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View Full Version : Action adjustment: Raising saddle and lowering nut?



dxdydz
06-16-2015, 01:49 AM
I've got two ukes that need some setup. I've never done any of this, so some elucidation would be appreciated.

One is a concert with very low action -- something like 2-2.5 mm at the 12th fret. I get fret buzz if I don't use a light enough touch when picking. I am swapping the strings out, so I figured I'd try raising the saddle while I'm in there. I've read to put a piece of paper underneath. Is that really enough to raise it sufficiently? Does cardboard work as well? Just basically anything flat and thin? Wouldn't paper products gradually compress under the tension of the strings, re-introducing the problem as time wore on?


The other uke is a trickier problem. It's a new ukulele, and it came (supposedly set up) with very high action at the nut. Pressing down at the third fret, there's over 1 mm above the first. Is this something that can be fixed at home? Can you sand down the bottom of the nut without causing too much trouble? I know that the slots are filed in a very particular way to maintain a proper angle of the string through the nut. I am worried about mucking this up. Also, the nut is made of bone -- does this introduce additional complications?

Kayak Jim
06-16-2015, 02:43 AM
I used the following video to guide me through action adjustment at the nut. On the same uke I removed a plastic shim that was installed at the saddle. If you need to add height to the saddle it should be with something fairly dense and, as you say, non compressable. I wouldn't use cardboard but maybe plastic from an old credit card or similar.

https://reyalpeleluku.wordpress.com/2011/04/09/ukulele-diy-video-how-i-adjust-the-action-on-a-cheap-uke/

bnolsen
06-16-2015, 04:04 AM
business card or cereal box work pretty good as shim materials.

For nut slots its best to do them one at a time and not sand the bottom.
Lowes or Home Depot will have what are called "torch tip cleaners" which work great for minor adjustments.

kypfer
06-16-2015, 05:05 AM
I've got two ukes that need some setup. I've never done any of this, so some elucidation would be appreciated.

One is a concert with very low action -- something like 2-2.5 mm at the 12th fret. I get fret buzz if I don't use a light enough touch when picking. I am swapping the strings out, so I figured I'd try raising the saddle while I'm in there. I've read to put a piece of paper underneath. Is that really enough to raise it sufficiently? Does cardboard work as well? Just basically anything flat and thin? Wouldn't paper products gradually compress under the tension of the strings, re-introducing the problem as time wore on?


The other uke is a trickier problem. It's a new ukulele, and it came (supposedly set up) with very high action at the nut. Pressing down at the third fret, there's over 1 mm above the first. Is this something that can be fixed at home? Can you sand down the bottom of the nut without causing too much trouble? I know that the slots are filed in a very particular way to maintain a proper angle of the string through the nut. I am worried about mucking this up. Also, the nut is made of bone -- does this introduce additional complications?

The thin plastic packaging as used for many foodstuffs, yoghurt, margerine and similar spreads etc. makes excellent shim material. Soft enough to be cut with scissors, strong enough not to compress, thin enough to allow two or more layers to be used if needed (and you don't have an old credit card to hand).

As for the nut, I've never removed and sanded one, always filed the slots (slowly!! file little, check lots!!). In the event of a little over enthusiasm, a sliver of the aforementioned food packaging can be superglued into the slot to help recover the problem. I'd imagine, if the nut is easily removable, sanding the underneath of it might be an easy solution. Mine have all been glued into place and I'd not wanted to risk chipping the finish removing it. Having said that, oversanding of the bottom of the nut may leave all four strings too low. At least with a file in the slot you've a chance of getting some of them right ;)

SteveZ
06-16-2015, 05:32 AM
Everyone has their own favorite material for filling a saddle slot. I usually use business card stock. There's always some unwanted business card on the desk and the slice up rather neatly.

As far as the nut goes, I've never removed one for the sake of string height. Re-glueing a nut can be a challenging deal, trying to get it in cleanly and level. Filing the string slots is what I do, using "round files" so to alleviate the potential of strings being gouged/cut when tension us applied. Welding rod cleaners (found in most hardware stores under $10) which come in a tin containing various gauges (see photo) have worked well for me.
80688

Nickie
06-19-2015, 12:07 PM
HUH! The last time I cut off a piece of my credit card to use it for a shim, it wouldn't work in the debit machine at the super market anymore! Dadgummit.