View Full Version : Bobby Henshaw Neck Removal question

04-01-2015, 07:02 PM
I recently aquired a a BH uke made in Sorkin,NY.
The neck is very loose, to the point that i can wiggle it side to side, and the finger board is no longer attached to the top so it moves with the neck.
The neck doesn't seem to want to slide forward and out like in a dovetail groove, or up like it's on a dowel pin. The neck block doesn't show any signs of a bolt on neck either.

My quandry is: I'm not sure what method was used to attach the neck, but I need to remove it to do other repairs and then reset it.
Does anyone here know how this neck may have been attached, and/or the best way to go about removing it? I'm assuming that hide glue was used but haven't tried steam yet.


04-02-2015, 12:03 AM
If it's that loose you could maybe get a feeler gauge in there to find the dowel if there is one. Or some other thing in the joint. I had a Bobby Henshaw soprano but I hated it - it had only 11 frets and sounded like I'd put strings on the case it came in. I hope yours is better, and good luck!


04-02-2015, 09:20 AM
I had a Bobby Henshaw soprano but I hated it - it had only 11 frets and sounded like I'd put strings on the case it came in. I hope yours is better, and good luck!

This one is a baritone, so I'm hoping for a better sound. Thanks for the tip about the feeler gauge. If there is a dowel pin, whats the best way to get it to let go? It feels like there's something holding the neck from coming up.
I'm going to get my GoPro inside the body tonight and get a better look at the neck block just in case I missed something.

04-02-2015, 02:44 PM
There could just be chunks of glue jamming the neck in place. Keep wiggling it to see if you can weasel it out, and if not, then go on to more technical options.

04-02-2015, 05:06 PM
Just for the hell of it I did some research on these Bobby Henshaw ukuleles.... It gets kind of confusing. From what I can tell at least three brands, including Regency among others contracted to Japan to build ukes which they would slap the Bobby Henshaw name on. The quality varied from total cheap crap to not too bad and everything in between, but mostly cheap crap. And then there was the "Officially Endorsed" Bobby Henshaw that was produced in Sorkin, NY. This is what Bobby had to say about this uke:

In Ukulele Hints By Bobby "Uke" Henshaw for the Baritone Ukulele. The booklet in part said: "If any artist is qualified to say what a good instrument should be, it can only be Bobby -- and his choice is the Henshaw Uke. He know (sic) it's made of the finest quality woods and is true in every respect."

Great PR eh? I mean what is the guy gonna say since it has his name all over it... Below a picture of a Bobby Uke Hanshaw uke. Notice the sprayed on "sunburst" to hide the top to side joint. This does not scream quality.


I tried to find out what type of neck to body attachment method the Sorkin manufacturer used (and by the way the "Sorkin Manufacturer" might have been outsourcing to Japan but that wasn't clear) so you might get an idea how to remove the neck. I am NOT a repair type person by the way, but I would guess they just used a pin dowl or even just a straight butt joint or a shallow mortise and tenon joint. Obviously not dove tail. I know what I would try to do, but won't say because it isn't that hard to remove necks, its all the damage (maybe some not repairable) that could result. That the fretboard has detached is good and makes it easier. One question: When you rock the neck, how big a gap to you see along the sides?

04-02-2015, 06:06 PM
Thanks Sequoia! I think I've been on the same site that you got that infomation from. The name plate on my uke does say Sorkin, N.Y. But you have a good point. They may have outsourced to Japan, which may not be a bad thing. Some of the old Japanese instruments were well constructed.

As for the neck gap, i measured it with my feeler gauges and the max opening side to side is .030" or 762mm. And when I poke the feeler guage down in the gap from the side, i hit something from the heal all the way to the fingerboard. So I think it may be a mortis & tennon joint, not a dowel pin.

04-02-2015, 07:06 PM
That looks good. Plenty of space.... Now, keeping in mind that this is the internet and I am not an official repair person, this is what I would do. Proceed at you own risk.

What you want to do obviously is minimize any cosmetic damage to the finish (if it can be called that) or crack the fretboard. You did say the fretboard is free of the top right? I would tape off all around the neck, sides and back with tape to protect the finish. Then I would take my syringe with a 16 gauge needle on it and carefully inject about 1 ml of boiling hot water into gap on each side. Then try some gentle persuasion to the neck. This is the feel part. Don't force it too much. Just till it starts to move. It is probably cheap old hide glue. You might have to repeat this step as you work out the joint. The good thing is that if you splinter the head block a little or the tenon when it gives, then you can fix that easy because it won't show. Once you get the neck off, carefully chip out the old glue. This is going to be very tedious. Careful not to over sand the tenon. At this point you probably will discover that the tenon was poorly cut and is undersized which means you need to shim.

At this point you might consider taking a fairly large stone, putting it in through the sound hole, getting a friend to stand on your left (since you are right handed), take out the 16 guage 5 shot automatic shotgun and yell... "PULL!" and have him (or her) throw the ukulele at a 45 degree angle into the air the object being to hit it at least twice before it hits the ground. If you miss, repeat.

But seriously, if you get the neck off, getting it back on and set is pretty straight forward. Sorta.

04-02-2015, 07:25 PM
Moisture and gentle heat will soften glue and aid you in removing the neck, but do not inject 1 ml of water from each side several times. That would be too much.

If you stick a feeler gauge in under the fretboard, does it go all the way to the heel or can you feel a tenon or a dovetail? If there's either you should be able to figure out if it's a straight tenon or a dovetail.

Don't think it can't have a dovetail just because it's was a cheap instrument.

