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malweth
07-24-2013, 06:03 AM
What is the risk and difficulty of doing an Uke setup yourself? (Assuming one isn't inept with tools, is there significant risk of causing unrecoverable damage?) What tools would I need (I've identified a few).

It doesn't look difficult (on Youtube videos) or expensive (Amazon.com) unless I'm missing something.

From other thread discussions (I figured I shouldn't hijack yet another), my instrument (LU-21C) goes sharp (by about +20 on my Korg CA40) from open to fretted. Would it also be useful to check fret levels?

Kayak Jim
07-24-2013, 06:40 AM
I lowered the action on my first uke, a Kala KA-S, by sanding down the bottom of the nut and simply removing a shim that was installed under the saddle. I'm a fairly proficient woodworker but probably wouldn't attempt much more than that (like crowning frets), mainly because the proper tools to do so are fairly pricey.

vanflynn
07-24-2013, 06:50 AM
I use a metal straight edge to check the frets before buying. Dressing frets is more complicated that adjusting string height

For the saddle all you need is sandpaper. For the nut you need something for the nut file if you don't want to remove the nut. StewMac has them for $20 a pop or you can use a welding torch cleaner for $5 56264 . Make sure the groove is sloped enough so the break point is closest to the fretboard

I like to use a feeler gauge to help not go too deep 56265 .
It's all reversible in the fact that you can buy new nut and saddle and replace them. My advice is to try to get it sort of near where you want it to be and play it for a while. You can always go back.

Tootler
07-24-2013, 09:03 AM
For the nut I use triangular & round needle files I have from my model railway days. Both have tapered ends so, providing you're careful, you won't open the slots too much. It's then a matter of slacken off the sting, file tune up again, check and repeat till you have it right. Do it little by little and be patient.

Needle files are widely used by modellers so are fairly readily available.

malweth
07-24-2013, 09:23 AM
Hopefully these are OK products... I ordered this: http://amzn.com/B00BJLAX2O nut and bridge file. I was looking at needle files but this was about the same price. I also ordered an extra nut & bridge just in case. These are cheap parts anyhow.

Sandpaper I have and I guess I won't worry about fretwork. I'll be happy if I can get the intonation close - it may explain why chords sounded dull or off sometimes (even after I make sure my fingers are in the right place ;) )

PhilUSAFRet
07-24-2013, 09:44 AM
If you are kind of "crafty" should be no problem. Lots of instructions, including tutorials on youtube, online. You always have the "Luthier's Corner" here on UU. Remember the old adage, measure twice, cut once.

OldePhart
07-24-2013, 11:34 AM
I strongly recommend learning to do it yourself, especially if you have something like an LU-11 or LU-21 to cut your teeth on.

I've never seen an LU-11 or LU-21 need any fretwork to get a decent setup. Just go slow and easy, take a couple of strokes with the file then drop the string back in the slot and see if it's still pulling sharp, etc. If you do happen to go too far a tiny drop of super glue or a bit of nail hardener will usually fix the problem. Let either dry thoroughly before putting the string back in the slot!

John

ukuLily Mars
07-24-2013, 11:59 AM
malweth, have you seen John's (OldePhart's) video series on setting up a Makala dolphin? I found it very informative. John, would you mind posting the link again? (I say I found it informative, but I have not actually tried this. I don't have the tools and my Dolphin isn't too bad. But someday I would like to learn! I think it's good to know, and where I live there is no one to help with repairs or set-ups.)

Good question! Glad you started the thread. And good luck with setting up your 'uke! I hope you will let us know how it goes.

malweth
07-24-2013, 01:21 PM
If that's the one where he scratched the head stock, then yes.... and it's exactly why I posed the question ;) I also ordered some of that Renaissance polish as my fretboard is looking dusty (hopefully it will also make the body look good -- planning to spot check it on the back somewhere).

OldePhart
07-24-2013, 05:31 PM
If that's the one where he scratched the head stock, then yes.... and it's exactly why I posed the question ;) I also ordered some of that Renaissance polish as my fretboard is looking dusty (hopefully it will also make the body look good -- planning to spot check it on the back somewhere).

Yep...that's the one! LOL For the record that's the only uke I've scratched when doing a setup (notice I didn't say it's the only uke I've ever scratched...) and it was because I was trying to watch the video on screen as I was filing instead of watching the file... doh!

The good news is that is also the only uke I've had that has been bad enough that I needed to level the frets. All the Lanikai LU-11 and LU-21 ukes I've had have been fine after a bit of touching up on one or more nut slots.

The Renaissance wax makes an amazing improvement in the "nato" body/top on the LU-11 and LU-21 ukes. Out of the box they are kind of "fuzzy" and rough and almost feel like you could get a splinter if you rubbed your finger across them the wrong way. The wax seems to reduce this like it makes the fuzz lay down or something. They also look a little bit darker and shinier (not glossy, just not fuzzy) after waxing. For that, I imagine probably any paste wax would probably have a similar effect.

John

malweth
07-25-2013, 12:32 AM
Thanks, all! I feel a lot better about taking a steel file to my only ukulele now! :cool:

malweth
07-26-2013, 03:25 PM
I filed the bridge down a bit and have been filing at the nut slots. Right now all my strings are good (not perfect, but I understand that's pretty much impossible) except for the C-string. It seems to be getting worse, not better - at the 12th it's about a quarter tone sharp. Is this a string problem? I'm lowering the action, not raising it!

