View Full Version : action too high

08-29-2010, 11:34 PM
high everyone! I'am a new member of the forum so I don't exactly know the rules and so if this is not the right section I hope you'll accept my excuse. So the problem is in the action of my new ukulele, a kala tenor all solid acacia. I have had two problems with it: oxidation of frets, resolved by a liute-maker. Have anyonelse had this problem? Also my 30 euros ukulele doesn't have it...The second problem is the action: it's too high in particoular in the first fret. I would like to lower it but I have a little buzzing on the 3 and 4 fret, so I fear that after this the buzzing would increase a lot. What do you suggest?
Help me!!!

08-30-2010, 01:14 AM
Rusty frets? Buzzing?

You're entitled to get your money back, or have it replaced through warranty free of charge.
The first thing I would've done is contact who you bought it from, or Kala directly, and asked them about it.
Kala's ukes are generally good quality. Your one sounds like an unusual defect.

mm stan
08-30-2010, 01:19 AM
Aloha Mingo, Welcome to the UU and our Humble forums and the ukulele,
If you just bought the ukulele, I'd do nothing but take it back where you bought it and let them address the second issue. The first one is just cheap frets..
If you try to fix the issue yourself, you may alter and damage the ukulele therefore voiding the Warranty. Take it back....Hope it helps!!!
The retailer can fix the issues or exchange for another one, generally Kala's have a good reputation for their product and warranty service, just hope the your retailer does too...
MM Stan..

08-30-2010, 02:11 AM
Rusty frets? That's unusual, since frets are not made from iron. Old frets are usually brass, newer ones are called nickel-silver but they're really a nickel-brass-zinc alloy (no silver in them at all - the name refers to the colour). Some are even a gold alloy or stainless steel. None of these materials should rust, but the copper in brass is susceptible to oxidation.

In places with high humidity and especially cities with poor air quality, or if you're close to the ocean where you get salt in the breeze, the brass may show a greenish discolouring (called verdigris). A bit of gentle metal polish (a low-abrasion paste is best), carefully applied, can remove this. I've also read people use a product called NEVR-DULL (I've used this on metals with great effect, not on frets).

I suggest you put painter's tape or a similar low-glue tape on each side of the fret when you work, because the polish can discolour the wood. To prevent it from getting into the pores, oil the fretboard first. And remove the strings, of course.

If the discolouration proves stubborn, some luthiers suggest using an extra-fine steel wool (grade 0000) to help remove the material, but I'd recommend you try a plastic pot scrubber first because it won't mar the fret board. I also recommend you make or buy a guide that exposes the fret wire, and covers the fretboard while you work. Like this one (http://www.stewmac.com/shop/Fretting_supplies/Polishing_and_abrasives/Fingerboard_Guards.html). You can make one out of an old credit card or a piece of an old plastic jug with a fairly flat side.

Oiling the fretboard will help prevent this in future, but not forever.

As for the action - sounds like the humidity in you area is high, and may have bent the neck slightly. If the humidity is always high, you'll have a bigger problem. If its seasonal, the neck may restore itself as the humidity lowers. You can lower the action by sanding down the saddle a tiny bit, but if it's already buzzing, you'll likely increase that effect.

08-30-2010, 05:29 AM
mmm thank you very much for answers. About warranty, it's a long history. before taking this, I have bought an anuenue lani III from the same shop. It has the same problem: buzzing in the 3-4 frets. I take it back to the shop, they lower the action, but the problem persists. So I come back and I have tried a lot of ukes: other Lani III, Papa III of anuenue and a kala solid mahogany and the solid acacia I have taken. They all have the same problem: a little buzzing in the 3-4 fret. The acacia was the one with the little evidence of this problem, so I take it with a bit of discount. Now I have been having it for two months, and playing I have noticed that the action is high in the first fret, but I don't know what to do. I don't know if coming back to the shop is a good idea: I feel ashamed giving so troubles to the shop and I fear that a lot of ukes at the shop have this problems, has I have noticed practicing them. What do you suggest?

08-30-2010, 06:55 AM
Hello Mingo,
I keep thinking about your problem with buzzing on the 3rd or 4th fret on several instruments you tried. I have a couple questions for you. First, what strings are on your uke? Something seems off to me since you had some discoloration with your frets and there is buzzing. Any chance the shop put metal guitar strings on your uke? I can't think of why a couple different uke's by different manufacturers would all buzz at the same spot.

Are you new to playing uke? Some newer players have struggled with what they thought was a buzzing uke but rather it was the player not fretting a note or a chord well. I was playing a new chord the other day and my KoAloha was buzzing....it was because I was not holding down a string cleanly. I changed the placement of my hand and fingers and I could play it cleanly with no buzz. Does the uke buzz when you strum with all open strings? Does it buzz if someone else plays the uke?

08-30-2010, 07:06 AM
If Ian is correct about the possibility of high humidity bending the neck slightly, maybe you should look for a uke with a truss rod in the neck. Perhaps a uke that doesn't have a wooden neck would be the answer. They will be harder to find, and might cost a bit more, but it might be worth it if that is the only way to get a decent action in your climate. Maybe you could check with the luthier lounge and see what they say. There might be someone there who would make a uke for you with neck reinforcement/ adjustment, or alter the one you have.

