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View Full Version : Question for Pono MC owners



mr79
07-04-2014, 02:39 AM
Couple of months ago I picked up a Pono MC which I haven't had much time to look at or play with till today. I was changing the strings over to Living Waters when I noticed a couple of things, and was wondering if they match up with other Pono MCs out there.

The slots for the strings in the nut are all exactly the same width, not different for each string gauge, each is a wide semi circle and apart from the C string all wider than the string they hold.

The nut itself is narrower than the slot it sits in between the fingerboard and the headplate veneer. About 1mm narrower, enough to be able to see the base of the slot behind it.

The saddle is very loose, and fell out when I took the strings off! It's about half a mm narrower than the saddle slot in the bridge, and sits at a slight angle if I put it on a flat surface.

The bridge itself is rosewood, but seems completely unfinished - all the pictures on the internet show a dark shiny bridge (oiled?), but mine is pale and unfinished.

Are these things all normal? Or have I picked up a rogue? It was quite a lot of money for me, and although I don't mind making a new nut and saddle, I'm curious if this is 'standard' quality.

Thanks!

SteveZ
07-04-2014, 03:17 AM
Without seeing photos or the actual instrument, it's tough to call. Could be a counterfeit, or a bad body someone stuck stray parts to, or a hundred other things. From what I've heard of Pono, it's difficult to believe their quality inspectors would let the instrument go from one production stage to another, let alone release it for shipment.

mr79
07-04-2014, 04:02 AM
Without seeing photos or the actual instrument, it's tough to call. Could be a counterfeit, or a bad body someone stuck stray parts to, or a hundred other things. From what I've heard of Pono, it's difficult to believe their quality inspectors would let the instrument go from one production stage to another, let alone release it for shipment.

That's what I'd heard about Pono, which is why I went for the MC. I don't think it's a counterfeit - I bought it from a reputable store in the UK, and apart from what I've listed above it's beautifully made with no stray glue, lovely bookmatched top and back, nice binding on the fingerboard etc. It has the Ko'olau/Pono stamp on the neck block with date stamp and serial number, and the sticker matches the date (made in Indonesia). It's just the nut, saddle and bridge seem unfinished and poorly fitted. Maybe I need to get in touch with them direct.

stevepetergal
07-04-2014, 04:22 AM
If the nut slots don't cause any problems eh, so what. But, if the fit of the nut and saddle is as bad as you say, that's pretty bad. Nothing disastrous, but I wouldn't want it. A saddle being loose enough to fall out is no big deal, but 1/2mm too thin!! The intonation cannot possibly be any good. Add to that a nut that could pop loose and be real problem. One a player should not be expected to address. If the seller will not pay for you to have this instrument's shortcomings addressed by a professional luthier (new nut and saddle) it must be returned for replacement or repair.

Icelander53
07-04-2014, 04:47 AM
Without seeing photos or the actual instrument, it's tough to call. Could be a counterfeit, or a bad body someone stuck stray parts to, or a hundred other things. From what I've heard of Pono, it's difficult to believe their quality inspectors would let the instrument go from one production stage to another, let alone release it for shipment.

I just got done talking to Andrew at HMS and he said his dad does such a good inspection job they rarely get seconds to sell. (they had none when I was looking). I believe him after seeing a couple. The quality control seemed to be on the money.

mr79
07-04-2014, 04:59 AM
I just got done talking to Andrew at HMS and he said his dad does such a good inspection job they rarely get seconds to sell. (they had none when I was looking). I believe him after seeing a couple. The quality control seemed to be on the money.

I just emailed them (well, I sent a message through the submission form - I'm always suspicious those things just vanish) so I'll see what they say. It does seem odd considering what I've heard about their inspection standards.

On the one hand if it plays well I don't mind, but on the other it just bugs and surprises me! I can make a new nut and saddle myself, and put a bit of Danish oil on the bridge, but the consumer part of me shouts 'why should I have to?!' :D

Doc_J
07-04-2014, 05:20 AM
I just emailed them (well, I sent a message through the submission form - I'm always suspicious those things just vanish) so I'll see what they say. It does seem odd considering what I've heard about their inspection standards.

