View Full Version : Fix a bad neckjoint

11-24-2016, 03:13 AM
I was lucky enough to get my hands on a Bruko soprano last weekend. It's an oldie and has been played well. But the neck has broken off once and look how it has been fixed... the horror!

And the neck isn't placed correctly as you can tell by the pictures, the neckangle makes a terrible string action. Allthough you still can play a nice strum on the first frets (which tells me more about Bruko than the guy who did the 'repair').

I would like to repair this ukulele myself, for it can be such a nice little uke. But before I get started I thought it would be a good idea to ask for advice first. How would you fix this fix?

Michael N.
11-25-2016, 01:52 AM
It's a complete mess, repaired by a complete amateur. I wouldn't fix it, it would be way beyond economic repair.
Still, if you insist on doing it. You need to remove those screws and tackle the glue. It looks a bit like PVA, although I obviously can't be 100% certain.
Denatured alcohol usually turns some PVA's to a mush. It's slow but it does work. Failing that you might have to use something aggressive like steam, used with a fine jet like is done on a neck reset. I've no idea what the neck joint is. It could be one of many but it could be a simple butt joint, with or without a dowel. Then again it might be something a little more complex. Once you have the neck removed you can go about reversing some of the crude repairs. Screw from the heel will have to go. The bad joint will have to be cleaned of all the old glue before trying to reglue it again. If it's not going together well and there's too many gaps just plane it down and use a thin wooden fillet insert glued to make up the lost material. Absolutely no need for screws. Just a very good joint and glue. Then you may want to plug the awful holes left by those screws. the easiest method is with end grain bushings but they will show. You can do same grain bushings but that's much more involved. The damage done by the screw head will need to be filled. Alternately forget all that and just graft on a complete new heel. . Obviously correct the neck angle before reattaching the neck.

11-25-2016, 02:56 AM
For a restoration, it needs a compete overhaul; lots of things gone wrong. Even the in the picture, its shows that the neck angle slants pretty steeply uphill towards the neck, which as you have observed, results in raising the strings way too high up from the fretboard. The work to make the neck angle flat-lined with the top is gonna be pretty labor intensive and may result in a costly adventure.

To just make it more playable, but not improve it cosmetically, it will need a neck reset. Firstly, the screws must go. Then see if you can remove the glue mess and get the neck loose enough to trim the joint angle from the bottom side, and saw a slight wedge shape to pull the neck back. It'll still look rough though.

If, however, you want cosmetic restoration, the neck and fretboard should be removed; amputated from the heel if necessary. Then, follow Michael's steps if you want to keep the original neck. Otherwise, a brand new neck, fretboard, and judicious cleaning up and refinishing of the top too would be necessary to restore this back to anything near the original condition.


I'd ask myself if I really value this uke that much.

11-25-2016, 04:20 AM
Well, the uke has cost me next to nothing and I'm aware that this will take some time and effort. So.... let's say I'm mad enough to accept the challenge! :)
I just want to make it playable again. I'll try to make it cosmatically okay, but if not than that shouldn't be a problem.

Thanks for the advice! So the first step will be to remove the neck as smooth as possible. I've seen neckreset-video's where they the neck of an acoustic guitar off with heatened palette knifes (and steam). Should that be the way to go? I will try denatured alcohol as well.

11-25-2016, 05:25 AM
Go slow; hopefully that's white glue; amateurs don't usually use the more repairable hide glue. You could also get a neck replacement from someplace like this...

11-25-2016, 06:17 AM
It looks like it could have been put back together with epoxy. If it has then it will take more effort to fix it..but not impossible. ;)

11-25-2016, 06:44 PM
Wow! This is great in a way... I mean if you are driving drywall screws into the neck joint you probably are not the best repair person to be working on an acoustic instrument. Hell, they didn't even have the decency to countersink them. And the fretboard wouldn't sit down so they drove a screw through the fretboard right into to neck block. I love it!.. This uke needs to go onto that place that failed ukes go. I would suggest tossing it in the Kīlauea and its Halemaʻumaʻu caldera which were traditionally considered the sacred home of the volcano goddess Pele, and Hawaiians visited the crater to offer gifts to the goddess. This uke needs to be a gift Pele. Then again, this uke could cause a volcanic eruption. Don't want to piss off Pele.

Alternatively, you could try to take it apart and put it back together again. You will learn a lot about how ukes are constructed I suppose. Then build yourself a decent instrument.

11-25-2016, 09:13 PM
I would guess it's a dowel in the joint. Should be quite easy to take apart and fix. You don't have much room for adjusting the saddle/bridge on those so get the neck angle right before putting it back together.

Dan Gleibitz
11-25-2016, 09:19 PM
And the fretboard wouldn't sit down so they drove a screw through the fretboard right into to neck block. I love it!.. .

In fairness to the repairer, Taylor used the same (more or less) on one of my guitars.

Michael N.
11-26-2016, 01:59 AM
In fairness to the repairer, Taylor used the same (more or less) on one of my guitars.

Hopefully with a bit more finesse than that.
Interesting that whilst this is obviously a very cheap instrument, with painted on banding, they've gone and used a piece of figured wood for the neck. I assume it's maple.

11-27-2016, 02:53 AM
I think I have to speak up for Bruko here. Allthough the 'binding' surprised me as well (easy to fix though :) ), Bruko builds very decent, solid ukes in the 150-350 price range. All designed with the typical down-to-earth, no thrills German approach.

This one should be one of his 'special' range, which starts around €230 for a soprano. That shouldn't be 'obviously very cheap' in my perspective.

