A string snapped ... gouges in frets ... soprano Flea

UkeCan1

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A relatively new Martin M600 A string just snapped on my soprano Flea. Replaced the set July 21 ... only about 7 weeks ago.

Looks like it snapped at the tuner. All the strings had settled nicely for the last month or more. They barely ever needed the least bit of tuning. I'd pull it out of the case, and it'd be all tuned up and ready to go. Rock solid.

Then maybe a week ago, the A started going flat ... very flat ... very fast. Like, it just wouldn't stay in tune at all.

It didn't seem like the tuner was slipping, though it's possible.

Now that the string is off, I can feel little nicks along about the first 4 inches of the string below where it snapped.

And ... oh, dear ... little sharp gouges in the first two frets along the A string channel ... presumably the source of the nicks. (And underneath the other strings in the first few frets as well.)

I'm afraid to even try another string until the frets are smoothed ... surely they will just snap the next one too.

I just started playing a year ago ... this is my first and only uke. I bought it used, third-hand ... not sure what strings it had (some uke-y friends who know me and my uke think they might have been Aquila Nylguts), but they lasted about 5 months.

The first strings I bought were D'Addario Nyltechs ... and they also lasted about 5 months. Wasn't crazy about them though, so based on a whole lot of reading, including threads here about what people liked on Fleas ... I tried the Martins. I was really liking the sound and feel of them ... until this.

But it seems to be a problem with the uke now ... not the strings.

So ...

1) What do I do about the gouges? Clearly they need to be fixed ... right? ... or no strings are going to last very long.

2) Have I somehow caused these gouges? Am I doing something wrong? Letting grit get in there? Fretting too hard? Doing some stupid beginner thing I didn't know I was supposed to avoid?

Thanks so much for your help!
 

SteveZ

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If this Flea has the wooden fretboard with metal frets, getting the frets examined and probably dressed at a decent shop should be sought and will most likely solve the problem. If it's the plastic fretboard, then that's probably a factory job to replace the fretboard.
 

UkeCan1

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It's the plastic fretboard ... sorry, I should have said ... that's important info!

The good news is I just read the following on the Magic Fluke website:

"Fingerboard Wear and Replacement – Nylon strings should not wear the molded polycarbonate fingerboard however if it shows wear at any time, it may be returned for replacement. If wound strings are used, such as ‘low G’ sets, a hardwood fingerboard is highly recommended. Because of the special glue required to bond the polycarbonate to the maple neck, we do not recommend unauthorized repairs."

So, if I'm reading this correctly, it does seem that

1) This should not be happening
2) I'm not doing anything wrong, and
3) They will fix it.

They don't mention fluorocarbon strings though, which the Martins are ... but surely they'd say if those were not recommended, right?

I will call them in the morning.
 

Inksplosive AL

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The strings they warn about are wound like some low G's or a guitar string. I did much research before buying an old pineapple flea with a plastic fretboard, the company can replace the fretboards. There must be a post around here somewhere.

You say your strings lasted 5 months... before breaking or just going flat? If its breaking I would think these nicks have been there all along. Is it always the same string? If you are sending the uke into the factory I would mention the snap at the tuner it might have a sharp edge as well.

Do you have friends close enough to give you a loaner? If not this might be the time to welcome you to UAS.

I would be interested if you will let us all know the current price quoted for this work.

~peace~

Just for giggles my flea was a wall hanger with a reported 10 hours on it. It came with the original black strings on it and they sound fine.
 
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UkeCan1

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I have never broken a string before. My first two string sets lasted five months ... maybe three or four before they started going out of tune, then one or two more while I carefully researched what to replace them with, and bought them, and learned to restring the uke, and waited for a quiet week when I wouldn't mind it not holding tune with the new strings, etc. :)

I'm pretty happy with the Martins, so now that I know I like them, and that the frets, not the strings, are to blame for the breakage, I will probably buy a few sets, and hopefully restring more promptly next time ... so they may not last quite five months from now on. :)

I am hoping, based on the quote I posted, that Magic Fluke will fix it no charge. At least, that's what it sounds like to me. Now that you're suggesting it though, I can't tell for sure. It's also possible the uke is still under warranty. We'll see what happens tomorrow ... I'll keep you posted.