On the one hand if it plays well I don't mind, but on the other it just bugs and surprises me! I can make a new nut and saddle myself, and put a bit of Danish oil on the bridge, but the consumer part of me shouts 'why should I have to?!' :D

Bridges for Ponos and most of my ukes do not have a 'finish' like the top. An unfinished bridge is usually treated with lemon oil, or whatever you put on fretboard (that will darken it and make it shine). I wouldn't use Danish oil on the bridge.

BTW Pono has excellent customer service and will probably respond after the Holiday weekend, regarding the nut.

Hammond
07-04-2014, 06:04 AM
Unfinished rosewood bridge is common & normal. The above post said it well, no need to apply finish on the bridge. If you want it dark and shine, just very little lemon oil.

PhilUSAFRet
07-04-2014, 10:24 AM
I have a Pono MCD. The nut is the exact width as the fretboard and is not "loose" and there are no string issues. The bridge may not be "finished" in the traditional sense, but is extremely smooth. With a little oil or wax, it can be buffed to a nice low gloss if you so desire...it's very hard wood.

Mattyukaholic
07-04-2014, 11:04 AM
I have to say I've been into some UK music shops that sell Ponos amongst others and have noticed similar things to other ukes that have been sitting on the wall and not taken care of. This can lead to drying and shrinking of the wood that can make things loose.
The saddest I ever saw was a Ko'olau soprano which was one day probably lovely. It was covered in dust, the frets had lifted out of their slots and the neck had developed a slight twist. It was really sad.
Matt

Mattyukaholic
07-04-2014, 11:08 AM
And if course, more importantly, it goes to show that some of these shops that claim to do a 'set-up' obviously don't. There's no way a decent set-up would overlook those issues.

That's why, despite living in the UK, my last two ukes have been ordeed from HMS in Hawaii. It's worth the wait. They also seem to get the pick of the crop with the best woods too.

Icelander53
07-04-2014, 11:30 AM
I couldn't agree more. I have no doubts now that some of these places that claim to do set ups are outright lying about it. Others may want to keep their head in the sand about these places but that's their problem.

When I order a uke from a "reputable" company that claims professional set ups and I get a shipped notice within a couple of hours of the order and then it shows up with strings buzzing and no where near the actions requested and they try to tell me some nonsense about something happening from when they sent it to when it got to me and deny any responsibility because they did the full set up, UNTIL that is I get verification from a Luthier at which point they change tactics and then tell me that they are sorry that something isn't to my specifications and they will gladly pay the Luthier, then I know what's going on. Especially when I hear from others that the exact same thing happened to them.

I've never had such an experience with HMS and I also won't get my instrument shipped ever the day I order it. It usually takes a week for them to get to the set up, that's my experience and when I get it it's exactly what I had asked for. This is not business as usual here because IMO business as usual is not good anymore, even in our sacred and beloved hobby. The fact is IMO for most it's just business even though that may not be how it all got started.

End Rant. :cheers:

Mattyukaholic
07-04-2014, 11:36 AM
I've never had such an experience with HMS and I also won't get my instrument shipped ever the day I order it. It usually takes a week for them to get to the set up, that's my experience and when I get it it's exactly what I had asked for. This is not business as usual here because IMO business as usual is not good anymore, even in our sacred and beloved hobby. The fact is IMO for most it's just business even though that may not be how it all got started.

End Rant. :cheers:

That's exactly how I feel. I've noticed how quickly most of the UK suppliers ship. I've been told before that sometimes they are set-up when they receive them but this has two problems if true: none are set up to individual requirements and after they've been sat around for months they probably need looking at again anyway.

mr79
07-04-2014, 12:55 PM
I have to say I've been into some UK music shops that sell Ponos amongst others and have noticed similar things to other ukes that have been sitting on the wall and not taken care of. This can lead to drying and shrinking of the wood that can make things loose.
The saddest I ever saw was a Ko'olau soprano which was one day probably lovely. It was covered in dust, the frets had lifted out of their slots and the neck had developed a slight twist. It was really sad.
Matt


And if course, more importantly, it goes to show that some of these shops that claim to do a 'set-up' obviously don't. There's no way a decent set-up would overlook those issues.

