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Old 05-02-2019, 12:55 AM
perttime perttime is offline
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Default What bone is that bone saddle or nut?

People often replace saddles and nuts with ones made from "bone". But WHAT BONE is it?

Not all bone is the same. There's big differences depending on what animal it is, and which bone it is. In my corner of the world, luthiers tend to use leg bones from moose: a big and strong animal that spends a lot of time using its legs.

Recently, a bass builder posted that he had got a piece if ostrich leg bone, which is much harder than moose bone.

edit:
Here's his facebook post on the ostrich bone:
https://fi-fi.facebook.com/harjunpaabass/
In the comments, he says that moose leg bone is 60% of the hardness and density of ostrich leg bone.
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Last edited by perttime; 05-02-2019 at 06:10 AM.
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Old 05-02-2019, 01:35 AM
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murrmac123 murrmac123 is offline
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Anecdotal, I know, but I was told years ago that the hardest, densest bone in the animal kingdom is to be found in the jaw of an alligator.
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Old 05-02-2019, 01:43 AM
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From Bob Colosi’s website..

“Most of the bone used in today’s guitar saddles comes from Chinese cows or ox. Is a Chinese cow or ox better than American ones? Probably not, but their bones are cheaper. Additionally, there is no difference between the final product whether the bone came from one animal or the other.”

I’ve heard of people using camel also.
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Old 05-02-2019, 01:49 AM
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Black cat bone is popular amongst blues players.
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Old 05-02-2019, 02:37 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by murrmac123 View Post
Anecdotal, I know, but I was told years ago that the hardest, densest bone in the animal kingdom is to be found in the jaw of an alligator.
Given the pressure applied within their jaws I can believe that. Tricky to get hold of an alligator though...
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Old 05-02-2019, 03:30 AM
Silly Moustache Silly Moustache is offline
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It has long been my understanding that it was cow bone as beef has long been a staple in most western countries and bone and leather and hooves (for glue etc., are easily obtainable by-products.
Of course bone isn't always perfectly consistency in density, but gernally speaking it is pretty goosd, can be bleached a nice wit and it not too diffcult to work.

The so called fossilised animal by products may possibly be harder, and as long as they are not brittle - should be a good upgrade.

I believe that elephant ivory was once used, but a very reputable British luthier told me that he had experimented with it (not for resale - obviously - very illegal) and found it very easy to work but to too soft for the purpose -maybe it was alright under gut strings?
Anyway, as elephant ivory cannot be traded or sold in the west, it is now out of the question.
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Old 05-02-2019, 04:50 AM
perttime perttime is offline
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Originally Posted by Aura View Post
Given the pressure applied within their jaws I can believe that. Tricky to get hold of an alligator though...
I believe one African method for removing a troublesome crocodile starts with: "First, kill a cape buffalo and skin it."
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Old 05-02-2019, 06:45 AM
Bikewer Bikewer is offline
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For all my cigar-box guitar builds, I just go to the pet store and buy those nice, bleached doggie bones.

Cut out a hunk with a hacksaw (surprisingly hard...) and do the final shaping with a Dremel.

Some of these are years old now, and no sign of any wear.
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Old 05-02-2019, 06:56 AM
archerscreek archerscreek is offline
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As long as Martin never bought any bone from a guy named Dahmer, I'm okay with their selection.
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Old 05-02-2019, 10:48 AM
FrankHudson FrankHudson is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Aura View Post
Given the pressure applied within their jaws I can believe that. Tricky to get hold of an alligator though...
Yes, I've used alligators and crocodiles for years now as guitar capos. The crocs do get irritated if I call them alligators, and vice versa--but as long as I keep that straight they don't really pull my strings out of tune. And moving capo tunes are a cinch, you just pat them on the back of the head for the number of frets you want them move to down, or under the chin for those that you want them to move up.

Now I've heard some people claim that using capos is a crutch. Some of them are no doubt players who called a crocodile an alligator or vice versa, and suffered the consequences.
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Old 05-02-2019, 11:58 AM
Johny Tenthumbs Johny Tenthumbs is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JayBee1404 View Post
From Bob Colosi’s website..

[I] Additionally, there is no difference between the final product whether the bone came from one animal or the other.
Exactly.
Though there is a difference in hardness (density) between the different bones of the same animal. The fore-shank (radius) and cannon (3rd/4th metacarpal and metatarsal). They are harder than the femur and all the other bones excluding the enameled teeth.

You could run cross sections of most bones though a saw for hours with no ill effects to the blade on a bone saw, not so with the radius and the cannon, the blade needs to be replaced in a matter of 15 minutes. In my experience, I have never observed any difference in hardness between species.
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Old 05-02-2019, 12:49 PM
perttime perttime is offline
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Originally Posted by Johny Tenthumbs View Post
... In my experience, I have never observed any difference in hardness between species.
Out of curiosity: what species have you used?
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Old 05-02-2019, 01:48 PM
MWB5007 MWB5007 is offline
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I use either a black cat bone or a Gypsy bone I found down to the crossroads....
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Old 05-02-2019, 02:32 PM
JonWint JonWint is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Silly Moustache View Post
I believe that elephant ivory was once used, but a very reputable British luthier told me that he had experimented with it (not for resale - obviously - very illegal) and found it very easy to work but to too soft for the purpose -maybe it was alright under gut strings?
Anyway, as elephant ivory cannot be traded or sold in the west, it is now out of the question.
Silly M, it's not absolute.

Martin used ivory nuts and saddles (after they stopped using it on binding, splices, caps, rosettes) with the last ivory nut used a D-45 in 1980. I suspect that some luthiers still have some around.

Antique and pre-ban ivory is still being sold in the USA. Ivory can still be bought from David Warther and others. https://warther.org/

I just made a saddle from laminated ivory last month. (There's a reason the ivory stock looks like piano keys. Take an antique piano, strip the ivory, discard the piano.)

[IMG][/IMG]
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Old 05-02-2019, 05:25 PM
Wade Hampton Wade Hampton is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by perttime View Post
People often replace saddles and nuts with ones made from "bone". But WHAT BONE is it?

Not all bone is the same. There's big differences depending on what animal it is, and which bone it is. In my corner of the world, luthiers tend to use leg bones from moose: a big and strong animal that spends a lot of time using its legs.
Interesting. We've got lots of moose up here in Alaska: in fact, where I live within the Municipality of Anchorage, we've got the highest population density of moose in the entire state. Counterintuitive as it might sound, urban, suburban and exurban environments with a lot of people living in them are the ideal habitat for moose: the roads, sidewalks and cleared yards make walking for them easy, even in the heaviest snowfall, the abundance of tasty native and introduced ornamental plants are kind of like an all-you-can-eat buffet for them, and - most importantly - there are very few large predators around right here in the Municipality that can kill and eat them.

We do get bears through my yard every summer, and there are a few lurking in larger city parks like Kincaid Park. The massive military base that stretches from the Port of Anchorage all the way out here to Darkest Chugiak not only has bears but also three wolf packs living on it, and since the city itself butts up against Chugach State Park there are always carnivores passing through.

But as a general rule of thumb it's practically a moose paradise here: there are fewer dangers for them here than anyplace else.

That said, I'm not aware of anyone cutting up moose bones and using them for guitar appointments. I'm sure some folks must do it, but for the pro repair techs and hobby luthiers it's probably just easier to get bone blanks from luthiery supply houses like Stewart-MacDonald.

I'll ask my buddy Bob Clark who's built a couple of guitars for me. If he was using moose bone I'm sure he would have mentioned it, so I'm pretty certain he hasn't, but it might not have occurred to him to do so.


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