View Full Version : Care and Feeding of an Ukulele

12-20-2010, 04:29 AM
Hello, potential new friends. I have a Lanikai LU-21C. The case that came with it will probably be pretty familiar to many of you: a black medium-hard nylon thing with Muppet-pelt interior. It smelled very chemical-y and permeated the house, actually making me a bit heady, so I put a sack of baking soda inside and set it out in the entryway. After a few days, the smell dissipated.

My concern is that my uke was exposed to dry, salty, winter air and blown heat for a few days, and I have to do "something" to it. I don't have a humidifier yet, and I don't know what type to get. I also am not sure if I should have some sort of oil or wax. So far I've simply been lovingly wiping it down with an old t-shirt when I leave it long enough to feed myself (my fingers are killing me; I can barely type). I know that ukes must be tuned frequently for several days, but today it was way out of whack and frightened me a bit.

There seemed to be some dispute about oil and wax in another thread I read, so I was hoping for some additional advice about general maintenance and which humidifier/wood conditioner to use. Thanks for any help you can offer.

12-20-2010, 04:39 AM
Since the wood of the fretboard expands and contracts, but the metal frets do not, a dried up instrument will begin poking your hands with sharp fret ends. If you're noticing "fret ends," you need some more humidity immediately. Keep in mind that most ukes are built in places with decently high humidity, and yours will be happier when properly humidified.

An in-case humidifier is probably the best way to go. I like the planet waves one, but there are plenty of others out there. If you're allergic to keeping instruments in cases (I am), buy a room humidifier (should be $50 or less) and keep it running day and night. I have all of my stringed things in my bedroom, and I keep the door closed.

12-20-2010, 05:01 AM
Until you get an actual humidifier, just cut a small square off a sponge, moisten it, and put it in the case somewhere.

As for room humidifiers, remember you have clean the things regularly.

12-20-2010, 05:15 AM
Well, it is your uke and you can do whatever you want. As far as oil or wax, I don't use any of that on the body of my ukulele's as they are finished and any oil or wax will just sit on top of the finish. The down side is if there are breaks anywhere in the finish, and you use oil or wax it could change the color of the wood where it seeps into the small break. On the body of a uke I usually just wipe them down with a damp (water) cloth if they are getting dirty.

On the fretboard, there are a lot of options for fretboard conditioners, but what most of them contain is mineral oil. Plain old mineral oil can make a dry looking fretboard shine. However, fretboards don't need to be "fed", it is a cosmetic thing. You can buy mineral oil cheap at the drug store and it takes just a tiny bit to do a whole fretboard.

As far as humidifying, I think you are worrying too much. Your uke is fine to be out and be played. If I am not mistaken, your uke is made from laminated Nato wood. A laminated uke does not have nearly as much issue with cracking as does a solid wood uke. I say play it and enjoy it, try not to worry too much!

12-20-2010, 05:33 AM
In response to your uke being "out of Whack" this morning. I am finding, my first winter with uke, that the cold weather makes me have to tune it more frequently. In mild weather I rarely had to tune it.

Do people that live by the coast, or in rainy humid climates, do you use humidifiers? We have moisture problems where I live so I figure a humidifier would be overkill. I would be more prone to dehumidifying my house. I figure if I choose to use my fireplace, a rarity since I am basically lazy, I will just take the uke into a cold damp bedroom.


12-20-2010, 07:53 AM
Having just bought a Kanile'a directly from Joe Souza, he recommends the Grover humidifier. It is simply a flexible perforated plastic tube with a sponge inside. Soak if for half a minute in water, squeeze the excess out and place it in the case. Do not place it inside the uke itself. It comes with a piece of paper that indicates the humidity, but I don't think it is very accurate.You can buy a digital hygrometer for about $20 on Amazon if you are really concerned. I think the only people who need to be worried about humidity are people who live in desert climes like Arizona where the average humidity is 30%. For those who own koa ukes, the average humidity in Hawaii is ~63% so If you live in area with similar humidity you don't need to worry.

As for polish, Joe said the only woods that need to be polished/oiled are the fretboard and bridge and he recommends a periodic cleaning, like twice a year, with a light application of a 50/50 mix of lemon oil and boiled linseed oil.

12-21-2010, 05:12 AM
Thanks for your responses. I think a humidifier will be in order soon, since the air is so dry and salty, but I was panicking for nothing. I discovered that most of the reason my uke was so "out of tune" is because I inadvertently hit a button to take it from Chromatic tuning to a different key. I'm still trying to figure that stuff out. Very embarrassing, shuffleshuffle. I guess a little humility never hurt anyone, though. Thanks again!