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Old 01-23-2008, 01:57 PM
AnthemBassMan AnthemBassMan is offline
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Default Making Your Own Bone Saddle...

-As per the request of a member, thanks Elliott, I am reposting my question on this subject. Hopefully I get some good answers so here goes....

-Has anyone here actually made their own saddle or nut from fresh cow bone? I read on a page I found that after I boil the bone pieces for a couple hours and scrub them clean, I should soak them in Coleman lantern fuel for up to 3 weeks to degrease them. I was wondering if this is the way it should be done for sure or if anyone else here has a different method.

-I work in a grocery store and found a really nice, solid piece of bone from a soup bone shank. I cut it on the bandsaw to roughly just under 1/2" square by about 5" long. Cost me 17 cents for the bone because everything has to be weighed and paid for. I've already went through the boiling and they have been in the fuel for the last couple days. I figure I have enough good clean bone for a saddle or two plus probably a nut. I know I could just buy a premade saddle or blank, but I was wanting to try this myself. Including the Coleman fuel, I have a total of about $5 in it.

L8R,
Matt D.
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Old 01-23-2008, 05:45 PM
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No. I'm too lazy. I would just buy one if I was inclined to change one out (and we own a cattle farm). Let us know how it goes.
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Old 01-23-2008, 05:52 PM
AnthemBassMan AnthemBassMan is offline
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-Will do. It might be about three weeks when it's done, but I'll report the final results.

L8R,
Matt D.
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Old 01-24-2008, 10:48 AM
TommyK TommyK is offline
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Never heard about the coleman latern fuel. I suspecty the Coleman fuel will need to eventually be cleaned off as well as it may leave an oily residue, preventing glue from adhering. I susbscribe to "Backwoodsman Magazine". A while back, reader submitted an article about making re-enacting items made of bone such as buttons, toggles, and small tools.

He recommended:
  1. Open the bone up and cleaning out the marrow. The direction, sliced like sandwich bread or sliced like a hotdog bun, depended upon what you were making. Hotdog bun sounds good for a guitar saddle.
  2. Boil the cleaned and gutted bone in water with dish soap. I don't know how much soap. How long? I don't recall. Maybe 10 minutes.
  3. Allow boiling water and bone to cool naturally so as to not impart any stress cracks to the bone
  4. Perform the boiling and cooling process 3 times, changing soap/water each time.
  5. You're ready to make your items from bone.

Fresh is best. If it's been cooked, either at home or commercially as store bought dog bones are, it may have been over heated.

17 sounds down right reasonable for bone saddle material. If you ammortize this over several saddles and nuts the price is just pennies! Plus, you have the added advantage of pride from making it from scratch.

Let us know how it works.
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Old 01-24-2008, 02:51 PM
martinedwards martinedwards is offline
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personally I'd throw the bone to a big dog and let it gnaw at it for a while, THEN boil it, then leave it to bleach in the sun for a summer.

I've made a bunch of saddles and nuts (a nut & 2 saddles today believe it or not) and I've never been seriously tempted to try this!!

shame on me!!
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Old 01-24-2008, 06:27 PM
AnthemBassMan AnthemBassMan is offline
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-I've already boiled the bone in water and dish soap for approx 2 hrs. Actually boiled for a few minutes, then turned down to a simmer. There wasn't any marrow in the bone, just a solid chunk that I cut from the side of the shank after I cut the knuckles off. That I made sure of. Here's a copy of the article I found.

Note: the following is a long discussion of and instruction for bone
cleaning and preparation, not exactly graphic, but nonetheless specific.


It's easy but involved to prepare bone really REALLY properly for
instrument work--I found that my experience as a vertebrate museum
curator/preparator at UC was invaluable in this regard because it taught
me how to prepare bone really well, and how short-lived some crafts
processes really are (museum material is prepared so that it will survive
for centuries). The main problem in lutherie is producing material that
will do the job, last a long time, and not damage the instrument it was
meant to enhance. That means that the bone must be very clean and
grease-free and therefore stable and harmless to nearby materials.
Cleaning and degreasing are conceptually and technically easy, but natural
materials being what they are, it's sometimes too easy to lose patience
with the preparative process and accept "almost-right" material. Don't.


