Highwood Vintage Contoured Strat Saddles

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Highwood Vintage Contoured Strat Saddles

Highwood saddles are one of our favorite upgrades for the Fender Stratocaster. They can be installed in minutes with just a small upcharge to a standard setup.

Fender Vintage Style Saddles

Fender Vintage Saddles on a Stratocaster

Fender “vintage style” stamped saddles have been used for decades on Stratocasters and many other S-style guitars. Made of bent steel, they are highly adjustable and possess a classic look.

However, for some playing styles, these saddles have a major drawback. Even when properly adjusted, the saddle height adjustment screws often extend well above the top of the saddle!

Players that like to palm mute, or rest their hand on the bridge, while playing have experienced the discomfort that comes from the sharp screw tops pressing against the fleshy palm of their hand.

For many years, the best available “fix” for this problem was to vary the adjustment screw sizes so that the outer saddles used smaller screws than those in the center. While this can help rein in extreme cases, it does not address the fundamental issue! Fortunately, the folks at Highwood Guitar Parts have re-engineered Leo Fender’s original design, correcting this problem.  

Highwood HG Contoured Saddles

Highwood Guitars Parts “HG Contoured Vintage Guitar Saddles” are an upgraded replacement for Fender “vintage style” saddles. Available in both gloss and reliced nickel finishes, they retain the look and sound of the original Fender design with specific improvements to fit the demands of modern players. 

Like the original, these saddles are made of steel for a familiar look and tone. The key feature of these saddles is the redesigned curve at the front end. The front of the saddle bends underneath and is threaded at the bottom, rather than the top, to prevent the height adjustment screws from sticking out above the saddle!

Highwood saddles are also notched for more accurate string placement and less movement. In another clever move, the height adjustment and intonation screws are made out of stainless steel to prevent rust.

Feel The Difference

Before

Fender Vintage Style Saddles

After

Highwood Vintage Countoured Saddles

Authorized Highwood Guitar Parts Dealer

Calico Guitarworks is an authorized Highwood Guitar Parts dealer.
We are proud to carry these fine products.
They are available in three sizes to match your instrument’s string spacing.

HG Contoured Vintage Saddles - Nickel Gloss

10,50 Gloss - 2-1/16" Spacing
10,80 Gloss - 2-1/8" Spacing
11,20 Gloss - 2-7/32" Spacing

HG Contoured Vintage Saddles - Nickel Reliced

10,50 Reliced - 2-1/16" Spacing
10,80 Reliced - 2-1/8" Spacing
11,20 Reliced - 2-7/32" Spacing

HG Contoured Vintage Saddles - Chrome

10,50 Chrome - 2-1/16" Spacing
10,80 Chrome - 2-1/8" Spacing
11,20 Chrome - 2-7/32" Spacing

What Size Saddles Should I Buy?

Measure Your Existing Saddles
using a micrometer to measure the width of an individual saddle.

For the best fit, it is essential to measure your instrument. To start, measure an individual saddle, ideally, using a micrometer or caliper; While the number you get may vary slightly based on a number of factors, it should closely approximate one of the three sizes available (10.5mm, 10.8mm, 11.2mm).

Next, measure the overall string spacing at the bridge from the 1st to the 6th string. Ideally, the saddles will correlate with the overall string spacing of your instrument. For example, an individual saddle of 10.5mm matches with a 2-1/16th inch E to E string spacing.  

Mismatched Saddles on Strats
Poorly matched saddles on a Stratocaster.

Unfortunately, it is all too common to find guitars with saddles that are not correctly matched to the instrument’s string spacing. The included photo is an example of this. 

The installed saddles, while factory original, are too small for the bridge’s string spacing. The spacing is supposed to be 2-7/32″, which should mean that an appropriate saddle will measure 11.2mm each. However, in this case the saddles measure only 10.8mm each.

The mismatch is a cause for some concern. First of all, they just look off! Zooming in, the saddles are noticeably bunched up in the front and there is space visible on the back sides. Correctly fit saddles should sit fairly flush against one another. 

Besides aesthetics, this poor fit effects functionality. When improperly fit, the string does not leave the center of the saddle but can instead rub against the side. (zoom in on the 1st string for an example). The additional friction can throw the instrument out of tune and lead to premature string breakage, especially with whammy bar use.

To correct this issue, we will fit this instrument with the wider 11.2mm saddles that the bridge is intended for, instead of the original, but incorrect, 10.8mm. 

Installation

Highwood saddles are pre-threaded with the intonation screw by the manufacturer to ensure a proper fit. These screws must be removed and reinstalled to mount the saddles to your existing bridge. It is extremely important that the screw is held perpendicular to the mounting hole during reinstallation; Failure to do so will cause the screw to cross-thread and hang up. There should not be significant resistance while turning the screw; Driving a cross threaded screw may result in damage to the saddle and/or screw breakage. 

We strongly recommend professional installation. Barring that, best practice is to remove the bridge from the guitar prior to mounting. If the saddles are to be installed without bridge removal, a long shaft screwdriver, allowing the handle to clear the instrument’s body, will minimize the chances of angling the screws during installation.

Erik Salomon - Calico Guitarworks Owner / Head Technician
Erik Salomon - Calico Guitarworks Owner / Head Technician

Tech Talk articles are part of an ongoing effort to provide clear and detailed answers to common questions about guitar maintenance, modifications, and repairs.
While not intended as a step-by-step guide to servicing your own instrument, we hope that you will find value in the information provided.

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About Calico Guitarworks

Calico Guitarworks is the area’s premier destination for fretted musical instrument care and maintenance. Owned and managed by Erik Salomon, the shop is dedicated to providing quick, honest and reliable service. The staff at Calico Guitarworks has a combined 25+ years of professional guitar repair experience. Sharing the knowledge that we accumulate in this focused pursuit is at the core of what we do. Learn more About Calico Guitarworks, explore our Frequently Asked Questions, or Contact us with a specific request.

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