View Full Version : Maintenance questions for classic plastic ukes

04-26-2010, 07:37 PM
About half a year ago I picked up a couple of old plastic ukes, one a Knickerbocker and the other a Carnival. They're neat to look at and handle but I have to admit I haven't done anything with them musically (apart from putting some cheap-o strings on the Knickerbocker). I've pulled them off the shelf and have started messing around with them and have a few questions.

I know there are a few UU'ers out there who have a variety of plastics so here goes:

1) Damn those old school friction tuners are hard to turn! I'm tempted to take them out and lube/wax them up some how but I am worried this might make them too loose. The Knickerbocker is especially tight. Does anyone have good ideas here? It's a bummer that they are so difficult to tune.

2) I _think_ I've figured out that my digital tuner works OK. Kinda tricky to get it on the neck. But I was curious to hear how other folks tune and if they use a digital tuner.

3) I know this thread has gone around before....what strings are best for these kind of ukes? I think it's Bushmans, yes?

4) I'm having trouble keeping the A string on the nut on the Knickerbocker. It keeps sliding off the bottom. I could wind the string around the tuner peg clockwise (instead of counter-clockwise) but I think I'll face the same problem only it'll slide off towards the E string. The nut doesn't look worn but maybe it is. I could also try to make the nut groove a little deeper. FYI the strings that I put on are pretty thick and I believe a thinner string would definitely help here. For the record the strings that come on the Carnival (and are still on it) are much thinner.

5) Any tips for maintaining the plastic bodies overall?

6) Per point #3, the Carnival came with some strings that are looped around the bottom of the bridge, or doubled up so to speak. So the C and G share the same string, and E and A share the same string. Should I re-string it this way?

Thanks in advance for all your advice :shaka: !

04-26-2010, 08:24 PM
Having no experience whatsoever with plastic ukes, I will limit my response to the one thing which I know will help. That concerns the friction tuners. Petroleum based lubricants will make your life a living hell. Don't go near them. Silicone based lubricants will be better but not enough to make it seem worthwhile. The solution to lubricating plastic under pressure is none other that mother-natures own bees-wax. You can get cakes from most hobby stores. (Model ship builders use it on the rigging.) If that's not doable, a plain old crayola crayon will make due in a pinch. (Choose a color that matches the uke, eh?) Good luck and congratulations on your classic finds...

04-27-2010, 01:10 AM
another uu'er recommended Martin flourocarbons for my Islander and I am very happy with them.

Chris Tarman
04-27-2010, 05:26 AM
I have 2 Maccaferri Islanders. A soprano and the much rarer Baritone. I have Aquila strings on both (the Bari is strung with a high G baritone set). They both sound really good with those strings. I tuned the soprano up to the old ADF#B tuning, just to have one. But because of that, I don't play it often. Same with the Baritone. I don't play it much because I'd have to learn an entire new set of chord names! But it sure has a nice sound.
I know what you mean about the tuners. I haven't tried to do anything to make them turn easier, but might try the wax idea. Of course, the Islanders came with metal tuners with plastic buttons, and I guess you are talking about entirely plastic tuners.
As for maintaining the plastic, I just keep them out of direct sunlight and dust them off now and then. I suppose I could get cases for them someday, but why bother? I don't take them anywhere (and if I do I can stick them in some other case), and they don't need to be humidified or anything. AND they look really nice hanging on the wall.