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View Full Version : Lowering the action on a Mainland?



BioSim
10-25-2013, 08:45 AM
Hey, everyone! I've been lurking off and on this forum for a while now. About this time last year I ordered a Mainland mahogany concert through Mike from UkeRepublic (great guy) and have been enjoying it quite a bit. Only thing is I didn't have any direct contact with Mainland Mike (why are all the cool ukulele guys named Mike? haha) so the setup is more or less "default".

The action is by no means high, but I was wondering if anyone has any experience/advice with lowering the action on Mainland ukes, specifically how/if it affects the tone or intonation and such. Is the initial setup Mike does on these ukes intended to be played with and customized, or is it the recommended setup and I should just leave it be? It's not a huge deal but I feel it would be perfect if the action were just a hair lower. Any feedback/opinions/advice would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks!

OldePhart
10-25-2013, 09:16 AM
The Mainlands that I've purchased directly from Mike have fairly low actions because he knows I like them that way. The ones I've purchased used with the "default" setup were still quite playable, though.

I would recommend not changing the action unless you have a real reason too. A low action on any ukulele will limit the "vigor" with which you can play it and therefore limit the dynamic range a bit. While I generally like low actions, I actually raised the action on one of my ukes after a while because, while it wasn't buzzing or anything like that, I found that the action was so low that it really limited what I could do "fingerstyle" (rolls, etc.) on it.

Now, all of this is talking about the action at the bridge, of course. My opinion at the nut is that the action should be low enough that you can fret normally at the first fret without pulling the note measurably sharp - that's a starting point. If you can get the action at the nut even lower that is a bonus.

The action at the bridge has much less affect on intonation, though. There the action has to be ridiculously high to have much affect on intonation unless you have, and actually use, 18 or 19 frets. (With super short scales (sopranino, etc.) being the possible exception due to how much closer the bridge is to the 12th fret.)

John

Five Ways
10-25-2013, 09:48 AM
If it plays well and sounds good I would leave well alone, I find it hard to believe a mainland would be excessively high, if its not a huge deal it sounds like its not that bad at all.
good luck.

RyanMFT
10-25-2013, 10:11 AM
With respect to the perspectives of the other posters, I say get the action on your ukulele exactly the way you like it. I recently got a great vintage tenor, and the action was kind of high. It played pretty well, but I stopped by my luthier and he loved it, and said, hey, the action could be so much better. He adjusted it for me, and it made a HUGE difference in my enjoyment of the ukulele. I play it constantly now. Because of a couple factors, I didn't want to adjust it myself.

I have adjusted the action at the saddle myself on several ukuleles which had removable saddles. I followed instructions I got here on UU. I basically pulled the saddle out, drew a straight line in pencil across the bottom of the saddle and sanded it. I went a little at a time, and kept putting the saddle back in and checking the action. Turned out great. Again, I went slowly as I am no luthier, but I knew if I really messed it up I could get a new saddle. I did this on a KoAloha concert and on a Kanlie'a tenor, and a couple cheaper ukes too.

I didn't notice a big change in the dynamic response of the ukes, especially since the adjustments were small. If you would play and enjoy it more, I say adjust it.

kohanmike
10-25-2013, 11:50 AM
My Lanikai quilted ash had higher action than I like so I had my luthier lower it, much better feel and sound now. I recently bought a Lanikai monkey pod and it also has higher action, which I'm going to tackle myself at the same time that I'm going to replace the preamp that's in the sound hole (terrible design decision) to the side of the uke (I have no second thoughts about cutting out the side).

BioSim
10-25-2013, 02:30 PM
Thanks for the input, everyone. After careful consideration, I've decided I'll hold off on lowering the action on my concert. Truth be told, I'm considering selling it and my Lanakai LU-21 and getting a Mainland soprano. I like the concert, but there is a certain charm to the smaller ukes. I find myself playing the Lanakai soprano more than the Mainland despite it's inferior build quality just because I like it's size. Anyways, I appreciate you guys answering my dumb questions. :D

BigMamaJ40
10-25-2013, 02:50 PM
Can anyone recommend a YouTube video showing how to sand down the saddle? I am afraid I will "rock" the saddle, and not end up with the bottom flat.

ukemunga
10-25-2013, 03:59 PM
Thanks for the input, everyone. After careful consideration, I've decided I'll hold off on lowering the action on my concert. Truth be told, I'm considering selling it and my Lanakai LU-21 and getting a Mainland soprano. I like the concert, but there is a certain charm to the smaller ukes. I find myself playing the Lanakai soprano more than the Mainland despite it's inferior build quality just because I like it's size. Anyways, I appreciate you guys answering my dumb questions. :D

If you're considering a Mainland soprano, the red cedar's are awesome. Especially the Pineapple. As are the others, I'm sure. Just sayin'...

Shastastan
10-27-2013, 10:41 AM
Can anyone recommend a YouTube video showing how to sand down the saddle? I am afraid I will "rock" the saddle, and not end up with the bottom flat.

One way I keep things flat when I sand is to use a small piece 12"x12" of glass with psa or glued sandpaper attached. Another poster said that the saddle is checked for fit often as the sanding progresses. If I were doing that, I would use 150 grit. All that being said, I just take mine to the shop, tell the tech what I want, and let the pros do it. I've bought Mainlands already setup that I've had the strings lowered on, but not all.

OldePhart
10-28-2013, 07:00 AM
Can anyone recommend a YouTube video showing how to sand down the saddle? I am afraid I will "rock" the saddle, and not end up with the bottom flat.

Make sure that the sandpaper is on a flat surface (as someone mentioned, glass works well, but a really flat tabletop is okay, too). Work slowly, and use your finger to apply pressure evenly along the length of the top of the saddle as you work it in one direction lengthwise along the sandpaper. If you rub it back and forth you will almost certainly end up with a curved bottom on the saddle and this will very adversely affect volume and sustain.

Make each stroke slow and deliberate, watching that pressure and that you don't angle the bridge to one side or the other. There is no need to be in a hurry. It will be done when it is done.

I also turn it around 180 degrees in my hand after every few strokes so as not to inadvertently sand an angle into it - though if that happens it's not as big a problem as sanding a curve, is.

Another technique that is completely different but works equally well is to chuck the saddle upside down into a vise (use cork or something to avoid chipping or marring the saddle). Then carefully and slowly file down the bottom using either a fine metal file or sandpaper around a metal ruler or fine metal file - something flat and not padded.

John

Kayak Jim
10-28-2013, 10:02 AM
When I sanded down a nut, I first used a very fine sharpie to make a line around the base of the nut. Then I was able to monitor that I was removing material evenly.

Ukejenny
10-29-2013, 12:39 PM
I wanted a specific concert Ohana and none of the good sellers here had them in stock, so I found one from a store in Washington State. I didn't request a setup and just wanted to get it in my hands. The action was quite a bit too high at the nut. Playing any barred chords on the first two or three frets was uncomfortable and didn't sound well. I took it to the local guitar/ukulele tech down the road and he lowered the nut quite a bit. The cost for the adjustment was $10.00 and the instrument plays and feels completely different. It is wonderful. Since it is a wonderful uke, you should get it adjusted to suit your wants and needs.