View Full Version : Lanikai 21: Plain looking and in need of decoration And string distance to fret board

07-12-2013, 10:05 PM
I'm a notorious cheapskate and finagled my way into borrowing a Uke to see if I'd like it. So, I pulled the trigger and bought a Lanikai 21 because the Uke I was borrowing needed to be returned. After Uke withdrawals, I found a good deal $48+tax at Guitar Center. The initial uke they gave me had knot in the fret board near the second fret, so I had it switched it out. The sound is ok, about the same as the basic Kala, but nothing impressive (like the Luna Tidal Wave). However, the plainness of the Uke is bothersome.

Question 1
Ok, so now I'm trying to dress this Uke up. I can't find thin colored pick guards made for the uke which is what I was planning on doing. I've seen the decals, but the fret decals I've read don't last long. Besides painting/stenciling/drawing or plastering it with stickers, does anyone have suggestions? I had wanted to make it dressed up, but now I'm thinking a uke covered in some long green hairy material might be be my only choice. Any ideas?

Question 2
The strings get somewhat higher away from the fret board as it moves toward the saddle. It seems that when bar cording up near frets 1 - 4 that it makes the strings hover too close to the fret bar. Is this normal? If not, any suggestions?

Patrick Madsen
07-12-2013, 10:57 PM
Pickguards or any long green hairy material will deaden the soundboard even more than it is already. Sounds like it needs a good setup with a lower action.On a 48 dollar uke, a setup may no be worthwhle.

I suggest for your next uke, and there will be one lol, you buy it from a reputable uke dealer like HMS, Mims or Uke republic. They do a setup on every uke before it goes ot the door; no matter how inexpensive it isw.

It's your instrument, you can dress it up any way you want to make it look cool. Someone on the forum just sold a steampunk decal for the top of the uke; I think is was Ukedelics or something like that.. Looked really cool. Main thing is to play it and have fun.

07-13-2013, 04:31 AM
Jockomo81's decal stickers are great on my ukes. I had a 'tree of life' fretboard decal and it lasted 2 years until I decided to switch over to something else on the fretboard. If you're thinking of putting decals on the body though, don't put it somewhere where your arm will go because (though, it hasn't happened to me) some say that the heat has made their decals fall off. P.S. Jockomo81 also has a cool ukulele pickguard decal, check it out.

If it buzzes while you bar chord, it's definitely an issue.

07-13-2013, 04:43 AM
I wouldn't put much effort into making it look nice - the best "decoration" you can give your first uke is to play it so much that it begins to show wear on not only the fret board but the sound board.

Aside from the practical aspects of getting more benefit from spending your time playing rather than tinkering - many things you would do to decorate it are going to adversely affect the sound - and sound is an area where the LU-21 series are pretty weak to begin with (not cutting it down, an LU-21C was my first uke).

As for the string height the LU-11 and LU-21 series ukes almost always need to be set up. Counting the ones I've obtained for myself (first uke), my grandkids, and assorted other kids, I've purchased probably a dozen or more of them. While all were playable right out of the box (not always the case in this price range) every one of them needed at least one nut slot lowered a little for correct intonation.

Also, it is normal for strings to get further from the fret board as you move up the neck - in fact, if they don't then either your action at the nut is WAY to high or the action at the saddle far too low and your strings will likely buzz.

For now, I would just play it. If you notice the intonation going sharp when fretted at the first couple of frets then you might want to have it set up if there is someone near you who can do so - or wait until you buy your second uke (hopefully from a uke dealer and properly set up) and then use the LU-21 to practice adjusting nut slots on.

BTW, welcome to UU and to the wonderful world of the little bundle of joy we call the uke!


07-13-2013, 05:12 AM
I can't comment on sound, but I just put Worth BMs on my LU-21c and they look pretty awesome -- though it sounds like you're not into brown ;)

What about a strap / leash? That could add some color.

07-13-2013, 01:59 PM
I've got two LU-21Cs that I bought at the same time. I kinda like the look, not having a design around the sound hole for once. The nato body contrasts nice with the rosewood bridge and board, and the white binding gives a little class. Anything you stick on it is going to deaden the tone and maybe reduce the volume.

It's normal for string height to increase as you go up the neck. String height on both of mine is 1/16" at the first fret, and 1/8" at the twelfth fret. One of them was a bit lower at the first fret when purchased, and I added a .020" styrene shim under the nut to make them match.

07-14-2013, 02:09 AM
Thanks for the input/responses. From the responses, a little wear-and-tear will probably be my go to choice. I might give the decal a chance... if nothing else it gives me some experience, resulting in a personal opinion based on something.... if that made any sense. I started thinking about a little woodburning (like the Luna Tribal, but way less), but then realized...it's a practice Uke...not a piece of art. The leash is an aspect I had not thought of to give it a littler character.

What are "Worth BM"'s?

I went back to Guitar Center and they will charge me minimum $30 maybe more to do a real setup... frets, saddle/nut, etc.. I'd think a new instrument purchase would come with it. Well, I learn my lesson, next time I'll be buying from a reputable Uke specialty place... that respects the customer. On a more positive note, I did figure out that definitely the work needs to be done... comparing it with other Ukes at the store both visually and playability. For now, it can work until I drive to Chicago which I think has a reputable Uke store.

Again thanks for the time to read and post something.

07-14-2013, 03:01 AM
Your Lanikai probably shipped with Aquila strings, which are opaque white. Worth BM is their brown medium strings, opaque brown. The "medium" is the size for Soprano / Concert. http://worthc.to/english/ Their front page shows an ukulele with brown strings.

They supposedly sound different -- I can't tell at this stage in my experience (having changed strings only once).

