Forum - Banjo Ben Clark

Tusq Versus Bone

any guitar should have bone for a saddle and a nut. List price for a new martin like mine is at 2,100 bucks and it should have had bone and a ebony finger board for that much. but I recommend to replace both the nut and the saddle with bone . it made my guitar sing it was like a different guitar so bright and clear and the tone was very good. I had to thin the saddle down but got a snug fit which always helps the tone. Works better on the amp also . I was a success if not at anything else, I got the saddle in correctly.

I prefer bone too. The saddle can make a pretty big change in tone. I changed one with fossilized ivory out and bone was a huge improvement. Like you, I also moved one from tusq to bone, and on that one the tone change wasn’t as drastic. However, the tusq actually got grooves worn pretty quick on that particular guitar.

I have one guitar that has a micarta saddle, and I actually kind of like that particular combination (OM18 + micarta). I think that’s the only non-bone that I have left.

Could be the problem with the tusq on the Martin it had grooves and that may have let the strings go to low (reason for the string buzz) It is actually like a new guitar tight the notes sound so much better . I am sold for sure . for $13.00 I have one saddle left and two nuts I might tackle the nut or might go to a repairman to have that done . It would cost me a bunch to buy the files needed to cut the slots out . these are pre-cut but not very deep and it looks as though it is for light gauge which is fine but never know when I might want to change back and the medium slots work out for light gauge also.

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… I changed one with fossilized ivory out and bone was a huge improvement…

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Curious. Was the fossilized ivory hard or soft like mammoth ivory? Any experience with Corian? BTW, someone at Martin gave me a micarta saddle this week. The micarta seems not so dense and very plastic-like. I use bone and hard African ivory on my guitars and can’t tell much difference between the two. I have a set of very hard fossilized walrus ivory that I’m going to try one one of my next builds. Good to read the comments about Tusq; I think I’ll avoid that.

The FWI had much less punch than the bone. For flatpicking, bone was a great improvement. FWI doesn’t “seem” soft, but it has a softer sound than bone. I have tried Corian for a nut. It seemed to sound fine, but I don’t notice as big a change with the nut. I don’t think I have tried a Corian saddle. The Micarta does seem soft, but oddly enough, it doesn’t wear quickly. I can’t really A/B the sound as I haven’t changed it (it’s a glue in… otherwise I would have tried bone already). I suspect it is less punchy and warmer than bone. I like that particular guitar with the Micarta, so I am reluctant to change it out.

I suspect that bone can change wildly from sample to sample which gives an advantage to one of the man-made materials for manufacturers to use (consistent tone from instrument to instrument). However, I much prefer a bone saddle and nut to any other material. As Mike already noted, bone seems to have an immediate reaction to string plucking (punch) and also seems to impart a brighter ring or more upper harmonics to string tone (clearer, more crystalline).

I also like that bone allows you to stain it to make it match older instruments (a little brown stain will make the bone look aged). And bone polishes up very nicely to a shiny, smooth finish.

That is what gets me in trouble shiny and smooth objects seem to open my wallet LOL

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That is what gets me in trouble shiny and smooth objects seem to open my wallet LOL

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Well alright! I’m glad to hear I am not the only person that collects dolphins.