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View Full Version : Fret popping up - Fix it or return it?



SweetWaterBlue
12-08-2009, 03:18 AM
I guess this may go into the "You get what you pay for and we told you so," category, but those impulse buys are what they are. I recently was made such a good deal on a new Kala ka-tg that my impulses got the better of me and it followed me home. It didn't come with a setup so beginners like me should always beware.

The uke plays fine, but reading all about what is involved in a normal setup and how to check and set nut and bridge height, I began to look at mine more closely, even though it plays fine as far as a beginner can tell. All the measurements and intonation seem to be OK. However, when Iooked really closely, I noticed that the number one fret has a sharp edge on the right hand side and began to investigate why. It turns out that the first fret is popped out slightly making the right edge exposed. I can see part of the tabs (barbs) that the hold the fret in the fret board slot on that fret. It sounds like a classic example of what I have read here as frets either "popping out," or the fret slot not being cut deep enough to start with.

Also from what I have read this is common on mass produced instruments, which have not been closely inspected by humans after they make them. I am wondering what, if anything I should do about it? Its still under the return policy, so that is an option, but I wonder if they are all like that, or have some other problem.

This is a cheap $100 uke, after all. I build recumbent bicycles, do all my own car repair, do some woodworking, etc. and am handy with tools, so I have tried tapping the fret down, after carefully putting a towel under the neck and tapping gently with a soft piece of wood. The fret doesn't seem to be going in any. I am a bit afraid that the guys I bought it from might mess it up worse than I would if they try to fix it. Its not so bad that it bothers you when you play, since you don't usually slide down from above the first fret. If I successfully tap it down, I may then need to adjust the action from the nut. Are cheap ukes like Harbor Freight tools, where you basically are buying a kit that you finish yourself to bring it up to snuff?

So,

1. Take it back for replacement?
2. Tap it down myself?
3. Don't worry, just play it?

jer989
12-08-2009, 05:06 AM
.... Are cheap ukes like Harbor Freight tools, where you basically are buying a kit that you finish yourself to bring it up to snuff? ...

lol - a friend of mine once bought a belt sander from Harbor Freight and after his wife was using it for only a few minutes it caught fire and melted! God help me though if that ever happens to my uke!

seriously though- it sounds like you bought this from a store (not online). Sounds like it might be the kind of thing that would not only be frustrating in general, but once you start playing it more that it'll stop you from even being able to play properly. (which might frustrate you to the extent that you don't want to play it and that's the last thing you want!)

I think that even though it's only a ~$100 uke, it's not like it's a $10 uke and also Kala is a decent brand so you shouldn't have to deal with a problem like this - you should probably try to exchange it since it's obviously not right. For comparison, my first and only ukulele is a Makala concert (Makala is Kala's cheap-o economy brand and would be a step down from your Kala) - but I was very surprised at the quality and workmanship on my $60 Kala. So I think you should expect it to be right for the $100 that you spent.

Maybe take it to a local shop to see if they can do a quick fix of the fret - maybe they can also do a quick check of the setup to make sure the strings aren't too high, etc. Maybe if you buy a set of good strings to put on it (something you probably should do anyways to it) - they'd help you out for free???

Either way, don't ignore the problem and just play it - definitely fix it somehow. Good luck!

SweetWaterBlue
12-08-2009, 05:14 AM
Yeah. A lot of guys on my bicycle and welding forums (do I really need a new hobby?) buy the Harbor Freight bandsaws and lathes. There are entire websites dedicated to how to modify and "tune" such machines to make them into useful pieces of machinery. We use a lot of the $15 high speed 4-1/2" grinders. If you smoke one, you just throw it away and go get another one.

I have read that the fret popping out problem sometimes gets worse over time, if you don't nip it in the bud, so I probably will either start my luthier apprenticeship on the Kala, or take it back and see what they say. I have grown rather fond of it already.

RevWill
12-08-2009, 05:21 AM
I would fix it with a drop of CA glue and just enough pressure to hold the fret in place. We're not exactly talking about an instrument you would spend $ to refret in thirty or forty years when the originals wear out.