OldePhart
07-26-2013, 05:10 PM
I filed the bridge down a bit and have been filing at the nut slots. Right now all my strings are good (not perfect, but I understand that's pretty much impossible) except for the C-string. It seems to be getting worse, not better - at the 12th it's about a quarter tone sharp. Is this a string problem? I'm lowering the action, not raising it!

Lowering the bridge saddle makes relatively little difference in the intonation at the 12th fret (unless the saddle is just crazy high). If you are filing the top of the saddle, make sure you haven't changed the contact point where the string "breaks" from the saddle - if you move that point forward it will sharpen the string.

Honestly, it is rarely necessary to change the bridge saddle height unless you are looking for a really low action. You should get the nut as perfect as possible on all strings before even looking at the bridge saddle.

John

malweth
07-27-2013, 12:26 AM
OK, I just filed the bottom of the saddle a bit on sandpaper.

The C-string is very sharp at D (about 25 cent) and extremely sharp at C+8va (50 cent). Prior to this exercise it was around 20 and 25 respectively. I think I'm going to try replacing the string (great... it's only been a week) and try again. Back to Aquila from Worth, I suppose... (and the one white string in four that comes with it).

OldePhart
07-27-2013, 05:53 AM
OK, I just filed the bottom of the saddle a bit on sandpaper.

The C-string is very sharp at D (about 25 cent) and extremely sharp at C+8va (50 cent). Prior to this exercise it was around 20 and 25 respectively. I think I'm going to try replacing the string (great... it's only been a week) and try again. Back to Aquila from Worth, I suppose... (and the one white string in four that comes with it).

It is possible that you have a damaged string - a bad spot in a string can throw off your intonation suddenly at some point and no amount of "setup" will correct it. However, if changing the string doesn't help then keep reading... :)

You're dealing with two separate issues, actually. The string being sharp when fretted at the first and second frets is pretty much always (barring a bad string) the fault of the slot in the nut not being deep and/or wide enough. This is usually most noticeable on the C-string because it is the thickest string and the nuts usually have molded-in slots all the same size so the C string is the most likely to be sitting too high. However, it can, and often does, happen on all of the strings.

Basically, you should fix one thing at a time, and start with the nut. Work on each nut slot until its string can be fingered (gently, just enough pressure for the note to ring clearly and fingered just behind the fret) without the note going sharp. I.e. when this is part of the setup is correct the note at the first fret will be C#, not C# plus a few cents. It is always possible to achieve this without buzzing unless the fretwork is bad, the neck back bowed, or the bridge saddle has been lowered too much.

If you have a string start buzzing before you've achieved good intonation at the first fret the next step is to either dress the frets or user super glue to put a little height back into the nut slot. Which one decides to do is up to the individual and how much tolerance they have for out-of-tune notes.

Once you have good intonation at the first fret, it's time to start looking at intonation up the neck. Saddle height makes some difference, but has nowhere near the impact on intonation up the neck that the nut has on intonation at the first couple of frets. Usually, adjusting intonation up the neck requires first finding the strings that intonate the best on that uke, and then if necessary making a compensated saddle to fine-tune it. Up the neck the goal sometimes has to be to make the intonation consistent across the strings even if it isn't exactly correct. I.e. if all of the strings are 5 to 7 cents sharp at the 12th then chords up there will still sound decent and most people won't notice. If some are five cents sharp and others five cents flat you have a problem...

With your one string being so far off chords are going to be pretty bad by the fifth fret, even if you get everything good at the nut.

John

UkeKiddinMe
07-27-2013, 07:38 AM
I did a very successful setup by myself yesterday, and I feel good about it.
I did both a bit of saddle sanding and some slow nut slot filing.

It's not perfect, but it is definitely Very Good. Mucho pleased to have gotten it done with my two hands.

MidwestUkeJoe
07-27-2013, 08:02 AM
So about going sharp... I find that if I tune the uke hard/loud like you play it. It tends to get rid of the sharps a bit, as in don't gently pluck the strings when tuning hit thos bad boys like u were playing it. Been doing this for awhile now and my ukes rarely go sharp anywhere on the fret.

malweth
07-28-2013, 12:56 AM
It is possible that you have a damaged string - a bad spot in a string can throw off your intonation suddenly at some point and no amount of "setup" will correct it. However, if changing the string doesn't help then keep reading... :)


Thanks a lot for your help.

I changed the string (looks interesting with one white Aquila) and, while it didn't completely solve the intonation, it fixed it by about 25c. The nut is already pretty low on that string, and I kept it wide. I may look at it again, but not until the new string settles. I have a feeling I pulled it out of the nut a bit too hard at one point, stretching the string right at the 1st fret.

anthonyg
07-28-2013, 02:16 AM
Have your measured up the instrument? I replied to a similar question from bigsciota in tech support called, "before I do anything". Read that thread and see how well your instrument measures up.

Anthony

mm stan
07-28-2013, 03:17 AM
you may need to compensate the saddle to lengthen the scale if it's too sharp....

coolkayaker1
07-28-2013, 03:20 AM
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iZOqW5S1NVM

The best set-up video I have ever seen, recorded for acoustic guitar by Mr Fernandez, who is a California luthier who also sells ukuleles. Principles for uke would be similar; I don't know if they would be exactly the same, though.

UkeKiddinMe
07-28-2013, 06:10 AM
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iZOqW5S1NVM

The best set-up video I have ever seen, recorded for acoustic guitar by Mr Fernandez, who is a California luthier who also sells ukuleles. Principles for uke would be similar; I don't know if they would be exactly the same, though.

Extremely interesting and informative. The one part that surprised me was how rough he was with the fretboard.

He skips the step of what he does to the fretboard to clean it up when that is all done.