Source material is pretty easy--the best place to look is a grocery store.
Buy a fresh cow "knuckle" or a section of long bone, (commonly
sold for soup, often not on display but almost always available). You can
also use other species and bones, but cow bone has the virtues of density,
size, and limited (sometimes nonexistent) marrow cavity. Ask the butcher
to saw the knobby ends from the bone, or do it yourself with a bandsaw or
hacksaw. Extract as much soft tissue as possible from the exposed marrow
cavity (straightened wire coat hanger and compressed air is a wonderful
combination), then immerse the bone in water or water with household
ammonia or a little mild detergent added. The ammonia method cleans best
and fastest but requires a stove with an efficient exhaust hood, the
detergent is not too far behind (Ivory liquid or similar), and pure water
works well but takes longer. The advantage of pure water is that the
resulting broth is soup. Bring the liquid to a boil, then reduce heat and
simmer for 30-40 minutes (ammonia in water), 50-90 minutes (detergent in
water), or up to two hours (pure water). The object is to cook away the
soft tissue and begin the degreasing process. After the assigned time,
remove and cool the bone, then use running water in combination with
fingernails and a stiff brush to remove the remaining soft tissue--don't
be afraid to return to the simmer pot.


After the bone is cleaned of soft tissue, air-dry for a day or so, then
cut with a bandsaw or hacksaw to oversize blanks (bridge, nut, saddles,
etc). Air-dry the blanks for at least 2-3 days, perhaps a week during
humid times--to degrease properly they really have to be bone-dry, so to
speak..... Degreasing is the most overlooked and under-done step in bone
preparation, even in a few museum preps. Greasy bone will leach fat
slowly but forever, and the grease will contaminate glue joints, make
finish and wood part company, stain and degrade wood, and itself
eventually destroy the bone through a process of slow combustion (one
carbon at a time). I once attempted to repair a Martin D28 with a homemade
bone saddle that had leached grease right through the ebony, so that it
had seeped into the top, caused the bridge AND BRIDGE PLATE to loosen, and
was almost impossible to remove completely so that a new bridge and bridge
plate could be installed. I still have nightmares.... Trouble is, bone
can look clean yet have a substantial grease content that won't manifest
itself for years, but by then some of the damage will be much too advanced
to fix. If I've made you paranoid about bone grease and convinced you to
avoid using bone that even has the hint of a tiny possibility that there
might be a microliter of grease somewhere in it, good.


To degrease bone, immerse the very dry blanks in about ten volumes of
white gas for 1-3 _weeks_. White gas, AKA Coleman fuel, is really
flammable and so this step should be done in a glass container outdoors
somewhere in the shade far from structures. Really greasy bone will
discolor the white gas after just a day or two so replace it at that time.
The safest disposal for small amounts of white gas is probably to allow it
to dissipate into the atmosphere, but if you decide to go into production
and generate lots of waste white gas, best make prior arrangements for its
legal disposal. BTW, museum preparators use much more toxic solvents, such
as carbon tetrachloride (CCl4), but only under extremely carefully
controlled conditions that are simply not available out in the real world.
Improperly vented CCl4 will eat your liver and cause you to die very
prematurely, to put it bluntly, so that's why I recommend white gas (which
is bad enough).


After the requisite degrease time (which can and should be extended if the
bone shows any sign of residual grease, such as translucent spots), remove
the bone blanks from the gasoline, rinse once in clean gas, and air-dry.
Degreased bone should dry really fast, like in much less than an hour--if
it doesn't, there is residual grease in the bone so put it back in a new
gasoline bath. Again, I can't over-emphasize the importance of thorough
degreasing--you could badly damage someone's valuable instrument if you
use greasy bone.