I don't think Fleas come with black strings any more. The web site says D'Addario Nyltechs. (Which is what I restrung with the first time and wasn't thrilled with.)

I have a borrowed baritone already ... but I'm not that fast at playing it yet. But my enabler has many unplayed ukes on his wall and no rehearsal tomorrow night. So I'm hoping I can borrow something to tide me over while the Flea is off on her adventures.
 

SteveZ

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I have a plastic-board Flea, too. Any nylon or composite unwound strings will work fine, but wound strings need to be avoided - plastic frets and metal windings are natural enemies, and the metal always win.
 

UkeCan1

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Just had a nice chat with Beth and Dale at Magic Fluke. Except for shipping, they will replace fretboard and strings for free.

Going to pack her off to them shortly.

They will replace the strings with any they carry. Recommendations?

I did like the Martin fluorocarbons ... they have Fremont fluorocarbons. Should I try those ... or something else?

_______________________________________

(For those mentioning wound strings, I have no intention of ever using those on a soprano uke ... plastic fretboard or otherwise.

I'm the third owner, so I have no idea what the first owner may or may not have done to my baby. I did keep my first two sets of strings. Just checked them out, and they all have nicks from the frets too.

So probably the fret damage was done before I came along. Either that or I have been playing really hard! Which is quite possible ... especially at our weekly jam full of guitars with amplified bass and solos ... I play a lot harder there because it's very hard to hear myself.)
 

bnolsen

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Martins are fine. I think they are less than ideal for finger picking but work great for strumming and as a really good buy anywhere string.

You should give the freemonts a try. Unlike the martins you just can't get them just anywhere. I'm assuming those will be the blacklines they'll put on right?
 

UkeCan1

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Martins are fine. I think they are less than ideal for finger picking but work great for strumming and as a really good buy anywhere string.

You should give the freemonts a try. Unlike the martins you just can't get them just anywhere. I'm assuming those will be the blacklines they'll put on right?

They did say the Fremonts would be black. The fretboard and fret bars also black, so good thing I'm at the point where I don't need to see my fingers so much any more!

I've been liking the Martins for fingerpicking. They're not quite as loud as the D'Addarios were, but they sound nicer, I think. The Flea is a pretty loud uke, so that helps.

But yeah, I do wonder if I've been playing too hard when I'm playing with others because I can't hear myself as well as I'd like. The uke is nearly always too loud for solo stuff - and I have to remind myself to try to play really softly ... but seems not loud enough in a roomful of guitars. I really need a banjo uke!
 

SteveZ

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Just had a nice chat with Beth and Dale at Magic Fluke. Except for shipping, they will replace fretboard and strings for free.

Going to pack her off to them shortly.

They will replace the strings with any they carry. Recommendations?

I did like the Martin fluorocarbons ... they have Fremont fluorocarbons. Should I try those ... or something else?

_______________________________________

(For those mentioning wound strings, I have no intention of ever using those on a soprano uke ... plastic fretboard or otherwise.

I'm the third owner, so I have no idea what the first owner may or may not have done to my baby. I did keep my first two sets of strings. Just checked them out, and they all have nicks from the frets too.

So probably the fret damage was done before I came along. Either that or I have been playing really hard! Which is quite possible ... especially at our weekly jam full of guitars with amplified bass and solos ... I play a lot harder there because it's very hard to hear myself.)

As far as the strings go, since the folk at Fluke are kind enough to replace the fretboard free to the third owner and you trust them for this, perhaps you should consider letting them select the best strings as who knows the instrument better than them? It doesn't seem that they'd be anything other than professional and ethical in their selection, and the set-up should be spot-on to boot.
 

UkeCan1

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As far as the strings go, since the folk at Fluke are kind enough to replace the fretboard free to the third owner and you trust them for this, perhaps you should consider letting them select the best strings as who knows the instrument better than them? It doesn't seem that they'd be anything other than professional and ethical in their selection, and the set-up should be spot-on to boot.

Their standard set are the D'Addario Nyltechs that I didn't particularly care for. They said I could have any set I wanted. I didn't really get what all the options were from them - I should probably call back and ask. Just thought I'd ask other people's experience and opinions here. That's how I came to get the Martins, which I quite like a lot ... from reading a whole lot of other people's collective and individual experience and opinions, here and elsewhere. Expert advice is helpful ... and crowd-sourced wisdom I have found to be also (often even more) helpful. I use it all, then make my own choice. It's a process that's worked pretty well for me so far, for many things.

