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View Full Version : Ukulele Surgery (Your ups and downs)



kissing
05-29-2009, 08:36 AM
Today, I attempted to modify some ukes for the first time.
They were some Mahalo cheapies, and I really wanted to lower the action to make them more playable.

One was a great success. I sanded the saddle down and made the action very comfortable. But I noticed that the A string was sounding mysteriously louder than the others... and I noticed that the saddle was a bit lower where the A string is. So I sanded the saddle some more to make sure the bottom is flat. Then I filed the nut groove for the A string a bit, and vwallah, I ended up with something that plays much better than before :music:

Unfortunately, my other Mahalo wasn't so lucky. I sanded the saddle down to a comfortable action, but I overdid the nut :eek: I filed the nut too much that the A string would make the whole uke sound unbalanced. Then I thought "Oh well, that's $20 down the drain".

What I'm gonna do now is buy a new Mahalo Soprano ($20) and use the saddle I sanded down for the one I stuffed up. Yay.

Anyway, have you ever tried modifying a Uke, and it all went wrong? :eek:

deach
05-29-2009, 08:41 AM
Unfortunately, my other Mahalo wasn't so lucky. I sanded the saddle down to a comfortable action, but I overdid the nut :eek: I filed the nut too much that the A string would make the whole uke sound unbalanced. Then I thought "Oh well, that's $20 down the drain"......:

You can buy a Tusq saddle for under $10.

spazus_maximus
05-29-2009, 08:56 AM
I filed the nut too much that the A string would make the whole uke sound unbalanced.

One way to fix going to far on the nut is to apply some super glue in the area you took too much off let it dry & file it down again.....hth's

Tsani
05-29-2009, 09:05 AM
I guess I am about try my hand at being an amateur luthier as well. I just got an estimate on fixing the problems on my P'Mico, and $300 was the basement - just to get started. If it was a more valuable instrument I might consider it, but if I did, the investment would not be recoverable out of it.

I know how cleats work, and I got some advice from the pros at my local shop on gluing - so - here goes nothing. I hope I don't wreck it. It has a great sound, but the cracks are pretty bad.

hoosierhiver
05-29-2009, 09:08 AM
I've found that alot of people are terrified of trying some minor surgery, but I think it really helps you to understand you're ukulele better and isn't so scary after you try it.

UkeNukem
05-29-2009, 05:11 PM
One way to fix going to far on the nut is to apply some super glue in the area you took too much off let it dry & file it down again.....hth's

Super glue is great for building up slots. I prefer to use regular super glue and not the gel or slow dry kinds. INSTRUCTIONS IN CAPS ARE FROM EXPERIENCE - DISREGARD AT YOUR OWN RISK!

The trick I came up with to get the glue ONLY in the slot is to get yourself a short piece (say 6 inches) of fishing line, like 20 lb test so it is stiff enough to hold the weight of some glue. Then, (AWAY FROM THE INSTRUMENT) put a small drop of super glue on the end of the fishing line. PUT DOWN THE TUBE OF SUPER GLUE ON A PAPER PLATE. Now, walk back to the uke and use the fishing line to place the super glue ONLY in the slot. Since the fishing line only holds a small drop, it should only be enough to fill the bottom of the slot.

Let dry, then sand the slot smooth. It is amazing how little it takes to get it just high enough but you can always repeat the process if required. :smileybounce:

Uncle-Taco
05-29-2009, 07:21 PM
I carved a new nut and saddle for a Hilo, and I did a fret level while I was at it. Pretty uneventful and it helped as much as that uke can be helped.

Oh, but I have mangled a guitar or several! :eek:

experimentjon
05-29-2009, 07:49 PM
I've done some minor action adjustments to a lot of my instruments. Never touched the setup on anything over $800 though. Which is good, because at that price, I would hope that I don't have to. But let me tell you, if you mess up on a saddle or nut on an instrument it's usually not that expensive to fix.

But if you mess up with truss rod adjustments, THAT is a pain. Which is why I try to avoid truss rod adjustments. I've done it only once on my Ibanez acoustic guitar to touch up the action and nothing went wrong. But I wouldn't dare touch the truss rod on my American Deluxe Strat. Thankfully, most ukes don't have truss rods.

Myala509
05-29-2009, 08:45 PM
I've found that alot of people are terrified of trying some minor surgery, but I think it really helps you to understand you're ukulele better and isn't so scary after you try it.
I am terrified! I believe that if it isnt broke, dont fix it. And if you are broke, dont try.

I wouldnt mind messing with someone elses though.

UkuEroll
05-29-2009, 10:53 PM
You can buy a Tusq saddle for under $10.

That'll be 10 dollars plus postage I owe you then. Thanks Man. You'll get your reward in heaven, or where ever you plan on going.:)

kissing
05-29-2009, 11:58 PM
Wow, thanks for the advice everyone.
Especially that one about using superglue to fill nut slots when I filed too much - I'm sure I'll use that one in future :D

Unfortunately, I threw out the cheap Mahalo that I kinda bunged up (it broke my heart to keep it), but I'm going to replace it immediately tomorrow. I kept the nicely sanded down saddle, so I can just replace the one in the new one I buy tomoro for $20.

The only thing I'm annoyed at is having to wait for new Aquila strings to arrive. Those generic strings that come as stock are hideous.

Ukuleleblues
05-30-2009, 02:49 AM
I'always sanding the saddel or nut too far. It's some kind of disease I have. You can get blank nuts and saddles at Stewart Mac or Luthier Merchantile International.

I have found a pretty good way to sand the nuts and saddles and keep a straight level bottom. I measure the string action with a feeler Gage. Then I figure out how much needs to come off. I then get a block of wood (hard wood is best) and cut it so that it has a 90 degree edge. I then lightly glue (I mean really light) with a smidge of super glue the nut or saddle to the 90 degree face with the amount I want to reduce it by sticking out the bottom. Then I start sanding the block over a piece of sand paper that is on a flat surface. When the nut/saddle is flush I have a nice pependicular bottom. The I pop the nut/saddle off the block and clean off any glue.

jkevinwolfe
05-30-2009, 03:37 AM
I have had good luck with gel superglue when beefing up nut slots. You can lay in a thicker coat and it doesn't run everywhere like the thin stuff. Needle files can be bought for cheap at Harbor Freight Tools to file the slots down.

A little reading will also help. I filled a nut slot and the string sounded dead. Then I read that the angle in the slot needs to be half the angle of the bend in the string at the nut. I refilled and refiled and all was golden.

There are not ton of uke repair videos, but there are a ton of acoustic guitar repair videos on youtube that can be helpful in learning some of the basics. If you live near a Sam Ash store, they often have an in-house luthier that comes in a few days a week to do guitar repair. These folks can be really helpful with free advice or sometimes can do on-the-spot repair for stuff that's beyond you.