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beeejums
03-30-2009, 07:39 AM
So, I want to learn to work on my own instruments... set them up, tweak the action, make minor corrections to intonation, make minor repairs, maybe even restore some older or ill-used instruments. I'm even willing to invest in some tools, if I can ever find out where to get them.

Where do you wizened UU mentors learn this stuff, like fixing action, or diagnosing problems with intonation (nut issues, filing down frets, etc.)?

Most of the how-to responses I've read always include the "take it to a luthier or guitar tech" clause, but how do you learn to do it yourself? And on whose instrument if not your own?

I'm not too interested in building my own instruments from scratch (I don't think I have the patience, and I KNOW I don't have the money), I just want to learn to work on my own instruments. From where I'm standing right now, it seems like it should be in the same vein as changing your own oil...

I'm poor... I once inquired about a setup, and was told I'd be charged $40/hour... is it that complicated? If it's that lucrative, perhaps I should consider a change of career...

Can anyone recommend a good website, or even a book?

Thanks!!! :rock:

(I hope I don't sound like too much of a noob)

buddhuu
03-30-2009, 11:28 AM
IMO, setup is something every string instrument player should learn.
The best single resource I know of is Frank Ford's site www.frets.com. The site can take a bit of hunting around - it's a bit archaic from a design and usability point of view, but it's a treasure house of knowledge and instruction.

Some here write about adjusting nut slots with hacksaws, knives and various files. That is one job that I think is best done with the correct tools. I bought a set of nut files a few years ago from www.stewmac.com and it was some of the best money I ever spent. Since then I have set up all my own mandolins, guitars, ukes etc.

With uke, the great thing is that 20 will buy you a Mahalo or Makala that you can use to practice your skills. Spare nuts, saddles and bone blanks for both are easy to find at StewMac or on eBay. Sandpaper, a good steel straight edge and ruler... You really don't need much.

In two or three hours I can make, fit and adjust a new, handmade bone nut and bridge saddle. It's not hard. Just a few tools and a lot of practice.

Check out Frets.com for a start, but most string instrument forums will have luthier/setup/repair forums full of really helpful experts who are amazingly generous with their experience and advice.

So start at this page http://www.frets.com/FRETSPages/pagelist.html and be sure to scroll down.

If you're into learning to build, you could do worse than check out the instrument kits from StewMac. I did one of their mandos. Great fun.

Good luck.

ukantor
03-30-2009, 12:05 PM
Buddhu has said it all. Read some good info. buy a cheap uke, give it a go. It is just common sense, once you have a clear idea of what you are trying to achieve. You DO need good eyesight.

Ukantor.

beeejums
03-30-2009, 04:31 PM
This is great... thanks!

Kekani
03-30-2009, 05:55 PM
So, I want to learn to work on my own instruments... set them up, tweak the action, make minor corrections to intonation, make minor repairs, maybe even restore some older or ill-used instruments. I'm even willing to invest in some tools, if I can ever find out where to get them.

Where do you wizened UU mentors learn this stuff, like fixing action, or diagnosing problems with intonation (nut issues, filing down frets, etc.)?

I'm not too interested in building my own instruments from scratch (I don't think I have the patience, and I KNOW I don't have the money), I just want to learn to work on my own instruments. From where I'm standing right now, it seems like it should be in the same vein as changing your own oil... (I hope I don't sound like too much of a noob)

Personally, its easier to build a good instrument, than to fix a bad one.

Personally, it takes more skill to repair than it does to build.

Personally, restoration is probably one of the most difficult things to do to an instrument, requiring the most amount of skill, and experience.

Bottom line, you can buy tools. You can't buy experience, unless you pay someone else for theirs (or spend the years on your own).

Buddhu said something pertinent - if it takes a 3 hours to setup a nut and a saddle, that's $150 right there, and you haven't even bought the nut and saddle, or the tools, or the wood for the instrument.

-Aaron

buddhuu
03-30-2009, 10:49 PM
Personally, its easier to build a good instrument, than to fix a bad one.

Personally, it takes more skill to repair than it does to build.

Personally, restoration is probably one of the most difficult things to do to an instrument, requiring the most amount of skill, and experience.

Bottom line, you can buy tools. You can't buy experience, unless you pay someone else for theirs (or spend the years on your own).

