redoing a makala- tuners nuts saddle and ?

santoser

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I managed to grab a makala baritone used locally for $35. The action is very high (really high), the tuners are grittier than the shoulder of the freeway, but it's in great overall condition and sounds decent (if a bit buzzy here and there)
I figure I have about $60 (plus my free time) to make this into a better playing uke. I can easily add a set of grover tuners and bone nut and saddle, and I'm not sure I need to really worry about much else. It has a rear strap button, maybe I'll add a second one.

But I have no idea if - well, do I want the grovers? (what's the difference between 8 and 9 series?) Would a set of Foxx waffle backs add style and not be annoying? Is there a particular cachet to this or that brand of bone nut and saddle blanks or do they all come from china anyway?

Is there anything else worth trying out? It's not my only uke, and while I certainly don't want to destroy it, it's probably the cheapest learning platform I'm likely to find
 
You might want to check the fretboard frets by laying a steel 36 inch ruler (or anything known to be perfectly flat) along the frets to see if they are even. Since you are hearing buzzes, the frets might need attention.
I did check with a 3 inch machinists block and it's good, over 8 inches there's a very slight bow so the middle frets will have a tiny gap- I didn't get out a feeler but it's in the visual coulple of thous.
 
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I’m of a similar mind towards minimal costs.

Clean, fettle and rebuild the tuners. Keep grease off of the worm and wheel, some friction between the two is needed. The tuners will likely do fine and if not then similar can be found cheaply on eBay.

Add a bone nut and saddle plus decent strings and you’ll be good to go. I’ve had a couple of Makala Ukes and as one friend said: “they’re all you need, really”; maybe not quite but they’re good workhorses that don’t cost much. What’s not to like?

Edit. I believed that a bush-less tuning machine head is used on the Makalas, something similar to these: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Ukulele-Machine-Strings-Instrument-Accessories/dp/B08GQ71FX2
 
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Unless you’re among the majority who avoid friction tuners like the plague, I suggest that you post a “wanted” thread in UUF Marketplace for a set of “pull-off / lightly used” KoAloha friction tuners. I’m a fan of the analog feel and am very happy with those I purchased earlier this year, to replace the cheap, side-ear geared ones that came with Yowling Tom’s Kraftex (Big River) DIY kit.
 
A VERY high action, AND fret buzz, does not add up. Seriously.
Lowering the action will only serve to make any buzz worse. You need to buy/borrow a fret rocker to look for an individual high fret here and there.
I own a fret rocker, a couple of fret crowning files, a couple of abrasive fret rubbers and some steel wool. A little bit of fret maintenance is a job I do, every time I change strings. A file to address sharp fret ends is also useful.
The single biggest factor in how well an instrument plays for the musician, is how good a condition the frets are in.
 
The fundamental difference between Grover 8 series and 9 series is the length of the tuning post, and which one you pick depends on the thickness of the headstock your fitting them to, as well as issues such as how much string break angle you will need over the nut.
Shorter posts may not give you enough post to wind the string onto. Then again, longer posts may give you no string break angle over the nut.
 
A VERY high action, AND fret buzz, does not add up. Seriously.
Lowering the action will only serve to make any buzz worse. You need to buy/borrow a fret rocker to look for an individual high fret here and there.
I own a fret rocker, a couple of fret crowning files, a couple of abrasive fret rubbers and some steel wool. A little bit of fret maintenance is a job I do, every time I change strings. A file to address sharp fret ends is also useful.
The single biggest factor in how well an instrument plays for the musician, is how good a condition the frets are in.

I probably misused a technical term "buzz" in my first post. I don't really think there's a fret buzz, I honestly feel like I'm having a problem with the saddle height in some areas. (and also, in some ranges, possibly my consistency. I have to really ride up on the frets in a way I don't on the pono)

I just verified that the makala also has a truss rod (!) so I'll get out some bench tools and see if I can measure everything a bit more mechanically.
 
I’m of a similar mind towards minimal costs.

Clean, fettle and rebuild the tuners. Keep grease off of the worm and wheel, some friction between the two is needed. The tuners will likely do fine and if not then similar can be found cheaply on eBay.

Add a bone nut and saddle plus decent strings and you’ll be good to go. I’ve had a couple of Makala Ukes and as one friend said: “they’re all you need, really”; maybe not quite but they’re good workhorses that don’t cost much. What’s not to like?

