Friday, September 14, 2012

Vintage Harmony Ukulele: replacing the nut

need to do some sanding to get this old glue off
There we go!  Sanded, cleaned up, and ready for a new nut.
The next step to getting this old Harmony uke back into playing condition was to install a new nut.  If you need to replace the nut on your uke, taking off the old one is pretty simple.  Any nuts I've taken off in the past haven't been glued on super well and easily popped off with a pair of pliers and a little bit of force.  There was no nut on this one, which allowed me to skip that step.

As you can see in the first picture, there is still a bit of dry glue where the previous nut was sitting.  This needs to be sanded off before installing the
new nut otherwise the bond won't be as strong and could effect the action at the nut.  It doesn't take long - just take some medium grit sandpaper (I had some 150 on hand) and sand that old stuff off.

The second picture shows the old glue sanded off.  Make sure to take a damp cloth and clean off any small particles that still remain on the surface.  After it dries, you're ready to put the new one on.
I used a couple of small spring clamps to help strengthen the bond

Ready to go!

As seen in the 3rd pic, I used some light clamps to make the bond a bit stronger as the glue set.  I just used some Titebond wood glue to hold the new nut on.  This has always worked fine for me.  Some folks like to use an epoxy.   These materials (bone and plastic) don't tend to stick very well with any kind of glue or epoxy, so just do what works best for you.
Also, it's a good idea to have a damp cloth around to clean away the excess glue once you set the nut in place.

If you're not sure where to buy a new nut, here's where I found these on Ebay.  I got a pack of 8 slotted buffalo bone nuts for just a few dollars.  Bone tends to have better acoustic properties and is a more durable material than the plastic nuts which come on cheaper ukuleles.  If you're replacing or upgrading it's a good route to go.

Ta da!  After about four hours of dry time, you should be good to go.  Pretty simple stuff, eh?  Now it's time to string this sucker up.  At this point, I thought I'd slap some strings on it and be good to go...little did I know that disaster was lurking around the corner (insert dramatic music here).  I'll get into that on the next post. 

Side note: I found out a bit more about this particular Harmony RB-3521 ukulele thanks to one of the awesome members on the Ukulele Underground forum.  
"The RB model number prefix was used by the company that was making the Harmony ukes in Japan in the late 70's. I have a "RB" Baritone that was made (according to the label) in Japan in 1978, while the company went out of business in 1975."

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