Question about back-bowed neck on ukulele

a green field

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Hi there,

I thought I'd consult ukulele-knowledgable folks for their advice. I've been trying to get a couple local techs/luthiers to look at a ukulele I purchased earlier this year to see if an action problem (buzzing on many frets) could be addressed. Both so far have said the neck is back-bowed and the action can't reasonably be addressed; the "peak" of the fretboard seems to be around the 5th-8th frets. The last tech put a shim in the saddle but it didn't really improve the buzzing, which is still present in the first 5 frets or so. I asked if the nut could be shimmed up, and he said in his opinion it would only make problems further up the fretboard with very high action. I've attached a picture but not sure it is really useful.

This is a soprano and has no truss rod. I have been talking to the seller for a number of months, and after I shared this feedback from the first local shop he asked me to get another opinion, as he had not heard of this before. I am wondering if the wood was just defective from the start, as the humidity in my place is fine (40-50% at all times) and I don't have steel strings or anything super high tension on the uke. Do folks here think it would be fruitful for me to find another local luthier and get another opinion, or send it off to a uke expert? I've already paid for it to be worked on with no real improvement to playability, and wondering if this is just going to be a wall ornament. It doesn't sound cost effective to return or replace.

Thank you
 

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John Colter

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If two technicians have told you it is bowed, then that is pretty conclusive but you can check it for yourself. All you need is a straight edge placed on the crowns of the frets.

The advice you have received is correct. A bowed neck on a soprano uke cannot reasonably be addressed. Wood is unpredictable. It just does this, sometimes.

John Colter
 

anthonyg

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It's an unfortunately common problem with no easy fix. I have a couple of ukuleles with back bowed necks that I am gradually improving myself by levelling and re-crowning the frets, yet there is a limit to how much back bow this technique can fix, you need tools, it takes time and no professional is going to quote you on this as its rather time consuming procedure, which is expensive for a pro to do and the results still may not be that good anyway.
 

a green field

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The seller has offered me roughly $171 if I keep the instrument and try to get it fixed with that money, via raising a few frets and shaving down the fretboard. He says that he has never heard of this happening before on his instruments. I was previously told by the first shop I consulted that it would be multiples of the instruments' cost to even temporarily address the issue, and a luthier I consulted suggested that too. It doesn't sound like it's something people feel can actually be resolved in any cost effective way. Open to any more thoughts here.
 

anthonyg

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I'd have to have the instrument in my own hands to make a better assessment, and I'm not a professional luthier either, yet I'm not really buying the sellers claims.
Raising frets could only theoretically be achieved by re-fretting with larger fret wire and this is a big job. Only raising a few frets is completely out of the question. Levelling the fretboard and re-fretting is a big job.
The only, less than over the top option is to simply level the frets as they are and re-crown them, and this isn't necessarily a quick job either and there is a serious limit to how much this particular procedure can correct for.