View Full Version : I require some assistance

08-04-2010, 04:09 AM
Hello my ukulele building comrades! I originally posted this in Uke Talk, but I figured I would get the insight of some luthiers as well.

I picked up a 1927 (that's what the guy said, I cannot confirm nor deny) tiple. It needs quite a bit of work, I'm not even sure if it's fixable. It would need nut. Someone swapped out the nut for a hunk of wood made for 4 strings. They also filed 4 slots into the bridge for the strings, but it looks like it takes a saddle, and with a saddle one wouldn't have to worry about the slots on the bridge right?. Neck is straight, but needs to be reset (obviously). Frets are really worn. A chunk of bracing fell off, it's the one right above the sound hole. The plastic around the sound hole is falling off, and the cracks all appear to go through. The big crack looks like it may go under the bridge (which has obviously been reset).

I sent out a few emails to various restoration people, only one got back to me and he said it wasn't worth repairing because I wouldn't make my money back on resale. He did not respond to my request for a ball park figure.

I don't want to give up on the thing, but at the same time I can't spend thousands of dollars trying to get it playable.

I've just linked to the photos, they're all quite large.











08-04-2010, 04:52 AM
Anything can be repaired for the right amount of money. Bill Monroe's mandolin is a perfect example, but I don't think this one warrants the time and cost unless there is some unknown provenance that would make it a collectible. I had an instrument in similar shape and simply used it for the dimensions to build a new one. There would be less work in constructing a new one then there would be trying to repair that one.

08-04-2010, 05:22 AM
Gah, that's what I was afraid of. I found a place online where you can buy the plans to make a tiple...so I should just Elmer's this one and hang it on a wall...and find a luthier willing to build it.

Thanks for looking.

08-04-2010, 06:22 AM
You should reapir it yourself! use this as a chance to learn some repairs. The worst thing that could happen is you ruin an instument that was ruined before you started. It is in rough shape, but does not look unrepairable to me.

08-04-2010, 06:35 AM
I'm not a luthier, but I don't think it's beyond repair either. I know nothing about wood working though. Probably less than nothing, and have no tools. I have started doing a little research on crack repair...I may be able to handle that. I don't think I have the fuzzy boys to attempt to reset the neck though.

08-04-2010, 07:32 AM
Tammy folks on this forum are tremendously nice. I think if you undertook this job one repair at a time that you can do it. Folks with luthier skills would gladly chime in with helpful hints, I'm sure. I don't know what is needed regarding tools. But complex instruments have been made for hundreds of years without all the specialized tools of today. I would encourage you to try restoring it. Taking it very slow and easy .... after all you have the rest of your life. Although now I recall that when I was your age I was also a hurry up and get it done person like everyone else my age.

Side note. One day I want to build an Ukulele from a shipping pallette, a beef bone, and glue. Using only a swiss army knife and maybe a tape measure. Although I reserve the right to purchase strings from a commercial string maker. (I've already bought the knife and yes it does have a little saw built into it.

You can do it.

Have a Great Day,

08-04-2010, 07:48 AM
that thing is in pretty rough shape. It could be fixed but it would be almost as much work as building a new one with your pocket knife.
Consider it a hobby project or pactice piece if you decide to do it. I think you'd have to remove the top to fix those cracks and set the braces. I suspect all the braces are just held on with dust by now

08-04-2010, 08:20 AM
Hey man!

Don't give up on this thing. It's got a lot of potential, not just as an instrument but as a project and learning process for you!

Taking stock:

You'll probably want to remove the top. All those cracks can be fixed with hide glue.

ksquine's right about the braces. you'd want to reglue those. use wood glue for that, though.

is the neck straight? or is it bowed? hold it up to your eye and look straight down the fretboard. if the neck's bowed, you can plane it flat and then re-fret it.

are your tuners still good? they look like they are. just need to be cleaned and polished up.

your local luthier can make you a bone nut/bridge

any more questions?

08-04-2010, 08:35 AM
Remove the top sounds scary as heck.

