PIMPING YOUR RIDE: Changing the Fretboard to a Radius. Anyone done it?

sam13

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Hey Gang,

I have a Long Neck Tenor Kamaka (HF3L) strung Low G with a Thomastik-Infeld for Low G as per Chuck Moore.

I love the tone. It is warm, bright and full. The finger spacing is fabulous on the fretboard. It will always remain a Low G for me. It is a tremendous sounding uke. Here is the Uke ...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aSyB4B_CboU

But ... I find the flat fretboard a challenge as the songs I play involve A LOT OF BARRING ... and other radius Ukes I own are SO COMFORTABLE to play this way.

By the way, the depth of the HF3L (which is a Baritone depth for a neck) is less deep than a Pono Pro Classic Tenor. However, with the Pono PC Tenor it is like buttah to barre with the radius.

I was talking to Dave. My co-hort in crime and chime.

And I said to him ... you know ... People Pimp their Rides all the time:
  • They buy a Honda Civic and then make adjustments to make it feel the way they want ...
  • At a local guitar shop, people spend $7-8,000 on brand new guitars and change the frets to thicker ones. They walk upstairs and before they take it home they have the frets changed to bigger frets to make barring cleaning and less effort to do it.

So I am considering having a slight radius put on it ... 16" ... like a Pono ... and putting slightly larger frets.

The fretboard would not be removed, just adjusted slightly.

Has anyone done this?

I know there are nay sayers ... nay away ... just interested in some feed back ...

I don't see myself selling this Uke ever ... I know ... famous last words ...

How have you changed your Uke to make it more comfortable to play?
 

Booli

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On August 8, 2016, fellow UU sister Hochapeafarm posted a very similar question in this thread:

http://forum.ukuleleunderground.com...uthiers-please-help-is-it-possible-to-do-this

From reading the replies there, it seems this kind of endeavor has many hazards in which the original instrument may not live up to expectations once modified, and if precious to you, is this something you are willing to sacrifice and end up with something either unplayable or otherwise ruined.

If it were me, and I had the money to spend for this kind of project, I'd just get something that already came with a radiused fretboard, and if THAT instrument lived up to expetations, than maybe I would sell the 'Ride' that I was initially going to have 'pimped' since it would be obviated and made redundant by the new instrument with the radius....YMMV. :)
 

Osprey

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Great playing and singing! You really captured the song.

Now to your question, changing to a radius fretboard seems like a big project to me. It would make your ukulele unique and would narrow the market for resale. On the other hand I never worry about the resale value of my ukuleles. The money I put into them is an investment in my life experiences and if I do sell them, the money I get for them is a bonus. I say if you can find someone you trust to do a good job. The important thing is that you enjoy the end product. You have no obligation to please the purists. Just my opinion.
Cliff
 

DownUpDave

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A proper setup would probably alleviate your perceived need for a radiussed finger board.

I am talking out of turn here Chuck but Simon bought this from Andrew at HMS so the set up is good. I have played this instrument and it is a very speical one tone wise. Simons other instruments all have radius fretboards and that is what he is use to. I am the same way so I know where he is coming from.

Other then effecting the resale value do you see any other down side to doing this.
 
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stevejfc

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Seems risky to me. I guess it would be best to experiment on a $100 beater. Do you have someone in mind for the mod?
It's an interesting concept though, Simon.
 
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bonesigh

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That's a good idea to try it on a beater Steve. I have wondered about this subject myself.
 

Moore Bettah Ukuleles

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I am talking out of turn here Chuck but Simon bought this from Andrew at HMS so the set up is good. I have played this instrument and it is a very speical one tone wise. Simons other instruments all have radius fretboards and that is what he is use to. I am the same way so I know where he is coming from.

Other then effecting the resale value do you see any other down side to doing this.

The uke may have a standard setup and not one specifically designed for the player's needs. I have built both kinds of fret boards and few, if any, of my customers or people who have played these ukes at my shop can tell a noticeable difference. Just saying.
 

ScooterD35

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Rather than radiusing the existing fretboard, which would probably end up being a disaster, it would likely be more efficient to just have the fretboard replaced with one that is purpose built with a radius (obviously the saddle and possibly the bridge will have to be altered as well).

