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Steaming Apart the Neck Joint on the Gretsch Ukulele

Now it's back to the ukulele rebuild.  I've done so much work on this little Gretsch that I think it can be officially called a rebuild, rather than just a repair.

When we last left our patient I was muttering about the goof I made in regluing the neck to the body.  I was so concerned about the tightness of the neck-to-body joint that I was careless with aligning the neck laterally.  See the blue arrow in this picture; it's clear that the treble side of the neck is higher than the body.  The neck is twisted instead of being level.

So I need to take it apart and reglue it.

That's where my new-used Krups Bravo espresso maker comes in!

The best way to get a glued neck joint apart is to use steam.  All over the interweb and in guitar repair books, you'll see slightly different variations on this theme.  Get a source of steam under pressure, and inject it into the neck joint.  The steam will soften the glue and the joint can be pulled apart.

So I procured a used Krups espresso maker from Craigslist, also got a length of hose and a needle (from Stew-Mac), and I'm about to go to it.  You see the business end of this contraption in the picture.

You could use any small diameter automotive heater hose and probably a needle used to inflate footballs, but I was lazy and bought the Stew-Mac package deal.

We need to drill a small hole into the neck joint for the needle to go into.  This is an easy job with a 7/64 drill bit.

This would usually be after removing a fret, but since the end of my fretboard is missing for the time being, I can drill right into the neck/body joint.


This espresso maker neck joint steamer has a plug attachment you can put over the coffee outlet to make steam only.  Perfect!

I fill it up with water, turn it on, and in about 3 minutes, WE HAVE STEAM!

Using my noodle for once, I realize there may be water in the outlet at first.  I point the needle into a small bucket, and sure enough, hot water comes shooting out!

After a few seconds, it's all steam.  And it's under pressure!  How exciting is this?

Then I put the needle into the hole, and steam away.

There is some condensation that comes out along with the steam.  I find it's better to turn the uku on its side, and then upside down to help the water stay away from the body as much as possible.  I also have some clean rags to clean up the condensation.

 After two minutes of the steam bath treatment, the neck joint easily comes apart.  Since the joint is so simple, it just swivels apart.

On a guitar, with a dovetail, you'd need to use a jig to lever the joint apart.  I have a guitar that needs a neck reset, and this has been a good practice run with the steam. 

As it turns out, there is very little actual moisture on the mating parts.  The whole process took just a few minutes.

 
 
 
 

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