worn ukulele neck?
Posted 2018-11-28 2:55 PM (#545971)
Subject: worn ukulele neck?

December 2003
Posts: 778

Location: Canada

So this is not about Ovation but I am hoping that tye BFLG masters can provide some opinion. Last week while I was on Hawaii for vacation I found this (at least 40 years) old 6-string ukulele. It has a lot of mojo, and the Koa fretboard is quite worn and discolored between the frets, with a noticeable "pit" at almost every spot up to about the 6th fret. I think that it plays great and all notes can be fretted cleanly, but cosmetically it looks a bit too rugged for my liking. I assume that there are few approaches ranging from simple clean and polish, to sanding between the frets, to a complete fretboard replacement. At this point I don't really consider the costly replacement option, but am wondering if a sanding and leveling would be reasonable to remove the numerous "pits" or if there is way to also fill those "pits" to keep the dimensions of the fretboard as close to original. 

Top of the page Bottom of the page
Posted 2018-11-28 4:17 PM (#545975 - in reply to #545971)
Subject: Re: worn ukulele neck?

December 2001
Posts: 10397

Location: NJ
it can be filled but it will never look the same.

I'd leave it
play it
love it
Top of the page Bottom of the page
Posted 2018-11-29 4:45 PM (#545978 - in reply to #545971)
Subject: Re: worn ukulele neck?

October 2005
Posts: 3860

Location: Utah
Some amount of sanding the fretboard is possible. The frets would have to all be pulled, then the fretboard beam sanded, then refretted. The limiting factor would be how thick the fretboard is. If it is thick enough, the divots could be sanded out.

Sanding does clean up the fretboard quite a bit even if you don't take much off. It wouldn't clean up any remaining divots but it would clean up the level parts of the wood.

Stewmac had a video filling the divots in a darker wood, either Rosewood or Ebony. The fills were visible. I would guess Koa would show the fills much worse.
Top of the page Bottom of the page
Love O Fair
Posted 2018-11-29 6:55 PM (#545979 - in reply to #545971)
Subject: Re: worn ukulele neck?

February 2016
Posts: 1139

Location: What week?
I'm with Al. if it still frets nicely I'd leave it. Plus, if it doesn't plane out like to you hope it will (which I've had happen) then you're stuck with it. That's just my own superstitions speaking, with letting the gods of historical aesthetic character have their way.

Edited by Love O Fair 2018-11-29 7:12 PM
Top of the page Bottom of the page
Posted 2018-11-30 10:29 AM (#545980 - in reply to #545971)
Subject: Re: worn ukulele neck?

October 2014
Posts: 200

A lot depends on the nature of the fretboard. If the fretboard and neck are one piece, like my 1957 Kamaka, I'd leave it alone. If it's a separate, glued-on fretboard, it may be thick enough to sand and refinish or even replace. Personally, I'm with Love O Fair, it's a 40 year old uke, not a new one so relax and play it. In any case, there's no downside to a gentle clean and polish. Under no circumstances would I attempt to fill the "pits".
Top of the page Bottom of the page
Posted 2018-11-30 6:08 PM (#545984 - in reply to #545971)
Subject: RE: worn ukulele neck?

October 2012
Posts: 869

Location: Yokohama, Japan


Nice comments everybody! Hope you don't mind my chiming in d'ovation. Since your Uke is "at least 40 years old" it probably has a flat fretboard? If it does, radiusing the fretboard will take out the pits (at least near the edges), and make the Uke even easier to play. When working on my 1868-5 Rebuild (in its final stages now), the fretboard was in pretty bad shape. It had the usual Ovation standard 10" radius, but Yamaha's 16" radii feel pretty comfortable to me; so the 1868 fretboard radius was compromised and sanded to 12".

Here's a pic before the radiusing. You can see there is a lot of grain lifting on the fretboard (unfortunately, the pits in the 4th fret and lower position are not pictured, but the pits were kind of deep in the shape of the open "D Major" chord.

1868 fretboard

After sanding with the 12” radiusing block, the fretboard really cleaned up nicely. The larger radius meant the middle area was sanded down with little change in the overall depth of the fretboard at the edges. To my pleasant surprise, the pits were also removed quite nicely.

radiused 1868

Here's a Yammy (CPX10) in the rebuild process right now. The fretboard on this one was severly pitted. Even after resurfacing, there was one pit just before the 1st fret that was too deep to sand out. Yammy fret boards are pretty thick so "thickness is not an issue here"; however, if I sanded deep enough to eliminate the pit, the position markers would be at risk!

Yammy pit

This one will be filled with a mixture of rosewood dust and CA glue. It will not be invisible, but will be hidden to all but the most suspecting eyes. Whenever I sand any kind of wood, I make sure to keep plenty of sawdust in small sealable baggies. When labeled properly, they really come in handy when something like this happens.

One of the things you'll notice is that the pit stands out if not filled, and looks pretty fugly. With 40 years of use, if your Uke has 4 or 5 of these across the fretboard, it will look pretty funky even if you fill it with a Koa/CA mixture.

Don't know if this is helpful at all, but I guess that's my 2 cents worth! Ooh, class starts in 5 minutes! Yikes! Good luck d'ovation.

Edited by arumako 2018-11-30 6:09 PM
Top of the page Bottom of the page