08-30-2010, 07:55 AM
I have been playing uke for more than one year. I exclude that is due to incorrect holding: the string is the C string and playing with one finger only the C string on 3 and 4 fret you can notice the buzz. It is not so big, is a very little noice, and so I decided to take the uke because it was no a strong noice. the strings were aquila strings but I changed them and I put Worth clear strings. Also the seller notice the buzz, she was the first to notice because I have played with no problem. The buzzing is very little, almost imperceptible, and you can notice it only if you play strong this frets of the C strings. Playing normally the problem doesn't appear, so it isn't so seroius. But if I lower the action will the buzz increase and become annoying? I repeat that you have to hold strong the string to hear the buzz...normally it doesn't apper. The uke doesn't buzz if you play with open strings...I hope you can help me...

08-30-2010, 08:51 AM
If the buzz goes away when fretting the 5th fret and beyond....then a likely source of buzz is that the 5th fret is too high and the string is touching it. You can use a credit card as a straight edge to check this further. Yes lowering the nut will likely cause the buzzing to be more noticable. You should adjust both the cause of the buzz and the action...not just the action.

08-31-2010, 12:12 AM
I post a photo of the height of the action on the first fret...judge it...


mm stan
08-31-2010, 12:29 AM
Aloha Mingo,
In that picture, the action does seem high, it's hard to tell without having the uke in my hands....I'd take it back to the shop
and ask them to give you a contact number to Kala...they have an excellent service reputation...who knows they might fix it
for free or trade for a new one...either phone them or e-mail....I wouldn't mess with it until you talk to them...could void the
warranty..could be structural problems...being the neck. Good Luck!! MM Stan..

08-31-2010, 01:45 AM
...maybe you should look for a uke with a truss rod in the neck. Perhaps a uke that doesn't have a wooden neck would be the answer.
If it's a seasonal issue, then you'd end up adjusting the truss rod at least twice a year, maybe more often. It's hard to tell if it's the neck or fretboard that's adding the bend because both can do so. The exposed surface of the fretboard is where a lot of moisture can be lost or absorbed. Oiling it helps. A uke with a plastic fretboard like the Fluke or Flea doesn't seem affected at all.

08-31-2010, 01:47 AM
I post a photo of the height of the action on the first fret...judge it...
Yes, it does look high. But it's a trifle hard to tell. Can you place a dime between the string and fret wire without it touching the string? A quarter? Two? Three? How about at the 12th fret? How many quarters slid in there?

08-31-2010, 07:23 AM
Yes, it does look high. But it's a trifle hard to tell. Can you place a dime between the string and fret wire without it touching the string? A quarter? Two? Three? How about at the 12th fret? How many quarters slid in there?

Sorry but I don't understand exactly what do you mean by a quarter etc. I'm italian and my english is not so good...However this is the photo with a dime on the first fret...The buzz is evident also on the 12 fret, but it is not so big after the 5 fret and it become again evident around the twelve fret. I have sent an e-mial to kala and I attend the answer....
the coin is deep a bity more than one mm and there is almost another one mm between the coin and the string...

09-03-2010, 12:08 AM
what should the height of the action be at the first fret? on a tenor uke...

09-03-2010, 02:02 AM
I'm coming from the Acoustic guitar world so my advice may be suspect.
The string height above the first fret on the Stewart MacDonald Kits is suggested to be 1/64 inch (0.4mm) sloping to 3/32 inch (2.4mm) at the 12th fret.

Here's what I would do if I faced your problem:

Is the neck bowed? Check the string height above the fretboard (not the frets) at 4 or 5 points along the neck. This should be a fairly straight line if you graph it out. If it's not your neck is bowed and needs to be squared. You can correct a small amount of bowing with leveling the frets but only so much. This kind of work will cost more than your purchase price I imagine.

Next I would level the frets. You can check them with a small drill bit which spans 3 frets. If the drill bit clicks when you try to rock it back and forth, the middle fret is higher than the other 2 frets. A small fine toothed file followed by fine sandpaper wrapped around the file gently used will bring the high fret down if it is a small amount off. Mask the fretboard with masking tape to prevent scratches. If it is too high to file down a little bit, then it will need to be removed and re-seated in the groove as it may have not been seated correctly in the beginning.

Next, check the connection between the neck heel and the body of the Uke. This joint should be tight with no gap. I'm not familiar with Kala neck joints. If it is a bolt on type neck you may need to tighten the machine screws. If it is not a bolt on neck it is probably more than you want to do on your own as it will need to be removed, cleaned, shimmed and re-set.

Lastly, adjust the string height with the nut slots and saddle height.

09-03-2010, 10:10 AM
Looks high to me. Maybe MGM can tell us what height specs he uses. His are always set up pretty near to perfect. I measured a few and here are the measurements:

.025 - .028 inches or .610 - .711 mm at the 1st fret.

09-08-2010, 10:18 AM
I took my uke to a local liuther to lower the nut, but he didn't a good jub and the string, when you play it open, vibrate in a mettalic way. I think it is due to the etching (incision) he make on the nut. Now the nut is not more useful. How can I buy another one? please help me....

09-08-2010, 05:34 PM
Check out this link...it has everything you need to know about the nuts action. Oh and it sounds like you need some #0000 grade steel wool to polish up them frets!

09-09-2010, 01:20 AM
You can fill in the nut slot with baking soda and then add a few tiny drops of super glue. When it dries re-file the slot. Remove the nut first and be careful with the glue. It will wick everywhere throughout the baking soda, even places you may not want it, also you do not want to permanently glue your nut down.

09-09-2010, 06:24 AM
I don't know if they'd look at it now, but you should speak to the shop and / or Kala. You shouldn't worry about being 'that' customer, they should be concerned about selling bad ukes.