Next, shape and final-fit (but don't install yet) the bone item--nut,
saddle, etc, and polish it with fine compound (tripoli, then rouge, after
smoothing with a file and wet-or-dry sandpaper. If the bone is not white
enough (an individual preference--it will be pretty white after
degreasing, but not glistening white), bleach with hydrogen peroxide. I
use 3% peroxide, the garden variety drugstore purported antiseptic, and
immerse the bone for about ten minutes. Longer tends to overwhiten and
make the bone look flat. Air-dry and glue in place. DO NOT USE HOUSEHOLD
BLEACH FOR THIS OPERATION!!. It won't bleach, and it seeps into bone and
comes back later to haunt you--it makes the bone friable, but usually not
for several years. Museum people generally avoid bleach, because though
in years past it was sometimes used for skeletal preparations, most such
specimens have long since literally crumbled to dust. Nowadays museum
people almost universally use ammonia (at household strength) for chemical
cleaning of skeletal material. Bleach is potentially useful during the
cleaning process, but ammonia is so much safer for the bone and just as
effective for cleaning that the choice is clear. Ammonia also begins the
degreasing process (as does detergent), which bleach won't. Also,never mix
household bleach and household or any other kind of primary ammonia
(NH4OH.H2O), because your final memory will be of the pretty green but
acrid chlorine gas that emanates and causes pulmonary edema.


I realize this was much more than most want to know about where bone comes
from, but like any preparative process for natural materials (wood
seasoning, etc), the bone-cleaning process is involved* and best done
properly start to finish if you want your nut/saddle/bridge to look nice,
work well, and last longest.


Sean Barry

*Also, if the above seems very involved and tedious, it's because it is,
and that's why for most of my work I purchase bone and saddle blanks from
the various lutherie suppliers. These are imported from Japan, and are
marvelously clean, grease-free, and inexpensive. The above instruction is
really necessary only for unusually large bone pieces, which this post
addressed.


L8R,
Matt D.

Last edited by AnthemBassMan; 01-25-2008 at 12:05 PM.
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Old 01-24-2008, 06:42 PM
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You all are making this way too hard. Most pet supply stores sell sterilized bone sections. They're in the dog section of the store. It's ready for cutting, and you can make several nuts or bridge saddles from one chunk of bone. They're available at www.upco.com and are item numbers 900M & 900XL. The prices are $1.39 and $2.05

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Old 01-25-2008, 12:04 PM
AnthemBassMan AnthemBassMan is offline
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-Not trying to make it harder than it should be, I just want to make a saddle from total scratch. The only other thing I could have done was slaughter the cow myself, but that's been years. I just didn't want to buy a premade blank. But cutting excess meat from it, cutting to rough size, then cleaning and processing it is as close to it as I can get. It's just one of those thing where I can look at it and think, "If I didn't use that piece of bone for my guitar, someone would have used it for soupbone." Yeah, I'm a bit odd.

L8R,
Matt D.
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Old 01-25-2008, 12:36 PM
TommyK TommyK is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AnthemBassMan View Post
-Not trying to make it harder than it should be, I just want to make a saddle from total scratch. The only other thing I could have done was slaughter the cow myself, but that's been years. I just didn't want to buy a premade blank. But cutting excess meat from it, cutting to rough size, then cleaning and processing it is as close to it as I can get. It's just one of those thing where I can look at it and think, "If I didn't use that piece of bone for my guitar, someone would have used it for soupbone." Yeah, I'm a bit odd.

L8R,
Matt D.

Don't be an apologist ABM. There is nothing wrong with being self reliant, not expecting to find all your needs in a big box store.

I find the cleaning shown above and explanation helpful. I'm thankful I now know that cleaning bone sufficient to make a re-enactor's knife handle is not sufficient for cleaning nut and saddle material. To me, gas seemed a bit extreme, but knowing it comes from a museum curator adds credence to using the gas. I suppose unleaded automotive gasoline would also suffice.

We used to have carbon-tet on the farm. It was sold, decades ago in glass globes like large light bulbs. They were called carbon-tet grenades. They were used as fire suppressants. I've seen them in two types of containers. one was an 8 pack arranged in a metal carrier like the old 8 packs of soda. In the event of a fire one would thrown these glass globes into the fire. The other was a bracket mounted on a wall with a firing mechanism. The bracket held the globe and the mechanism released a spring loaded pin, triggered by high temperatures of a fire, which shattered the glass. In a closed room, the carbon-tet quickly binds with oxygen, thus suffocating the fire and any living being who happened to stick around too long. I removed many of these from barns, corn cribs and homes, yes homes near where I grew up.

