Everyone has different ways of shaping a new nut or saddle from a bone blank. Is there a right or wrong way? Nope. There are definitely ways that are a lot faster than others. It typically only takes me about 5 minutes from start to finish…possibly less if I’m in a hurry.

Let me show you how I make one in our shop.

Size difference
Here you can see how much material is needed to be removed. It is a lot, especially if you are going to try to sand it all away.
Board and template double side masking tape
The secret to getting the thickness down quickly is to use a table saw, a long board, and our template double side masking tape.
Bone blanks attached to board
Next, attach the double side tape to the board and then attached bone blank. Make sure to put some pressure on them to make sure they are securely attached. I like to attach the original nut (or saddle) in front of the blank to use as a guide for setting the thickness.
Adjust table saw fence to thin nut blank
Place the board against the fence and set the thickness I want the blank to be. I sometimes like to leave it slightly thicker so I can fine-tune the thickness later especially when making an acoustic saddle. Here, I am using the original nut as a reference. You will need to remove it before cutting the nut blank so it doesn’t get accidentally damaged.
n the bone nut through table saw
Definitely make sure to use a zero clearance insert on your table saw so you don’t lose the blank in the saw. I should also add, you want to use a large enough board so you can keep your fingers well clear of the spinning blade.
Half way through the bone nut
Here we are about halfway through the bone nut.
Picture of the thinned bone nut
OK, so there you go, a bone nut blank thinned to size. Since I’m already set up, I usually will run a few more nuts though so I have a few extra for another job or if I mess up this one.
Tracing the shape onto the bone blank
Trace the shape of the nut onto the blank.
Using small tabletop bandsaw to cut out shape
Here I am using a small tabletop bandsaw to cut out the shape. Make sure to stay slightly outside the line. This can also be done using a tabletop scroll saw.
Cutting outside of the traced line
Here we are almost done cutting out the shape. I think this was actually a bone saddles instead of the nut shown in previous images.
Using a belt sander to clean up shape
As you can see, cutting a smooth shape on the bandsaw isn’t critical as long as you stay outside the line you drew. Be careful of your fingertips! I need to come up with a better way to hold on to the nut blanks when profiling them on a belt sander.
Sanding a single facet for nut
The nut on the left was just belt sanded with one single facet. The nut on the right is the original nut. I don’t try to make the shape perfect on the belt sander since it can remove material pretty fast.
Saddle with double facets
Here is an acoustic saddle with double facets.
Use a Hosco Nut and Saddle file to shape the nut
Here I’m using a nut and saddle file to remove the facets and blend the sharp edges. The nut is held in place with the StewMac Nut and Saddle vise…almost an essential tool when doing this type of work.
Side view of the nut after filing
Side view of the nut after filing.
Angled view of the nut after filling
An angled view of the same nut.
A view of an acoustic saddle after filing.
Here is a picture of an acoustic saddle after filing.
Final sanding using a foam sandpaper
Here I’m using foam backed sandpaper to finish the shape and smooth everything out. I typically use 4 grits…120, 220, 320 and 400 grit using the 120 grit for the majority of the work. The other grits are just removing the scratches from the previous sandpaper.
Use a foam sanding pad on a table
Here I’m holding the nut with my hand to round an edge to get the look I’m after.
Nut and saddle ready to use
You are basically done here. The matte look is very common. You can go one more step further by polishing them on a buffing wheel. You can get some awesome looking nut and saddles that way.
Polishing nut and saddle using a buffing wheel
What I’m using here is a small buffing setup that I bought from Penn State Industries (MCLS Woodworking). These are sold for buffing pens but are very handy around the shop for buffing all kinds of small items include bone nuts and saddles!
Loading up buffing wheel with compound
I basically only put buffing compound on the left wheel. I have nothing on the right wheel. I found I can achieve a very nice finish this way. BTW, here I am loading up the left wheel with Menzerna GW16 Finishing compound.
Polishing a guitar nut on buffing wheel
Remember to only use the bottom front quadrant when buffing so you don’t accidentally throw the nut at yourself. After buffing with the left wheel, I finish on the right wheel that has nothing on it. I have found that no compound is needed to get the great glossy look.
Completed bone nut and saddle
You will be amazed how nice these look after buffing. They almost look like polished stone!

Some final thoughts or questions that some of you might have.

First, is a using a table saw to thin blanks…dangerous? I think so, especially if you don’t know what you are doing or are at least confident in using one.

Second, will this screw up my table saw blade? I haven’t found that to be a problem. I do use a quality carbide tipped blade and never had an issue going back and forth between wood and bone. I have found that a good quality blade will give you a better finish every time whether on wood or bone.

Third, does the type of double-sided tape matter? Yes, absolutely. Use the best you can get. You don’t want the nut blank to come loose when you running it through the table saw. The blank can be a very dangerous projectile.

Here are some links to the items shown in this post.

Bone nut blanks…. https://www.philadelphialuthiertools.com/guitar-bass-nuts-saddles/

The best double-sided template tape – https://www.philadelphialuthiertools.com/luthier-tools/misc-tools/router-template-cnc-double-sided-mounting-masking-tape-1-x-36yds/

Table Saw – any good quality table saw, preferably, with a cast iron top and a zero clearance insert

Table Top Bandsaw – https://www.amazon.com/WEN-3959-2-5-Amp-9-Inch-Benchtop/dp/B077QMBTLP There are lots of these that all look exactly the same. Probably all made in the same factory just rebranded. Mine is actually a Sears Craftsmen.

Belt Sander – Another Amazon link – https://www.amazon.com/WEN-6502T-4-3-Amp-Belt-Sander/dp/B07KL4QGSQ . Same as above. Mine looks exactly like this one but is branded Ryobi for Lowes

Hosco Nut and Saddle files – https://www.philadelphialuthiertools.com/luthier-tools/files/guitar-nut-and-saddle-shaping-file-set-3-files/

StewMac Nut and Saddle Vise – https://www.stewmac.com/Luthier_Tools/Types_of_Tools/Vises/Nut_and_Saddle_Vise.html

Foam Sandpaper – https://www.philadelphialuthiertools.com/luthier-tools/abrasives/micro-mesh-2-x-2-soft-touch-pad-variety-pack/

Small Buffing Setup – https://www.pennstateind.com/store/PROBUFF.html Lots of lesser-priced buffers are available on Amazon and eBay if you are looking to save some money. The compound that comes with it might be OK.

Menzerna Buffing Compound – https://www.jescarguitar.com/?product=menzerna-wax-16

1 Comment

  1. Thanks for sharing information on guitar nuts and saddle blanks. Lots of information on these parts have been provided here. I have to replace wraparound bridge of my guitar and before doing this important task it is good to get some ideas on guitar parts.

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