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View Full Version : Straps, strap buttons, etc.



robedney
04-13-2016, 11:59 AM
Reading another post inspired this one. There are a lot of very good reasons to use a strap on a uke, all of which have been covered here on UU. Some folks are reluctant to put a strap button (or two) on an expensive instrument. Here's the thing: Every traditionally made wooden uke has an end block at the bottom - a solid chunk of wood where the two sides meet. Drilling for a strap button means that you are going into that end block, not just through the thin side of the instrument. There is no structural/mechanical reason not to put a strap button on.

Although I prefer one strap button on the bottom, with the top end of the strapped laced around the peghead, there is also no good reason not to put a strap button on the heal of the neck. Once again, plenty of solid wood to hold the screw, no structural issues/risks.

A really good luthier can also remove and strap button and all but make the hole invisible -- but it takes someone with some fine finishing experience to pull that off.

There are, of course, alternative straps that do not require buttons -- but in my experience these don't work out for all ukes and/or all people. I would never ask a beginner to learn to play without a strap, and I -- for one -- play much better with my uke hung around my neck!

Lastly, my favorite uke right now is a prototype carbon fiber instrument that has never seen the inside of a case or gig bag. I put it on with the strap and just swing it around to my back when I go anywhere, including on my electric scooter. Works a treat!

So, in my humble opinion, the reasons to use a strap far outweigh any reasons not to :rolleyes:

janeray1940
04-13-2016, 01:35 PM
Agree completely. I too prefer the single strap button on the bottom. As long as the uke can handle it structurally - make your life easier and just do it! I've tried many if not all of the alternative straps out there and most of them just don't do it for me. They work great for sitting down, but I prefer to play standing.

There seems to be this misconception that installing a strap button will devalue the uke. I've sold probably a half-dozen strap-buttoned ukes here on UU, and I think I've only lost significant money on one (a custom, so the devaluation had nothing to do with the strap button).

DownUpDave
04-13-2016, 03:10 PM
Where is the "LIKE" button.

#ukestrapsforlife

Jim Yates
04-13-2016, 06:27 PM
I must say that I agree completely with Robert's original post. All of my ukes are strapped.

hollisdwyer
04-13-2016, 06:32 PM
I must say that I agree completely with Robert's original post. All of my ukes are strapped.

Mine too. Also I use nice one's with ebony or shell inlays. Never those metal one's.

UkingViking
04-13-2016, 07:42 PM
I don't have straps :-/

Been playing for about a year, only playing sitting down, resting the uke on my lab like I would a guitar. Holding it in place with the arm made it difficult for me to change chords. I know I could learn it, but resting it seemed easier when I started.
But I gotta get some straps!

Strap buttons: I assume installing them is easy piecy. No need for professionals for that - right?
It looks simple, but I just want to make sure.

Straps: which European vendors have the coolest selection of straps for button in one end, leash in the other?
I consider making my own if I don't find the perfect one. Does someone have a how-to for dummies? Like which lengths is should be adjustable between, what materials to use etc.

kohanmike
04-13-2016, 07:51 PM
I install all of my own metal strap buttons, tail and heel. Just use a marker to put a dot there, use a drill bit slightly thinner than the screw, drill slowly and straight, that's it. In no way does it devalue the instrument. Every pro player I've seen uses straps with what looks like custom made ukes, so strap buttons had to be installed by someone.

Booli
04-13-2016, 08:02 PM
If my uke does not have an endpin jack from a pickup (which I've typically installed myself), I will install a strap button at the heel, and then I tie the other end of the strap to the headstock between the nut and tuners.

Some folks prefer not to use a strap. Whatever works, there is no JUDGEMENT here.

There is no shame in using a strap and anyone that tells you otherwise is either wholly ignorant or simply an idiot.

I use a strap for the same reason that I detest and refuse to use friction tuners:

I want to PLAY the damn thing and not keep fiddling with it and getting frustrated. :music:

Tootler
04-13-2016, 11:28 PM
Strap buttons: I assume installing them is easy piecy. No need for professionals for that - right?
It looks simple, but I just want to make sure.