That being said. I started to doubt the 'all solid' on this specific uke. The neck, back and sides are solid obviously, the top on the other hand shows a remarkable grainpattern, there where the sides are worn out... can't really tell so i'll post a picture soon.

Doug W
11-27-2016, 07:32 AM
I had a Bruko which was a very sweet uke. I gave it to a friend who stored it on a shelf and gravity took over and the neck broke. If it had been in my possession, I would have tried to fix the broken neck but he tossed it.

I think that you will learn a lot from taking on this repair. There are plenty of videos on YouTube showing neck removal. I have removed necks before but I am too amateur to be giving step by step uke repair advice.

Keep us posted on the process.

11-27-2016, 11:08 PM
Thanks! I think the whole repair process will be great fun, especially when it works out! :)

Yesterday I gave it a try with an iron and the thinnest knifeblade I could find. It works! :) The hot blade gets through the glue and the fretboard and heel are starting to get loose.

I think I need a bigger knifeblade though for I can't get much further than the edges.

As said I took a picture of the damaged top, what do you think... solid or laminated?

Michael N.
11-27-2016, 11:55 PM
Well the grain lines disappear, so it seems as though it's laminated.

12-07-2016, 12:44 AM
I didn't make much more progress with the knifeblade/iron approach (knife cooled off to quickly), actually it damaged the top a bit too much to my liking. It's a pitty that the top is laminated (the back and sides are solid though... really weird), but despite that it sounds quite nice and has a voice of its own. I still wonder what the h*ll happened to this uke, can't really explain the damage that is done to it and the way it is fixed.

So I had to think of another trick to get the neck off. Inspired by my mothers way of steam ironing clothes before she had an electric steam iron, I took a wash cloth this morning, made it wet, put it over the neckjoint and just placed the iron on top of it (on top of the fretboard and against both sides of the heel). Within 15 minutes the neck was off the body! :)


As you can see I damaged the top underneath the fretboard with the knife, the rest of the joint went off quite clean. But well, since this uke was lost anyway (even Bruko told me to give up, lol), I see this as a fun project of which I hopefully learn some things. Next time I will skip the hot knife trick and go right to the old fashioned steaming iron trick. :)

Next step is to fix the heel and get a proper neck angle. At first I just wanted to make this uke playable again and no more than that. But now I wonder how far I will go with this restauration. The bridge is a little loose at the back as well, and based on how easy the neck went off this morning I'm thinking of replacing the bridge as well. I could sand and refinish the top, fill up the screw holes ... I can't make it as new, but a little makeover would be nice. I suck at finishing though, but it can't get any worse than this, can it? :)

[edit] the idea to even get the top off and replace it, is really tempting... but I've never done such a thing and have no idea how! Is it even possible?

12-07-2016, 06:37 PM
Good going. Not too much damage... Yes, what works best is a hot steam iron AND a hot knife used together... Wow, that is one big dowel... I vote you go on and remove the bridge since it is a piece of cake compared to the neck. Don't forget to tape off around it before you apply the torture devices... Refinishing really isn't that hard. Just sand everything back and re-finish with your weapon of choice. Just go slow and sand out between coats. Will look great. I say go for it. Good luck! Send pictures.

12-07-2016, 10:02 PM
Thanks for the encouragement! True that patience is the key in finishing. The thing is that at some point I just want to play the d*mn thing and start to hurry... but well, i have plenty ukes to play on, so I'll just have to take my time. :)

I think I confinced myself in replacing the top as wel. It seems like I can remove it with the same steam iron and hot knife. I can get a top for 10 euro's from a shop who, for a little extra, will sand it down to the thickness of choice.

But before I get to that, I want to make sure I can get the frets right back in place. As you may have seen, the frets started to come out of the fretboard at the sides. Any idea how to do that properly, without damaging anything? The fretboard has dried out completely, is it wise to oil it first? The 'repairguy' even put some glue on the edges in order to hold them in place, it didn't seem to work and I could remove the glue quite easily.

I tried it with a pipe wrench and some plates to cover the sharp claws. It works, the fretend turns back in place and stays there. But it still leaves a slight mark in the finish at the back of the neck.

12-08-2016, 01:46 AM
If the fret ends are sticking out because the fretboard has shrunk, you want to file them back. You can make a jig for a file by cutting two slots sized for your mil bastard file in a block of wood, one slot at 90 degrees, one around 35 degrees. With the file in the 90 degree slot, file the ends flush. Then with it in the 35 degree slot, you bevel the top ends of the frets. Follow that with individual rounding of the ends with a finer file to smooth them out. Four-way finger nail dressing foam blocks can be used as a cheap way to bring them to a smooth shine.


12-10-2016, 11:22 PM
Thanks! Yes it's obviously because of a dried out fretboard. I've oiled it a couple of times now. The wood gets a nice dark colour again.
But I wonder if filing is enough, for the frets also stick out upwards, as you can see in the picture below. Is it possible to push them back easilly, or will they keep coming out again?

12-11-2016, 04:55 AM
Hammer them back in and run a bit of CA glue in the ends

12-11-2016, 09:01 AM
Thanks. This afternoon I took a bit more percaution and could push most of the fretends back In place with a wrench. It's a lot better now and they don't feel sharp anymore. I'll hammer the last three frets (above the heel, couldn't reach them with the wrench) back with a rubber hammer and glue the ends that won't keep in place.

I guess that leveling the frets will be needed.

I'm sorry if I bother you with all this but it's my first 'restoration' and I'm a bit insecure about all this, so I hope you don't mind that I ask some feedback on allmost every little step I take... :)