Scooter
 

Ukulele Eddie

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Sam - Unless you've played a Kamaka with a custom, radiused fretboard and found it to be much better for you, I would not assume that a fretboard radius alone will magically make this uke feel as playable as your other radiused ukes. There are other factors such as neck profile/size that might be contributing to your perception. It would be a shame to alter such a wonderfully toned instrument at the risk of not solving the problem. Not to mention it would likely negatively impact resale value if it didn't solve the problem for you. I'd be extremely nervous about it. But if you go down that route, keep us posted!
 

billten

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Would a refret with higher / larger frets be as intrusive a change? Perhaps trying that as a first measure may get you most of the way Simon?

I have a uke that i love the tone of (Dave you know the one i am talking about) but is horrible to play, I am almost certain that it's mostly to do with having the worlds smallest frets. I'd love to get it re-fretted so i'm very interested in hearing how this plays out :)
 

saltytri

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What Chuck and Eddie said.

If a radiused board were the goal, I'd build a new instrument before diving into the mod that you're considering. This would be less risky, wouldn't be vastly harder and would be more likely to yield a satisfactory result.
 

sam13

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Hello Everyone ... thanks very much for your thoughtful input.

I can tell a radius and flat board no problem ... my arms are QUITE long ... so just looking find a solution to make it comfortable and reduce the work it takes for me to barre.

Also, I am not concerned about the resale value from a modification of the board ... but would be frustrated if the work screwed up the sound and made the playing worse.

Chuck ... what size of fret wires do you use on your master pieces? And for the most part, you make flat fret boards ... right?

Perhaps new frets are the answer ... open to all comments.

Thanks.
 

billten

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But pimping your ride sounds really cool Simon, so i say DO IT!!! :) :) :)

Just joking...
 

johnson430

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Hello Everyone ... thanks very much for your thoughtful input.

I can tell a radius and flat board no problem ... my arms are QUITE long ... so just looking find a solution to make it comfortable and reduce the work it takes for me to barre.

Also, I am not concerned about the resale value from a modification of the board ... but would be frustrated if the work screwed up the sound and made the playing worse.

Chuck ... what size of fret wires do you use on your master pieces? And for the most part, you make flat fret boards ... right?

Perhaps new frets are the answer ... open to all comments.

Thanks.

Sam,
I like the new fret idea. I have heard that SRV used jumbo/bass frets on some of his guitars. I would think that larger frets might actually help with your situation. And it should be easy to do and undo, if needed.

I am now a fan of radius fretboards. Especially the ebony variety. =)
 

mm stan

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I guess the metaphor here is, if you had an automatic mustang and wanted to change the transmission to manual 4 speed, it may be cheaper to buy a car with a manual transmission rather than make changes, unless this uke means something to you.
 

billten

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No idea about Chuck but John Kinnard uses the guitar medium tall which are about 1.25 mm high and 2.1 mm wide. These IMO are perfect for super smooth playability.

Chuck ... what size of fret wires do you use on your master pieces?
Thanks.
 

Moore Bettah Ukuleles

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Hello Everyone ... thanks very much for your thoughtful input.

I can tell a radius and flat board no problem ... my arms are QUITE long ... so just looking find a solution to make it comfortable and reduce the work it takes for me to barre.

Also, I am not concerned about the resale value from a modification of the board ... but would be frustrated if the work screwed up the sound and made the playing worse.

Chuck ... what size of fret wires do you use on your master pieces? And for the most part, you make flat fret boards ... right?

Perhaps new frets are the answer ... open to all comments.

Thanks.

Yes, most of my finger boards are flat using a small mandolin wire. Stewmac #764 wire -- Crown .037" (1mm) X 0.53" (1.40mm) width.
 

maxmax

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Maybe because I've been a banjo player most of my life, and we banjo people are chronic tinkerers, I just don't see this as such a big deal as some others. If you find a good luthier that is up for it, I can't see how swapping the fingerboard would cause a drastic change in tone. Maybe a little if you listen carefully, but not so much that you wouldn't like it anymore.

Like you, I play a lot of barre chords and also prefer radiused boards. I can play flat ones just fine, but a well setup radiused board definitely improves the playability for me.

Something that however will change the tone, but easy to experiment with, is simply trying some thicker strings if you are currently using fluorocarbon. Nylon strings are easier to barre cleanly for me.

Cheers,
Max
 

haole

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I thought about getting a refret done on one of my ukes, but soon realized that the amount of time I'd have to wait for it would be better spent just playing the thing and getting used to it. It worked and it cost me $0. Your results may vary!