View Full Version : New Uke Day! I found my wide-string beat-around uke

03-11-2011, 07:36 PM
Disclaimer: I don't work for or represent Republic in any way.

So, there has been a lot of discussion as of late, including a thread started by me, about cheap and/or durable ukes that have wide string spacing like many of the customs and "K" brands. For about six months, I have been watching Republic's non-resonator ukes come and go, mostly go unsold. It appears that Republic has been having a hard time getting rid of them so they are liquidating them at fire-sale prices. Originally, they were going for more than $200, but I was a bit concerned about build quality so I never went for it.

When the price finally came down to $119, I thought I would take a chance. The manufacturer is only about 75 miles away, so if I decided to take advantage of the 3 day return policy, shipping would be cheap.

Well, when it arrived I was pretty happy. The build quality is really nice, better than the Mainland I bought new and on par with the few Kalas I have had. I am going to have to file the nut a bit to make room for the thicker strings, but that is pretty expected. One other strictly cosmetic issue is that some of the ABS purfling has yellowed in spots.

Based on the pictures on the auction, there were two things I expected to be bad. The black Hilo strings were very plinky, but that was easily fixed with a set of D'Addario Pro-Arte' clear nylons. The other less than great feature was the off brand open geared tuners. They are kinda lame, but I think a little lube of some sort on the gears will improve them tremendously.

Now the part that I was very thrilled about. As I was playing, I noticed that there seemed to be a bit more room on the fret board. I pulled out my ruler and measured the nut, string spacing at the nut and string spacing at the saddle and compared it to my Kanile'a koa concert and here is what I found.

Nut Width - 37mm
String spacing at nut (G-A) - 29mm
String spacing at saddle - 45mm
Neck Width at 14th fret - 47.5mm
Usable saddle width - 57mm

Nut Width - 38mm
String spacing at nut (G-A) - 28mm
String spacing at saddle - 42.5mm
Neck Width at 14th fret - 48mm
Usable saddle width - 72mm

The reason I measured the neck width at the 14th fret and the usable saddle width is because is because if I change from bridge slots to bridge pins, I should easily be able to set the spacing to match my Kanile'a spot on.

Ok, now for a few specs and pictures.
Top: Solid Englemann Spruce
Back: Laminated Zebrawood
Side: Laminated Zebrawood
Neck: Mahogany
Fretboard&Bridge: Rosewood
Body Purfling: ABS
Top Purfling: Abalone
Fretboard Inlay Dot: Green Abalone Inlay
Finish: High Gloss
Tuners: Chrome with pearloid button
Sound hole rosette: Abalone Inlay
Included Hardshell Case!

I will upload some images in the next post.

03-11-2011, 07:46 PM
The uke in the case
Close of of top and abalone
The headstock and somewhat cheesy tuners
Nice detail on the neck attachment and base of heel

03-11-2011, 08:06 PM
That's a very classy looking beat-around, congrats!

03-11-2011, 09:04 PM
Thanks. Ugly or classy, a durable uke with wide string spacing is a win in my book.

03-11-2011, 10:25 PM
looks too nice to be a beat around uke to me!

03-11-2011, 10:54 PM
I agree with Paul, looks too nice to be a beater regardless of the price. Quite a pretty uke. How does it sound with the new strings - can you upload a sound or video file? What size is it? I should be able to tell from the photos but I'm not that experienced yet.

Well bought! Congrats.

03-12-2011, 01:51 AM
Looks like a nice Uke, I agree with Bruce, would be nice to have a sound sample! :D

03-12-2011, 06:58 AM
If you hate the tuners you could always change them out--would look awesome with nice frictions.

Looks like a great deal. What about the case?

I need a case for my Ohana CK25, and a hard latched case is about $60 delivered. If I could get a beater uke for the extra $60, I might go for this and pass on the uke after a bit of strum time to my son!

03-12-2011, 03:17 PM
Thanks, Mike. I've been considering a concert size ukulele lately, and the price on that Republic is on par with some o the low-end Kalas and Lanikais around here, but far better made, and more attractive. Not as nice as my Kala Cedar top, but nearly as good as my Cordoba, if more ornate.

And I have to agree with pdxuke - the hard shell case is the deal sealer. At $120 (I added the $1 for the Japan donation), I will now have a spare uke to bring to the Uke Nights as a loaner. Mine should be arriving next week.

(So, other than needing to file the nut for larger diameter strings, how is the overall setup? And how do you change from bridge slots to bridge pins? Drill holes?)


