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How we make the JP Woodtone saddles by John Page

Discussion in 'Vendor Forum' started by John Page, Aug 3, 2012.

  1. John Page

    John Page Tele-Meister

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    We've sold out of most of the first batch of my new JP Woodtone saddles and have another batch in process, so I thought over the next week or so I'd show how we make 'em.


    This first installment is just covering the initial wood prep and sizing. In case you're wondering, I do all of these operations personally. Here goes!


    First we start with Ebony that has been treated with a special stabilizing process... it's called Acrylized Ebony. It has been infused with acrylic polymers both via vacuum and high pressure... two different procedures for each piece of Ebony. We also use Vera, also known as Argentine Lignum Vitae, the 2nd most dense wood in the world! We have the Ebony specially treated so as to better handle the stress introduced to the areas that are threaded with the small 4-40 stainless steel screws. The Vera is so dense it's not necessary to treat it. This stuff is even used for bearings on submarine propellers... crazy!


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    Next the large blocks are joined and planed and then re-sawn into usable "plates". After this the plates are fed through a thicknessing sander to a specified thickness (operation not shown).

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    With the plates now at a consistent, specified thickness they are ripped on the table saw to a specified width. This operation is always best done with ice picks and pencil erasers to control the plates and keep my fingers clear.

    An interesting note about this table saw - It's a 1956 Delta Unisaw that I bought from Fender when I worked there. It was one of Leo's original table saws bought from Fullerton Hardware (the tag's still on it!). Pretty cool eh?

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    Next comes the cutting each strip to the specified length of the saddle. This is done with a cross-slide table on the table saw, using a stop block and a pencil to hold the cut-off piece in place. We want zero blow out here, so a special blade is used.

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    After all that is done we have a bunch of precision cut pieces of Acrylized Ebony and Vera ready to move on in the process. I'll pick up there next time!

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  2. John Page

    John Page Tele-Meister

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    Last time I left it with the Acrylized Ebony and Vera cut into the saddle blanks. Here’s another shot of that result -

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    Next comes the slotting for the fret sections. We use an ultra-precision miniature table saw to do this process. The fence rides on linear bearings and is adjusted using a micrometer. This allows us to adjust the fence by .001” increments… critical in trying to get the ultimate intonation out of a double-string saddle. Each saddle, E-A, D-G, and B-E, has a different spacing between the slots. We use a specially made brass push block and featherboard to keep the saddles perfectly aligned while cutting.

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    After the slotting is complete each piece needs to be precisely scribed for the ending locations of the binding that needs to be installed.

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    Binding is precisely installed and glued leaving room for the Stainless Steel fret section that will go in later.

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    After each piece of binding is installed it must be trimmed. Here a fully bound piece is being scraped with a glass slide.

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    After the binding is all installed and detailed the holes are drilled on the mill.

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    Each hole is then hand-tapped with the appropriate thread.

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    Next time I’ll show you the final operations… till then, cheers!
     
  3. A.B.Negative

    A.B.Negative Friend of Leo's

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    Very cool!
     
  4. John Page

    John Page Tele-Meister

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    Thanks A. B. Negative! They're a ton of work but I think they're worth it. I love what they do to my Tele!

    Cheers...
     
  5. Ron Garson

    Ron Garson Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

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    That is just something else! :D
     
  6. John Page

    John Page Tele-Meister

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    I hope that's a good thing Ron!

    Thanks for taking the time to comment... cheers!
     
  7. Greg.Coal

    Greg.Coal Tele-Afflicted Silver Supporter

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    It's fascinating, if not a great idea, too!

    Threading an insert into wood - by hand, or not - is tough. I'll be watching your web site for sound samples, too,

    Greg
     
  8. e-merlin

    e-merlin Doctor of Teleocity

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    Well, I'll be a monkey's uncle. Those things look cool. Might have to put a set on my wish list...
     
  9. Radspin

    Radspin Friend of Leo's

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    Holy ***! I would have never even thought making these was even possible.
     
  10. Rich Rice

    Rich Rice Poster Extraordinaire

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    John, this is certainly not the first time you have impressed me. Very cool idea.:!:

    Watch your fingers, my friend. Looks dangerous.:eek:
     
  11. John Page

    John Page Tele-Meister

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    Thanks for the kind words gentlemen!