First, check and see if you can pinch the fret into proper position. If you can, glue that bad boy down.

bazmaz
12-08-2009, 05:42 AM
hey, its not a hand made hawaiian, but it IS a $100 dollars, new, and clearly faulty. I'd exchange it in a flash - why on earth not - its not made properly.

The dealer will simply send back to Kala for refund - nobody loses out except Kala

I personally dont care how cheap the uke is, if there is a physical fault, I would change it.

My cheapest Mahalo has a god awful finish, but works. That said, if it had a popping fret, broken tuner or similar, id exchange it.

RevWill
12-08-2009, 06:39 AM
My belief is that there is nothing wrong with a proper repair. If that can be fixed easily there is no reason to put Kala or the dealer out.

On the other hand, if it cannot be easily repaired then Kala or the dealer should rectify the situation.

SweetWaterBlue
12-08-2009, 08:07 AM
My belief is that there is nothing wrong with a proper repair. If that can be fixed easily there is no reason to put Kala or the dealer out.


I kind of lean that way myself, especially in a crowded World with resources strained to the hilt.

I loosened up the strings and put them off to the sides and got a small block of soft wood, which I placed on the fret. A few raps with a small hammer (a bit harder than I did it before), seems to have fixed it. Now I think I might find some CA glue and put a spot on each side and dress the right side of the fret with a small file.

I love this little uke already, and hope to be playing it for many years to come. I have downloaded a repertoire of about 40 songs that I am working on. They are about half Christmas songs to reflect the season. Its just chords and singing right now, but hey what do ya want for 3 days in?

Thanks for all the suggestions guys.

bazmaz
12-08-2009, 08:14 AM
so if you bought a car, as a trained mechanic, got it home and found the door handle fell off, whilst you could fix it yourself, you wouldnt take it to the dealer?

Whats the difference - if a product is sold, it should be right, not faulty

thistle3585
12-08-2009, 09:16 AM
Plain and simple, you can't reset a fret if the slot is too shallow. It has to be removed, reslotted and reinstalled. I would also guess that the slot is wider in that area which means the tang wouldn't grab even if you did get it down. Take it back. If you do work on it then you may risk voiding the warranty so if something major does happen down the road then you're out of luck. If you try the repair and it doesn't work then you risk an even more expensive repair to undo what you did.

SweetWaterBlue
12-08-2009, 09:26 AM
so if you bought a car, as a trained mechanic, got it home and found the door handle fell off, whilst you could fix it yourself, you wouldnt take it to the dealer?


I probably would not take it to the dealer Paul unless it was a major repair. A door handle falling off might be in the major category on a new car, and it would certainly give me pause about the product in general. I hate the whole car dealer experience, from dealing with the predominantly dishonest salesmen, to the "service manager" in the service department. When I do take my car in, its usually a wasted day for the first repair, and having to get someone to pick me up and take me back. Then, the second day to take it back to give them another chance to fix it right. When I buy a new car, I always buy the shop manual the mechanics have soon after I get the car. I don't know how it is in the UK, but the difference between me and and a dealer mechanic in most dealerships I have dealt with is often that I have actually read the manual. They do have the special tools you increasingly need, provided they know how to use them (also usually explained in the shop manual). If I were not handy with tools, I would probably feel differently.

I do agree with your sentiment though - the dealer should make something right. Its just often too much hassle for me personally to let them fix a minor repair. I suppose I enjoy fixing things any way.

Its probably all water under the bridge now, since I tapped it down OK before I read Thistle's response. I think he is right though, its probably better not to try it in the first place, and maybe I got lucky. I'll let you guys know if it pops up again.

