General Ukulele Care and Maintenance
New Instruments – Tune frequently! New nylon strings will stretch for a few days depending on how often it is tuned and played.
Tuners – Keep them tight. Grover 2B tuners require tightening of the screw at the end of each tuner with a Phillips or flat head screwdriver. Tighten until the tuner just begins to get difficult to turn. As the seasons change and the wood dries, tuners may become loose preventing the instrument from staying in tune. Peghed geared tuners are adjusted by pushing in to tighten, or pulling out to loosen. See installation instructions for more details.
Storage and Environmental – Reasonable changes in temperature and humidity should not affect the instrument. However solid top woods such as Koa or Spruce are generally more delicate and should be treated as any solid traditional wood instrument. Storage in a temperature/humidity-controlled environment is not necessary as long as extremes are avoided. Prolonged exposure to sunlight may fade some top finishes as will some lotions and body oils. Loosen strings for long term storage.
Cleaning – Use damp cloth with mild soap if necessary. General-purpose guitar polishes and cleaners are compatible. Most tops are finished with water borne lacquer; necks are finished with a tinted, wipe on poly.
Straps – The Flea soprano has a loop at the base of the neck – simply pass a chord or thin strap through and knot to size. Magic Fluke sells custom straps designed for our instruments using a hook and loop attachment to the body and tied at the headstock. Traditional strap hooks can also be added.
Fret Markers – If additional fret markers are needed, they can be added by painting – silver nail polish works great and is very durable on the top or side of the fret board. Inlayed side dots are always an option on new instruments.
Fingerboard Wear and Replacement – Nylon strings should not wear the molded polycarbonate fingerboard however if it shows wear at any time, it may be returned for replacement. If wound strings are used, such as ‘low G’ sets, a hardwood fingerboard is highly recommended. Because of the special glue required to bond the polycarbonate to the maple neck, we do not recommend unauthorized repairs.
Replacing Uke Strings – Any brand nylon ukulele strings will work, as long as they match the scale of the instrument. Generally nylon uke strings last a long time however if thin spots, roughness, or poor intonation is noticed, the strings should be replaced. Replacing one at a time will allow you to copy how the others are done and make sure the get the different gauges in the correct order. Knot the bridge end – double knot or figure 8 knot for smaller G and A strings to prevent slipping through the slots on the bridge. Needle nose pliers work well for pulling knots tight and wire cutters or scissors for trimming, leaving about ½” beyond the knot. Pass twice through hole in tuner and adjust slack such that you have at least 3 to 4 full turns on the peg (when up to pitch) with the string winding toward the head stock supporting the peg. Try not to exceed pitch when tuning and remember all new strings will stretch for a few days requiring constant tuning until they stabilize.
Low G strings – are generally larger in diameter and may require opening up the slots in both the nut and bridge. This is best achieved with a folded piece of sandpaper, carefully worked into the slot until the string passes thru easily. Its usually a good idea to mask the top or neck with tape to protect from scratching while sawing thru the slots with sandpaper or file. If the string does not pass thru the nut easily, it may bind and break or create difficulty in tuning. The goal is for the string to rest fully on the zero fret with the slot in the nut just big enough to guide the string and hold it in place. The string should pass thru the nut freely. If you have the opposite problem with the slot too wide causing the string to click back and forth while playing, you can pad the slot with a piece of tape or slip a small plastic sleeve from a piece of wire over the end and in the slot to take up the room. Similar to the sleeves used on violin strings to protect the bridge.
Action and Intonation – on new instruments we set the action at the 12th fret to be between .080” and .100” (2.0 to 2.5mm). Generally the instruments are very stable and should not require further adjustment however natural materials and changes in the environment may cause the neck or top to distort over time. If the bridge has a removable saddle, its fairly easy to make adjustments by loosening the strings, removing the saddle and sanding to lower, or shimming to raise the strings. One piece bridges can be filed to lower action if necessary. Too low action can cause buzzing on the frets; too high action may make it more difficult to fret and could cause distortion up the neck.
Top not flat or distorted – do not be alarmed. Tops distort because of the constant string tension creating torque on the bridge usually creating a slight depression between the bridge and sound hole. There is a fine line between over building the top with thick wood and heavy bracing - this results in a very durable and stable instrument but will compromise sound quality with a restricted top. The solid koa wood is most unpredictable since the grain is so variable, with the more pronounced and irregular grain tops showing the most distortion. Over time the instrument should stabilize and in most all cases, the action and intonation are unaffected.