View Full Version : Toxic uke/case relationship: Cases that weren't good for your uke.

09-11-2018, 05:18 AM
Found another toxic uke/case relationship this morning. Played my Ono bari in early morning light and I noticed a rectangular 1/2" by 2' surface mark on the lower bout. On close examination it appeared the cloth strap connecting the Oahu case top and bottom had left a slight texture impression in the finish on the top, where it folds and contacts the top when closed. I've had this uke & case about 10 months, and somehow never noticed it until today.

It might be that water-based lacquer is a softer finish (than nitro ?), and took a cloth strap impression over time. I don't think it was a chemical reaction. Two actions were taken:
1) Snipped out the cloth strap in the case. It wasn't holding the top open and therefore not needed. Gone.
2) Used a very light buffing compound on the top to lessen the finish mark. Looks 98% better now. Don't see it much. Picture added.

Wow. Who would have thunk that the case protecting my uke might harm it?

I've had other toxic case relationships before: Another case reeked of guitar polish so much, I had to let the uke air-out for a day, and the case air out for weeks.

Anyone else have a toxic case relationship?


09-11-2018, 06:48 AM
Hi, what buffing compound did you use. There are some marks on the bottom of my Pono that just bugs me.

hawaii 50
09-11-2018, 07:21 AM
I cut the cloth strap/hinge off my cases...

09-11-2018, 07:21 AM
Hi, what buffing compound did you use. There are some marks on the bottom of my Pono that just bugs me.

Meguiar's Scratch-X 2.0 and a flannel cloth on high gloss finishes-only

... you might start with Virtuoso Polish first, as it is less abrasive.

09-11-2018, 07:28 AM
A couple of weeks ago, I noticed a small area with a strange criss-cross pattern on the lower bout of my cedar-topped Pono tenor. I puzzled over it for a few days before I realized it was the same pattern as part of the nylon strap I had attached to the ukulele. When I put it in the case, that part of the strap pressed directly into the cedar top and left a faint mark. It's not really noticeable, but I know it's there and it bugs the hell out of me. Needless to say, that strap has been retired and is no longer on the ukulele (and all straps are removed before the ukes go into the cases). I'm pretty disappointed, particularly since this was a really nice Sarah Maisel strap and wasn't exactly cheap. :( At some point, I'll try buffing out the mark, but I'll be careful not to buff out the finish!

Bill Sheehan
09-11-2018, 07:30 AM
I've had toxic relationships, Doc, but only of the human variety! So I guess I'm lucky not to have experienced what you describe here; but glad you got it remedied, or at least substantially so!

09-11-2018, 09:29 AM
Every ABS hard case that I have (4) has had awful outgassing from the glues and foam padding materials. If my ukulele was in the case for even a day, the wood absorbed the smell and it reeked of it for several days afterward. When the weather got warm enough, I put the cases out on our enclosed porch for 2 months and they still stunk. It took about six months of airing out before they became truly usable. You can still detect the odor in two of them almost a year later!

This gas is actually quite toxic and will aggravate any lung problems like asthma or COPD. Or, if you have a cold or flu.

09-11-2018, 09:31 AM
I don't know if you have room in your case, but as I put my strapped ukes in I rotate the strap so it lays flat along the side of the uke and as it slides back up towards fretboard just kind of roll/lay the remainder of the strap under the neck. This way nothing rubs

09-11-2018, 10:48 AM
Meguiar's Scratch-X 2.0 and a flannel cloth on high gloss finishes-only

... you might start with Virtuoso Polish first, as it is less abrasive.

Thank for the info.

09-11-2018, 11:17 AM
Hodge, I'm not happy to learn of the problem you've had. This is the first such report (except for the one described below). I've finished quite a few with waterborne lacquer, as have many other builders, and I know of no reason to believe that this finish or any other is unusually susceptible to failure.

Obviously, that strap is not our friend but we have no way of knowing whether pressure alone did the deed or whether a chemical incompatibility between the strap and the finish alone did the deed or whether both might have worked together to play a part.

It's not hard to find reports of impressions being left on various finishes, including nitro lacquer and french polished shellac. In a single instance, I had the back of a personal tenor that was finished with Tru-Oil lose its shine where it contacted the fuzzy lining of the case. Fortunately, it was easily remedied and the case was gifted to the landfill because I suspected that the culprit was off-gassing from or incompatibility with the lining material or the adhesive used to attach it to the case. I eventually sold the instrument to a local friend (including a new case!) and haven't heard of a problem since nor did I see evidence of a problem on the occasions when I have handled the instrument.

It's a tremendous relief that you were able to polish out the defect. Your report is a service to all of us and a reminder to check our instruments occasionally for things like finish and humidification problems that can be remedied if caught early.

09-11-2018, 03:19 PM
David, thanks for your concern and sharing your experience. I probably should have caught this case problem earlier. But it is an unusual case problem, and the beautiful bearclaw figure, may have helped keep it from being noticed earlier. I'm going through the rest of my cases and removing unnecessary lid straps.

BTW this Ono spruce/makore baritone is still in a league all by itself. I play it currently as a 4-string, rather than the 6-string configuration.

09-13-2018, 03:55 AM
I wonder if any thought goes into the materials used for ukulele cases.