...just saying.

Neck is straight as an arrow. Tuners appear to be in good shape, just need a good cleaning I think.

08-04-2010, 08:45 AM
Just curious but how does one go about removing the top on this tipple?

08-04-2010, 08:47 AM
Just curious but how does one go about removing the top on this tipple?

That is an awesome question.

From what I read, heat is needed to break down the glue. But I'm just starting to read up on this whole thing.

08-04-2010, 10:09 AM
Heat will soften virtually every glue there is. It's also why you shouldn't leave an instrument in a hot vehicle. You can use a heat gun or even a hair drier. Go easy and take your time. You don't want to scorch or burn anything.

First up you would need to get the top binding off. Hard to tell from the pictures, but you might need to score the finish/binding seam with a razor blade. You can then usually use heat to release the glue on the binding. Will destroy the binding 99 times out of 100 so don't worry about that. I use a laminate trimmer most of the time to remove the binding as I know that I'll be replacing it, and it's just so much faster.

This will expose the top to side join. Heat the top a small section at a time and try and slip a thin putty knife or painters pallet knife into the seam. It will be a little difficult to get started, but once it has you just heat a small length and gently work the knife around the perimeter. Depending on how you go, the top may be repairable, or you might decide to put a new one on.

Once you get the top off you've done the most difficult part of the repair.

If you get to that point, then just ask more questions. It's not rocket science, just glueing little bits of wood together.

08-04-2010, 05:27 PM
I have discovered the back has alerady separated slightly from the sides. Could the repairs be made to the top with the back off? Also, I have deiced we need a new bridge. That looks like it will pop off easily because the glue is just gommed on there, I was scraping the glue away easily with my fingernail.

So, would it be ok to remove the back to work on the front? The way the cracks are, attempting to remove the top is going to end with a new top being put on.


08-05-2010, 05:10 AM
You should make an outside mold to hold the sides so they don't flair out. If it were me, I'd completely replace the top and I wouldn't pull the back off since you could repair the one crack on the back with the top off. Most likely, this was assembled using hot hide glue so you could inject some new glue where the back has separated from the sides and clamp it back down. Since you'd have the hide glue out, then you can make some small cleats to glue the crack in the back. The hide glue shrinks as it dries, so it will pull together tightly.

Ukulele Friend
08-05-2010, 07:37 AM
looks like there's lots of work to be done to this beauty before it's even functional. that also means there's lots to learn along the way too. have fun!



08-05-2010, 07:41 AM
To remove the top you'd have to heat the edge to melt the glue. A heat gun or clothes iron (no steam) would work. Soften up the glue and remove the binding with a knife. Then you can gently pry the top off, heating one section at a time.
Doing this will probably ruin the binding and finish, so that's more fun (work) for re-assembly.

08-05-2010, 09:07 AM
Once I figured out the top had to come off, I wrote the binding off and I had already planned to refinish it.

I have a question about this mold. I don't have a band saw or belt sander or any of that to make the mold. Is there an alternative? Perhaps I could make a frame, encase the instrument in plastic wrap, and use spray foam? That stuff hardens nicely. Or what if I got a sheet of hard foam (I remember seeing huge sheets of hard foam at Lowes) and carved the mold? Do you think this would provide enough support to make sure the sides didn't warp out?


08-05-2010, 01:47 PM
The hard foam would probably work. I don't know if the foam would react with the finish. I wouldn't use the expandable foam. If it were me, I'd get a cake icing knife with a rounded tip, boil some water and dip the knife in the water until its hot and use that to pry a section up and repeat. I think hide glue will soften at 165 degrees.

Please note that I preempt my advise with "If it were me" because I am not an expert repair guy and only a dabbler in this type of work, so don't confuse my comments with expert advise. I'd really suggest starting a discussion at www.mimf.com. They'd probably be willing to walk you through the process over there. Plus, there are a lot more experts there than here.

