View Full Version : Questions about saddle and nut adjustments

03-03-2018, 12:40 PM
Okay, so my uke was bought in person at the ukulele site shop in Hawaii by a family member while they were there. The action seemed pretty high when I got it, and when I emailed them about it, they said that some of their showroom ukes don't get setup right away, so I may have gotten one of them.

Anyway, I decided to take it upon myself to try and luther this thing up to get it easier to play, and now I've come across some road blocks.

1) I purchased a string height ruler and sanded the saddle down to just below 2.5mm. Now I have some fret buzzing on the C string at the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd string. I really have to try to get it buzz, but it's there none the less. I saw on Baz' channel that if you go too low on the saddle that you can put a piece of card stock under it to raise it back up. Will this mess with the tone or should I buy a new saddle and try again?

2) Can someone link me to guidelines for adjusting the nut? Is the nut supposed to slide out like the saddle does, or is it glued in? (Kala KA-STG) I see a lot of measurement guidelines for saddle adjustment, but not really any for nut adjustment.

3) When I play other Kalas at the shop, the strings feel a lot softer. My strings feel really stiff, and I'm thinking it's because the nut isn't filed down. Will I be able to soften the string tension if I can get this setup right?

Thanks in advance!

03-03-2018, 01:38 PM
One of the main problems with factory fretted instruments is the action at the nut end, caused by the nut slots not being deep enough. I've had both Martin and Taylor guitars which were ridiculously high, and i've filed them myself to a playable depth. You need to get the saddle height in the right zone first by fixing a capo at the first fret and then adjusting the saddle accordingly until it gives an action which you like and is buzz free. Once you're happy with that, the nut is next. Everybody has there own way of doing this, but I have settled on filing down the nut slots so that I have about 0.015" between each string and the first fret. Some may question this but it works for me.
Nut files are expensive so you could use gas welding nozzle cleaners which can be bought for 3 or less( maybe 3 dollars). I suggest you check out the internet for other ideas on how to do this, and there are many Youtube videos which might be worth exploring. Good luck.

03-03-2018, 01:42 PM
In a nutshell, adding a piece of shim stock under the nut shouldn't affect sound, but adding something "soft" like cardstock under the saddle may dampen it slightly.

String height from the nut slots to the first fret may be .5-1mm, and I imagine you've seen reference to 2.5mm-3mm string height above the 12th fret.

Buzzing may be a result of frets (or a fretboard) that aren't completely level - check this with a straightedge to make sure your buzzing isn't a result of frets rather than nut height.

As for string tension, it will remain the same when properly set up to get the same notes it's currently set up to play.

03-03-2018, 02:29 PM
I just checked everything against my string height ruler and all strings at the first fret are within .5-1mm and all strings at the 12th are between 2.25-2.5mm. I guess this is just how this particular uke plays. I have Aquila Sugar strings on them right now which are inherently stiff, so maybe I’ll try to find something softer. Have a set of D’addario fluorocarbons on hand, and some Martin tenor and concert strings on the way for testing. Hopefully one of them feels comfy.

03-03-2018, 03:23 PM
An alternate way to adjust setup I have in my notes (from another board member Allen) is to press the strings at the third fret and file down the nut slots for one 20lb paper thickness of clearance at the first fret for the three thin strings (assuming re-entrant G) and two papers clearance on the C string. Then, adjust the saddle for 2.2-2.5mm clearance at the 12th fret. This assumes all frets are level first!


03-04-2018, 01:40 AM
Your post doesn’t say where you live, but if it is winter and cold where you live and there is low humidity, the fretboard and even neck can go out of whack in winter months (or in an overall dry climate like the American Southwest).

I made the mistake of setting up our Caramels in the summer and when the ukuleles were still new—with which Caramel means greener wood than with a company such as Kamaka (Kamaka ages body wood at least 4 years—not sure about necks). At any rate, the winter hits and now we’re in the season of sharp fret ends and some buzzing as the environment is usually around 16% relative humidity for six months—which isn’t actually healthy for humans, either. When the thaw occurs (sounds like another 6-8 inches of snow tomorrow, so we’re not there yet), and they turn off the heat but not engage the AC (or don’t turn off the heat as the boiler seems to have two settings, on and off)—we get a day or week of high temps and high humidity (well over 60%) and suddenly all the instruments absorb that humidity and buzzing disapears and it takes days for the instruments to maintain tunining again. Good times. And this is with laminate instruments.

So...all of that is to say that depending on the brand and how they build along with where you live can be an issue, too.