Straps: which European vendors have the coolest selection of straps for button in one end, leash in the other?
I consider making my own if I don't find the perfect one. Does someone have a how-to for dummies? Like which lengths is should be adjustable between, what materials to use etc.

Fitting a strap button is a straightforward DIY job. Someone else has already explained how. Use hand tools not electric ones, though.

I have got most of my straps off ebay from "Straps for Chords". They have a good selection of designs including ukulele and music note patterns. I have a card from a recent order:

Contact details: strapsforchords@hotmail.com
Web: www.strapsforchords.webs.com
ebay: traci56guineapigs

She's UK based but that should not be a problem for you in Denmark. I'm in the UK and regularly order items from mainland Europe.

You can also get strap buttons from ebay. There's a good selection but make sure you mention ukulele when you search as it's better to avoid the bigger guitar strap buttons.

Lori
04-14-2016, 05:14 AM
Mandolin straps are a good size for ukes.
UkuMele in Germany has my Uke Leashes (no button needed).

I never play without a strap.

–Lori

JMort847
04-14-2016, 05:28 AM
I've started using a strap on my soprano ukes, because I'm trying to get left thumb placement down. Without it, the neck slides into the area between my thumb and index finger. I've tried a uke thong, but am concerned with potential damage, so I prefer my uke leash. The leash is a definite on my tenor, so I can focus on clean fretting.

Tim Mullins
04-14-2016, 06:49 AM
I think there's no question that using a strap makes playing easier. For those who do not want to drill their ukulele, the Mobius Strap gives true hands-free support, whether sitting or standing. You can check it out at http://www.mobiusstrap.com.

macfish
04-14-2016, 09:51 AM
Use hand tools not electric ones, though.

Seriously?! What is the logic behind this statement?

Fleacia
04-14-2016, 12:12 PM
Use hand tools not electric ones, though.

Seriously?! What is the logic behind this statement?

Because I can't be the only one who has screwed up a uke with an electric drill. Hand tools are easier to control for some of us, but we don't always find that out beforehand.

Tootler
04-14-2016, 01:19 PM
Use hand tools not electric ones, though.

Seriously?! What is the logic behind this statement?

Electric drills and screwdrivers are excellent for most diy jobs around the house but hand tools, being slower, allow more control and are better for fine work. Less chance of damaging your expensive uke.

Tootler
04-14-2016, 01:28 PM
Mandolin straps are a good size for ukes.
UkuMele in Germany has my Uke Leashes (no button needed).

I never play without a strap.

–Lori

I've just ordered another from you and I could have saved myself some postage if I'd realised. OTOH, they only seem to be carrying black and brown and I ordered a blue one so for the full range of colours, I still have to order direct from you.

Lori
04-14-2016, 03:26 PM
I've just ordered another from you and I could have saved myself some postage if I'd realised. OTOH, they only seem to be carrying black and brown and I ordered a blue one so for the full range of colours, I still have to order direct from you.
Thanks Geoff! I shipped your order today. The colors are really fun, but most retailers will only stock the best selling colors unless they have requests from their customers. I make the straps to order, and that makes it easier to manage inventory.
–Lori

Booli
04-14-2016, 03:49 PM
Use hand tools not electric ones, though.

Seriously?! What is the logic behind this statement?


Because I can't be the only one who has screwed up a uke with an electric drill. Hand tools are easier to control for some of us, but we don't always find that out beforehand.


Electric drills and screwdrivers are excellent for most diy jobs around the house but hand tools, being slower, allow more control and are better for fine work. Less chance of damaging your expensive uke.

Yes. :agree:

Ever had a drill bit skip OR slip on you when going into a soft surface???

Say goodbye to the nice finish with those scraggly scratch lines that you now have, or EXTRA unintended DINGS created by a drill but spinning at ~3500+ rpm.

