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Notching saddle for lap playing with string instead of file?

Jun 17, 2024 - 10:50:55 AM
11 posts since 3/21/2024

I'm planning on ordering a National cone and biscuit/saddle and will need to notch the saddle myself. As I play lap steel and use a nut raiser, I would think this is pretty easy as the saddle will not need a radius. I've read that some people use a section of string to cut the notches instead of using files. How difficult will this be on a maple saddle? Should I put the saddle in a vice? If I can't get the saddle out of the biscuit then a vice won't work.

What do you all recommend for this procedure? Thanks

Jun 17, 2024 - 12:46:22 PM



528 posts since 11/27/2014

The saddle will be glued onto the biscuit, so you won’t be able to use a vise. If you have a Harbor Freight near you, go buy a cheap set of needle files. They’ll work. Using strings as files will be difficult, not to mention that unwound strings will have no effect.

Jun 19, 2024 - 5:29:06 PM
Players Union Member



823 posts since 9/2/2008

"I've read that some people use a section of string to cut the notches instead of using files... "

That's exactly how Tim Scheerhorn did the notches on his saddles, at least for the wound strings. His saddles were almost always phenolic of some sort; maple would be easier to file. There is a trick to using strings as files, as they are flexible and hard to control and keep under tension.

Needle files will notch the saddle but it will be difficult to get the correct slot width; I have used them in a pinch.

The ideal tools would be nut files .  They are pricy but make an accurate slot.  You'll still have to file carefully to leave a clean edge on the fingerboard side and a proper slope on the tailpiece side.  Good luck in your venture.

Jun 19, 2024 - 8:15:06 PM



695 posts since 8/10/2008

My understanding is that Tim S. uses the appropriate strings to burnish nut slots after cutting the notches with nut files. It's a fine idea and I've adopted it. If you're planning to notch in maple or Ebonex with a bronze string, you can expect to devote a lot of time and effort. A set of nut files will seem like a bargain by comparison. They're made to do the job. Beg, borrow, or buy a set. Or buy a pre-slotted bridge.

YMMV. But I doubt it. PM me, and I might lend you my set.

Jun 20, 2024 - 8:55:31 AM

11 posts since 3/21/2024

Ok, thanks for the replies. I'm looking at getting some appropriate tools. Guitar nut files come in very specific sizes (or in more affordable kits that don't have some but not all of the exact gauges I need) which gets expensive fast and some of them say they are not appropriate for cutting wood. I'm looking at "needle files" but have never used them and not sure why I would need all those different shaped files.  Can anyone recommend a decent (and affordable) set of nut files?  

How difficult is it to notch a biscuit saddle properly? Is there a tutorial somewhere with pictures so I can see this "V" I keep reading about?

Also, I didn't order the National biscuit bridge, but just the cone.  I ordered a Replogle maple biscuit and maple saddle blank.  I want to be able to put the blank in a vice and do this with attention to detail.  

Edited by - James Mayer on 06/20/2024 09:10:52

Jun 20, 2024 - 9:32:39 AM

824 posts since 8/8/2008

Check for files. They have all kinds and prices from $25 and up. 

Edited by - Dobrojan on 06/20/2024 09:42:34

Jun 21, 2024 - 9:36:56 AM

4768 posts since 7/27/2008

I'm a little confused by your first post James, you didn't exactly make it clear. Right off it sounds like this  biscuit bridge is going to be for a lap style guitar as opposed to a  round neck for conventional playing - am I correct? In the 16 years this forum has been around we have had threads where someone is seeking advice of some kind on resonator guitars, and members start posting about  squarenecks, then nine or ten posts into the topic the authors writes something like, "sorry guys, I was referring to a roundneck guitar."

It was 14 years ago and many of the subtleties are no longer clear in the memory bank, but in 2010 at ResoSummit in Nashville I took Tim Scheerhorn's setup class.  Each year prior to the event a spider bridge reso guitar would be selected by Tim as a guinea pig for the class. I was hoping my circa 1933 Model 37 Dobro would be chosen, but it didn't make the cut, so it stayed home. Instead Tim went for a beater Mosrite era Dobro from the 1960s one of the attendees found for cheap on eBay was selected. 

I distinctly recall that the process began on the  bridge inserts with Tim using a variety of files, and then he fine tuned the slots with strings in different gauges.

As a sidebar - some of those Mosrite Dobros were pretty bad, and this one was a prime example of a true beater. Even with his expertise and parts including a new Scheerhorn cone, though Tim brought new life to the guitar, IMO it sounded  just okay when when he was done, and it was revived to a decent level campfire dobro. Not even Tim Scheerhorn couldn't fully transition that sow's ear to a silk purse. 

James, if this were the only time you're going cut slots in a biscuit bridge, and you don't plan on doing more of these in the future, if it were me I would take up badger's generous offer of borrowing his files. I have a variety of tools around my garage where I was thinking I would need them again in the future, but some of them turned out to be for a one shot deal.

Edited by - MarkinSonoma on 06/21/2024 09:41:47

Jun 21, 2024 - 10:16:22 AM



10 posts since 6/18/2024

I haven't done a bridge or nut on a reso but I've set up my beater mandos using welding tip cleaners. Some recommend them as poor-man's nut files. I'm sure the real thing works 100 times better. But if you are doing one and don't want to shell out for real files, maybe it's worth a try.

Jun 21, 2024 - 10:19:52 AM

4768 posts since 7/27/2008

Need to edit the first part of my post above but I missed the cutoff. 

I was reading the thread but didn't notice the portion at the top in the title that this biscuit is definitely for lap style. 

Not enough caffeine in me at the time, was the first cup of the day...

Jun 21, 2024 - 1:37:44 PM

11 posts since 3/21/2024

Yep, I actually prefer biscuit resonators over tricones and spiders for lap playing. This is a round-neck with a nut raiser. I've ordered some files. Didn't spend too much, around $40.

Jun 21, 2024 - 2:16:11 PM

4768 posts since 7/27/2008

Good - 40 bucks isn't too painful.

You've already pulled the trigger and have parts and tools on the way, but I was thinking earlier today how I had a GAS attack several  years back after playing a  Beard Deco-Phonic squareneck biscuit model at Gryphon Strings in the Bay Area, but I resisted and kept the wallet in my pocket. It had a great sound and was a nice change from spider bridge guitars. 

In thinking of this thread I wonder if Paul would be willing, for an upcharge of course, to take one of his "raw" biscuit bridges and carve the slots. 

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