03-12-2011, 04:21 PM
Ok, here are some answers. The Republic is a concert. If memory serves me correctly, it is nearly the exact size as the Mainland I had a while back. The new strings greatly improve the sound. The old Hilos where pretty plinky. The D'Addarios are pretty good, but I think I will try a set of Aquilas on it to see if I can get a bit more out of it. The top on it is a bit think and as such, it is a bit quiet at certain frequencies.

Concerning the case, it is pretty good. I would give it an 8 on a scale of 1-10. I am not much of a hard case guy as I don't think they offer as much protection as a semi rigid. The construction is pretty good. The materials are ok too. One concern I had was that when closing the case, the top pushes the uke into the upper and lower padding making for a snug, but maybe too snug fit. It seems it would add extra pressure to the soundboard via the bridge over time, but this may be typical for these types of cases. Also, the case fits the uke pretty tightly at the bouts, so if you are thinking about getting the uke for the case, send me your uke measurements and I will let you know if it will fit.

As for the tuners, they aren't terrible. I put a speck of lithium grease on the gears at each, turned them a few times and then wiped off all the extra. The turn much easier now. In hindsight, a toothpick with WD40 on it at each gear would have been a better solution. I didn't buy this uke for show, but rather as a uke to play in my car at lunch and on trips, so the less than Grover tuners are fine with me. They are still WAY better than non-geared friction tuners (I prefer the precision of geared tuners).

I have had two Kalas and currently have two Lanikais. The build quality on the two of them is very comparable to the Republic. The only issues I have with the Republic are...

1. some yellowing of the ABS purfling (really the worst cosmetic issue)
2. The saddle could be installed a bit better and shaped better (taper the ends)
3. The nut is not filed wide enough for thicker strings or deep enough to make the intonation spot on in the first few frets (pretty easily fixable though)
4. The slots in the bridge are also too tight for the thicker strings. I need to open them up slightly with a sharp knife.

Nothing can be done about 1 and it doesn't bother me. I am going to fix #2 when I mod the bridge. Just a little sandpaper. As soon as I get a nut file, I will fix #3. #2, #3 and #4 could easily be taken care of with a professional setup.

As for the question about how to set the strings wider, being this uke is going to be punished a bit by temperature and humidity changes, I think it will be safest just to drills holes and make the strings tie to a bead inside the body. This will allow me to set the string spacing exactly how I want it and help hold the bridge tight to the soundboard.

Finally, I am going to try to make a sound sample video tomorrow. I did one today comparing it to my Kanile'a, but the mic was too close to the ukes and the audio was pretty bad. I will post a link when I have one.

In conclusion, for the $119, I am pretty happy with it, especially because I can get the string spacing to be exactly the same as on my "K". While it sounds like a $150-200 uke, I am fine with that as the only people that will hear me play it are me and my partying disc golf buddies.

03-15-2011, 11:42 AM
Okay, Mike.. it has been 3 days. (Impatient? Who, me??)

How does the Republic sound?

Mine is scheduled to arrive by end of day on Friday, 3/18, so I guess I have 3 days to figure out how to do a video and compare the Republic to my Cordoba and Kala. (Not even gonna put the Harmony or Stella in that mix!)

I just heard a Republic metal body resonator last night, and it sounds every bit as good as a National metal body resonator- and I swear it was louder than the Blackbird plugged into a little 2w portable amp! If the Republic laminate has the same quality, I'm going to be very happy.

(And of course, giving full swing to my UAS,I'm planning a visit to the Fluke/Flea factory tomorrow, if Phys and/or Dale get back to me!)

So, to get back on track - How is the new uke?



03-15-2011, 01:36 PM
Ok, here is an update on my Republic.

I put the d'Addario strings on it and they sound pretty good, but they are much fatter than the cruddy stock strings so I had to do some mods to the nut. In actuality, it had to be done anyway because the action for the first few frets was about an inch to high. I took all for slots down considerable per some instructions on the forum and widened them to fat strings would fit and the action is great on that end now with no buzzing either. I could probably take it down a bit more, but I need it playable this weekend and don't want to risk going too far.

Next on tap was the string spacing. As I said before, one of my goals was to have it setup (action and string spacing) just like my Kanile'a. The nut is pretty close so I didn't mess with that.

