Paying more money for your great-looking ukulele does not protect it from certain hazards, such as dryness. This is especially true with solid wood top/back/sides on your ukulele, as compared to laminated construction. Solid wood gives a beautiful look and sound but can crack along the grain when stressed under extreme conditions of dryness, hot/cold temperatures, sudden impact and physical pressure. Common sense should prevail to avoid these conditions. Here are some important guidelines:

Humidity:
Extremely dry (or very humid) environments are hazardous to your uke. In the winter months, heated houses or apartments with no humidifiers can produce very dry air that could crack your instrument. Also, the wood on your ukulele neck can shrink, causing the fret bars to protrude past the edge. This would cause the neck to be rough to touch, making a slide more difficult. Likewise, extremely dry, natural climates can cause the same damage. The solution is to humidify your house or music room, which would also make it more comfortable for you. As well, it doesn’t hurt to buy an instrument humidifier from a music store, that would be kept in the case or body of the ukulele (See pictures above). Tiny electronic hygrometers are now available to keep inside your case to check the humidity. Ideally, the relative humidity should be 45% to 55%, but you’ll be lucky to get it above 40% in extremely dry environments. Keep your instrument in a humidified, closed case during the dry season and wet down the instrument humidifiers often, as needed. Always follow the instructions on the kit. Gel packs are now available, that keep your case and uke at a controlled humidity around 45% but they have to be replaced after a couple months or so. Think about getting an instrument hygrometer to keep an eye on the humidity. It’s an invaluable tool for your instrument’s well-being in the winter months.

Keep your ukulele out of the direct sunlight. This would be direct, outside sunlight, or that which is coming in through the windows of your car or home. The heat generated, can dry out your uke causing it to crack or warp. Don’t store your ukulele in your car during cold winter months. Thermal and humidity stresses come into play here.
Keep your instrument away from heating or cooling vents. Provide your ukulele with plenty of fun sing-alongs, social interactions and tender loving care in order for it to fulfill its purpose in life.

Finishes:
Ukuleles come in several finishes to satisfy various preferences of musicians. The common finishes are gloss, satin, varnish (or oil) and paint. Although the “purists” might say that there is a difference in sound between gloss and satin finish ukes, one would be hard-pressed to consistently guess which identical uke models have a gloss finish and which have a satin finish in a blindfold test. You should consider everything else as well: sound, looks, playability, construction, strings, finish and reputation regarding quality. It’s really a package deal.

Gloss finishes (See picture above):
Use a very soft buffing cloth, such as the instrument buffing cloths sold in music stores. A dull finish can be brightened up with a guitar cleaner/polish if needed. Scratches usually can be disguised using a similar colour furniture oil. Use only the tiniest amount needed to cover the scratch and buff it in with a polish cloth.

Satin finishes (See picture above):

Generally, use just the dry buffing cloth, as an instrument or furniture polish might cause the finish to shine in some areas and not in others.

Varnish or oil finishes:
These labour-intensive finishes gives the most natural wood look and best sound. Some higher quality ukuleles are made this way. Natural wood resins are disolved in alcohol and hand-rubbed into the wood. Use a dry, soft buffing cloth to maintain the finish. A light buffing with lemon oil furniture polish will bring a dull finish up again.

Painted finishes:

These glossy, painted finishes are usually found on inexpensive or pricier, novelty ukes. For a limited budget, these ukes look very nice. Use the same polishing procedures of the gloss finished ukes above.

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