Using a utility knife blade as a saddle shaper

Issue 118 July 22, 2010

Tip from my pal Freddie.  I thought these were utility knife blades, but now I know better:

Photo: utility knife blade

They’re saddle shapers!

Freddie Cisneros

Who runs the Mercy Guitar Hospital in Prescott, Arizona, e-mailed me this great tip for roughing-in the rounded shape on top of bone saddle blanks. It’s one of those “Now why didn’t I think of that?" ideas.

Feddie Cisneros
Saddle Shaping

Here’s what Freddie wrote: “I shape the tops of saddle blanks by scraping with the rounded notch on a utility blade. I clamp Stew-Mac’s saddle vise into my repair vise to hold the saddle. That repair vise is the most-used tool in the shop, and it’s the center of my work area.”

After reading Freddie’s tip, I tried it out in my shop. I cut a saddle blank to size, with a radius on top to match my fingerboard. I roughly thickness-sanded it on a belt sander, then removed the last few thousandths by stroking them on coarse, then smooth, fret leveling files.

Saddle Filing

When you do this, measure your progress often with calipers so you don’t go past your target thickness.

Folks, Dan asked us to remind you that every Trade Secrets story is now available online!

Freddie Cisneros

Go to:

Hey! This utility blade scraper/shaper idea really works

In about a jiffy, I’ve got a rounded shape on this saddle. (Be careful not to scratch the sides of the saddle with the edge of the blade, though.)


I smoothed the top with a 300-grit diamond fret rounding file. This only took a moment, since I had the rounded shape to start from.

Then a few licks with 3M Polishing Papers, and I’ve got a gleaming rounded top. I used the green, grey, blue, and pink papers, wrapped around the same diamond file I used above.

Radius Check

That’s it! A quick check with a radius gauge tells me my radius is still good after the final shaping. This saddle’s ready to go!

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