The saddle/bridge is a different story. As you may recall, the slots in the bridge were also too narrow for the higher quality fat strings on the market. I trimmed the slots a bit to force the d'Addarios in, but I wanted to go wider. Being this is kind of a beater uke anyway, I did the unthinkable and took a drill bit to the bridge. I carefully measured where I wanted the strings to be on the bridge and then drilled holes through the bridge into the body. Then I simply put the end of the strings through the holes, tied a piece of a bic stick pen cartridge to the inside end of the string and then tightened it up (WSUkes trick).

The next thing that needed serious attention was the saddle. Like others here, when I pulled the saddle out, there was a piece of a small wire zip tie under the saddle to shim it up. On top of that, the saddle was cheapo plastic. And on top of that, saddle wasn't anywhere near flat, probably by design, but I can't say for sure. On the g-string side of the saddle measured 8mm and the a-string side measured 6mm, enough to look really cruddy. After doing a bunch of research, I decided it was time to make my first saddle. I got a 3/32" thick bone saddle from the local music store (for $11, grrr) and sanded it down was at about the right height and level. I thought I may have to put some compensation into it, but an intonation check at the 12th fret was good enough for me. I am a little afraid to post a picture of my handiwork, but what the heck. It works so here it is...

Note the new holes for the strings set wider than the original slots and notice the nice, chamfered ends on the saddle.


Now that I have it all setup, I have to say it sounds pretty good. I say only pretty good because I think all the pulling and stretching on the strings has done them in. All of the strings ring great open, but the C string has nearly zero resonance at the 12th fret. I don't know what. Perhaps it is because these are actually tenor strings on a concert scale.

All that said, I am definitely happy with it now, even if it is a bit of a franken-uke. I am going to order up some aquilas when I get back from my trip (or pick some up on my way through Austin) and see if they make a difference.

03-15-2011, 02:07 PM
Thanks, Mike.

I don't think I'll be doing any drilling, but this may be the instrument for me to learn about setup on. I figure that I can get either a Corian, Tusq, or bone nut/saddle combination, and take my time with it.

After I finally get it, of course.

I'm planning on ordering Aquila, Worth, and Martin Fluorocarbon strings to try with it. So far, I'm using Aquila on the Kala and Cordoba, and have been quite happy with both.

Best of luck this weekend.


03-19-2011, 01:41 PM
Okay, so my republic arrived on Friday... and I realized how spoiled I've become!

My Cordoba, Kala, and Fluke were all strung with Aquila strings, and were all fully stretched and holding tune when i got them. Intonation is very food on all three, tuners are responsive, and they sound great.

Then the Republic arrived. (Pictures later, when I get them transferred from the camera)

First off, even though it was shipped in a hard case wrapped in bubble wrap, the box had not a single "fragile" notation. heck, even the cases alone I've gotten from Elderly and Kala had that!

Then there was the case. Okay, it's cheap. Basically free. Still, I expected that the seams would all overlap on the outside, rather than have chunks of backing material showing through some of them - and I didn't expect some of the outside fabric to be wrinkled. What the heck - I knew it was inexpensive - so I get what I pay for.

The uke looks nice. Light, glossy, a couple of blemishes where the bling and binding meet on the tuning head, but I admit I was looking for blemishes. Not many. The zebrawood laminate at the bottom seam doesn't quite match up - but who can see that when it is tucked under your arm? Tuners are cheap, as UkeDaily said, but turned easily - I did have to tighten the screws a touch. The saddle was noticeably higher at the G string than the other side - no shims under the saddle, it is just cut in a non-parallelogram shape. No notches for the strings. The nut seems OK. The nut-12th fret is 1/8"less than the 12th fret-bridge measurement- I rather doubt that is significant. The uke was strung with Hilo strings.

So I tuned it, and strummed.

This is when I realized how spoiled I am by my other ukuleles.

No volume, I hated the tone, and the harmonic at the 12th fret isn't very harmonious.

So I took off the Hilos, and put Aquilas on, and I'm waiting for them to stretch. But, amazingly enough, the uke already sounds better - volume and tone are greatly improved. After the strings settle down, I'll try and figure out what else I need to do.

My assessment so far? For $119, case included, I think it was more of a bargain than most of the $99 ukes at the local music store.


mm stan
03-19-2011, 01:54 PM
Aloha Mike,
Congrats on your new uke....it looks really nice and well made, and it is hard to believe it is at that price.. a little tinkering and setup and it'll make a fun daily uke...thanks for sharing, Happy Strummings..MM Stan
Have Fun and Enjoy!!!