Edit. I believed that a bush-less tuning machine head is used on the Makalas, something similar to these: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Ukulele-Machine-Strings-Instrument-Accessories/dp/B08GQ71FX2
yes, it's just a plastic washer at the base.

No harm in cleaning up the tuners before chucking them, of course.
 
The fundamental difference between Grover 8 series and 9 series is the length of the tuning post, and which one you pick depends on the thickness of the headstock your fitting them to, as well as issues such as how much string break angle you will need over the nut.
Shorter posts may not give you enough post to wind the string onto. Then again, longer posts may give you no string break angle over the nut.
Yes, that is correct. Although the 8's and 9's are "economy tuners" they both work fine. Many builders here in Hawaii, who are not trying to build mega buck ukes use them. All parts of the 8's and 9's are interchangeable. They are the same tuner basically. The 9's can be either nickel or gold and have black or white buttons. They have a very short post. The 8's have a longer post and with black, white, or metal buttons. They come in nickel, and I'm not sure if they are available in gold. I used to sell a lot of Grover's to builders and Grover changes their models fairly often.
 
IIRC Makala have tuners with white plastic bushings...which look cheap IMO. If going the rebuild route (and it works) you might replace them with some metal bushings. But this is purely cosmetic.
That is correct. I had a Makala concert that buzzed. I replaced the tuners with Grover 6s (frictions). Problem solved.
 
Waiting on a few tools to work on things, I managed to adjust the truss rod enough to get the action at fret 12 from 4.24 to 3.55 mm. I may sand the existing plastic saddle while I'm waiting for the bone set to come in and see where I'm at (still high at fret 1 also)

(I did smooth out the casting rib off the top of the plastic saddle when I had the strings loose and that may have helped- but not solved solved the buzz which I mistakenly led everyone to believe was fret buzz but I'm not sure what that type of buzz is called)

The strings are just buried in the nut, so maybe I'll be hacking at that, too.

I'll pull the strings once I get the files in. maybe this isn't such a project. OTOH, as cheap as it is, I still may replace the tuning and add a pickup. and mess with the non existent finish and stuff.
 
I scored a Makala Tenor on a good deal. Replaced the nut and saddle with hand fitted bone replacements. And replaced the tuners with some DerJungs that looked, felt and were as smooth as grover 9B's. Totally changed the ukulele.
Re-homed it to my good friend of 34 years. Made an excellent starter uke for him.
 
I'll join you on your Makala baritone mod journey, @santoser. I saw a demo model at Sweetwater and decided it's time for a uke project. I've already got bone nut/saddle blanks and a set of Gotoh UPT's I can put on it. That and a fret level/dress and it should be good to go.

Sweetwater had pictures of the actual uke so they could show the dings that made it a demo model. The sticker on the back of the headstock said 'Made in Indonesia'. All the other ones I'm seeing say 'Made in China'. They use to come with a rosewood fretboard/bridge but now advertise it as walnut. I wonder if this is old enough to have the rosewood on it. I didn't pay attention to the fretboard wood when I had the chance. As soon as I bought it, they removed the pictures. I should have downloaded them first.

I see you haven't been around for a few weeks. Hopefully you're busy with the project and will report back with your progress.
 
I am slowly working on this- got all caught up in holiday stuff.
I've messed with the tuners and they are better but I think I'm going to swap them out anyway. I do have the bridge and saddle parts in now.
 
How is your project coming?
I'm one of those bargain-hunter-slash-bottom-feeders who has a hard time resisting the urge to take an inexpensive uke and trying to make it decently playable. Just received a Harmonia pear uke that has a few issues, so I'm also waiting on the parts to arrive while I plot its resurrection.
 
How is your project coming?
I'm one of those bargain-hunter-slash-bottom-feeders who has a hard time resisting the urge to take an inexpensive uke and trying to make it decently playable. Just received a Harmonia pear uke that has a few issues, so I'm also waiting on the parts to arrive while I plot its resurrection.
The following thread on your model Uke might interest you: https://forum.ukuleleunderground.com/threads/nud-harmonia.155194/

I‘ve made quite a few relatively inexpensive Ukes sound a darn sight better and found it very satisfying. Of course you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear but you can make a purse; from simple materials you can - almost always - make something useful / more useful.
 
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