View Full Version : Basic setup and maintenance/repair ideas

05-21-2018, 06:20 AM
I am going to be leading a workshop at my local ukulele festival next month. I will be covering basic setup principles as well as some simple maintenance and common repairs. I have a good list of the basics that I want to cover (setting action, dressing frets, adjusting friction tuner tension, etc.) but just thought I'd jump on here and see what ideas you all have that I may have missed. So, what common issues have you seen (particularly with entry-level ukuleles) that would be helpful for someone to learn how to do to make the most of their instrument?

Jim Hanks
05-21-2018, 06:36 AM
maybe nut slot issues, like adjusting for high g vs low g or cuatro first, etc.

05-21-2018, 06:43 AM
All of that is good stuff, but without the basics they aren't much practical use. Just stringing up the ukulele comes first. I'm surprised how many people I know hire someone else to put new strings on their ukuleles or guitars. Also a lot of people don't know the different ways to attach the strings to the bridge, slots, knots, and pegs, or how to properly wind up the strings at the tuner. I would think that would be the first thing people need to learn before they can start doing their own setups and repairs.

05-21-2018, 06:58 AM
Just stringing up the ukulele comes first. I'm surprised how many people I know hire someone else to put new strings on their ukuleles or guitars..

Yes! Changing strings can be challenging, but it's easy once you know how.

05-21-2018, 07:12 AM
Maybe cleaning/oiling uke/fretboard; homemade humidifier (solid wood tops).

As already mentioned, stringing (how to), stretching or not stretching new strings, tuning string to string. I have found that it is helpful to fine tune string to string on some ukuleles especially if the person is playing basic open chords at the nut.


05-21-2018, 07:43 AM
How about how to quickly spot a uke that has, shall we say, a less than "ideal" neck angle. I'm an experienced player, and when I first play a uke, I may know something's not right, but I won't always know what the problem is until I start measuring. I only carry my measuring tools with me when I *plan* to buy, and that's rare. :)

I just had to return a higher-end uke I purchased (from a very reputable source) online for having a bad neck angle. I knew as soon as I played it that there was something not quite right, but the action needed lowering anyway, so I took it down to Elderly. They told me they could lower the 12th fret action to my desired 2.25mm without buzzing, but that it could go no lower due to the neck angle. Elderly also said they return instruments with necks like that to the manufacturer. The seller's accepted my return and will refund my money but says that such a neck condition is "common" and "nothing to worry about" unless the player requires lower action. So yes, it would be very helpful to know how to spot flaws such as this. And are they actually flaws?

05-21-2018, 10:17 AM
something I think that people need to know before doing something... is the why's.
Otherwise you are addressing a symptom without knowing the cause.

For instance.. someone might try to compensate the saddle, when really it's going out because the nut and the saddle are too high.
But.. that understanding is a difficult thing to teach and without understanding the problem, they might choose the wrong solution.

One thing I think that could be more useful than how to fix something wrong.. is to have a good list of what to look for before buying an instrument they need to fix.
Alot of instruments, like the kala's tend to be be setup ok at the factory. But then they warp, or something else that causes a problem that needs to be corrected, or mitigated.
But if you can spot the problems before purchase, then you can avoid needing to fix them and save people alot of trouble and possibly damaging the instrument trying to fix something that shouldnt be a problem to begin with.

05-21-2018, 11:57 AM
I always like to check to see if the notes go (too) sharp when properly tuned. Most all do. nut grooves might need to be tweaked. (Bless the zero fret ukes, that do not have that issue)

05-22-2018, 02:11 AM
Intonation - Suggest adding how to do a a quick intonation test, followed by what it means and what fixes follow.

How and when to tighten tuners - have found too many instruments where the tuners were under/over torqued or just ineffective snd needing to be replaced because of "operator error."

Inexpensive tools - many folk are afraid to work on their instruments because of lack of appropriate tools. Such things as showing that nut filing can be done with a $5 set of welding rod cleaning tips (available at any hardware store), saddle filing just needs fine sandpaper and that strings can be closely snipped with inexpensive angle/flat cutters: these can go a long way to demystifying what instrument maintenance takes to do.

Pukulele Pete
05-22-2018, 02:53 AM
One more for changing strings. I just shake my head when I read that some people dont change their own strings. I'd say this is most basic.

05-22-2018, 03:05 AM
Thank you for all the great responses everyone. There are some great ideas here and definitely some things I hadn't thought of.