Crawls Backward (When Alarmed)

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1940 Martin 1T Tenor Ukulele Neck Reset

Would you believe that I'm still waiting on parts for the Jazzmaster project?  The irony is that the things I'm waiting on should have taken a few days to get here, but it's been 2 weeks.

Anyway, I started on a new project.

You may recall my cleaning-up-and-making-playable post on my prewar (ca. 1940) Martin 1T ukulele.

Well, after playing it recently, one of the tuning pegs went belly up.  The pegs have a molded plastic square that engages the post.  The plastic wears over time, to the point where it just slips.  So I decided to get some nice new Waverly tuners to replace all the tuners with.

The put-new-tuners-on-it project then proceeded to expand into a "neck reset, fix the fingerboard divots and refret it" extravaganza.

You can see how much the neck is underset in the picture on the left.  I measured the distance between the top of the bridge and the bottom of the straightedge at 3/32 of an inch.

The action is really too high, it's hard to play, and so I'm going to reset it.

I know what you might be thinking:  why reset a ukulele neck?  With nylon strings, high action can't be too bad, right?  Well, it's bad.  And the main issue is actually that a reset will raise the level of the strings above the top and let the bridge drive the top more - for more volume and tone.  And we like tone!

This is the first ukulele I've done a reset on.  But it turns out to be just like a guitar.

First we heat up the fret over the dovetail - in this case it's lucky fret 13.

It comes out very easily indeed.

Lookit all that green gunk.  The fingerboard was covered with that stuff originally - it's even down on the tang of the fret and in the fret slot!


"Darling, would you iron my ukulele for me?"

Here I use my Crawfish Instruments™ fingerboard extension heater to loosen up the glue under the extension.

Two minutes on the 'cotton' setting and the old hide glue is freed up.  While I was doing this, I kept thinking how much easier my Guild F-50 would have been if it came apart like this.

I drilled an access hole for the steamer needle near the outside of the fingerboard.  Pretty good guess - right at the bottom I felt it drop right in to the dovetail.

I'm saving the 70 year old rosewood chips to refill the hole later.

Now on to the neck removal jig to separate the neck from the body.

It took a little time - about 3 30-second applications of steam to loosen the neck.  Once I could start to feel it 'swivel' in the joint, I cranked up some pressure with the screw under the neck heel.


The neck popped right out.  Looks like a Martin guitar, only smaller.

The craftsmanship on this joint is beautiful  There was actually very little glue used on the dovetail - it was mainly held in by the very fine and tight joint.  Really wonderful.

I usually see a little blushing of the finish from the application of steam.  But don't panic!  It is easily fixed.

A little denatured alcohol on a cloth takes it right off.

The body is a light as a feather and the bracing is a work of art.  I'll post some pictures as I move along.  I always get a charge out of the great workmanship, and I have lots of respect for the craftsmen who put these fine instruments together when I work on them.  Not a glue drip to be seen!


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