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Thread: Changed strings and now have back bow in neck?

  1. #1
    Join Date
    May 2020
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    Default Changed strings and now have back bow in neck?

    Sorry for the long post...

    I recently changed the strings on my Mainland spruce tenor (which I keep in a humidified hard case) from Worth clears to the second set of Worth clears that came in the pack. From that point on, the C and E strings buzzed from around the 1st/2nd fret to about the 5th/7th fret, particularly when plucked or strummed hard. I played it and tried to let the strings settle, but it didn't improve. To be certain it wasn't a string issue, I changed the strings again to Aquila carbon black. The buzzing was still there.

    A local luthier said there seemed to be a back bow in the neck. I don't understand how that could happen all of a sudden when I changed the strings from 1 set to an identical set (this luthier also expected a truss rod in the ukulele, so I'm not sure how many ukuleles he sees). He said the only thing he could think that might fix it is to put a set of strings with higher tension on there and hope the neck bends back.

    I called the folks at Mainland who said it was a string issue (not back bow) and recommended I invert the strings (restring it so that the end in the bridge is now in the tuning peg), and they said they would send me a new set of strings (I'm guessing the Aquilas they were originally set up with, which I haven't received yet). I didn't understand how inverting the strings would help, but I tried it, and it seemed to improve the E string, though not entirely. The C string still buzzes. Maybe it needs more time to stretch?

    Has anyone encountered something like this before or know how to fix it? The ukulele sounded great before, so I'm frustrated and saddened by this situation. TIA.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2012
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    Queanbeyan, NSW Australia.
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    A back bow is a back bow and has nothing to do with strings. Back bows can happen over time and its just coincidence that it seems to happen when you change strings. If its a new instrument that's under warranty then insist that Mainland deal with it and don't let yourself be fobbed off.

    Inverting strings doesn't make a lick of sense to me and I've never heard about it before. Even if the neck was left unstrung without tension I would expect that the neck would remain straight and then when the strings were fitted and tensioned I would expect a tiny bit of up bow to take place which is just fine.

    Neck bows are mostly from building instruments with less than fully seasoned timber and it happens quite a bit with cheap instruments yet sometimes it happens to the best builders as well.

  3. #3
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    May 2020
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    Thanks for your input, anthonyg. Unfortunately, the instrument is 1 month post-warranty . I'd like to take it to another luthier to see if there really is a back bow since the first one I took it to doesn't seem to see many ukuleles. This problem happened suddenly. Do you know if there's a way to fix a back bow?

  4. #4
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    Oct 2012
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    Quote Originally Posted by ANYon View Post
    Thanks for your input, anthonyg. Unfortunately, the instrument is 1 month post-warranty . I'd like to take it to another luthier to see if there really is a back bow since the first one I took it to doesn't seem to see many ukuleles. This problem happened suddenly. Do you know if there's a way to fix a back bow?
    Has your local humidity suddenly changed? Changes in humidity will cause wood to warp and necks are particularly susceptible.
    Sight down the neck from either end and see if you can see a warp in the neck yourself. A very slight up bow is fine but any back bow at all is a problem.
    If a back bow is only slight and your sure that the wood has stopped moving then a luthier can perform a fret levelling job on the neck to fix things yet you would want to be sure that the neck isn't going to move anymore and there is only so much that can be corrected for.

  5. #5
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    May 2020
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    Quote Originally Posted by anthonyg View Post
    Has your local humidity suddenly changed? Changes in humidity will cause wood to warp and necks are particularly susceptible.
    Sight down the neck from either end and see if you can see a warp in the neck yourself. A very slight up bow is fine but any back bow at all is a problem.
    If a back bow is only slight and your sure that the wood has stopped moving then a luthier can perform a fret levelling job on the neck to fix things yet you would want to be sure that the neck isn't going to move anymore and there is only so much that can be corrected for.
    I keep it in a humidified case, and I don't think the humidity outside has changed too drastically. I can't really see any warping of the neck. Maybe it's too slight for me to detect. Overall, it sounds like I'll need to look into getting a new ukulele. I just hope I can keep a new one from warping!

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Feb 2012
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    Derbyshire, UK
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    It may be out of warranty, but I think that's a manufacturing defect.

    Turning the strings round sounds like the mainland folks are trying to fob you off.

    I would direct them to this thread.

  7. #7
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    I had an Ohana uke that had a warped neck right after I bought it. The dealer denied it, but the luthier I took it to showed it to me. The thing was miserable to play. It of course, had very poor intonation and lots of fret buzzes. So off came the Aquila strings and on went a set of Worth Browns lo G. I hung it up on a wall near a window to dry, didn't play it for a whole year.
    I finally took it down to play a song in lo G (I play hi g 99%) and the warping was all but gone, and so were the buzzes.
    I chalked it up to the ukulele goddesses being nice to me, and the fact that Aquila strings are too fat for low action.
    Last edited by Nickie; 05-21-2020 at 06:22 AM. Reason: poor typing!
    "Those who bring sunshine and laughter to the lives of others cannot keep it from themselves".

    Music washes from the soul, the dust of everyday living.

  8. #8
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    May 2020
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    Thanks, Chris. I'll contact them again after I try the strings they are sending me. I don't have a lot of hope at this point that they will improve things...

  9. #9
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    May 2020
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nickie View Post
    I had an Ohana uke that had a warped neck right after I bought it. The dealer denied it, but the luthier I took it to showed it to me. The thing was miserable to play. It of course, had very poor intonation and lots of fret buzzes. So off came the Aquila strings and on went a set of Worth Browns lo G. I hung it up on a wall near a window to dry, didn't play it for a whole year.
    I finally took it down to play a song in lo G (I play hi g 99%) and the warping was all but gone, and so were the buzzes.
    I chalked it up to the ukulele goddesses being nice to me, and the fact that Aquila strings are too fat for low action.
    Nice! I can only hope!

  10. #10
    Join Date
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    It seems unlikely that the neck suddenly bowed when you changed the strings. The person who suggested that seemed not to know much about ukuleles. You can settle the issue by placing a straight edge (a steel rule is ideal) on top of the frets. If it rests on the crown of each fret, it will show that the fret board is flat. Any significant bowing will be quite apparent.

    When you changed the strings, did you remove the saddle from the bridge? If so, did you replace it exactly the same way?

    A friend once asked me to check his tenor which had started to buzz. I could find nothing wrong with it, so, in desperation, I took out the saddle, turned it end for end, and replaced it. That cured it! I don't know why, but it worked.

    John Colter

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