If you're really into self reliance, I subscribe to "Backwoodsman Magazine" which might be right up your alley. Readers are the writers. Every month you can learn how things used to be done when your 'Wal-Mart' was the woods, streams and prairies. Everything from making fire, keeping food refrigerated to making biodiesel from the soybeans in your grain bin. Here's their website if your interested. http://www.backwoodsmanmag.com/ The ads are few, articles written in plain language, but the info within are priceless.
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"Epi" FT145-SB 1970-ish
"Stella" Harmony Stella
"Jean" not so old Yamaha FG something or other
"Tillie", Short for "Otilda" Applause classic AE-33 (had to have an "O" name.)
"no name yet" S. Armienteras Spanish guit tar

Not a fancy stable, but they work for me.

Last edited by TommyK; 01-25-2008 at 12:44 PM.
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Old 01-25-2008, 12:49 PM
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Bob Colosi http://www.guitarsaddles.com/ is a member here. He really is the expert in this area. Why don't you email him and ask his advice? I think you'll find him to be one heck of a nice guy. I bought a couple of his saddles.
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Old 01-25-2008, 07:33 PM
AnthemBassMan AnthemBassMan is offline
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-Thanks guys. TommyK, I didn't mean to come across as an apologist. Sorry. I was just trying to explain about making a saddle from a fresh piece of bone. As for Backwoodsman Magazine, although I don't subscribe to it, I do buy it every now and then. Some things seem a bit overboard for me but overall a lot of good info. I also have Tom Brown's Field Guide To Wilderness Survival. I got them more because when I was younger, I used to do quite a bit of hunting, day and night. I always wanted to be prepared "just in case."

-I don't remember anything about carbon-tet. I grew up helping on my Grandparents farm too. Did everything on that farm from mikling cows, to butchering them, to chopping a butt load of wood for the winter. Part of the old Ohio-Erie Canal ran through the bottom of the farm. We would take the tractors and wagons down there and start clearing any trees that looked dead or in bad shape. I spent quite a bit of time doing things that would "build character." Yeah, right. It turned me into one!

-And Wally. Thanks for the tip on asking Bob Colosi. Although I've been playing off and on for about 29 years now, I just recently started to really get into acoustics. I've had them, but just usually thought of them as a backup. Not anymore.

L8R,
Matt D.

Last edited by AnthemBassMan; 01-25-2008 at 07:42 PM.
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Old 01-25-2008, 08:51 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Wally View Post
Bob Colosi http://www.guitarsaddles.com/ is a member here. He really is the expert in this area. Why don't you email him and ask his advice? I think you'll find him to be one heck of a nice guy. I bought a couple of his saddles.
I'd definitely call Bob and see what he has to say. I do know he has a couple of different methods for whitening and preparing bone. This is a guy that does a lot of it. I've seen a great many of his finished products in bone and other materials and I'd say he's got it down pretty well.
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Old 01-25-2008, 11:26 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DM3MD View Post
I'd definitely call Bob and see what he has to say. I do know he has a couple of different methods for whitening and preparing bone. This is a guy that does a lot of it. I've seen a great many of his finished products in bone and other materials and I'd say he's got it down pretty well.
Hey DM3MD.. yours were only so pretty because I spray painted them.
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Old 01-26-2008, 01:38 AM
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Hi,

I would'nt even bother to make my own bone saddle, i would leave that to the master in Saddles ie Bob Collosi.

BTW Bob not only is great at his work but is a super guy to deal with, even from thousands of miles away like me.

Hey Bob, in case you are reading this, please help!!!, I am desparately waiting for my LB6 custom bone pickup.

Best,

Keyshore
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Old 01-28-2008, 10:10 PM
AnthemBassMan AnthemBassMan is offline
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-Well I have my saddle made and installed. Ok, not totally finished yet. I still have to file the compensation angles in it. So far sounds good tone wise except for some buzzing because the top edge is completely flat. But that will be taken care of in the next day or so. All in all it wsan't really that hard to do. The most time consuming part was prepping the bone to be able to be used. I took some pics but I will have to upload them to my photobucket site. Nothing fancy, just a few pics of a piece of bone after it was cleaned and cut down a bit. Then after I had it cut down farther and slightly oversized along with the stock plastic saddle. Then a few in the guitar. But still not compensated yet. The pics might not be the greatest, I'm no photo pro.

L8R,
Matt D.
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