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Thread: Ukulele Maintenance Suggestions?

  1. #1
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    Default Ukulele Maintenance Suggestions?

    I was wondering what I need to be doing to maintain my uke? I have a hard case + a humidifier....
    Should I be oiling/conditioning/polishing the wood?
    Any thoughts?
    Love my Ohana SK-21M. Tortoises Rule!

  2. #2
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    Other than humidifying and keeping it clean, not much maintenance required, although some folks like to oil their fingerboards occasionally with a bit of lemon oil, to keep it conditioned, and also looking good. I've never felt the need, but would try it if my uke felt dry
    John

  3. #3
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    Wiping the body and neck down from time to time with a soft dry or barely damp cloth is about all those areas need. Unless you perspire when you play. Then you should wipe it down every time you play.

    If the body is an oil finish you should apply an oil once a year. A lemon oil without synthetics works fine.

    The fretboard, bridge and interior body are not usually finished. (Although the fretboard may be dyed for a more uniform black ebony color.) They are raw wood. So you need to keep water away from them.

    I use F-One Fretboard Conditioner by Music Nomad once a year usually when I change strings. I have purchased ukes where the fretboard and bridge were extremely dry and I use it then as well. You don't want to oil the fretboard very often because it can cause the wood to swell. Popping frets in extreme cases.

    I also use Music Nomad's gloss & satin finish cleaner/polishes if there's schmutz on it that a barely damp cloth won't get off. Like food. Taylor Guitars uses a type of Turtle Wax on their Poly finished guitars. See their website for details. (Double meaning intended.)

    Other than that, not much is needed. Keep it clean. Keep it humidified between 40 & 50 percent RH. Replace strings as needed. Play it to open up the sound. (Some debate about this. I have found it to be true in some and not in others.)

    Have fun.
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  4. #4
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    Personally, I would never use lemon oil on my fretboard. Two luthiers told me not to. I use LoPrinzi fretboard butter at every string change, and more often if it looks dry.
    If you have friction tuners, you can take them apart and lightly lube with graphite. Open gear tuners can be blown out with canned air.
    My necks are sanded down, they get waxed at least once a year.
    Any good guitar cleaner and polish can be used on its body.
    "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.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nickie View Post
    I use LoPrinzi fretboard butter at every string change, and more often if it looks dry.
    Nickie, do you mean stuff like this?

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  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jun 2020
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    If you're keeping your instrument clean (microfiber cloth, tiny bit of hot water if you need it), and at the right humidity, you really don't need to put anything at all on the fretboard.

  7. #7
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    I've always used plain old mineral oil on fretboards. Back in February a friend seemed so offended by the practice that he gave me a bottle of Dunlop fret oil. I've been using that and a little bit goes a long way. It works. Also it has an applicator in the top. I'm sure it is quit a bit more expensive than mineral oil. I'm not one to spend a lot of money on potions when mineral oil has been used to keep wood from drying out for centuries. Mineral oil is also great for cutting boards.
    Last edited by Rllink; 11-23-2020 at 06:31 AM.
    I don't want to live in a world that is linear.

    I just want everyone to understand that I am not a ukulele expert, even though it may look at times like I'm pretending to be.

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  8. #8
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    Jun 2020
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    I'm going to get on my fretboard oil soapbox for a minute. I've mentioned this before on this forum and I know some people will disagree, but I think it's an important educational point, so here goes.

    Oils basically fall into two categories - drying and non-drying. Drying oils will cure to a hard finish - non-drying oils won't. Most guitar-marketed products are mineral oil (which is non-drying) cut with some other oil (often lemon oil) or a volatile solvent to make it thinner and help it clean up any remaining gunk when you apply it. But, it doesn't really matter - there really aren't any important functional differences between the various non-drying oils. When applied to wood, non-drying oils will partially soak in and partially evaporate (which can take months). That gives the impression that the wood is "dry" again, a few months later, which triggers people to want to add more oil. Over time, this repetition basically means the wood slowly becomes soaked in oil.

    The problem is, oil-soaked wood is difficult to work on. If you've ever tried sanding a board that's been soaked in mineral oil, it's messy. You get a sticky paste on the sandpaper instead of nice powdery dust. And gluing oil soaked wood? Forget about it. Some common fretboard woods (especially rosewood, colobolo, etc) can be oily enough on their own that they're already hard to glue. Adding your own oil makes it worse. Doing fretwork on oil-soaked wood can be a challenge, too. The oil lubricates the wood, so frets actually go in more easily - but they also come out more easily. It can be maddening to try to get a fret to go in and stay put in an over-oiled fretboard. Normal tricks like using CA glue don't work, since the CA doesn't stick to the oil-soaked wood. Upsizing the tang on the fretwire to get a tighter fit can work, but then you run the risk of wedging the neck into a back bow.

    Most people who oil their fretboards will never have to deal with these issues, so it's not like it's not like the most serious problem in the world, but for the times when issues do occur, they can be difficult and frustrating to deal with. I once worked on a guitar that needed fretwork and fretboard binding repair. The fretboard had been oiled so frequently, for so many years, that it was basically beyond help - we ended up deciding to remove and replace the fretboard. The owner was pretty distraught. He thought he was doing the right thing by "taking care" of his fretboard. Instead, it turned what should have been a few quick fixes into a major surgery.

    So - I'll repeat what I said above. If you keep your instrument humidified, the wood will be stable all on it's own. You don't need to oil it to try to lock in moisture. And if you keep it clean, the fretboard will always look good. There's no need to put oils on it.

    But what if you like the look of a polished, freshly oiled fretboard? They do look great! Or what if you can't control the environment, or you have dirty fingers, and you want the protection that oiling provides? If you're really worried about protecting your fretboard, leave the non-drying oils alone and use a drying oil finish. They will cure to a hard and permanent protective finish, and will help lock moisture (water) in the wood, keeping it stable through humidity changes. And they will avoid the problems you get by soaking non-drying oils into the wood of your fretboard - a cured oil finish can be sanded, glued to, and otherwise worked with or repaired just fine. There are oil finishes that can be wiped on with a cloth just like fretboard oils, it takes a few minutes and is literally no different in terms of the process. Or you can have a tech apply the finish if you're not sure. There are a number of finishes that can be used, my personal favorite is stew-mac's Colortone fretboard finishing oil. It goes on and cures very thin and gives the wood a permanent just-oiled look that's easy to clean and take care of. The bottle they sell it in is expensive, but it'll last most people a lifetime (literally - it's probably enough for at least 50 or 100 ukulele sized fretboards).

  9. #9
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    dwizum, that's an excellent explanation. Definitely something to think about. I've got F-ONE oil which I'm not sure is drying or non-drying, but after reading your post, I'm glad I haven't used it more than once on any of my ukuleles. Often, when I get a ukulele, the fingerboard looks dry so I'm inclined to oil it at it's first string change. Maybe it doesn't need it, but I like the look.
    Glenn

  10. #10
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    The great thing is that I am very lax about maintenance so there will never be a problem with overdoing something.
    I don't want to live in a world that is linear.

    I just want everyone to understand that I am not a ukulele expert, even though it may look at times like I'm pretending to be.

    https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_n...tective+Agency

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