Crawls Backward (When Alarmed)

IconProjects, musings about guitar builds, guitar repairs, vintage tube amplifiers, old radios, travel, home renovation, and other stuff.

Minor Set-up - Vintage Martin Tenor Ukulele

I probably don't need to give much introduction about Martin guitars.  They are legendary for quality and tone.  But you may or may not be aware that Martin has made ukuleles pretty consistently since about 1915.  And, yes, they are as renowned as their guitars.  I've been window shopping them for a few years, and I recently took the plunge and am overjoyed to be a Martin ukulele owner.

I'll do a post with some 'beauty' pictures soon.  But first I found I needed to do a minor setup to get it playing perfectly.  Yes, despite as scary a thought it was for me to be taking a file to this fine instrument, it had to be done.

This one is a late-1940s to early 1950s model.  Martin didn't put serial numbers on its ukuleles until recently, so we have to rely on the features to give an approximate date.

The action is a tad high, so I'm going to shave a little off the saddle and also lower the action at the nut.

I want to take extra care not to hack that beautiful finish accidentally, so I use low-tack masking tape around the bridge.

One wonderful feature about this ukulele is the bridge saddle - it's ivory!  Martin used ivory up until 1965.  I like bone for saddles and nuts; but ivory is even harder and is preferred.  Of course, it's illegal now, which makes me feel even more fortunate to have this instrument.  (Not that it's now illegal.  The fact that it has ivory on it).

It's no different working with ivory than bone.  Just a few swipes to take a couple 64ths of an inch off the saddle.  You see I got  some towels to protect the top even more.

Here's an idea I've pondering for a while.  Then I read where Frank Ford uses this technique, and I realized it was a good idea.

All I'm doing is using a fret crowning file to round the top of the saddle.  For some reason, I had a heck of a time rounding the saddle on my baritone ukulele, and this file works perfectly.  I still touched up the edges with a fine saddle file to make sure there were no 'square' edges to catch a string.

Then some finish sanding with 600 grit paper and we're done.

The string height at the nut is a little high, so I make a few passes with my nut files to deepen the slots.

A side note:  the nut is made out of ebony.  Another mark of the quality materials and great build quality this ukulele has. 

This is also a good excuse to use this abrasive cord I just got from Stew-Mac.  It's like a string that's sandpaper!  (Or is it a sandpaper string?)  It works well - but I should get some in a larger diameter too - this is a little thin.

Then I string it up and we're ready to go.


Post a Comment 0 comments:

Post a Comment