Bone is the standard material used for acoustic stringed instrument nuts and saddles. It replaces the traditional elephant ivory, the use of which is both illegal and reprehensible. Bone is also used to replace the plastic nuts and saddles used on many inexpensive instruments. The hardness of bone supports great sustain and strong tonality in general. It is long-wearing which allows it to be polished to a pleasing luster.
The bone of a large animal is better as it is denser. Camel bone is sometimes used, in those countries where domesticated camels are common, but here, for obvious reasons, the domesticated cow is preferred. In the days before convenient lutherie supply places like Luthiers Mercantile existed, a trip to butcher would reward you with suitable material—usually from the cow’s femur or hip where the bone material is thickest. Of course, the process of turning raw bone into useable nut and saddle blanks involved lengthy boiling, bleaching, drying, and bandsawing.
Like all natural materials, bone has irregularities and imperfections. We usually want to avoid material with voids, pits, and inconsistent density. Bone, like wood, can also bend and twist, Most suppliers these days are getting cow bone blanks from China, but Luthiers Mercantile uses an Indian supplier who has easy access to bone material from the Asian Water Buffalo – Bubalus bubalis tgs. Some of these animals do still live in the wild, but the buffalo is widely domesticated as a food source. The buffalo is slightly larger and heavier than most common cows and so the bone material is denser and more consistent than regular cow bone.
We carry beautifully colored horn material from the Asian Water Buffalo too, but as with most animals, the horn material is significantly softer than bone. Many luthiers like to use unbleached bone, claiming the bleaching process diminishes the density of the bone. Others choose unbleached for the warm coloration. The Asian Water Buffalo’s bone is not as dark as cow bone. Should you want your unbleached nuts and saddles to take on a darker light brown/amber color, just leave them in a cup of black tea for a while!
Please check out our generous quantity discounts. Bone blanks are in common use in both repair and builder’s shops. It’s nice to have a good stash at hand. The finest quality and competitive prices make Luthiers Mercantile the best place to buy bone!