Buddhu said something pertinent - if it takes a 3 hours to setup a nut and a saddle, that's $150 right there, and you haven't even bought the nut and saddle, or the tools, or the wood for the instrument.

-Aaron

All fair comments. Setup is one thing, and IMHO it is within the capabilities of most players if they make sure they have the basic tools, do the research and practice on an expendable instrument. If you have one uke and will never want another, then it is probably not worth even learning setup - but if you are caught in the UAS cycle and change your ukes with your pants, then you can make your playing life easier and save a lot of money in the long term by learning setup. People like Frank F put the knowledge out there, and respect to them for sharing their years of experience.

Restoration and repair? A totally different kettle of fish, and Aaron is so right: often harder to fix a bad instrument than to build a whole one. No way would I tackle twisted necks, bellied or collapsed tops, inaccurately spaced nut slots...

I'm a tweaker, not a surgeon! :D

ukantor
03-30-2009, 11:05 PM
Just want to say, it shouldn't take anything like three hours to do basic set up on a uke, and if you are doing it for yourself it is not costing you $50 an hour.
What else would you have been doing - watching crap TV? - hanging around the Mall? - struggling to play a uke that needs to be adjusted?

I bought an early Kumalae. It was in good condition, just a couple of tight cracks that don't need attention. I didn't enjoy playing it. The action was too high at both ends. This is a uke that has been around for maybe seventy years. The fret board showed it had been played quite a lot, and all that time it needed to be adjusted to get the best out of it. It took me less than half an hour to fix it, and now I enjoy playing it.

I think that is what Beejums is talking about.

Ukantor.

buddhuu
03-31-2009, 02:29 AM
3 hours in my post was for making a nut and saddle from oversize bone blanks (cutting, sanding, slotting, finishing and polishing), clean away old glue residue and ensure flat fitting surfaces, fitting/adjusting.

As you say, basic setup is much quicker. To adjust nut slot depth... maybe 10 or 15 minutes. To sand a bridge saddle to lower action at that end... about the same. Slackening the strings and taping them aside takes almost as long as the adjustments.

For me it's not so much why learn to do it, it's why would anyone not learn to do it?

PS: Ukantor, a Kumalae? That's what... a 1920's uke? Where do you get vintage ukes in the UK?

deach
03-31-2009, 02:35 AM
.....

For me it's not so much why learn to do it, it's why would anyone not learn to do it?
....

Seems like another chore to me. I know how to do laundry but I'd rather have someone else do it for me.

buddhuu
03-31-2009, 03:49 AM
Heh heh. Never thought of it like that!

I suppose I just enjoy messing around with sandpaper. :D

Seriously, it does mean that if I get a new uke I can just go to it and tweak to my liking rather than play on a high action or wait to take it to a shop.

The only remotely decent uke I have is a Stagg Concert. Not great, but it's pretty ok. When I got it the action was way high at both nut and saddle. If I didn't know how to fix it I would most likely have just played it with the poor intonation and discomfort. I would probably never have bothered taking it to the shop.

Chances are I wouldn't play it every day like I do now.

beeejums
03-31-2009, 04:09 AM
Personally, its easier to build a good instrument, than to fix a bad one.

Personally, it takes more skill to repair than it does to build.

Personally, restoration is probably one of the most difficult things to do to an instrument, requiring the most amount of skill, and experience.

Bottom line, you can buy tools. You can't buy experience, unless you pay someone else for theirs (or spend the years on your own).

Buddhu said something pertinent - if it takes a 3 hours to setup a nut and a saddle, that's $150 right there, and you haven't even bought the nut and saddle, or the tools, or the wood for the instrument.

-Aaron

Good advice, taken into consideration (i.e., I won't take on any huge or expensive projects without some further advice / research), but Ukantor is right, I'm mainly looking to understand why thing work the way they do on stringed instruments.

frets.com is a great resource indeed, I lost some sleep last night reading, and it was a good thing :D

Deach, I see where you're coming from... but I like tinkering. Laundry and tinkering are different. Unless you're the Maytag man.

http://mentalfloss.cachefly.net/wp-content/uploads/2007/10/maytag.jpg

But then, for someone who likes laundry so much, why is he always in the same getup?