View Full Version : uke for extreme environmental changes?

07-24-2011, 11:21 AM
I am a fairly new uker with six months of a Lanikai soprano U21 behind me. It’s a great starter uke, but the intonation up the fretboard is becoming annoying as I improve and move further up the neck with my chords and fingerpicking.

I’m considering a Flea soprano with the plastic fretboard because of the following environmental challenges:

During the school year, I live in northwest Louisiana (elevation 300 feet, humidity from 60% to 90%, winter temps from 30 degrees to 75). During my summers off from teaching school, I live and work in Canyon Village in Yellowstone National Park (elevation 8,000 feet, temps from 25 degrees {yes, even in summer} to 80, with wild humidity swings from 20% to 80% depending on afternoon mountain rain storms).

What do y’all think? Is the Flea with plastic fretboard the way to go with this type of environmental fluctuation? Am I on the right track here?

AND…..what about strings? Are some more prone to problems due to environment?

MOST IMPORTANTLY…..What about the tuners? Will the Flea friction tuners adapt okay from the deep moist South to the high dry West? Are the expensive Peghead tuners worth the extra money?

AND THEN THERE’S THE BANJO UKE…..I want one of those too. Is the Flea Firefly okay for environmental changes, or do I need to get one with an tunable/adjustable head?[/SIZE]

07-24-2011, 12:51 PM
Modern banjo uke makers use synthetic heads as opposed to the skin heads of the past. You would not have a problem with a modern banjo uke and weather. I don't really like the Firefly, due to its lack of tension hooks and toy-like demeanor. In modern BUs, I'd recommend a Mainland, Eddy Finn, Anuenue, or if you have a lot of money to spend, a Beansprout.

07-24-2011, 03:10 PM
Or if you're really flush with cash, what with that high paying job in Canyon Village, get a carbon fiber instrument:http://blackbirdguitar.com/ukulele.html
But seriously, I don't think the material of the fretboard is what matters as much as the body material. The flea is a good choice, maybe a laminate Kiwaya..or just get a nice solid wood uke and keep it in a case with a humidifier when the heat/AC is on in LA or when you're at Yellowstone.

07-24-2011, 03:11 PM
I can understand your concern for your ukulele, an I don't want to diminish that concern, and I don't want to offend, but those numbers are really pretty good.

Now if you were following the Jets back to Winnipeg this winter and then plan to spend your summers in Phoenix you'd be talking extreme.

But to be on the safe side, get the best sounding laminate and it will hold up better to weather (humidity) changes than a solid wood ukulele.

I have noticed that my Aquilas like warm weather more than cold weather (SoCal weather standards, not real world) as they sound more brittle during the winter.

I hope this helps.


07-24-2011, 05:28 PM
Wim van der Leden make banjoleles tenors and sopranos handmade in Netherlands, open aback and with resonator, and he makes a banjolele with a monster sound in volume with starting prices at € 140 plus shipping (via paypal). Great action, and comes with Aquila strings in High G. I have a tenor open back (€ 160 plus shipping) and now I order a soprano with resonator. His website with some videos and all his construction process is http://www.banjolele.net/

Wim write in a very good english, and is a great person.

07-25-2011, 02:10 AM
I have a Martin OXK and think it sounds great! Since the neck is stratabond, Its not going to warp. The body is made of formica. Well I wouldn't take it into the pool but how do the countertops faire in Louisiana and in the National Parks? That should give you a clue if it will hold up. I got mine from musicians friend and used a coupon from guitar center which musicians friend accepted. Best uke I have by far. And I can let it sit anywhere. Otherwise I suppose you could get a flea with a plastic fretboard should be good enough... maybe a firefly.... I want a firefly myself.

07-25-2011, 08:40 AM
The flea certainly eliminates the areas likely to suffer from such enviro changes, I have one (and a fluke) and love them. They are bombproof, plus the friction tuners are just spot on!

07-25-2011, 08:54 AM
The Flea is my choice for beach to desert travel in town. Intonation and quality are consistently good on the Flukes and Fleas. Not sure how the friction tuners work in high humidity, but in general I have found them fine most of the time. You might consider a Mainland Gecko with plastic body http://shop.mainlandukuleles.com/category.sc?categoryId=11, wood fretboard, laminated spruce top, or a Kala dolphin bridge (although there are reports that the QC has been spotty lately). Always bring extra strings, because they might break unexpectedly if there are large swings in temperature, and it might be hard to find replacement strings in Yellowstone.

07-26-2011, 07:30 AM
Thanks for all of your replies. I think I will probably go with the Flea soprano; jury is still out on friction tuners. And now if I can just decide between Mango and Ukelyptus.

And to 70sSano, thanks for really opening my eyes. After reading your post, I realized that the environmental “extremes” aren’t really as “extreme” as I was thinking. All I know is, when I depart balmy 95 degree Louisiana and arrive three days later in Yellowstone to 35 degree dry weather, I nearly freeze to death, I can’t breath, my nose bleeds for two weeks, and my skin nearly peels off until I acclimate. Then again, I’m a wimp with thin, low-lander, warm-weather blood. Realistically, a uke will probably be fine, especially if I keep it in a case with a humidifier.

And PeeWee, I laughed at your post. My “high-paying job” in Yellowstone barely covers my travel expenses. I’m a clerk in a tourist shop, and a volunteer Ranger on my days off from the shop. But if I ever win the Lottery, I just may get one of those carbon fiber ukes.

As for the banjo uke, reason says to delay that purchase for a while. Gotta have some new toy purchase to look forward to next year. But, ya know, I do have a case of want-it-now fever. Must be strong, must be strong.....

07-26-2011, 05:36 PM

I do want to add that you should let any stringed instrument get acclimated to a change in weather.

Immediately giong from 95 degrees, or even 70 degrees to 35 degrees is not good for any guitar or uke.

When you get there, make sure that you have wrapped the uke up when you take it from the car to your room so there is not a sudden temperature change.

After that you should be fine.


07-26-2011, 06:43 PM

I am a Flea fan. They are very consistent and I believe the intonation is excellent once the strings are stretched. I think that Aquilas bring out the best sound and hold tune very well once they are stretched. All Flukes and Fleas come from Flea Market Music with Aquilas on them now. I have one with Pegheds and one with friction tuners. It is easier to tune with the Pegheds but they are only a 4 to 1 gear ratio so if cash is tight the friction tuners are fine if it's not then treat yourself to the pegheds.


07-26-2011, 11:13 PM
I know it is a matter of taste but I would skip the plastic fret board. The rosewood fretboard will hold up just fine and plays sooo much better. I love the American made fleas and flukes but i really don't think you need to worry about the environment changes if you get a descent laminate uke. I have taken my travel Kala, everywhere, and never had a problem. In everywhere I mean, the top of Mt. Whitney, the rain forrest of South America, the desert of the southwest, the top of Half Dome in Yosemite several times, the -40 winter in Edmonton Canada and last week just bicycled across the Big Island of Hawaii with it. I have never had a humidifier in the case and never had any problems with it. Now my Kanile'a is always in a padded case with a humidifier and I wouldn't dream of subjecting it to any kind of abuse, but my travel Kala puts up with everything I can throw at it. My only advice is to buy from a dealer who will adjust the action, dress the frets, etc. Also,again it is just a matter of taste but I find geared tuners much easier for keeping a uke in tune. Hope this helps