I use manual-crank drill (think similar to 1820's Amish hand drill) to create a 3/32" pilot hole in the heel/tailblock, which takes, OMG like ALL of 2 mins, and then drive the 1/8" diameter screw from the strap button by HAND and NOT with an 18volt Makita/DeWalt industrial contractor drill/driver.

90253

Oh, the blasphemy!

Hand tools are ALSO safer (flying chips of wood??? nope!), and can be used when others are sleeping in the next room. Running power tools will definitely disturb those resting or sleeping.

UkingViking
04-14-2016, 07:44 PM
I think I will need to make do with an electric drill.

After my granpa passed away in december at age 92, I don't know anyone who owns a handdrill. I am pretty sure his was thrown away.

Using the smallest drill I can find, perhaps a proper wood drill with the pointy end, and making a dent before drilling, the risk of the drill slipping should be reasonably small.
The electric drill available is af a small managable size.

Edit: and of course screw the button on by hand. I even think twice before machine screwing Ikea furniture, on a musical instrument I would fear its lack of delicacy even more.

kohanmike
04-14-2016, 08:02 PM
Use hand tools not electric ones, though.

Seriously?! What is the logic behind this statement?

I agree, use an electric drill.

Croaky Keith
04-14-2016, 09:31 PM
It is usually suggested to put a piece of tape on your uke to stop the drill bit from skipping if using an electric.

(Personally, I use a pin vise to do mine, but each to their own. :) )

Booli
04-14-2016, 11:01 PM
It is usually suggested to put a piece of tape on your uke to stop the drill bit from skipping if using an electric.

(Personally, I use a pin vise to do mine, but each to their own. :) )

Tape is essential for protection, but also gives you a place to put your marks when you measure for the hole you are going to drill. (Hopefully folks are measuring for the hole? no?)

I sometimes use a pin vise too. I use to have a thing called a 'yankee doodle' that was like a pin vise but I lost it in a move, and cant seem to find another one anywhere. :(

Mivo
04-15-2016, 02:37 AM
I'm still not entirely convinced of full straps for sopranos and concerts, though I'm a fan of the Uke Leash! I think it's the appearance (of the buttons on the small body) that I feel is somehow off, and I don't fancy the ideas of additional holes in the uke's body.

But anyway, I bought a used soprano this week (a Black Bear) that happened to already have a strap pin, so I'll give this a try to at least be able to speak from first hand experience instead of basing my views on speculation of what I might or might not like. Ordered a pin adapter for the Uke Leash since I didn't see any straps that spoke to me (and I have a spare leather Leash sitting around, so €2,50 for the adapter was cheaper anyway).

lindydanny
04-15-2016, 03:17 AM
I generally don't use straps on Ukes. Two exceptions: my baritone because of its size, and my up coming resonator purchase because, with no regular sound hole, there isn't a good way for a lanyard to hook. (Also, banjolele, but that is pretty obvious...)

I'm not against them; to each their own. I just feel lanyards are better for me. I found one then made a few from paracord that I like. It suits me.

jollyboy
04-15-2016, 03:28 AM
I personally use a full strap - I've tried the lanyard/thong type and have found having the weight of the instrument supported by my neck to be uncomfortable for even short periods of time (say 20 to 30 minutes). Just another point-of-view :)

Re strap buttons and aesthetics - I have found bog standard metal/plastic strap buttons to not look so great but, if you hunt around you can find strap buttons made of nicer materials - ebony, bone etc. - that can look quite nice on a uke IMHO.

Wicked
04-15-2016, 04:21 AM
I prefer a second strap button centered on the end cap of the heel. I prefer the way it hangs.

I use leather straps, but I received an email from HMS a while back announcing straps made by Sarah Maisel that look pretty slick. I'm surprised I hadn't seen any mention of them on these boards before.

kohanmike
04-15-2016, 09:00 AM
Oops, meant to include tape too.

