How to Build Guitar Saddle Pins

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Given the proper tools and the right wood, you can make your own saddle pins for an acoustic guitar. If you have never used a lathe, you'll want to read up on the techniques required for turning small objects. Start with inexpensive hardwood pen blanks so that you are not spending a fortune on exotic woods while you are learning. Try different woods so that you get a feel for how the turning chisels cut different grains and hardnesses.

Things You'll Need

  • Mini wood lathe
  • Small fine-tooth handsaw
  • 1/8-inch round tip chisel
  • Diamond-point gouge
  • Oval skew chisel
  • Small bench vise with rubber jaw lining
  • Knife-edge needle file or Riffler rasp
  • Medium-fine sandpaper
  • Ebony, rosewood or other dense hardwood pen blanks
  • Guitar saddle pin
  • Mark a piece of wooden pen stock into 1/3 lengths and cut with a fine handsaw.

  • Set up a mini wood lathe at mid-chest height. Screw or clamp it down to a sturdy, stable surface. Center-clamp a cut length of pen stock between the spindle points and edge-clamp the stock on one end to keep it from slipping as you work it.

  • Turn on the lathe and adjust the speed to high. Round off the stock corners with the 1/8-inch chisel, feeding the tip to the wood very slowly while resting the chisel on the tool rest.

  • Use an existing saddle pin as an example as you turn each section. Turn the block to a cylindrical piece the diameter of the pin head. Use the skew chisel or the diamond-point gouge to fashion the semi-spherical pin head and the groove between the pin head and shank. Use the standard round-tip chisel to turn the pin shank into a taper that fill fit the guitar saddle string hole.

  • Free the pin work from the lathe and clamp it inside the rubber-lined jaws of a small bench vise. Use a fine, small saw to separate the pin from the leftover wood at the ends. Use a riffler rasp or needle file to make the longitudinal groove to accommodate the string along the pin. Smooth the work with sandpaper.

Tips & Warnings

  • Do not attempt to turn burled wood into pins. Pins require strength along their length. Dense woods with a straight grain are best.
  • The average pen blank should yield three saddle pins.
  • You can stain or oil the turned pin for a finished look.
  • If you feed the chisel into the wood too quickly, you can sustain injury as the work flings the chisel or the wood breaks.

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References

  • Photo Credit guitar soundhole, bridge, and fingerboard image by Robert Yoder from Fotolia.com
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