04-02-2015, 07:27 PM
HaHa, yeah i don't think I'll be doing target practice just yet but that is pretty funny.
You and I are thinking alike. I've already got the surrounding area taped up, and heating the water in the pot.
I was able to get a hot putty knife almost all the way up under the finger board tongue to the tennon. My guess is that there's a glob of hide glue right there. The steam needle should soften it up.
And i just got a new shipment of hide glue from LMI today. Perfect timing!
I'll let you know how the steam works.

04-02-2015, 07:41 PM
At this point you might consider taking a fairly large stone, putting it in through the sound hole, getting a friend to stand on your left (since you are right handed), take out the 16 guage 5 shot automatic shotgun and yell... "PULL!" and have him (or her) throw the ukulele at a 45 degree angle into the air the object being to hit it at least twice before it hits the ground. If you miss, repeat..
I bought a guitar today for 25 bucks and this is going to be my backup plan if I can't fix it.

As for the Ukulele i'd sit on a chair and put the ukulele between my legs then grabbing the neck with both hands I'd pull like crazy at the same time as wiggling back and forth gently. If it's doweled or a mortise and tenon joint it should give. On the off chance that its dovetailed witch I wouldn't think is very likely then the joint shouldn't be able to be broken by your arms strength especially with it supported on ether side by your legs.

04-03-2015, 06:38 PM
Success! With a little help from my daughter's espresso machine, I was able to apply some steam into the neck joint. I then stood the Uke up with the top facing away from me, wrapped my fingers over the top shoulders, and placed my thumbs on the very back of the neck heal, and applied pressure with my thumbs. The glue had softened just enough and after about 30 seconds the neck tenon slid forward and out to the mortise.
If you look closely, you can see a shim on the bottom of the tenon and one along the one side of the mortise. I don't know if these were installed as part of the original build, or added somewhere later on as part of a neck reset. Tomorrow the back comes off so I can start with the inside repair of the cracked sides. More photos to follow.


04-04-2015, 04:23 AM
I'd bet a lot of money that the pocket shim is original to the instrument. I've even seen those in relatively new Martin guitars. No matter how carefully you set up the machines, stuff happens. Even if the dovetail is a tight fit the centerline of the neck may point in the wrong direction. That's life.

04-04-2015, 09:03 AM
Jcalkin, I agree with you on this.
I did a closer inspection this morning and when looking at the front of the neck block, I can see that the side that the shim is on seems to have a bit too much wood removed towards the bottom of the groove. Possibly too much time spent with a file on that side, and hence the shim. I'm going to clean up the joint as best I can but maybe leave the shim undisturbed. Once I get to the point of reassembly I'll have to see if the neck will line up correctly and be a solid fit before gluing.
Next up, the back removal.

04-04-2015, 05:46 PM
Could it be that that neck fit was off in the first place and needed to be shimmed contributed to the eventual neck failure? Very possible. So when it comes time to reset the neck, re-shimming it might not be the way to go. Really fixing that joint might get a little tricky, but here is the chance to do it right. It can be done. Looks like this is one of the more quality Bobby Henshaw ukes worth saving. I have to admit I was surprised it had such a sophisticated neck to body join for what was basically a novelty instrument. Perhaps somebody over reached just a little bit. Keep us posted.

04-04-2015, 09:20 PM
Will do. Thanks for the insights.yes I was surprised at the neck join as well. Makes it all the more worth restoring.

04-05-2015, 03:39 AM
Are you in Australia? Your pictures are upside down. ;)

I don't think shims are a problem at all, if you can get them well fitted. Working with the shims may be a bit finicky, but should allow you to get the neck set perfectly centered and square to the bridge.

04-05-2015, 02:14 PM
No, it's a weird quirk of my iPad. I need to set it so the pictures are always right side up. Goddoint on the shim.
When I get to the point of neck reassembly, i'm going to see how the angle is. I may opt to use a new shim.

04-05-2015, 05:57 PM
After you get through cleaning out all that tear out, glue and old shim material, that joint is gonna be pretty loose and beat up. Here is an idea, and I'm not saying this is the way to go, but why not use wood putty to fill out the tenon by using waxpaper and some of these modern wood putties? Smear wood putty on the tenon, and clamp down into the mortise with waxpaper which in effect acts as a mold for the new tenon. One could also set the neck at the same time so the joint is square and flush to the body. I've never done this, just thinking out loud.... Potential problem: The thickness of the waxpaper is going to be an issue. The glue then fills this to even void.....,,, Seems better than just gluing in filets of woods to try and shim and square up.

Just a thought.

04-05-2015, 08:29 PM
I'd glue thick shims to all surfaces and recut the joint ..But thats me.

04-06-2015, 06:48 AM
I'd glue thick shims to all surfaces and recut the joint ..But thats me.

Yes, yes that is the way to go for sure. I was just thinking out loud. I would certainly experiment before I tried using woodputty on a uke I cared about. A person could make a hellava mess... But still, the idea intrigues me. Fill your joint, set neck before it cures and glue all at the same time....

04-07-2015, 08:09 PM
I like that idea. I'm planning on making a "test neck" for getting the correct fit before I do anything with the real thing.


04-07-2015, 09:17 PM
From what I remember on my early attempts at compound dovetails on ukes ....it ain't for the faint hearted.;)

04-08-2015, 04:48 AM
But, your new compound came out really nice! So precise

04-08-2015, 06:49 AM
That was down to jigs and stuff..I'm talking about hand tools and eye balling.

04-08-2015, 08:14 AM
... I'm talking about hand tools and I bawling.
It's not that bad is it?

04-08-2015, 07:24 PM
Yeah, I want to hear about this too. How did you do it?