    Rich, I'm always very careful... thus the icepick and pencils!

    Cheers all, more pics soon.
     
  12. Suho

    Suho Tele-Meister

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    I have thought about adding such saddles to a tele for a while, but have only seen one handmade set before (although a much less detailed work, for sure). That one lacked the steel inserts. Did you fool around with a set with no metal at all? Just curious. Also, what do you find to be the difference tonally, if there is one, between the Vera and Ebony versions?

    Thanks.
     
  13. John Page

    John Page Tele-Meister

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    Thanks for your questions Suho!

    No, I didn't not experiment with no inserts at all. This was for 2 reasons,

    1) - I felt the normal wear and tear of an electric guitar string (round wound) would be too much directly on the wood and wear it down too quickly. I've have gone with Stainless Steel for the inserts so that they would stand up to the tension induced by the string.

    2) - I was searching for a specific tone... I wanted the wood to act as a filter. I felt that the string directly on the wood would soften the attack (and mellow the tone) more than I wanted.


    The Ebony has slightly more high end than the Vera (but not as much as brass), the Vera has a bit more upper mids than the Ebony. Simply, the Vera is the sweeter of the two.
     
  14. Donelson

    Donelson Tele-Afflicted

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    Astounding creativity, planning, & execution. Almost like something Leo himself thought up, but was vetoed by the $$ guys. How could this NOT sound fantastic?
     
  15. cheeseflavor

    cheeseflavor TDPRI Member

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    Amazing!
     
  16. Suho

    Suho Tele-Meister

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    Thanks, John. Consider me the future buyer (as in I'm going to your site right now) of a set of Vera saddles!
     
  17. John Page

    John Page Tele-Meister

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    You're very welcome suho!

    I received your order... thank you very much! I just boxed them up and they'll go out tomorrow. There are detailed instruction enclosed but if you have any questions just give me a shout.

    Here's a shot of your new saddles -

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    Have a great day... cheers!
     
  18. John Page

    John Page Tele-Meister

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    Last time I left off with the blanks slotted, with binding inserts glued in, and with all the holes drilled and tapped. Now for the final steps –


    The next step is to rout the round-over on the leading and trailing edges of the saddles. I also like this to give about a .015” reveal on the top as an aesthetic detail. This is done by double-stick taping about 5-6 saddles on a piece of Maple… ganging them up to make it easier to rout. Trying to rout each of these one at a time would be very difficult and dangerous.

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    After the round-over is routed, the next step is to mill an angle on the bottom of the E-A and B-E saddles. This allows them to tilt down as necessary on the low and high E strings.

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    Figuring out a way to cut and detail the tiny Stainless Steel fret inserts was without a doubt one of the hardest parts of making these JP Woodtone saddles. The inserts must be within about .005” to each other, not be rough, and have a nice smooth finish. After experimenting with all different types of cutting methods, I finally found this miniature precision lab cut-off saw. I fabricated a special track to guide, stop, and hold the Stainless Steel in place while the 3” abrasive blade cut it. It works like a champ! There are still another couple of steps to smooth out the ends as well, but here’s a shot of the cutting process.

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    Next comes the installation of the Stainless Steel fret inserts. They are glued as well and pressed.

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    I notch behind each insert to assure that the string will not hit the saddle prior to hitting the SS insert. I want a good direct contact. I have found that the best way to do this is just by hand with a small needle file. It’s takes a bit of time… but this whole process does, so what the heck, eh?

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    After filing each notch needs to be detail sanded as well.

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    After all of the fabrication steps shown above (and a handful that weren’t shown) it’s time for the final detail sanding. I sand it all with 400 and 600 grit and then a quick polish with 0000 steel wool.

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    I am extremely proud of the final result… both in function and form. I absolutely love the way they sculpt the tone as a note passes through them, and I am thrilled that each one looks like a little piece of art to me. They represent what guitar building is to me… if only on a very small plane.

    My name is John Page and these are my JP Woodtone saddles… http://www.jpwoodtone.com Thanks for following along!

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  19. John Page

    John Page Tele-Meister

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    I just received a nice e-mail review from a customer who recently put a set of the JP Woodtone Vera saddles on his Tele... thought I'd share his opinion -

     
  20. John Page

    John Page Tele-Meister

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    Another nice customer review (with a bit on an edit) and a pic. This time on a B-Bender!

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