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Bone Saddle for the Lanikai O-8 Ukulele

So I have this Lanikai O-8 ukulele that I got as a gift.  It was purchased as used, but it's virtually new.

I had played a 6-string Kamaka in a store on Maui a few years ago, and it was wonderful.  I wanted to try out an 8-string, and as much as I'd like to have a Kamaka, I can't really justify that much money for an uku that is a sort of specialty instrument.  Hence the much cheaper Lanikai, which Santa was kind enough to bring me.

It's pretty nice - well made, and it has a solid spruce top which was the real factor in getting one.  The sides and back are ovangkol - I believe they are laminate.  At any rate, it sounds good and may get better.

As with virtually all of these less expensive ukuleles, the nut and saddle are made of plastic.  I'm not going to change the nut just yet, but I am going to make a new bone saddle.  The action is high and I want to lower it and get the sonic benefits of a bone saddle.

I took a slightly different approach this time.  Since I'm not going to reuse the old saddle, I decided to file a slot in it to estimate the height I'd aim for in the good saddle.  I put the low G string into the slot so I could then measure the string height.  The green arrow in the picture shows the slot.   At that depth, I'll still have about 1/8 of an inch (a touch over 3mm) height above the bridge.  I don't want the height too low - the strings won't drive the top as well if it's low.

Now I can use the old saddle as a template for the new one.  I've been using 'vintage' bone for most of my nuts and saddles, but I decided to go with bleached bone (white) on this one.

The mark on the old one is the point where the saddle is at the bridge.  Between that and the slot I filed, I can line up the old saddle and mark the approximate height on the new one.

I used my Ridgid random orbiting spindle sander (aka ROSS) to thickness sand the bone blank.  Then I cut the saddle to the approximate height by hand.

Then we file the top of the saddle so it's nicely rounded.  It's not quite there in this picture, but it's close.

Then fine file and sand with 600 grit paper, and polish with fine polish.

Then slide it back in and there you have it.  Came out well I think - I really like the white bone on this ukulele. 

The string height is perfect - I went from about 3/16 of an inch (4.7mm) at the 14th fret down to just over 3/64 (1.5mm).  No buzzes, just nice low action.

I want to lower the action at the nut too - I should be able to take a fraction out of that.  It takes more effort to play 8 strings, especially in the middle of the neck, so every little bit will help.

Now I put the ukulele back on the Hula Shaker for a few more days.


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