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Thread: Setting up a Waterman soprano

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Sep 2011
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    Safety Harbor, FL
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    Default Setting up a Waterman soprano

    Bought a Waterman soprano. Pretty sure it was a store display model. It's got Aquila strings and they seem to be pre-stretched. (it stays pretty much in tune) And, as Waterman ukes are prone to do, the bridge is tilted a bit towards the head.

    The action is a bit high for my tastes, and the bridge error is causing the intonation to be off.

    These things aren't supposed to be adjustable, but I have files and sandpaper and I'm not afraid to use them!

    I'm going to start by documenting a few measurements and the specific intonation problems so that we know what we're starting with.
    What could possibly go wrong?

  2. #2
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    It's a Soprano scale uke, and I'm going to assume that the basic specs are typical. Not going to measure the scale and all that.

    Critical Measurements:

    String height at the bridge from the top is 9mm (0.36")

    Saddle is molded into the bridge, but the saddle height is a touch over 1mm. (.040")

    Action at 12th fret is 4mm (0.16")

    Action at 1st fret is 1mm (.040")

    Zero fret height is 1.75mm (.070") from fretboard.

    Fret height is about .6mm (.024") from fretboard.

    Intonation:

    Open 2nd 5th 12th
    G +5 +11 +19
    C +9 +22 +34
    E +11 +24 +38
    A +11 +21 +42
    What could possibly go wrong?

  3. #3
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    Action is too high. Intonation is sharp.

    Step 1: Lower the saddle.

    Now, years of working with sport car suspension modifications has taught me that you should always only make one change at a time so that you can tell what difference that one change made. But, I'm lazy and want to try to get away with only unstringing this uke once if I can get away with it. So, naturally, I'm going to shave the zero fret at the same time!

    Step 2: Lower the zero fret.

    Step 2a: Shave the nut slots if necessary.

    Results:

    Saddle height is now about 0.6mm (.025-.030") off of the bridge. I could go a little lower, but since it's not a replaceable saddle, I'm being conservative.

    I took about .3mm off of the zero fret. bringing it to about 0.7mm (.025") off of the fretboard. Hope I didn't go too far with that.

    I put two layers of tape over the zero fret, and then shaved the nut slots (with a breakover toward the tuners) to where it just started to cut into the tape.

    Time to string it back up!
    What could possibly go wrong?

  4. #4
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    Ugh. Good news and bad news.

    Action at 12 = 3.2mm (.125")

    Action at 1 = 0.7mm (.028")

    Intonation is somewhat improved, but still bad.

    Open 2nd 5th 12th
    G +4 +10 +12
    C +3 +3 +4
    E +10 +18 +25
    A +11 +26 +38

    The bad news is that I've created a buzz on 3 of 4 strings! Apparently, the saddle height is so low that it's creating a buzz on the tail end of the strings. If I put a finger back there, it stops!

    I might have to ponder how to proceed from here.

    I can stick a toothpick behind the saddle. That would raise the saddle height and bring the action back up (bad), but also make the scale length slightly longer, which should improve intonation. And that restored height might eliminate the buzz.
    What could possibly go wrong?

  5. #5
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    Slipping a toothpick behind what's left of the saddle definitely fixed the buzz. But, it raised the action too much, and made the intonation worse.

    I'll have to play with this some more... maybe tomorrow.

    The big problem with the Waterman seems to be the bridge design.
    What could possibly go wrong?

  6. #6
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    Toothpick was way too tall, but was a good quick experiment.

    Today, I shaved a thin piece of scrap pine about .75mm thick, a couple mm wide and crammed it behind the stub of the molded saddle. I think I'm onto something! That put the action back down close to 3mm at the 12th. And intonation is at about +6 to +8 on the G and C strings at the 12th.

    I think I'm going to take a standard plastic saddle, turn it sideways, and recreate the wooden shim that I made today. I'll make the top of it "peaked" so that I can move the string contact point further back by maybe another half mm and try to make the whole think as low as I can to improve the action.

    The only other thing I might do is take just the tiniest bit more off of the zero fret.

    All of that should get the action about as low as I can get it without going completely crazy on that bridge. Should be just at or under 3mm. And it should get the intonation within about +5, which I guess is okay.
    What could possibly go wrong?

  7. #7
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    Everything is better with pictures.

    Here's a top view of my "saddle", which is really more of a shim.

    PXL_20210220_202648771.jpg

    And a side view of same. You can sort of see how low I trimmed the original molded saddle. My shim effectively moves the saddle back.

    PXL_20210220_202542745.jpg
    Last edited by LorenFL; 02-20-2021 at 11:02 AM.
    What could possibly go wrong?

  8. #8
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    Good luck. Unless Makala has changed the materials, the uke is 100% plastic, so there’s not much you can do that’s correctable.
    The site truncates my signature so I can't tell you

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jan 2018
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    It looks like a lot of work for a plastic uke but it seems you are enjoying the process so more power to you.

  10. #10
    Join Date
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    Quote Originally Posted by sunshiNee View Post
    It looks like a lot of work for a plastic uke but it seems you are enjoying the process so more power to you.
    Agreed. Didn’t mean to sound like that.
    The site truncates my signature so I can't tell you

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