An interesting project

PhilC

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My musically talented brother in law has come for Christmas. He's brought an old Ukulele with him. Its been sitting in the corner of his music room for at least 40 years. He's said I can keep it if I repair it as he'd never touched it (he's mainly a violin & viola player). It's a lovely looking instrument made in Spain.

IMGP7851.JPG
 
My initial asseessment is that its sound. The neck is straight and well attached, as is the bridge.
The banding has come loose in a couple of places but that is an easy repair.
The wood has dried out on the front and back leaving thin cracks which it would be nice to fix. I'd like to have them stable before stringing the instrument as they could be a source of buzzes. Someone has tried to fix them in the past but the glue just fell off when I rubbed it with my finger.
I'm used to working & repairing model planes so my workshop is well equipped for fine woodwork. I've got some Old Brown Glue which I've used on other jobs, and I understand that this is suitable for repairing instruments. I've never worked on an insturment before so I thought I'd run mu ideas past the experts before starting.
My plan is to gently sand off the old glue from inside the instrument. After that I intend to heat some old brown glue and dribble it into the instrument, working it into the crack with cocktail sticks, then leave it for a day or two to fully cure.
The next step will be to glue down the banding, holding it in place with clamps while the glue cures.
Finally a good clean with instrument polish. I use Kyser on my guitars so I guess it will work on old ukes. I'm not quite sure how to clean the frets so I'm open to suggestions.
Does this sound OK, or have any of you got ideas or techniques that would work better?
 
The flush fingerboard and scratch plate look like a cuatro although most of those are nearer baritone size.
 
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Looks like a cuatro although most of those are nearer baritone size.
This is really interesting. What’s the difference between a Uke and a Cuatro?
Some background from brother in law. His grandmother bought it in an auction in the UK in the 1950s. She strung it and played it as a Uke. The label inside says it was made by Carreras Jose in Valencia.
 
Cuatros typically have a fingerboard which is flush with the top and ends where the neck meets the body. Cuatro tops often have a hardwood scratch plate that covers the upper bout down to the center of the sound hole with grain perpendicular to the top. Cuatros are tuned different than ukes and the scratch plate is used for percussion while strumming. Here is a Venezuelan cuatro I built for a friend alongside a soprano.IMG_2451.JPG
 
Thanks for pointing this out. Its always interesting to learn something new.
I've just Googled the cuatro and it seems to match the instrument I've got. There are some videos online about playing the cuatro and thses will be an interesting study over Christmas. Cuatro tuning seems to be low A, D, F#, B so I might restring it with low G CEA to play along with our Uke group.

Meanwhile going back to topic, does anyone have any thoughts about my proposed repairs?
 
That's a great looking vintage instrument with a super back story. I know people string and tune baritone ukes as cuatros, so seems like the inverse should work fine.

The only repairs I've done are to hide cosmetic booboos on my new builds. There are several posts on acousticguitarforum.com that describe crack repairs. Most use hot hide glue or original Titebond and sometimes place small splints on the inside as reinforcement but I have no personal experience to share.
 
I've had a few days working on the instrument. A cleat and a drizzle of glue have fixed the crack in the sound board. The loose beading has been re-attached with old brown glue.
Re-stringing it I realised that the tuning pegs are old violin pegs. The holes have been poorly reamed and the pegs are really sticky. I'm thinking of putting some Grover 2B on the instrument.
QUESTION. Does anyone know the depth and diamater of the hole I need for the Grovers? I can't find any data on line.
 
I would suggest that you might look for a better peg than a 2B or a 3B. Too much plastic in those and them often will slip.If you can find them, 6B's hold pretty good. 4B's are better, but not made anymore by Grover. They can still be found on eBay sometimes. Anytime you are installing new tuners, you need to have the actual tuner in hand to check the fit. -Bob
 
A small cuatro is sometimes referred to as a cuatrico, as in the song Burrito de Balen... I think the song intends a double meaning to the word. The author is referencing both his instrument and his four legged mount, the sabenero - or "knowing" - burro from Bethlehem.

A bit of research indicates a cuatro usually has ten- or 15-strings, in double or triple courses tuned a fourth apart, hence the name (cuatro means four or fourth). So I would say this is more like a cuatrico, a little cuatro with just four strings. It might also be called a cuatro Venezolano, and the ten string version a cuatro Puertariqueno.

Good luck finishing the refurbishing!
 
It looks like the Cuatro Venezolano is tuned
A3 D4 F#4 B3

I wonder how it would sound trying a low G and a low A.
 
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