08-05-2010, 02:06 PM
I'm reading a ton. I was actually going to try a hot knife first. Everything I read says hide glue melts at about 165 (like you said) and I figured the only thing I had to lose was some time. I'm not overly concerned about the finish, since I intend to refinish it anyway, but I was going to put something between the foam and the tiple anyway. Felt or something.

The separation on the back is weird, the back doesn't exactly line up with the sides. It looks like the back is a hair too small almost...

Thanks for the link. I will wander over there and check it out.

08-05-2010, 03:05 PM
MIMF says you can use stacked card board to make the mold. Awesome! I only have to buy glue!

08-05-2010, 03:33 PM
The back on my 1918 mandolin has shrunk about .060. That seems to be pretty common. Actually, it hasn't seperated from the sides but simply shrank along the edge.

08-05-2010, 03:43 PM
I couldn't see the separation, but I was shining a light in there and saw it coming through at the one spot. So I looked really closely, and sure enough there's a tiny bit. I'll tap some glue in there and clamp it. That shall be my first fix. I'm glad to know it's not uncommon.

08-06-2010, 07:51 AM
Check out Stew Mac's kit instructions for a simple mold idea....and other usefull tips too

08-20-2010, 03:47 AM
So, now I've hit a wall. The top is toast. I think they used Gorilla Glue on the bridge, and it just won't come off without killing the top. I thought maybe the cracks would close up some if I put it in a humidified case for awhile, but they're still not going to glue very nicely. Even with compression there's still a fair gap.

So I guess my next question is, is it worth it to see if I can find someone to cut me a new top (with the bracing), or should it be a conversation piece?

Thanks for your opinions.

mm stan
08-20-2010, 04:05 AM
Have you tried steam and or heat?????

08-20-2010, 04:31 AM
Send me an email andrew @ auinc.com I think I could help you out with the top wood.

08-20-2010, 04:48 AM
Have you tried steam and or heat?????

First I tried a hot knife, submersing the knife in a pot of boiling water to heat it up. That glue didn't budge. Then I tried steam, with the rest of the uke protected with layers of towels and plastic wrap, and still nothing. I can get tiny little chips of glue out, but it definitly wasn't getting any softer.

Moore Bettah Ukuleles
08-20-2010, 09:09 AM
This is precisely why, when you build instruments, every thought must be given to the ability to disassembling the joinery if necessary at some point. Especially important on items that may need frequent replacement such as bridges.

08-20-2010, 09:20 AM
First I tried a hot knife, submersing the knife in a pot of boiling water to heat it up. That glue didn't budge. Then I tried steam, with the rest of the uke protected with layers of towels and plastic wrap, and still nothing. I can get tiny little chips of glue out, but it definitly wasn't getting any softer.

We never used steam on bridges. We used a method that Don Teeter advocated a long time ago. Also A fellow at the "apprentice shop" in Spring Hill Tenn. back in the 70'. Cut a large piece of cardboard to snuggly fit around the bridge and then cut a piece of sheet metal so it too fits snug around the bridge. Then use a heat lamp focused directly above the bridge. The bridge will heat through to the glue line. When it gets hot enough we use a palette knife to work through the glue line (watch the grain direction on the top)

On a guitar we monitored the top temperature by reaching in through the sound hole so that we didn't allow the finish to get too hot.

We were able to get most any bridge off regardless of adhesive, hide glue, Yellow, even epoxy although epoxy can be especially tough. I have a feeling that might be what you are dealing with.

When you put it back on, heed Chucks advise. No truer words were ever spoken. Repair guys always wish we never stopped using hide glue. ;)

08-20-2010, 11:00 AM
I will try this heat lamp method. I plan to refinish anyway. Thanks for the tip.

08-20-2010, 11:38 AM
I will try this heat lamp method. I plan to refinish anyway. Thanks for the tip.

Don't walk away while your doing this. It sounds stupid but it is pretty easy to get distracted and go off to other things. The heat lamp will get things plenty hot.

Good luck and let me know how it goes.