This will be only my fourth set of strings ever (and I don't know what the first ones were), so I'm still very much in the experiment-and-discover stage. Seems like an opportunity to try something I might not otherwise try.

And, yes, I agree it's very generous of them to include a set of strings ... especially my choice of anything they have!

For the record, even though I am the third owner, they do warranty their instruments for three years, and mine (based on its number) appears to be still within that range. But they appear to replace damaged fretboards free of charge regardless of age. They stand by their products. I am truly impressed with their customer service. It's what I'd want to see from a company if I were to buy new from them.

Another really excellent company (from which I bought my first set of replacement strings) is www.Sweetwater.com. Amazing customer service. I appreciate great service when I get it, and I pass the word on to others whenever I can.

You are right though ... I will call back, ask all the options for consideration, and also ask if they have a recommendation for me. My sense was (and makes sense to me), they didn't have a one-size-fits-all recommendation ... like any string recommendation, it depends how you play and what you like. (Actually, Dale did make two different recommendations at different points in the conversation, for different sets of preferences. Now I'm asking other people's.)
 
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SteveZ

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Just goes to show how good Fluke is. The Flea I have has had at least two owners before me, but it's going nowhere else anymore.
 

UkeCan1

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Magic Fluke has offered to replace my damaged poly fretboard free of charge, for just the cost of return shipping ... and they will include my choice of strings at no additional charge.
There are only three choices available:
- Fremont Black Line fluorocarbons (low or high G)
- LaBella black nylon
- Hilo Hawaiian ukulele standard set


(plus the D'Addario Nyltechs, which I've already had and didn't care for ... and they usually have Aquila Nylgut but are out of stock)

The latter two don't look like anything special, I don't think ... and I quite liked the Martin M600 fluorocarbons that I just installed 1.5 months ago ... so I'm guessing the Fremonts are the obvious choice.

But I'd love to hear any and all opinions and experiences of any of these. Thanks again for your help.

I am shipping my baby off today, and getting a loaner tonight.
 

SteveZ

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Magic Fluke has offered to replace my damaged poly fretboard free of charge, for just the cost of return shipping ... and they will include my choice of strings at no additional charge.
There are only three choices available:
- Fremont Black Line fluorocarbons (low or high G)
- LaBella black nylon
- Hilo Hawaiian ukulele standard set


(plus the D'Addario Nyltechs, which I've already had and didn't care for ... and they usually have Aquila Nylgut but are out of stock)

The latter two don't look like anything special, I don't think ... and I quite liked the Martin M600 fluorocarbons that I just installed 1.5 months ago ... so I'm guessing the Fremonts are the obvious choice.

But I'd love to hear any and all opinions and experiences of any of these. Thanks again for your help.

I am shipping my baby off today, and getting a loaner tonight.

If they do the low-G Fremonts, the G slot at the nut and saddle will have to be widened to accommodate the thicker unwound low-G. If you want low-G and don't have the tools to do the widening correctly, it's best to let Fluke do it. If you don't want the low-G set-up, then the high-G Fremonts sound like a good deal.

Just to show what I mean about the low-G nut slot, here's a shot of my Flea with low-G Reds. You can see how much wider the low-G unwound string is and thus how much this end (and the other) had to be widened to accommodate it.

image.jpg
 

Inksplosive AL

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Wow lifetime fretboard replacement... officially mind blown.

Too damn bad they moved out of CT our state started many great companies that move out due to high taxes and cost of living.

My advice don't fret (ha!) just get a set of strings that seems interesting to you.

The current strings I'm having most fun exploring on my KA-SEM are a reentrant set of Aquila reds. Others have described them as sounding metallic, they are a bit bright still a little like a steel guitar string maybe. Breathy when amplified they have some texture and make some noise. Still cant sing and play so I really hear nothing but the instrument, strings are cheap enough.

Low G became an interest to me when I bought a Risa soprano though only for lead guitar style play and pseudo bass. Sadly the Aquila red low G is not compatible with a stock Risa stick. Ahh maybe time to dig that little guy out I threw him in a corner after the second low G snapped and I threw on a high G.

