View Full Version : A word of caution!

03-09-2018, 06:07 PM
For background I have been playing for about 4.5 years and have had my hands on about 50 ukes during that time. Hopefully this anecdote can save an injury for someone if this occurs across the whole line.

I was interested in getting a soprano Fender Venice and tried one out at my local GC. Was hyped about them until I took it off the wall. An employee hurried across the store and warned me about this uke having fret wires that will cut the user. I gave them a feel and it was the worst fret job done by a factory of any uke I have ever touched in any price range. I completely understand why the employee warned me with so much concern. This isn't a matter of being picky but one of safety as they were so SHARP! It isn't a case of getting what you pay for as they had plenty of other 50-60 dollar ukes without that issue that sound equivalent to it(Makalas and Mitchells for comparison, fair to poor laminate sound) which don't need a setup.

I hope for Fender's sake that they improve the QC or filing that they do when installing these fret wires. It drastically changed my perception of that brand. Anyone else have a similar experience with this model?

Now I completely understand why new players are told to get their uke set up by a luthier or to look at ukuleles that cost at least $100.

03-10-2018, 01:10 AM
IMO, that instrument should have never been hanging on the wall - so, bad on the music store. I have seen quite a few instruments on display with noticeable fret ends sticking out, but more so at the big chain music stores like Guitar Center and Sam Ash. Though, none to the point of actually slicing a hand up. I know much of this is caused from neck shrinkage from climate changes, or from being displayed in music store showrooms that are too dry - of which our local Guitar Centers are known for.

03-10-2018, 03:49 AM
I've often wondered why stores don't have their tech spend more time taking care of the stock. You could remove most of the problem of protruding fret ends in just 5 minutes with a file and some sandpaper.

03-10-2018, 04:00 AM
I would have expected better from a company like Fender, but since they are late to the game of

'yet another guitar company, now offering ukes'

their uke offerings seem like an also-ran or afterthought to me.

Previously, I was never jazzed about any of their uke offerings (I've played about a dozen different specimens in different shops), and still would give a hard pass, even if offered to me for free.

Personally, I think they should stick to their tried-and-true guitar and bass offerings.

If I was involved as an employee at Fender, I would be embarrassed of the ukuleles they put their name on.

I would not recommend a Fender uke to anyone, but hey, some folks are die-hard fans and will insist on buying one, and if so, I'd stand hard on principle to get the instrument set up before even trying to play it the first time.

03-10-2018, 07:51 AM
I had just written a rather lengthy post, and my iPad battery quit...so I’ll try this again...

1) Barry Maz recently reviewed a Fender and gave it a “recommended” rating overall: http://www.gotaukulele.com/2017/09/fender-montecito-tenor-ukulele-review.html

2) I have seen some very sharp fret ends at stores and at vendor booths at music education conferences. Most of these are “entry level” ukuleles, and I think it would cost more to have a luthier address the fret ends than most dealers make on the sale of the ukulele. It’s a catch-22, as all players benefit from smooth fret ends, but particularly new players on inexpensive ukuleles. I can name brands that I have found to be horrendous with fret ends, but I won’t. This does make vendors like Mim’s Ukes and Uke Republic pretty amazing in that they will address fret ends even with a $50 dolphin.

3) I deal with fret ends all the time at school, where humidity goes under 15% frequently through the winter months. Most of our ukuleles are laminate, but the fretboards are not...and regardless of how much I sand (I can just use a sanding block with the ukuleles as the investment is so small on the Caramels), it seems like the fret ends keep growing. In addition to the impact of the lack of humidity on a fretboard in general, I’m also pretty sure that the wood used in less expensive ukuleles is pretty green, so as the fretboard would dry out and shrink in most cases, the impact is felt even more with inexpensive ukuleles. Yes, even our little Enya camp ukuleles at school (13 of them) are experiencing sharp fret ends—and I KNOW they were all smooth as glass before the winter. The coming humidity (we’ll get 2 or 3 days soon when it is 80% humidity in the school until they can turn on air conditioning 2 or 3 days later) might restore them, but we’ll see. It’s all enough that I’m working on getting a set of Outdoor Ukuleles at our new school (we’re building a new building and moving) so that we don’t have to mess with these conditions any more. Truthfully, it’s enough of a struggle to keep kids from abusing the instruments/strings without the instruments trying to draw blood from the students, too.

4) My wish would be that all wood or laminate ukuleles came with bound fretboard. I would think this would lessen the issue significantly.

03-10-2018, 08:07 AM
Choirguy, get yourself a fine tooth file, it will save you a LOT of time over trying to remove metal with sandpaper.

Also, a music store should have a luthier around who, as mentioned earlier, could spend 5 minutes with a file, rather than having an employee warn customers, that uke will never sell! And, it's probably all due to dryness. I have a little Fender Pihau, that is fine, but I got it from HMS. I'm in Arizona and have filed some of my instruments, since at the moment the outside humidity is like 5%. Maybe a little higher since there's a front moving through.

03-13-2018, 05:09 AM
I have two Fender ukes, and have tried several others. They're all pretty good. You might have had a bad experience with this uke, probably due to dryness rather than bad construction.

My thoughts.


03-13-2018, 05:17 PM
There aren't many Fender ukes around here, but one of my friends always plays her Fender or her Outdoor. She likes both.
But hey, would you sell dull razors? Or a mug with a hole in the bottom? That music store needs to shape up.

03-13-2018, 08:08 PM
good to hear this is just an isolated bad example.

03-13-2018, 10:34 PM
I don’t have it anymore, but one of my early Ukes from several years ago was a Fender Nohea and it was really well constructed with decent set-up and fit and finish. For the $200+ price it was quite satisfying in sound, feel and appearance. Wanting to move on to an all-solid wood ukes in higher price points, I parted with it and found that even going up the price point, you will find the occasional uke that needs a little more of set-up than what came from the factory. Most smaller music shops handle instruments before going on display and will remedy any out of the box issues, most big box stores will not...

03-14-2018, 01:01 AM
If you have instruments with frets, a fret end dressing file is a good investment.

03-14-2018, 07:24 AM
Yes, even our little Enya camp ukuleles at school (13 of them) are experiencing sharp fret ends—and I KNOW they were all smooth as glass before the winter. Truthfully, it’s enough of a struggle to keep kids from abusing the instruments/strings without the instruments trying to draw blood from the students, too.

Yes! I was playing ukulele with my grandkids - me on the Outdoor Ukulele and the two of them on their Enya camp ukes from Christmas. My granddaughter wanted to swap, and I was disturbed at how sharp her fret ends were. That was the first thing I checked when I gave it to them two months ago. Her brother's uke was the same way. These are rarely out of the case unless I am over. I took my emery board from my tote bag and sanded them down, but if she had not wanted to swap, I would never have thought to run my hands across the frets.