That's why, despite living in the UK, my last two ukes have been ordeed from HMS in Hawaii. It's worth the wait. They also seem to get the pick of the crop with the best woods too.


I couldn't agree more. I have no doubts now that some of these places that claim to do set ups are outright lying about it. Others may want to keep their head in the sand about these places but that's their problem.

When I order a uke from a "reputable" company that claims professional set ups and I get a shipped notice within a couple of hours of the order and then it shows up with strings buzzing and no where near the actions requested and they try to tell me some nonsense about something happening from when they sent it to when it got to me and deny any responsibility because they did the full set up, UNTIL that is I get verification from a Luthier at which point they change tactics and then tell me that they are sorry that something isn't to my specifications and they will gladly pay the Luthier, then I know what's going on. Especially when I hear from others that the exact same thing happened to them.

I've never had such an experience with HMS and I also won't get my instrument shipped ever the day I order it. It usually takes a week for them to get to the set up, that's my experience and when I get it it's exactly what I had asked for. This is not business as usual here because IMO business as usual is not good anymore, even in our sacred and beloved hobby. The fact is IMO for most it's just business even though that may not be how it all got started.

End Rant. :cheers:


That's exactly how I feel. I've noticed how quickly most of the UK suppliers ship. I've been told before that sometimes they are set-up when they receive them but this has two problems if true: none are set up to individual requirements and after they've been sat around for months they probably need looking at again anyway.

I'm beginning to think that may be the problem - shrinkage. I've been talking on the emailweb with Andrew and John at HMS and Pono, and can't imagine from what they and others have said that something so glaring would get past them. the nut slots - meh, maybe I'm being picky (and it should be noted that when I checked earlier the strings the Pono ships with are considerably thicker than Living Water/Worths), but the nut being 1mm too thin and the saddle 1/2mm too thin - surely that would have been seen? On closer inspection, there was the residue of a thin glue strip across the bridge, over the surface of the saddle and back on to the bridge (I'm guessing the saddle was noticed to be loose and sellotaped in place to prevent loss, then removed before it was shipped out to me).

If you look on the good US and Hawaii sites, nearly all mention the conditions they keep their ukes in, humidity levels and so on. UK stores never do. And although we may not have a humidity issue here, most shops I've ever been in have their central heating whacked all the way up to 'desiccated'.

So I'm now wondering whether the storage conditions it's been in once in the UK have dried it out to the point of getting a loose nut and saddle... I'm going to take the nut off and the saddle out and leave the uke in a case for a week with a humidifier and then check them again.

From now on I'm going to buy from where the ukes come from! Or second hand from people who know how to look after what they've got... although the UK shop might not have caused this, they didn't spot it either.

stevepetergal
07-04-2014, 12:59 PM
I couldn't agree more. I have no doubts now that some of these places that claim to do set ups are outright lying about it. Others may want to keep their head in the sand about these places but that's their problem.

No doubt about it. I bought one ukulele from a very well recognized dealer. They are "known" to do a full set-up on all their instruments. Despite their stellar reputation, the intonation was so bad the uke was unplayable (a "K" brand). Strings almost a quarter tone flat at 12. This instrument should have never been sold, period. If they had even tried it, they would never have shipped it.

Let me say though, that they accepted it in return for another without blinking. Excellent dealer with great customer service. I would buy from them again in a heartbeat. In fact, if I was looking for a very high end ukulele, I wouldn't think of ordering anywhere else. But, I know for a fact they do not set up all the instruments they sell.

Mattyukaholic
07-04-2014, 01:24 PM
That's why I get them from HMS or similar now. Uke Republic are great too and people say the same great things about Mims. I just don't like that ukes aren't set up properly over here. I can do it myself and offer the service to my students but I feel I shouldn't have to when I pay hundreds of pounds for an instrument. The KoAlohas I just got from HMS cost the same as buying over here but play like butter and intonate well. It was also so nice opening the case to beautifully polished frets rather than dull tarnished ones you often get on even new K brand ukes bought in the UK. A small detail but a special one.

