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Fossilized Walrus Ivory (FWI) Guitar Saddle

By Todd Stuart Phillips


TSP's Spoonful:
I must begin my section of this review by saying I really did not expect there to be a considerable difference between the three saddle materials tested. I was delighted to be proven wrong. I will not dwell on the qualities of the Micarta, International Paper's patented composite made from wood pulp and epoxy resin. It sounded very good at first listen, with a distinct, metallic ring at all registers. But the moment we moved on to the bone saddle it was obvious the Micarta did not fit into the same tier. I could not hear the guitar at all when Tony played with his bare fingers. Once the bone was in place it was like someone turned the volume knob up, but also dialed in the sound so the notes really stood up and out of the guitar.
I was also a bit surprised by the overall tonal quality of the bone. My experience has been that bone starts out bright and even a bit shrill and then after a few months simply leaves a very transparent and pure ring. This guitar sounded very woody, warm and rich. I did notice the high register *ping* in the Micarta was totally gone. I guess the added mellowness was a result of the bone saddle being played in for decades. It is also possible the behemoth body of 36 year old Brazilian rosewood and the richness of the Sitka spruce top contributed as well.
When it came to switching bone for fossilized walrus ivory I simply was not prepared for the change that occurred. I have heard they were similar but FWI was "brighter". I also expected it to be brittle and shrill, like a new bone saddle is. Instead, what I heard was a very rich, woody tone. Tony felt FWI had more volume; I felt bone did, but not by much. What FWI did have was even more character. I would not say it was brighter. Rather it brought even more dynamics and frequencies. The chime that was there in Micarta and absent in bone was replaced by an even more satisfying twinkle ringing off the unwound strings and the trebles were as pure and transparent as the bone variety, only with more substance. They were fatter without losing any clarity. There is a succulent quality to the notes that ring off of fossilized ivory when compared to bone and I think that must in part account for why guitars like Martin's D-18GE and the OM-45GE have such great tone when brand new, despite their stiff, Adirondack spruce tops. A good bone saddle provides a great 3-D effect that allows the listener to hear fundamentals ringing off the strings and at the same time detect the various tonal layers underneath that top voice, which swell out of the tonewood body. I was pleasantly surprised to find this brand new, fossilized walrus ivory saddle had an even more detailed and discernible soundscape beneath the fundamentals. And in a guitar with aged and open tonewoods it picked up the most subtle overtones and broadcast them in a wonderful way.
After learning something about the tonal differences between bone and fossilized walrus ivory and seeing that played out on a vintage dreadnought with a robust Sitka spruce top, it makes me want to see how they compare on a modern guitar as well as one with a smaller top So, we will be taking my lightly braced Martin OMC-28B, with its super-tight Adirondack top and replacing its stock bone saddle with one of fossilized walrus ivory, identical to that which we put in Tony's larger than life, 12-fret dreadnought. Same Walrus Time, same Walrus Channel!
In terms of a large-bodied guitar with plenty to offer, out of a possible 8 notes on the T Spoon Scale of Guitaracity I give the Maury's Music Fossilized Ivory Saddle a succulent 7 notes.


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