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View Full Version : Shaving Braces - Warning, Don't Try This At Home



70sSanO
06-01-2019, 09:52 AM
Let me preface this by saying that over my whole life I have been a tinkerer. And even with 30 years in aerospace, I did Govt contracs not engineering, so my tinkering has been of my own accord. I'm also not stupid where I would take a dremel to a high end instrument to make a side port.

A few years ago I found an interesting Fred Shields teardrop soprano ukulele at a music store with only 3 strings. Once getting mentally past having no G string it is the easiest ukulele to play. I figured, perfect rest home instrument down the road. It intrigued me enough to buy it and I decided to order a spruce top tenor of the same design (despite Fred suggesting the paddle shape would be better; and I should have listened.) Both ukuleles played fine, but the tenor was just a bit too bright and no matter what I did (strings and tuning) it fell out of favor.

Over the years I have researched guitar sites/forums discussions on shaving guitar braces and based on the recent over built thread I decided to re-engage the subject with more earnest. The basic premise is that scalloping guitar braces can increase bass and add sustain. The teardrop ukulele bracing is quite primitive. So with some 220 grit sandpaper, double face tape, my index finger, and a coffee stir I was going to town.

It is imperative to have a very smart wife to continually remind me not to do too much as I tend to be a just-one-more-turn-to-really-get-it-snug type of guy. In the end it actually worked. I was able to leave the strings on so I, and my wife, could hear the transformation. I also did a little bit on the soprano teardrop. Keep in mind that with only three strings, I surmised that standard bracing might be too rigid for the tension. This does play into not being too stupid.

I would never recommend for someone to do the same. For me it was a risk-reward with a ukulele I contemplated letting go and having Fred make me what he had originally suggested. But... it may be an option to discuss with a "really" well versed luthier.

John

70sSanO
06-01-2019, 05:46 PM
Hard to get a photo, but this shows a bit of the radius on the top brace.

118636

John

keenonuke
06-01-2019, 06:05 PM
Hard to get a photo, but this shows a bit of the radius on the top brace.

118636

John
I read this with my grandson. Tell me if I described this correctly to him. You wrapped sandpaper around a stick, stuck it through the sound hole and then sanded down portions of the brace?

We thought it was pretty cool thing to do. I guess you had nothing to lose as you were unhappy with the ukulele. Wow congratulations on your efforts.

70sSanO
06-02-2019, 08:50 AM
I read this with my grandson. Tell me if I described this correctly to him. You wrapped sandpaper around a stick, stuck it through the sound hole and then sanded down portions of the brace?

We thought it was pretty cool thing to do. I guess you had nothing to lose as you were unhappy with the ukulele. Wow congratulations on your efforts.

Thanks! That is what I did, except, I used my index finger for the braces that I could easily reach. I started wrapping my index finger with sandpaper but I found that I would nick the strings a bit trying to negotiate between them to get to the sound hole. So I took a small square of sandpaper and attached it to the tip of my index finger with double face tape. I sanded the forward top and bottom braces. I used the wooden coffee stir for a bottom brace that was hard to reach on the soprano.

I would tap the soundboard and back to get an idea of the tone depth. I'm no luthier so I wasn't listening to a particular tone, but I could hear a change as I removed material. It was pretty interesting.

I don't really play these much, except the soprano is my 2:00am lie in bed instrument. I play soft enough that it doesn't wake my wife. Occasionally she'll ask in the morning if I was playing my ukulele and that it sounded like heaven; to which I'll reply that her expectations are way too low. Since I play fingerstyle melodies with re-entrant tuning, I don't need the G string, except some slight chord shape mods here the there, (Gm on 3rd fret for an Am minor), and there is the definite loss of that re-entrant ukulele sound.

John

eclipsme
06-03-2019, 01:24 AM
This is really interesting, at least for me. I have made 4 ukes so far and try for light bracing and thin tops. I am getting great sound but not really sure how thin is thin and how much making it thinner would matter.
From the picture, it appears that you only removed a very small amount of material. Is that true? And you could hear a difference? Remarkable!

70sSanO
06-03-2019, 04:15 AM
This is really interesting, at least for me. I have made 4 ukes so far and try for light bracing and thin tops. I am getting great sound but not really sure how thin is thin and how much making it thinner would matter.
From the picture, it appears that you only removed a very small amount of material. Is that true? And you could hear a difference? Remarkable!

I will say that I felt I removed more material than the picture shows. Because I don’t have the knowledge that someone like you, who has actually built ukuleles, what I did was just trial and error. I also can’t speak for other types of bracing, such as “X” bracing and where to make adjustments.

My objective was to get a little more soundboard movement. The picture is the tenor. That is the one that was too bright and lacked an airy sound.

The soprano was a little different. I had a dull note (5th fret A string) and the overall sound of as a little stiff, but it had good tonal depth. It did open the note a “little”, which was good, but it also muddied the sound too much. As I played it, it seemed slightly less muddy, but it was still an “Oh well” moment since the soprano sounded fine to begin with. I decided to swap out the C and E strings and replace the A. Since I use Seaguar line, I went with an .028 for the C and .024 for the E. I still used the .020 for the A. That combination was a real winner and brought the uke alive, better than it ever sounded before. It does make me wonder why Worth uses the same .029 and .026 for their CL, CM, and CT sets regardless of scale length; but that’s a different subject.

John