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Thread: Need to set up my Cordoba Tenor

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Nov 2016
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    Cleveland Ohio
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    Default Need to set up my Cordoba Tenor

    My dear wife has been listening. For Christmas she got me a Cordoba Tenor 15TM, decent enough for me, and a set of low g strings, D’Addario fluorocarbon. While stringing up the low g I knew that the nut slot would need to be wider, which was easy enough to do with a small file.
    But all of the action is too high, both ends all 4 strings. .9mm at the first fret and 3.1mm at the 12th fret. If I am going to be lowering the nut, I want to use proper tools.
    General googling says that Stewmac files are the right choice. I am getting a few extra sizes since I have soprano through tenor (now with low g) instruments that might need attention in the future.
    I have watched several videos on the setup and I think I will start with the nut. It is clearly too high.
    I will take it slow and try it in small steps.
    The slot will be slightly angled back so that the string break is at the front of the nut.
    My target is probably 2.7mm at the 12th and I-dunno at the first. My professionally set up ukes will hold a piece of paper under the first fret when the string is pressed at the third. This tenor will not hold a business card. At least I want it close enough to hold a business card.
    Am I headed in the right direction? Any omissions or inaccuracies in my plan?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2018
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    Kekaha, Kauai
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    My usual method for adjusting the nut slot; fret the string in question at the third fret, looking sideways the string should just barely clear the first fret.

  3. #3
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    :-)
    I have also done this and the nut is much too high.
    My other ukes will hold a piece of paper between the first fret and the string when the string is fretted at the third.
    This new tenor has a much larger gap, and will not hold a business card between the string and first fret during the same test. The business card can even move up and down.
    Good to know that you agree that this test is a good one to use.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Aug 2017
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    SE Connecticut, USA
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    Quote Originally Posted by bobhost View Post
    My dear wife has been listening. For Christmas she got me a Cordoba Tenor 15TM, decent enough for me, and a set of low g strings, D’Addario fluorocarbon. While stringing up the low g I knew that the nut slot would need to be wider, which was easy enough to do with a small file.
    But all of the action is too high, both ends all 4 strings. .9mm at the first fret and 3.1mm at the 12th fret. If I am going to be lowering the nut, I want to use proper tools.
    General googling says that Stewmac files are the right choice. I am getting a few extra sizes since I have soprano through tenor (now with low g) instruments that might need attention in the future.
    I have watched several videos on the setup and I think I will start with the nut. It is clearly too high.
    I will take it slow and try it in small steps.
    The slot will be slightly angled back so that the string break is at the front of the nut.
    My target is probably 2.7mm at the 12th and I-dunno at the first. My professionally set up ukes will hold a piece of paper under the first fret when the string is pressed at the third. This tenor will not hold a business card. At least I want it close enough to hold a business card.
    Am I headed in the right direction? Any omissions or inaccuracies in my plan?
    The only thing I see that you have not mentioned is protecting the uke while you work on the nut. It is distressingly easy to file an unwanted notch into a fret or a tuner capstan or even the headstock itself while you've got all your attention focussed on filing the nut. When I work on the nut, I slip a thin steel protector under the strings .. I use a blunted cabinet scraper. Masking tape won't stop a file but your choice of materials to protect the headstock is limited.
    Bruko No. 6 soprano
    Kiwaya KTS-4 soprano
    Mainland Mahogany Classic soprano
    Mainland Red Cedar soprano
    Ohana SK-28 soprano
    Cahaya CY-0112 concert
    Kiwaya KTC-1 concert
    Musicguymic's "Kolohe" brand - prototype concert
    Cordoba 24T tenor
    Kanilea Islander MST-4 tenor
    Cordoba 24B baritone

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Nov 2016
    Location
    Cleveland Ohio
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    Got my set of files and string picker. But my order for the string height gauge is delayed. I think that I will wait for that so that I can measure the before and after more accurately.
    IMG_9937.jpg

  6. #6
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    And good tips about protecting the headstock. I will have to look for something to put there.