07-14-2013, 03:19 AM
Ah, thanks. Yeah, I have the Aquila strings.

07-14-2013, 08:50 AM
The Aquila strings are actually a pretty good choice on that uke, IMO. I'm not a huge fan of the Aquila Nylgut strings but they do help give the kind of "flavorless" LU-11 / LU-21 series ukes a bit better voice. Again, just a matter of opinion, which is worth about what you paid for it. :)

One possible advantage to the slightly thinner fluorocarbon strings (like the Worth CM or BM sets) is that they may sit a little deeper in the nut slots and give you better intonation at the first couple of frets.


07-14-2013, 09:46 AM
Can you still return it? That might be your best option and then spend a little more at HMS. You can still get a pkg deal for a beginner uke from there with shipping for around $100 and it will be set up.

If it can't be returned you might try to sell it on CL for what you bought it. I think you might be happier spending a little more on a better uke that is aesthetically pleasing to you and already set up because you'll play it more :) and you'll spend about the same $ after you get it set up somewhere else. Just my .02 since I'm in this " new to ukes" stage myself.

Gerry M
07-14-2013, 02:44 PM
I decorated my plain white plastic ukulele with stickers I found on Jokomo http://www.inlaystickers.com/servlet/the-Ukulele/Categories and other internet "ukulele sticker" sites...




mm stan
07-14-2013, 06:42 PM
No pickguard...these inexpensive uke are a good canvas to make them your personal touch....but make sure to have them set up first so they are best playable..
might cost maybe more than the uke deal you got...so it was actually was not a good deal....as others have said, but from a reputable dealer such as HMS, MIM
UKe republic etc..you will save in the long run and have a fun and playable uke with good intonation....as for upgrades, you can put 10,000 in a volkswagon, it still
going to be a volkswagon.. unless you like something personal... ha ha have fun and enjoy.. maybe more costly going your way, but everyone is different : decals are good alternative and a cool paint job...then the change the tuners, strings, nut and saddle to bone.. it you got extra money get a pickup and button for them....no forget the setup....action, leveling,crowning...etc...

07-16-2013, 03:37 AM
Your notorious cheapness will go out the window when you realize that a better instrument equals more fun. Save for a better one and don't be too obcessed with making it look cool. The way to make a uke look cool is to be good at playing it. Look at Jake's uke. Aside from his initials inlaid on the fret board, it's very plain.

07-16-2013, 03:39 AM
Oh, I forgot to mention that Guitar Center is not the place to go for good service. Find a good luthier in your area, or a small music store. GC is only concerned with selling and not much into customer service.

07-16-2013, 10:19 AM
Find a uke club and get someone to teach you how to set up a uke. It is pretty easy and if you learn how to adjust the action on a cheap Lanikai (like I did) you won't be afraid to adjust an expensive uke (like I did to a Pono of mine).

If you are going to tinker this is a good place to start. Just get advice and go carefully with the tools. No need to destroy even a cheap uke. I got a $20 Hello Kitty uke to sound decent for a seven year old girl who was not going to get a more expensive uke anytime soon (she wasn't my kid, if she was I'd have gotten her a cheap Lanikai).

07-18-2013, 03:08 AM
All great comments and information that I appreciated hearing.

08-23-2013, 08:11 AM
Hi, I just saw your post about decorating your uke....I'm currently adding some paint to my new little Ohana pineapple. Check out my page at NancyBlauersArt on FaceBook to see the work that I'm currently doing to handbags. I think this type of art will translate really will to ukes and not change the sound quality!If youre interested in having something done let me know!
Happy strumming!!!!

08-23-2013, 05:24 PM
I liked the advice about learning to do the setup yourself. Either by joining a local club, or just do some research on the web, as there are plenty of tutorials. And, it's an inexpensive-enough uke that it wouldn't be a major disaster even if you messed up (and nuts and saddles are easily available if one should actually get ruined...unlikely but possible).

Even if you get a set-up uke, it doesn't hurt to know what to do; I have an Islander I got from HMS, and eventually it needed work (no fault of theirs), and I was able to get it back buzz-free and intoned myself.

There's not only one correct place to buy a uke, and there are bargains that come up all over the place, and a lot of satisfaction in being able to do at least minor corrections yourself. Sometimes the suggestions like "sell it and buy one from ...." get a bit old. I've got ukes from nice solid wood ones, to flea/fluke, to Chinese-made watermelon-painted and Mahalo smiley-face ones, and when someone who plays well comes in and grabs one of the inexpensive ones (including the LU22cgc, very similar to your LU21) they sound fine, because most of what matters is what you do with it.

If you have a tuner like the Snark or similar, tune the strings perfectly, and then fret your way up the strings and see if the intonation stays fairly close...it may be just fine, and it's an easy way to check (play the open C, for example, tuned spot on, then move up to the 2nd, 5th, 7th, and 12th, and see if it stays fairly consistent near the proper pitch. It is bound to be off a bit here and there, and things like finger pressure affect it, but if it's decently close then don't worry about it. If it's off more than a notch or two, and consistently so, consider learning the nut and saddle modifications that can help tremendously. They're not so hard, just go easy and check as you go.

As far as decorating, I had a local artist do a couple of pineapple ukes from ebay, and while he was sketching in the design on the back of one (palm trees, mountain etc.) he liked what he saw and stopped there, with just the black pen on the natural wood, and I think it's my favorite part of all. So if you are artistic or know someone who is, that's another possibility, though it's a permanent one.

08-24-2013, 10:19 AM
In the future if you want a fancy uke just get a flea with a fancy graphic, like confetti or tiki king or something like that.