I’ve been watching loads of videos on setting up a ukulele recently and I thought I’d have a go at lowering the action on my Peavey concert ukulele. Here’s how I did it…
What’s the action?
The action on a ukulele is effectively the gap between the strings and the fretboard. Typically at the nut end the action will be quite low but the further you get up the neck it will be higher and this is where it really starts to affect your playing. If the strings are too high from the fretboard it will be difficult to play. If they’re too close then you may get some buzzing.
Step 1 – Measure the action
The first step I took was to measure the action on my ukulele. I did this by taking a metal ruler and measuring the gap between the top of the 12th fret and the strings above it. Actually this is more difficult than it sounds as all the rulers I own have a slight overlap before the measurements start of around 3mm or so. That said, I could tell the action was too high on my ukulele just by the feel of it (and also just by comparing it to my other ukuleles).
Step 2 – Remove the saddle
The next step I took was to take the saddle off the ukulele. The saddle is held in place by the strings, so simply by loosening the strings with the tuners the saddle will slide out nice and easy. And it did.
Step 3 – Put a marker on the saddle
With the saddle removed I then put a marker on it 1mm from the bottom. I used a fine line sharpie and the steel ruler that I’d measured the action with. I thought this would make a nice visible guide and stop me from sanding off too much and ending up with a buzzing ukulele.
Step 4 – Get sanding/filing
It’s time to get filing! I had a piece of fine sandpaper that I thought would do the job. I put the sandpaper on a flat surface and then tried to hold the saddle with even pressure whilst I sanded it down. This was actually tougher than I expected. There’s not a lot to grip on a saddle and even though I felt like I was keeping it pretty flat, that turned out to not be the case and I had to make some slight adjustments to even it out.
I found it worked much better using big long movements rather than a short back and forth motion to sand the saddle down.
Step 5 – Slide the saddle back into place and tighten strings
With your newly adjusted saddle you can simply slide it back into place on your bridge and tighten your strings back up. Now it’s time to get your ukulele back in tune. The strings will take a lot of tightening to get back to the right pitch. This is the step that took me the longest which tells you just how fast and easy the whole process is.
So there it is, a much simpler process than I anticipated and I successfully managed to lower the action on my ukulele with losing a finger or breaking my uke. Who’d have thought? I actually think I could afford to go a little bit further with my saddle and will probably repeat the above steps at some point to lower the action a little more.
If anyone has any tips on keeping the saddle flat whilst sanding I’d love to hear them!