Removing a Martin "Through" Saddle
© Frank Ford, 3/4/98; Photos by FF, 5/4/95

From World War I to 1965 Martin used an ivory saddle that was set into a channel cut all the way through at the ends. These saddles were glued in place and are not easily removed. Martin used hide glue on all these older instruments, so my first attempt to remove the saddle is to heat the saddle by applying a regular soldering iron to a little wad of paper towel soaked in water. The resulting steam is often enough to loosen the saddle.

Modern Martin reproduction "through" saddles are plastic, and glued in place with a heat and water resistant adhesive, so the steaming technique generally won't work. So, for the modern ones, old stubborn ones, and those that have undergone recent regluing, I may have to resort to cutting the saddle out of the bridge.

I start by chipping away all the parts of the saddle protruding above the bridge. Here I'm using the flush cutting end nippers I normally use for pulling frets:

Once I get the top of the saddle entirely chipped away, I'll use my heavy back saw and cut a slot right through the center of the saddle, all the way to the bottom. Here I have t pieces of scrap plastic taped where I might graze the top of the guitar:

Here's how it looks after I finish my cut:

A sharp chisel is all I need to break the remaining saddle inward and away from the bridge. I'm careful not to cut in to the wood while prying the ivory or plastic chips out:

At this point, all I have left to do is to soak off the remaining old glue and the saddle slot will be as clean and straight as it was when it was first cut.

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