cutting bit, 1/31" narrower than the 3/32" Martin saddle). I make repeated passes through the saddle, taking just a small amount with each pass. By making these incrementally small cuts I help assure the accuracy of my work.

long saddle

Finally there is just a thin wafer of ivory remaining and I can use a razor blade to separate the rest of the saddle from the otherwise unmarred saddle slot. I find that a small amount of solvent alcohol brushed into the slot seems to help in this process.

long saddle 3

The new long saddle can then be fitted and installed. If you like you can use just a small amount of glue at the ends of the new saddle, but I prefer not use super glue so that future removal of the saddle will not be such a dramatic affair.

long saddle 4

Steve Carmody is an independant guitar repairman and luthier with a shop in Silver Spring, Md. He has been doing guitar repair and restoration full-time since 1990. He reserves all rights to the contents of this article. Republishing of this material without attribution is not nice. Questions about this article or anything else related to guitar repair? Send e-mail to -