Lubricating RISA Solid Uke Metal Roller: advice please.


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Sep 12, 2011
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Central IL & Fox Valley, IL
I have a soprano RISA natural uke, bought used from a music store, looks to be in great shape and works well. It has the friction tuners.

It has a peculiar tuning quirk. When I tune it (which it needs frequently, but less so now that I tightened the screw on the tuners), I can turn the friction tuners noticeably, and it still does not change the pitch of the string. Then, suddenly, with one more small turn, it changes the string tension. This is particularly noted when it is plugged in to the amplifier, and I can hear that it makes a small "ping" and then the tuning finally changes.

As we all know, friction tuners change the string with even the teensiest turn. BUt here, I can turn it a small amount three or four times with, literally, no change on the electronic tuner, then on the next small turn, "ping" and it changes.

Do others have this phenomenon with the RISA? I think, not sure, that it's the metal roller type "bridge" that turns slightly eventually, but I fear that it will snap a string because the turning tension is building up between the head and the metal roller. I see on an old thread on here about the breaking "A" string on these ukes, which may be partly from this issue that I mention , an also partly because of the obtuse angle of the strong over the roller. Question: there must be a way to lubricate the strings or the roller, but I need to find a non-petroleum based lube (wax? Chapstick? etc.) to put on the roller when I change strings next. Thoughts?

Thanks, in advance. Anyone without A RISA solid probably has no clue what I'm talking about here. Steve:)
Thanks, ukeeku. I used your link, and studied it online, and it sounds good BUt, I do notice that it has "petroleum distillates", and one Amazon reviewer mentions that fact, too. I'm reluctant to use anything with petroleum (i.e WD 40, Vaseline, etc.) on nylon strings. But, will the nut lube harm the strings over time? Crisco, hmmm, vegetable based. Thanks.
I thought someone would come out with that "pat" answer, which could, frankly, be used for every advice post.

I trust the experience and advice of the wonderful members of Ukulele Underground, and am seeking feedback about not only the solutions, but the experience of tuning with this ukulele. Thanks, for those that sent me a PM, too.

Anyone else with a RISA have input, let me know. Cheers and good strumming.
The string is hanging up in the nut, and it's hard to tell just why without having the uke in hand. Perhaps the nut slot is too tight for whatever string(s) you're using. You could polish the nut slot by wrapping some 400 grit sand paper around a smaller uke string and slide it back and forth in the offending slot. You can use pencil lead as a lubricant. There is a dedicated lube called "Nut Sauce" available at some music stores. Or you can have a luthier look at it and take care of it...probably fairly quickly and for not too much money.

Virtually ALL factory instruments can benefit from a pro setup...even new ones. I recommend a 3 month check as being just normal. The instruments settle in, and not all are optimized for playability. You should have the strings changed as part of the setup.
Risa Uke Solid

After rebuilding and tuning pianos for twenty plus years, I've dealt with a lot of what coolkayaker1 is finding, on a larger scale.

There is no nut on the Uke Solid, so the string is not hanging up there. coolkayaker1 is on the right track looking to lubricate the slotted rod on the bridge side of the ukulele. The rod itself is a bit of a glitch.

The issue with the Risa Uke Solid is threefold. First, the nonspeaking portion of the strings, on the bridge side, is very long in relation to the speaking length. Second, the tuners are on this rather long part of the strings. When tuning the ukulele, the tension is adjusted on the nonspeaking length (as is always the case) but the length of this part of the string allows it to store up a little more tension than would a shorter length of string like you see between the nut and the tuners on a conventional ukulele. So, when you adjust the tension, a larger change is required before it transfers to the part of the string you actually hear. These two factors would be negligible at most if it weren't for the slotted rod over which this length of string passes. Its diameter and the slots themselves combine to create a considerable amount of friction in relation to the really short scale length of a ukulele. This is undoubtedly what coolkayaker1 is running into. It can be challenging to even out the tension over the entire length of the string.

I personally don't think there is a real "solution" to this glitch. Maybe lubricate. I won't do it with mine. Lubricants always have a con to go along with the pros. And, please don't use any abrasive to "smooth out" the slots. It will certainly accomplish just the opposite! If you rough up the slots, you create more friction. You will break strings and be unable to fix it without replacing the rod. I think the thing to do is learn to deal with it. When tuning, make small changes, let it adjust itself, take your time, and your tuning skills will improve. You will develop a feel for tuning this instrument making the process MUCH easier.

All this being said, the Uke Solid is really a fantastic instrument. It's not just an innovative piece of technology. It is a truly remarkable ukulele. I have bought and discarded lots of ukes over the years, and I'm always shopping. I have only seen a tiny handful of ukuleles (all hand-made and expensive) that can match its intonation. And it may have the longest sustain I've ever encountered. You can add effects of any sort you like, but simply amplified, it has a lovely, balanced sound.

First, ENJOY!!!
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That grooved bar that acts as the bridge does not rotate. The friction between the tight strings and the bar are causing your issue, as you have correctly surmised.

I used graphite on mine, which improved it quite a bit. I sprinkle it into the grooves when installing strings. Other than looking dusty, I've had no issues. I change strings about every 3-4 months.

On my RISA stick, the strings were wound on the tuners such that (wearing the 'uke, looking down at it) I turned the tuner counterclockwise to tighten the string. I rewound them in the reverse direction. This slightly reduces the amount of string wound around the bridge bar. A minor detail, but every little bit helped.

One other trick: to slightly tighten a string, I slightly turn the tuner, then press on the portion of the string between the bar and the tuner to give it a "nudge". This often works.

Good luck! The action and intonation of the stick are worth the trouble, IMO.
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