Otherwise I mustn't play one uke enough as I haven't played a string until it wouldn't tune up ever.

~peace~
 

UkeCan1

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I can't say for sure that their policy is "lifetime replacement" ... only that that's what they're doing for me. (We'll see what happens if the new one gets damaged. :))

They did offer me an upgrade to the wood fretboard for $79 plus the $20 return shipping cost, but I'm sticking with the plastic for now.

But yeah ... they sure do seem to stand by their products.
We met a fellow at the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival with a Firefly ... the banjo skin was buzzing or something ... so he took it there (Sheffield, Mass is only about 10 minutes from Hillsdale, NY, apparently ... though we forgot to visit on our way out). They replaced it free of charge, I believe ... with an upgraded skin with a beautiful design on it. I hope I'm not incorrectly relaying the details ... hopefully FiL will correct me if I'm wrong. But we were impressed then with how they took care of their customer.

Unless someone suggests otherwise, I'm going with the high-G Fremont fluorocarbons ... they're what Dale suggested to me anyway, since I was liking the Martin fluoros, and did *not* care for the D'Addarios they usually give. Plus the other choices look pretty basic.

Not gonna try a low-G on this uke any time soon ... new fretboard and new-to-me string brand is enough mods at one time for right now!

But the loaner I borrowed last night is in fact a low-G tenor ... and so far I really like it! So, we'll see what's next. :)

Re string life, I thought I was doing really great having my strings last five months ... but now I realize they were all going bad prematurely, since all of my discarded strings have nicks in them from the gouge-y fretboard! So, it will be interesting to see how long they last with the new smooth fretboard. A whole lot longer, I'm betting!

So happy to have a loaner ... I was feeling really "naked" and sad and a little anxious the minute I handed over my package at the post office. I haven't been away from that little guy for over a year! I took a photo of the package just before I left the PO, and got yelled at by the counter person ... "No photos in the post office!" I did it anyway. :)
 

bnolsen

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i have a fluke plastic fretboard and I put low g on it. I'm not a big fan personally of the low-g for strumming use. I would also tend to lean towards getting a wound lowg if you were to try. I have phd's and the low-g feels a bit floppy as well.
 

PereBourik

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Just to throw in my opinion. I keep Martin M600 on my concert-neck Flea. Good balance, clear tone, easy play.
 

UkeCan1

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Update:
My Flea is home a short while ago from her fretboard transplant, 8 days after I shipped her off. Very happy to have her back. Of course the new Fremont (black!) fluorocarbon strings arrived slack and are needing constant tuning at the moment, so I've been playing a tune here and there and tuning up and up and up as often as possible today. Already they are almost settled. So far I really like them ... at least as much as I remember (from all those many days ago) liking the Martins.

Like I always do with car repairs, I had them send back the damaged fretboard. I plan to show it to all the luthiers and uke experts I know to see whether they think I personally might have been doing anything to cause the damage. Because, of course, if so, I don't wish to cause similar damage to my brand new fretboard. I want this one to last a good long time, if there's anything possible I can do to help that.

So maybe I need to get a banjo uke for the loud weekly guitar jam and stuff like "White Room". :)
Something that produces appropriate loudness without the need for hammering on it.

Thanks for all your help with the string suggestions. If you have any further thoughts on how to prevent future fretboard damage, or anything else relevant, I'd love to hear it.

I'll probably update again at some point once I've had her back for long enough to have more to say about the new strings and/or fretboard.

Let me just reiterate what a terrific company Magic Fluke has been to work with! Also, having my Flea back after playing a different uke for a week, I am really appreciating at a whole new level what a great uke it is. Ever since I first bought her, on day 1 ... in a hurry to have something to play and hours after having bought and then returned a much cheaper uke because it was too hard to play ... I've questioned whether I could have gotten an equally good starter instrument for a lot less money. I also gave a uke lesson yesterday to a new player with a cheaper uke, which I got to try out briefly, so the contrast is pretty clear. Today I'm feeling really confident that I made the right choice a year ago.

I would highly recommend a Flea to any new uke player. It is still quite possible there are other equally great starter instruments out there for less money, but I haven't personally come across one yet.

I do tell all new players to invest the 5 bucks in a new set of Martin M600 strings ... and so far they've all been really happy they did that.