The string height at the first fret has always been way too high on my cheap starter ukulele. It made playing chords such as Bb pretty difficult, needing quite a lot of pressure to produce a clean sound. This can be solved by either lowering the nut or filing the string slots deeper.
I’ve had my Bowley for a while now and the yellow Vintage hasn’t had a lot of love, so I decided to have a go at lowering the action myself by sanding down the nut. You can see here the measurement before any modification:
First up, if you’re planning on trying at home this I take to responsibility for any damage you may do to yourself or your instrument! Haha! But anyway, here’s some tools you may need for the job (you may need glue also):
First you need to loosen the strings back (or remove) so you can get at the nut to knock it off. Knocking it off is fairly straightforward. Just give it a gentle love tap with a length of wood and a hammer. Strength of your tap will depend on how hard it’s glued down:
I measured previously and knew how much plastic I had to grind away so then it was just a matter of sanding it down, putting it back to check, sanding it down again, etc. Oh yeah some uke’s use bone, ivory or wooden nuts, which may be more difficult to sand.
Once you’ve got it down to the height you’re after, sand all the edges smooth, fix it back in place and then re-string your instrument. Now sit back, strum a fancy tune and marvel at your clever handywork:
So there you have it, simple steps for lowered string height and improved playability on your cheap uke!