View Full Version : Help! What have I bought?

02-13-2011, 09:58 AM
UAS struck again. I have just bought two 'ukuleles. The first, described by seller as 'very old', is a Jetel. Google came up with a bit of history plus lots of pictures of banjo 'ukes. Also a few pictures of bicycles adorned with a similar 'uke except for a different bridge. I have seen my type of bridge on mexican instruments, and I wonder how you determine the actual anchor point of the string. As the hole in the bridge is slightly larger than the string, it must be a random affair where the string 'sees' its saddle point.


02-13-2011, 10:02 AM
The second 'ukulele was described as 'koa wood, hand made in Hawaii'. It has no markings or labels. The bridge seems to be coming loose, so I haven't strung it fully up yet.

02-13-2011, 10:04 AM
If you're talking about the fourth picture in that series - the strings look to be installed wrong. That is a wrap-over style bridge. The knot in the string goes on the neck side of the bridge, the string goes through then "folds" over the top of the bridge and on up to the tuning pegs. You can even see the indentations at the back of the bridge where the strings have been. The way it's strung now should be buzzing terribly at two points. First, the strings should be almost touching the frets (if not, the action was very high, possibly because the neck is separating or the top is bowing up). Second, the strings will probably vibrate against the holes in the bridge. This may manifest either as a buzz or simply as very poor sustain.


02-13-2011, 10:57 AM
Thank you, John.

You are absolutely right. I didn't notice the indentations until you mentioned them. Right now the string height is about 3 mm above 11th fret (12th is missing), so it'll be rather high the right way round. The neck is straight, firmly in place and flush with the soundboard which bows up a little = a ruler resting on top of the frets touches the soundboard just at the bridge, so it's only about 1 mm. Which means that the action must have been rather generous even when the top was dead flat. An unorthodox solution could be to push a thin saddle under the strings just in front of the bridge, pushing them up enough to make sure that this new saddle is the actual point of contact.


Uncle Leroy
02-13-2011, 11:02 AM
That koa grain looks stunning. That will be some uke when you get it up and running.

02-13-2011, 11:23 AM
I was thinking the same thing about that 2nd one. Fixed and polished up, that thing would look awesome..

02-13-2011, 11:32 AM
Yes, that koa wood really took my breath away when I first saw it. So I figured I couldn't be half wrong, even if I had to pay the equivalent of 45$.:)


02-13-2011, 01:43 PM
Thank you, John.
An unorthodox solution could be to push a thin saddle under the strings just in front of the bridge, pushing them up enough to make sure that this new saddle is the actual point of contact.


That may work but it's going to affect the intonation. If you're really lucky the original intonation was such that all the strings were flat at the tweflth fret and the new bridge brings them perfectly in tune. I'm never that lucky... LOL


mm stan
02-13-2011, 01:47 PM
Aloha Jens,
I lile the nice rope binding and rosette on the first one....but no saddle on the bridge??? but the second one look really nice....I'd say you scored...they look like they need a little cleaning and polishing
and strings and a little work on the bridge......Have fun and Enjoy...Happy Strummings...Thanks for sharing..MM Stan
wonder which would be easier, cutting a groove in the bridge to install a saddle or installing a new bridge and saddle...would look nice too!!

02-13-2011, 02:24 PM
The koa one looks rather new. It has a Hawaiian heel but is all bookmatched, even the headstock. Look inside the soundhole at the back at the grain pattern to see if it matches what's on the back, and look at the inside edge of the soundhole itself, to see if it's solid koa or laminate. The set of the nut is a little sloppy, the nut and saddle look like corian and the overall finish doesn't look old at all.

BUT it is a little eyecatcher and if it sounds nice you sure have a winner for that price! It may be a contemporary beginner luthier build. I sure like the older one with the rope binding, that's a winner!

02-13-2011, 11:58 PM
I had a good look inside the koa 'uke. The back has the same grain pattern on the inside and the top is certainly solid too. It is a bit sloppily built; the nut -as you noted Teek- is loose. Its groove is too wide for the nut and it's shimmed up with a sliver of veneer and a piece of paper. The book-match line on the back is off center at the heel, and the glue lines in general are rather wide in some places (mostly filled with laquer/finish). It seems to be hand built by a gifted amateur. I hope/think that that the flaws are mostly cosmetic -except for the bridge that needs re-glueing.

I tried to string the "Jetel" 'uke the right way round. It certainly makes sense but raises the action to an unacceptable level and intonation, of course, gets progressively worse as I move up the fretboard. A few things need to be done to this 'uke; 12th fret is missing, two 'tiles' in the rope binding are missing, the nut (which is wood) has been repaired/built up with glue (?) at the g-string and the grooves in the nut are lined with paper (?) -to prevent buzzing I guess. Also there is a crack in the top and a few in the back (none of those seem problematic, and could probably be handled from the inside). I won't do anything until I know a bit more about what it actually is I've got my hands on. I don't want to hit the headlines as the guy who ruined the only surviving 'ukulele from Stradivarius' workshop :o.


02-17-2011, 08:32 AM
"I don't want to hit the headlines as the guy who ruined the only surviving 'ukulele from Stradivarius' workshop"


02-17-2011, 09:22 AM
Just FYI; Jetel was a firm based in England, but the founders were French brothers, I can't remember their name off the top of my head. They began doing business in the 1880's in Kent, producing guitars, violins, and other stringed instruments. They moved into London by the turn of the century and by the 20's were producing a lot of ukuleles and banjo ukuleles to ride the wave of the craze. From what I remember, they were in business into the 40's. Based on what I see there, Hawaiian style binding and design, I'd say yours is from the early 20's; by the 30's, the design had changed and become somewhat more 'deco' based. Jetels were always good quality instruments, but built for the hobbyist and amateur.

So you won't be the guy that ruined the only surviving Jetel. :)

02-17-2011, 09:51 AM
Thank you very much for the info. I certainly hope that I won't ruin anything at all, but a lady this old deserves a certain reverence. I'm still rather confused about the bridge. The wrap-around configuration doesn't work; the top of the bridge is flat so the strings buzz there as well and also the action gets much too high. Mariachi vihuelas and guitarrones seem to have a similar bridge where the loop that is formed when you tie the string acts a the 'saddle' itself? Or perhaps intonation doesn't matter too much when you've only got a few frets at your disposal.