  7. #7
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    Dec 2018
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    Oakland CA
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    I recently set up my Cordoba 21T, and you really do not need a guage to work on the nut. Just file a little at a time until you feel a slight drag on a piece of paper at the first fret while holding the string down at the third fret.

    I used some Swiss files I already owned, and as I got close, finished with a welding tip cleaner, which I also already had.

    Having been successful with the Cordoba, I did it again on a VTAB concert, and was totally happy with the results. I also lowered the saddle on both to a little under 3mm, but I am waiting for a string height guage I ordered to arrive before going any further.

    It appears that almost all of the mass produced ukuleles coming from China will require a little work to make them play well, but considering the low cost, I think it's worth doing.

    I now have three ukuleles in different sizes, and the only one I didn't work on is a Flight Travel soprano, which with the exception of the top is all plastic, and the string height is baked in. Having a zero fret reliably sets the strings at the nut to a nice playing height.
    Last edited by dcuttler; 01-09-2019 at 07:19 AM.

  8. #8
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    Cleveland Ohio
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    Quote Originally Posted by dcuttler View Post
    I recently set up my Cordoba 21T, and you really do not need a guage to work on the nut. Just file a little at a time until you feel a slight drag on a piece of paper at the first fret while holding the string down at the third fret.
    I am much higher than that at the nut currently. But since I have one on order, I will hold off hacking until it gets here.
    I am waiting for a string height guage I ordered to arrive before going any further.
    Me too. While I would love to have the machined brass one offered by Stew-Mac, I opted for a less expensive one from ebay. I expect more consistent readings that trying to hold my micrometer perpendicular to the fingerboard.
    It appears that almost all of the mass produced ukuleles coming from China will require a little work to make them play well, but considering the low cost, I think it's worth doing.
    And this is going to let me set it up the way *I* like.

    Thanks for the input!

  9. #9
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    Aug 2017
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    SE Connecticut, USA
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    Quote Originally Posted by bobhost View Post
    And good tips about protecting the headstock. I will have to look for something to put there.
    Blue masking tape layered up works OK but you need to keep your eyes on it because you can file through it pretty quickly
    Last edited by Swamp Yankee; 01-09-2019 at 08:01 AM.
    Bruko No. 6 soprano
    Kiwaya KTS-4 soprano
    Mainland Mahogany Classic soprano
    Mainland Red Cedar soprano
    Ohana SK-28 soprano
    Cahaya CY-0112 concert
    Kiwaya KTC-1 concert
    Musicguymic's "Kolohe" brand - prototype concert
    Cordoba 24T tenor
    Kanilea Islander MST-4 tenor
    Cordoba 24B baritone

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Aug 2016
    Location
    NYC
    Posts
    283

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    Nobody has yet mentioned the effect on string height at the nut on intonation.

    I've learned from some of my friends that do their own setups, will use a feeler gauge between the nut and first fret, on the wood flush to the nut, to protect the fretboard, and then a small piece of plastic taped to the headstock between the nut and tuner shafts to protect the headstock.

    Then they file the specific slot in question just 2-3 strokes, remove the feeler gauge and replace and retune that string, and then check intonation on the 1,2,3,4 frets with the tuner vs. the open string. Also keeping in mind checking for string buzz.

    If the string registers the note too sharp, then they replace the feeler gauge, and rinse and repeat.

    This is done for each string. It takes a while to get it dialed in (I have observed the process many times, but not needed to do this myself on my concert Flea since it has a zero-fret).

    The problem is that any arbitrary measurement is likely to be skewed if applied to a variety of instruments, which may have varied fret thickness from uke to uke from different makers, meaning the height of the fret itself, and saying that 1mm or 1.25mm is the "perfect' string height on the first fret, when fretting the third fret is a slippery slope.

    If you go by intonation (as low as possible in the nut slots, before getting string buzz), it seems to me that you are more likely to be going as low as possible and keeping the instrument in tune, with proper intonation, which is completely missed if you only do this process by geometry.

    However, this is not an absolute or mandate, just something I have observed myself.
    -Joe......Have uke, will travel...

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