View Full Version : Ukulele damage...any suggestions?

02-02-2017, 03:04 PM
I'm not sure where the best place is to post this, so I'll start here and let moderators move it if necessary.

As I just posted elsewhere (and have before), Mainland Mike donated four ukuleles to our program.

I bought one of Bonanza's Ukulele Carousels (love it), and had all four Mainlands, as well as our bargain Lanikai Soprano Banjolele from last summer's special sale on the carousel.

A student came up, and dropped his giant 3 ring binder on the "table" part of the carousel, knocking all five ukuleles to the ground.

He picked them all up, and then another student came jumping INTO that student, knocking him into the table and all five ukuleles down AGAIN.

Alas, there was damage to one ukulele, one of the Soprano Mainlands, which now has a cracked/chipped bottom where it hit the ground. The other instruments were okay…there might be one impact on one of our Mainland Concerts, but if so, it is still okay.

It is impossible to know if the first or second impact caused the damage. I have now modified the carousel with velcro to stop a similar occurrence; and for the winter months, the Mainlands are stored in cases anyway. I called the parents of both students and spoke quite directly about the issue. It’s hard to ask parents to pay for damage to a donated ukulele...the actual damage far outweighs the initial cost of the ukulele--so does a replacement/

I don't know if it is repairable--the ukulele plays. I do worry that a kid will catch something on the “chip” and either rip their clothing, cut themselves, or rip the chip out of the ukulele.

I also don't want to ask Mike for a possible replacement. We haven’t had these ukuleles for a great length of time and one has already been damaged by students.

And believe me, what echoes in my head is this: “They don’t appreciate the blessings they have!”

(Incidentally, one of the Caramels is dropped by a student at least daily. Schools are ROUGH on ukuleles. This is why I wish that Outdoor Ukulele made a concert...or would do so before their guitar!)

So…looking at the damage, is this repairable? What would you do with the ukulele?

And if Mike is reading this...I am SO sorry about this damage. I don't want you to think these are not appreciated. I just filled humidifiers today!




Kayak Jim
02-02-2017, 03:26 PM
These ukes are likely to continue to be bashed about a bit. Just work some glue into the cracks and call it good. Hide glue preferred but carpenter's (white or yellow) is OK too in this case. After working the glue in, wipe the surface well with a wet cloth to get any glue off the face.

Bonanza Pete
02-02-2017, 03:46 PM
Chris, first suggestion.
You have a couple of options. Structural repairs or cosmetic repairs.
If it was mine I would impregnate the split with a glue. Based on what I see the best would be to get someone with small hands to go through the sound hole and support it from the backside while forcing a glue into the seam from the front. Wipe off the excess and let it cure. Then a colored crayon stick or magic marker can be used to camo the glue. Not perfect but love marks do happen.
Bottom line is the crack needs to be glued.
Beyond that it would intail refinishing.
After 35 years woodworking and finishing most anything can be repaired. The repair will not reduce the sweet sound of that Mainland uke.

02-02-2017, 07:06 PM
It looks like you could slap some painter's tape on it to stabilize the chip until you decide how to go about repairing it. Maybe even duct tape.

If it helps, you might think back to that time you, for example, dented the family car, broke an heirloom vase, etc. It sounds like the carousel really wasn't set up to handle rambunctious students, and your modification is a great idea. Don't feel bad because the ukes were donated. I'm sure Mike knew the risk when he gave them to you.

Keep up the this work, those kids are lucky to have you.

02-02-2017, 07:15 PM
I'd just glue it and not worry about cosmetics in this case.

02-02-2017, 09:56 PM
It might be a good idea to detune and totally slack the strings right now so there is no torque on the bridge or the top, for any stress might make the cracks worse.

Just a thought...

02-03-2017, 08:10 AM
The last picture with the round impact mark is primarily cosmetic. As kids will ding these instruments further you just want to prevent injury from the splintered edges. Masking tape would do this in seconds. During the vacation you could sand down the splintered edges, stabilise the damage with glue and then sand and seal with shellac. It will always look ugly but will remain functional.

The first three pictures show structural damage, and if the uke is left strung up without repairing it there is a real chance that the damage will spread.

To produce a functional repair, ignoring the cosmetics, I'd proceed as follows:

1. Reglue the cracks in the top. Hot hide glue is best, but Titebond Original (not any of the other versions) is good too and probably easier unless you have experience with hide glue. Liquid hide glue might work also. Work glue into the cracks one at a time by gently flexing the top, until you can see glue coming through underneath. Wipe off excess glue and clamp level - I'd use small (size of a quarter or half dollar, if I remember these coins correctly) rare earth magnets, taping over the crack with blue painters tape on the top surface and using cardboard there to protect it from the magnet (these clang together with some force!). You will want to improvise some kind of rag-on-a stick to clean excess glue off the underside, but if you don't then step 2 might fail. And something similar to place the rare earth magnets (bent stick with magnet taped to the end, I'd say).

2. When all three cracks ore glued, cleat the two long ones. Cleats are diamond shaped scraps of wood about 1/16 thick, glued along the crack on the underside about an inch apart. Usually spruce but the species is not critical. Orient the grain of the cleat at 90 degrees to the string direction. Use the magnets to clamp as before.

3. On the side I see some cracking which appears to link the two outside top cracks. If the side is still sound (i.e. the impact hasn't detached a bite-shaped piece of the side) then just glue these cracks as before. Don't bother cleating. If the side is cracked all the way through, you'll also need to cleat the inside.

Credentials: I've built around 40 ukes and fixed a few cracks, though I don't do much in the way of repairs. This may well not be the best method of repair, in which case someone with more repair experience will tell you, but it is a method which will work.

I've ignored the cosmetic aspects because these are very time-consuming and not worth the effort, given what your kids will inevitably do over the coming years.