Tootler
04-15-2016, 01:04 PM
Hopefully folks are measuring for the hole? no?


I did mine by eye. It worked fine. The join gives you the centre line in one direction. I did the other by eye. I used a pin vise to make a small indent to mark where the hole is going then a small hand drill to drill the actual hole for the screw. For the small hole needed, I don't think masking tape is absolutely necessary as long as you don't rush and are careful. I've fitted 4 strap pins this way.

If I was drilling a hole for a pickup jack I would definitely use masking tape and would measure up where the hole is to be. I would consider using an electric drill as you are drilling a large hole which would probably need a spade bit but I would set the drill on low speed.

For small jobs you can get 12v model makers drills. In the days when I used to make model railways, I always wanted one but could never afford one. I still have many of the tools that I used in my modelling days and they are very useful for small jobs on ukuleles.

Tootler
04-15-2016, 01:12 PM
I'm still not entirely convinced of full straps for sopranos and concerts, though I'm a fan of the Uke Leash! I think it's the appearance (of the buttons on the small body) that I feel is somehow off, and I don't fancy the ideas of additional holes in the uke's body.

But anyway, I bought a used soprano this week (a Black Bear) that happened to already have a strap pin, so I'll give this a try to at least be able to speak from first hand experience instead of basing my views on speculation of what I might or might not like. Ordered a pin adapter for the Uke Leash since I didn't see any straps that spoke to me (and I have a spare leather Leash sitting around, so 2,50 for the adapter was cheaper anyway).

I've just fitted strap buttons to my sopranos. While I've been fine playing without a strap while sitting down, I've never quite felt secure when playing standing up, even with a soprano so I just bit the bullet and ordered strap pins.

All my ukes now have strap pins except the Flea and Fluke and I've found a slightly different solution for them - thanks to Booli's excellent idea of using self adhesive cable tie supports.

pritch
04-15-2016, 03:11 PM
As it happens I recently ordered a set of cocobolo buttons (and tapping tool) fron Iluak Fine Instrument Fittings. They were excellent to deal with.

The thought of using a hand drill hadn't occurred to me but seems to pose another problem: holding the ukulele. The electric drill can be used with one hand, leaving the other free to hold the instrument. The old-tech model requires two hands to work the drill, does one hold the ukulele with the knees?.

I have noted the recommendation to use tape. I have various forms of tape: painters' masking tape, duct tape, and Sellotape. None of that fancy blue stuff the luthiers
use though. Will my existing tapes do?

These may seem silly questions but I don't want to finish this job with the thought that I'll be able to do it better next time.

Booli
04-15-2016, 05:05 PM
The thought of using a hand drill hadn't occurred to me but seems to pose another problem: holding the ukulele. The electric drill can be used with one hand, leaving the other free to hold the instrument. The old-tech model requires two hands to work the drill, does one hold the ukulele with the knees?.

I have noted the recommendation to use tape. I have various forms of tape: painters' masking tape, duct tape, and Sellotape. None of that fancy blue stuff the luthiers use though. Will my existing tapes do?.

Since I do not have a workbench (nor space for one), and use of the kitchen table is simply not an option (it is being used as a 'desk' by others here), and the dining room table is for 'eating only' as I've been told...

When I am installing either a strap button or an endpin jack for a pickup, I will in fact hold the ukulele sort-of between my knees, with the upper bout below my thighs, and the lower bout ABOVE them.

All uke sizes except baritone are no issue this way, and for baritone, I have to stack 2 phone books on top of the seat of my chair to gain some height for the added length of the neck. Your own body dimensions will dictate how to proceed.

it is VERY easy to keep steady, frees both hands, and does not mar the surface in any way. There is also the benefit of having a perfect heads-over-view of the hole you are making, so you can keep if perfectly straight, and for that I usually have a small bubble level in place.

As far as tape goes, the idea is to use something that is low-tack, i.e., the adhesive does not remain when you remove the tape, and also the adhesive does not remove the finish either when you remove the tape.

