Safely Removing a Martin Guitar Through Saddle

Safely removing a Martin Through Saddle on this old 1950 00-17  is important.

DSC_0011These old through saddles are installed nothing like the new, drop-in saddles on today’s Martin Guitars.   In fact, they are glued in, and you should know that before you attempt to remove them.  The glue that was used originally was hot animal hide glue and that is what I’ll be using to install the new, taller saddle after I am finished with the neck reset on this instrument.  I first have to remove this old ivory saddle.

There are a couple of things to consider here before attempting the removal process. The first is to carefully determine whether or not the old glue is actually still holding he saddle in place.  Don’t be fooled by the use of “old fashioned” hot hide glue.  It is some very useful and diverse stuff.  I use it in my shop every day … not just because it is traditional, but if it is used correctly, it is often a superior choice over most other glues, especially for fine musical instruments.  It has much better acoustic properties for applications like this and it holds very strong as well as lets go without damaging the surrounding areas… if you know what you are doing.

I need to do two things to remove this saddle without damaging this original Brazilian rosewood bridge.  I need to heat up the saddle and get some moisture under it if possible to help get the crystallized glue to let go.

DSC_0012Frank Ford of Frets.com inspired this one.  I have never seen anybody actually do this but as aggravating as it is to heat up an old ivory saddle with a soldering pencil (and as often as I have to remove these through saddles) I made an attachment for my soldering gun that will cover the entire saddle, heat up evenly and (more importantly) give me control!

It will sit on top of the old saddle without touching the bridge and it doesn’t obstruct DSC_0013my view of the work.  I may buy a second soldering gun and leave this installed permanently so I don’t have to worry about setting up for different hobs with my gun.

Once you get a little movement on the bass side you can use a pipet to carefully inject some hot water (from your hide glue pot) under the saddle, heat a little more and gently coax the saddle out with your end nips.  If you are patient, you will be able to remove the saddle with no damage at all.  Best of all, you’ll get to hold on to these old saddles and perhaps recycle them on an old Martin guitar when one come in with a broken saddle.  I like being able to replace original parts with original parts even if they need a little alteration to make them work.

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The last thing that must be done while everything is hot and wet is to carefully scrape the old glue out in preparation for the new saddle.  I add a little more hot water and cautiously scrape the old glue out without altering the saddle slot.  If that happens you will have other problems to deal with.  After I dry everything off and I’m ready to finish this job.

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Thank you for spending this time with me!

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Richie Dotson
Acoustic Box LLC
11000 Long Branch Drive
Chesterfield, VA 23832
Shop:  (804) 790-1705
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