I really do appreciate all the advice, even if I didn't take some of it. Hopefully in a few months my new Kala won't look like this famous singer's guitar

http://philspector.files.wordpress.com/2008/03/willie-nelsons-guitar.jpg

Kaisei
01-01-2010, 10:43 AM
My GF got me a brand new Sonny D Uke for X-mas, which is just what I wanted since my last one got stolen. She got some help from my Mom and my Sister back home in Hawaii, and had it express shipped to Phoenix ($80 Fedex). I was stoked when I got it. So I tuned it and was playing it and noticed that it didn't sound right. I finally figured out that the A-string is playing the same note on the 5th and 6th fret, because the 6th fret is sticking out too far. I don't know what to do. If I ship it back home and get it fixed by Sonny D, it might cost me over $100 in shipping. At the same time I don't really want anybody that doesn't know what they're doing messing with my new baby... What to do??? :confused:

SweetWaterBlue
01-01-2010, 10:52 AM
Since I assume your Sonny D is a much more expensive uke than my $100 Kala was, I would probably not try to fix this one myself. Have you or your sister/mom contacted the Sonny D company to see what they think you should do? They may pick up part or all of the shipping back to Hawaii to make it right, or they may recommend a luthier in your area to fix it for you.

Kaisei
01-01-2010, 12:28 PM
I just sent them an email today. Hopefully we can come to some type of agreement on how to get it fixed. I'm playing it right now and it sounds great as long as I stay away from the 5th fret...:(

SweetWaterBlue
01-01-2010, 02:28 PM
It seems to be such a common problem on new ukes, that many places that work on guitars and other fretted instruments are probably well able to handle it. Apparently, even when the frets are pushed in all the way, they sometimes pop back up due to changes in humidity, temperature etc. The tangs that hold them in are pretty small (at least they were on my Kala), so the slot they cut for them has to be pretty close toleranced I guess. If you push down on the offending fret, can you see it move any at all?

PeformanceUke
01-01-2010, 02:38 PM
I just sent them an email today. Hopefully we can come to some type of agreement on how to get it fixed. I'm playing it right now and it sounds great as long as I stay away from the 5th fret...:(


Call them 808-671-0627 . You also got the wrong e-mail you prob got it from the other site
The official website for Sonny D ukuleles are http://www.sonnydukuleles.net contact method is via phone.

Kaisei
01-01-2010, 03:40 PM
Thanks, yea I got a return to sender / undeliverable type email. I only had the old website addy, thanks for the new one. I'll try and call them on monday. I don't see any movement when I push down on it. I just got home, tried to go to a Guitar Center but they were closed for the holiday... Thanks for all the help...

MartinLil
01-01-2010, 04:28 PM
Is the uke new? If so, the repair (and shipping?) should be covered under warranty.

Kaisei
01-07-2010, 03:49 PM
Thanks for all the tips... I called Sonny D today and talked with a really nice lady there named Aggie, she was awesome. She told me what to do to try and fix it, which happened to be just tapping the fret with a hammer. I was scared to damage it at first, but I figured if that's how they normally do it then I gotta try. So it worked and the Uke sounds awesome, and I don't have to worry about shipping it all over the place. Thanks Aggie and thanks Sonny D for a great Uke...

JT_Ukes
01-07-2010, 04:26 PM
Wow... I would have expected more than "Hit it with a Hammer"

Just sayin.

Glad it worked out ok! So, where are the pics?

JT

sukie
01-08-2010, 12:39 PM
My GF got me a brand new Sonny D Uke for X-mas, which is just what I wanted since my last one got stolen. She got some help from my Mom and my Sister back home in Hawaii, and had it express shipped to Phoenix ($80 Fedex). I was stoked when I got it. So I tuned it and was playing it and noticed that it didn't sound right. I finally figured out that the A-string is playing the same note on the 5th and 6th fret, because the 6th fret is sticking out too far. I don't know what to do. If I ship it back home and get it fixed by Sonny D, it might cost me over $100 in shipping. At the same time I don't really want anybody that doesn't know what they're doing messing with my new baby... What to do??? :confused:

Happened to me on an expensive ukulele. Take it in to a reputable shop and have them check it out and fix it. It really just needs to be carefully -- that's the key reason to let someone else do it -- popped in with a rubber mallet. My place did it for free, but it shouldn't be a costly repair and it can be done in about 30 seconds. Why pay postage to return it for that minor of a repair?

Kaisei
01-08-2010, 03:42 PM
That's actually what I used, a rubber mallet. Like you said it only took a couple minutes and it worked out great...