View Full Version : Maintaining the Uke

01-25-2011, 04:29 AM
Hi all,

I have a Kala Koa Uke and was wondering how to maintain it (oil etc.) Knowing nothing about Ukes at all I informed at the local Uke club and the people I spoke to swore about using olive oil to maintain the wood on a weekly basis ... claiming that this was the cheapest and most effective manner for keeping a Uke "presentable" and flexible. Back in the days of the Portugese introduction of the Uke basis, the Portugese treated it either with bee#s wax or olive oil ... any takes on this?

01-25-2011, 04:40 AM
I'm still new at this, but I've never heard of putting olive oil or beeswax on ukuleles. I'm sure it would make the wood appear to be shiny, but "flexible"?
I think your uke just needs proper humidity in its case and the occasional wipedown of fingerprints with a soft damp cloth for maintenance. That's how I tend to my koa uke, anyway.:p

01-25-2011, 04:41 AM
Are you talking about oiling the body? I know people use various products on fretboards, including myself. I use a fretboard conditioner the Loprinzi puts out, others use lemon oils and other products on fretboards. I keep a humidifier in my case to heek the wood happy.

I Ukulista
01-25-2011, 04:48 AM
I use a little furnature polish and soft cloth, but just the cloth is enough really. Olive oil gets sticky and bees wax is best on plain wood. Remember modern instruments are coated either gloss or matt. If you really need to clean grease and stuff off older instruments or wipe the strings or finger boards use a little soft soap and a damp sponge then wipe dry. Never use anything abrasive like wadding especially on the strings.

01-25-2011, 05:20 AM
Apparantly it's all about conditioning the wood, if you have a solid matt wood uke that is, over time and upon using olive oil the uke gets more, well more something which is good for the sound (I didn't quite get what the guy meant either).

I use a humidifier in my Uke, but would like to improve the quality of the sound, which apparently a solid Uke does over time, just wondering how to maintain it well and become "good - better" I am not interested in the optical improvements; more gloss or shine or whatever ... just the sound over time and the guy said olive oil is perfect for that....

I Ukulista
01-25-2011, 08:39 AM
I think the player improves the instrument with time and practice.
Olive oil is great as salad dressing with warmed tomatoes and Greek cheese.

01-25-2011, 08:49 AM
If you are working on improved tone you can see if you can get in on the ToneRite around the world (http://www.ukuleleunderground.com/forum/showthread.php?32923-Official-ToneRite-Ukulele-Round-the-World-Road-Trip&highlight=tonerite). They claim the ToneRite will "open up" your instrument.

01-25-2011, 09:06 AM
I would be extremely careful with

a)vegetable products - they can go off
b)synthetic oils and finishes no matter what it says on the bottle.

I personally think that your uke, if kept in the proper humidity range should need nothing at all.

If you find the wood is dry, I would suggest Fret Doctor bore oil only - its a totally natural mineral oil used by woodwind and bagpipe players to condition their wood. But its really only for the fingerboard.

Oh and please please please- biggest mistake you can make is over conditioning a fingerboard. The frequency depends on your conditions, but really twice a year is average, sometimes less.

01-25-2011, 09:09 AM
I think your best bet is to ask Kala. I've had good experience with their customer service by email. Ask them what they recommend.

mm stan
01-25-2011, 10:37 AM
Aloha Jcder,
You didn't mention if you had a satin or gloss finish....if it's gloss, I'd use a guitar or automotive polish that contains no wax...
and if its a satin fininsh....certainly never use beewax or any wax..if you need to repair of refinish your uke...it can be hard to impossible to get it out...and will
affect the finish with blotches and will not soak in evenly or stick good and same for any adhesives...As for olive oil it will turn rancid..I would never put that
on my ukes either....I believe mineral oil is alot better...and does a good job...Good Luck>>>BTW welcome to the UU and our forums ....have fun and enjoy!!!
Happy Strummings!! MM Stan

01-25-2011, 11:05 AM
My favorite is "Gibson" guitar polish. It comes in a spray bottle and safe for all finishes.
It takes finger prints and other stuff off easily.
I use 100% carnuba wax (no silicons) on the back of the neck, makes it easy to slide.
I have also used the carnuba to cover small scratches. My oil finished Mya-Moe came with a bottle of lemon oil.
I would be afraid olive oil may turn ransid. (my playing sometimes already stinks)

01-25-2011, 11:33 AM
I read that there is no actual oil from Lemons in "Lemon oil" for fretboards but rather it is mineral oil. Anyone know if that is true?

01-25-2011, 11:54 AM
I read that there is no actual oil from Lemons in "Lemon oil" for fretboards but rather it is mineral oil. Anyone know if that is true?

No, we had a thread on this recently and someone looked it up. Lemon oil is squeezed from lemon peels.

It's the only thing I'll use on rosewood and ebony fingerboards - been using it for years and years and years on guitars.

Typically, a good wax for gloss/matte/unfinished wood is "Renaissance" wax. I've used that for years on everything but the fretboards - and on maple fretboards, as well.


01-25-2011, 12:00 PM
OK, thanks

01-25-2011, 01:00 PM
I've heard that actual lemon oil dries out the wood and that the lemon oil sold at music stores for use on musical instruments is actually lemon scented mineral oil.

01-25-2011, 01:18 PM
Heh, heh. Sounds like a rumor spread by music stores - or guitar makers who repackage bulk lemon oil and sell it for ten dollars an ounce as "conditioner." :)

I've been using Formby's Lemon Oil Treatment (a blend of lemon oil and other oils - some of them possibly mineral, intended to clean and condition fine wood furniture) for almost twenty years on guitar fretboards. My current bottle is over ten years old and still about 1/5th full - and I use it regularly on several instruments. It cost about $6 at wally world.

I bought one guitar that had been hanging near a south facing window of a store for a long time - the fretboard was the dryest I've ever seen. It was real thirsty but after the first five or six string changes with Formby's it was nice and dark and healthy-looking, and thereafter took only a normal amount of oil.


I Ukulista
01-26-2011, 05:22 AM
Guys what about the tomatoes and greek cheese salad?

01-26-2011, 11:28 AM
Guys what about the tomatoes and greek cheese salad?

Tastes great but the intonation sucks.

I Ukulista
01-26-2011, 11:36 AM
You can revive the intonation with half a bottle of rakki. Then you play Zorba on the uke.

01-26-2011, 11:45 AM
Im more concerned that my Uke may gain weight with all that oil. Not to mention its cholesterol levels!

I bought a sorprano and concert, i dont want a fat baritone!

01-26-2011, 12:26 PM
If you can get real lemon oil (good luck) then its great. thing is, it rarely is these days.

Sorry to plug again, and I am not on the payroll, but Fret Doctor bore oil does it for me - it was recommended to me by a woodwind player in the BBC symphony orchestra - she said loads of folks used it on woodwind wood, and also many guitar friends who played orchestral or spanish guitar. Those people play SERIOUSLY expensive instruments, and she said that in her market, the same thing applies - dozens of brand named oils, waxes, lemons etc etc - but the real pro musicians trust only natural products.

Wood is natural - it needs treating only sparingly, and only ever with a natural product.

I shall now stop ranting, but I am a guitarist who spent 10 years using off the shelf, brand name lemon oil (so called). Seemed to me that the effect seemed lost after a month.

Switched to Bore Oil and now my instrument fingerboards genuinely look great for 9 months