View Full Version : Old Uke needs a bit of work!

09-28-2014, 08:28 PM
Hi Guys

I would like to get this old 40s/50s Aussie uke 'working' again - I don't want to 'restore' it 'as such' ..... just get it to playable condition for my stepson - It was his father's uke.

This is a 'Museum One' - an Australian JMG Ukulele - which was one of the first ukuleles ever made in Australia. It may be Mahogany - it has an arch-topped front AND back, similar to a violin body shape

This is the one I will be working on!

Some cracks in the body

The original timber nut is totally stuffed and will need replacing - it looks pretty well locked in place too! :confused:

The old 'painted' fretboard' is worn thru to the timber on the first few frets (proof that it was loved & played HEAPS in it's youth!) and should be 're-done'

The removable bridge is also cracked and one edge of it is almost missing in action, but I should be able to glue that back together OK. The base of it is 'curved' to fit the archtopped shape of the front of the uke.

I think I'm going to need all the help that I can get to even get this to 'half' usable!! :eek:

Should I try and work on the timber to give the body a 'nicer look'?

Do I string it up with Aquila or other strings?

I was planning on putting geared tuners on it as I believe it will be easier for them to tune it up than the original friction ones - the original tuners are incredibly 'thin' and no matter what I replace them with, I'll need to drill the holes first! :eek: And they don't match - 3 black & 1 white! If I oil them up, would they 'work smoother' if i just put back 'as is'?

Any help, tips or suggestions - particularly on replacing the nut and working on the fretboard would be gratefully appreciated

cheers for now and thanking you in advance!


09-28-2014, 08:53 PM
The cracks in the body should be repaired with hot hide glue.

If one edge of the bridge foot is cracked, missing or whatever, then a new bridge needs to be made.

The nut obviously needs to be replaced. Not all that difficult of a job. Can be made out of wood as was the old one, or bone would look good too.

The tuners could be swapped out to a much better friction tuner. Perhaps the Waverly's.

Or go with PegHeads. Though those are far more difficult to fit as you need the correct tapered reamer and that is an expensive tool just on it's own.

If it was mine, I would not be sanding back the body to make it look new. The charm of those instruments is the patina of age and use. It would be a real shame to loose that.

09-28-2014, 10:38 PM
Thanks for your reply, Allen - I'll do some research on using Hide Glue - is there anywhere here you can just get 'small amounts' of it? I don't think I'll be needing a whole packet?

I'd probably go bone with the Nut - I think it would look nice, too.

I don't want to take that patina away from the timber either. But just thought I could get some of the grime off it that has really 'dulled' the timber?

What about the fretboard tho? Just leave the divots 'as is'? They are 'obvious to the touch'!

And the strings - would the Aquila be a bit 'harsh' for it? Too 'strong'?

I'll have to look at the tuners .....

A portion of the edge of the bridge is missing - but there is still enough for the string to sit comfortably in the slot - and the pressure of the strings held the crack together! I didn't even know it was cracked til I removed the strings!



09-29-2014, 12:39 AM
You can get various types of hide or bone glue on eBay. Alternately Goods and Chattels (http://www.goodsandchattels.com) in Brisbane usually has it.

If the bridge is still intact, you could probably glue the crack together with HHG as well.

It depends on what the finish is on the instrument....too hard to tell from the pictures you've posted. For a build up of general grime (sweat and dirt) you could clean it up starting with the mildest solution of just a warm slightly damp cloth with clean water and perhaps a tiny bit of real soap (Sunlight Bar Soap). Clean a small area at a time and buff up with a soft dry cloth.

For the divots in the fret board, I couldn't say without seeing it in person. Is it just thick paint that has worn away, or has it taken wood as well?

The fret board looks like it needs a really good cleaning and buffing up the frets. You can use a nail buff to put a really good shine on frets without the worry of damaging anything. I buy the ones on a foam block with coarse to very fine on each side.

I hate Aquilla strings. Don't care what the instrument is. I'd never use them. Though I've had a few clients insist on them. I've always strung up with my choice just to hear the instrument and then swap them out for the clients preference. Not once have the Aquilla's impressed me. My preference on ukuleles is either South Coast Ukes or Worth Browns.

09-29-2014, 04:54 AM
naptha works well to clean grime & gunk from an instrument. it won't damage the finish or even bare wood. cool looking uke, good luck on the resto.

09-30-2014, 09:53 PM
Thanks, Allen - I'd thought about the Worth Strings, Allen, so may go down that line of enquiry! Terrific tips on buffing up the frets - they aren't too bad, but the buffing would definitely help! The divots are thru the thick black paint TO the wood. I don't think the wood is worn at all.

Thanks Ramone - That Naptha sounds interesting, Ramone - I don't think it is available in Aussie - tho Shellite is supposed to b e similar! It is surely a 'different' shaped uke from most - it has a lip around both top & bottom edges, not 'snug' as most uke edges (this one is similar to a violin edge) which makes it quite unique. One went for $215 on Ebay in July & also needed a bit of work .... not as much as my stepson's tho!! :(