I have used 'masking tape' and blue 'painter's tape' as well as Scotch 'magic tape' in a pinch (not all at once, but whichever was within easy reach), but would NOT under any circumstances use Duct tape, packaging tape, or the hard cellophane tape that one might use for your Christmas presents, as ALL of these will leave adhesive gunk behind which you have to deal with (using solvents like acetone, denatured or rubbing alcohol, or Goo-Gone) and said stronger adhesives can also remove patches of, or otherwise damage the finish of your instrument.

When I use the low-tack tape. I place it parallel and across the seam of where the two sides of the body wood are joined at the butt. Then I measure for the exact middle of the uke between the front soundboard and back board, and make a mark, and then next try to make sure that the seam is also in the relative center from the 'flat' part of the butt of the uke. Most times it is, but s a few times I've seen it be 1mm off, but this also could have been my imprecision with measuring.

In any case 1mm or so is not going to make a functional difference, but I like to be as close as possible to the absolute center of the tail block inside the instrument that I will be drilling into once I pierce the outer wood body shell.

If I am making a hole for an endpin jack, I will use a UniBit, turned by hand, which I've fixed to the end of a 1/4" hex T-handle, as shown below:

http://i.imgur.com/clhXuha.jpg

Using this tool, going into a pilot hole that I make just before with a small 3/32" bit, MIGHT take me about 20 rotations of the handle to go from 1/8" to the 1/2" of the largest size, and thus have a perfect hole for the endpin jack.

Also, using the UniBit, there is never any tear-out of wood, nor damage to the finish, which I've seen most of the time occur when a paddle bit or forstner bit is used.

Having the uke between my knees ALSO makes it quite easy to create a perfectly perpendicular hole (using a level, of course) for a strap button with either a pin vise or hand-drill. I also once used a battery powered and speed-controlled dremel tool set to the very slow speed of 300rpm, but felt that it STILL cut too fast, and thus have since chosen to use the hand tools.

I'm sure there are other ways to do this that folks prefer, but I simply dont have a lot of tools, nor the space for them, and this is what has always worked for me, more than a dozen times now. :)

pritch
04-15-2016, 05:40 PM
Thanks for the comprehensive response. Think I'll try your hold method. When I need a "workbench" in the house, I use the ironing board. It's adjustable for height, is covered in soft material, perfect for changing strings.

Thanks again.

Booli
04-15-2016, 06:08 PM
Thanks for the comprehensive response. Think I'll try your hold method. When I need a "workbench" in the house, I use the ironing board. It's adjustable for height, is covered in soft material, perfect for changing strings.

Thanks again.

Any time!

Keep in mind that I'm no luthier, nor necessarily try to be, but more of an 'instrument hacker', trying to make due with minimal tools to get an end result that a) I'm not going to screw up, and b) not be ashamed to show the results in public.

I see installing a strap button, pickup, adjusting the nut/saddle for action/intonation, smoothing fret ends and OMG the PITA of levelling and re-crowning frets, my responsibility for maintaining my instruments in the same way that one might do an oil change, tune up, and tire rotation on their car.

Mind you, I do not have the tools nor space to currently do these car maintenance tasks (but I used to in my old house), and for those tasks, now I take my car to the shop. If I had the space and tools (a goal in the not too far future), I'd do all this car maintenance myself, as well as set aside an area for full-on amateur luthery and maybe try to build something...<dreams> but fortunately the instrument maintenance does not take lots of space, and I have a very good mechanic that I trust.:)

Tootler
04-15-2016, 08:57 PM
like Booli, for installing a strap button I hold my uke with the waist "clamped" between my knees. The uke is firmly supported and you are nicely positioned to see what you are doing and to hold the drill vertically.

LarryS
04-15-2016, 11:21 PM
I always used to think that a strap would look odd on such a small instrument but then I discovered that top players use them. But personally I play sitting down so at the moment I don't need one. I have straps on my guitars but because I sit down I find it just gets in the the way.