View Full Version : Height of string at first fret

Captain America
04-15-2013, 04:23 PM
About how high should the strings be from the top of the first fret?

04-15-2013, 04:43 PM
It could be as low as u like without buzzing, think i start my set ups at 1.5mm and work on each string from there. If that helps, u can use three playing cards to get the 1.5mm that a simple trick :)

04-15-2013, 04:50 PM
It also depends how well built the uke is, if the fretboard is consistent with string height, it is easier to have all the strings at an equal, low height.
On my guitars I have the action pretty high, usually 2mm at 1st fret and just over 4mm at 12th fret, but I play a lot of blues and use a slide often, and because I am used to this I have my ukulele's higher than usual too, so I am usually pretty happy with most factory set-ups! I'd say 1.5mm at 1st fret and 3mm at 12th is perfect for a ukulele, but that's just me!
I also own a custom banjo, it's 110 years old and plays like a dream, the action is no more than 0.5-1mm at 1st fret 2mm at 12th fret, it probably barely touches 2.5mm at it's 22nd fret! But again, because of my playing style it works great!
In a nutshell, play around a bit, as long as there is no buzzing, and it sounds good/is easy to play for you, then it can't be 'wrong'!

04-16-2013, 12:50 AM
I like .020 inches or .025. I measure with a feeler gauge. But that is pretty low and will buzz if the frets are not level.

Captain America
04-16-2013, 04:33 AM
Do I just take it down little by little? And just dead-eye it?

I'm thinking of using a jigsaw blade for the notches.

04-16-2013, 04:52 AM
The way I like it at the nut - hold the string at the third, and the base of the string should only just kiss the top of the first (or not quite touch, but there not be much gap)

04-16-2013, 11:26 AM
Most people us Bazmaz' method. I like to hold a feeler gauge on top of the first fret. Keep increasing the thickness until the strings start to sound muffled by contact. Then I try for .020 to .025. I've done this enough that it is fairly repeatable. I agree you should lower them slowly. After each step play the uke hard and listen for the start of a buzz. This type of buzz shows up in hard playing, so if you test it by playing a lot harder than you normally play you can catch it before it becomes a problem.

Captain America
04-17-2013, 03:33 AM
Heartfelt thanks folks. I love ukuleles and don't want to **** up.

04-18-2013, 07:51 AM
On most all ukuleles that I have set up at the nut, the fret crown height above the fingerboard is usually around .035". First, I move the strings out of their individual slots and out of the way of the slots. I then stack up about .045" in automotive feeler gages and slide the stack in under the strings right up next to the nut. You can then file down each slot until the file contacts the stack of feeler gages. The bottom of the slots will then all be about .010" above the first fret.

I play fairly hard from time to time and I have not experienced any buzzing problems with this approximate .010" clearance. If you think that is too low, just stack up another .005" and the slots won't go as deep.

I suggest that if you're doing this for the first time, that you don't go quite so deep and take a little off at a time until you're happy with the results.

If you do go too deep and get buzzing, you'll have to either make a new nut or use the baking soda/super glue fix.

I forgot to mention that you should always check the height of the first fret above the fingerboard before you follow this procedure. .035" is, as I said, pretty much right on for most ukuleles.

Rick Turner
04-21-2013, 02:38 PM
BazMaz nailed it.

Another way to look at it is to put a capo on at the first fret. The action at the second fret is what your action should be at the first fret when the capo is off.

Higher action at the nut on a guitar is fine for slide, but that does not transfer over to a uke or other purely fretted instrument. Action too high at the nut can throw intonation off unless it's compensated; you'd have to shorten the distance from nut to first fret a bit to do that.

04-22-2013, 01:04 AM
Between 0.05mm and 0.08mm is where I like it.

Beau Hannam Ukuleles
04-23-2013, 02:50 AM
The way I like it at the nut - hold the string at the third, and the base of the string should only just kiss the top of the first (or not quite touch, but there not be much gap)

thats the way i do both guitars n ukes- about a cigarette papers worth for the thinner strings, touch more for the phatys.

Warning- after making alot of nuts I can file a perfect nut on 1 beer, NOT after 2 beers. There is only one or two strokes between perfect and start again.

04-23-2013, 05:22 PM
I've got a pdf available detailing my method of setting the depth of nut slots for Uke. It's the "common" method detailed in earlier posts, but it might easier for some to understand by seeing the graphic. Here's the page link, scroll down to the bottom for the most recent addition.