Icelander53
07-04-2014, 01:32 PM
Czutney, On the HMS web site they specifically talk about the shrinkage issue and how to allow your instrument the proper atmosphere and time to adjust to it's new environment. It wouldn't surprise me if some store or warehouse was not climate controlled.
But even my local music store in a small town has a climate controlled place. They have too much inventory at risk. They have some vintage Martins and others such instruments that really can't be ignored.

Icelander53
07-04-2014, 01:35 PM
Mattyuke, I'm sorry you live in a third world country. :(

(just kidding friend) It is a shame though. I think you need a new chief or prime minister or whatever it is you guys vote for over their on those little islands you live on.

Mattyukaholic
07-04-2014, 10:06 PM
Mattyuke, I'm sorry you live in a third world country. :(

(just kidding friend) It is a shame though. I think you need a new chief or prime minister or whatever it is you guys vote for over their on those little islands you live on.

Tell me about it! I'd gladly exchange out Prime Minister for another! ;)

mr79
07-04-2014, 11:24 PM
Czutney, On the HMS web site they specifically talk about the shrinkage issue and how to allow your instrument the proper atmosphere and time to adjust to it's new environment. It wouldn't surprise me if some store or warehouse was not climate controlled.
But even my local music store in a small town has a climate controlled place. They have too much inventory at risk. They have some vintage Martins and others such instruments that really can't be ignored.

I think in Britain everyone just thinks our climate is fine, not too much of anything - but no-one thinks about the central heating!


Mattyuke, I'm sorry you live in a third world country. :(

(just kidding friend) It is a shame though. I think you need a new chief or prime minister or whatever it is you guys vote for over their on those little islands you live on.

A new chief! Yes! We should think of ourselves as a small group of islands off the coast of Europe that does a few cultural things very well... instead we keep getting leaders who want us to look like we're in charge of everything in some way. Bah!


Tell me about it! I'd gladly exchange out Prime Minister for another! ;)

He's not my Prime Minister...

SteveZ
07-05-2014, 03:47 AM
That's exactly how I feel. I've noticed how quickly most of the UK suppliers ship. I've been told before that sometimes they are set-up when they receive them but this has two problems if true: none are set up to individual requirements and after they've been sat around for months they probably need looking at again anyway.

This problem has come up on other stringed-instrument-centric forums, and it's not limited to UK suppliers. Part of it deals with set-ups in general. Most retailers who set-up prior to delivery do a generic set-up which cleans up what the maker didn't do or transforms an instrument built-and-boxed for transcontinental bulk shipment and expected to be in storage (climatized or not) for an indefinite time frame. Some shops go through this set-up (and inspection) procedure upon receiving shipment from the maker, so that any stock rejections can be timely done with the rejected stock being sent back to the maker for payment credit.

The retailer's set-up folk have generic standards to meet (sometimes published, sometimes not) and that's all that's done. Individualized set-up (usually higher-lower action) requiring special filing/fitting (usually at additional cost) according to the customer's specific direction will mean having the instrument bumped into the set-up shop's queue, the work done, and then repackaged and shipped. Whether a retailer can accomplish any individualized customer-directed set-up requirements and still package and ship the instrument same-day depends on the retailer, business-time-of-day the order is made, shop status, et cetera.

The real question is whether it's wise to direct a far-away retailer to modify a sight-unseen, never-handled instrument at all. Generic set-up (if actually done) may be the safest, and if the customer finds the action too high/low or whatever, those fixes should be specifically done under the customer's eye by an accomplished technician. Think of it like getting a new car sight-unseen with the seat position and steering wheel height dealer-fixed-in-place and non-adjustable - the odds of getting it perfectly right are quite long.

Recently I got a Mele Soprano - good make and shop reputation, et cetera. For me the action was way too high. The instrument had been generically set up and set up well. So, "individualized" set-up was locally accomplished and the Mele is now a dream to play. I just have "fear" with far-away customized set-up work being a hope-and-pray exercise.