How to install a strap button. Don't be afraid!

  1. 7 years ago

    Howdy U-T family.

    So we had this poll up in another thread about who uses a strap.
    According to the poll, a few of you think Jake Shimabukuro and Brittni Paiva are weak because they uses straps

    But by far the most responses to the question “Do you use a strap” were for “No, but I'm starting to think maybe I should.” At least one of you is not sure how to install a strap button in your ukulele. (Not that I would call out Thongar by name in this thread … oops.) Well, since I cannot afford airfare to Australia to help install one, here are some step-by step instructions instead.

    NOTE: these instructions apply to a standard wood ukulele that has a tail block. Some ukuleles have plastic bodies (lookin’ at you, Dolphin). Some wood ukuleles don’t have tail blocks, either (though that is rare). You will need another approach for those, and I’m happy to post about that too if you’d like.

    So here is a list of what you need:

    1. A strap button with screw

    [attachment=2]Buttons.jpg[/attachment]

    OK, I’m going to have to interrupt here for a little more info.

    Strap buttons are cheap and easily available. I got a pair for $1US each here in Columbus at Bluegrass Musicians’ Supply. http://bluegrassmusicianssupply.com/ They had a nice selection of ukuleles, too!

    You could order online at StewMac:
    http://www.stewmac.com/shop/Hardware,_p ... ttons.html

    or google shopping:
    https://www.google.com/search?q=strap+b ... 66&bih=636

    or ebay:
    http://www.ebay.com/sch/i.html?_trksid= ... s&_sacat=0

    Or your local music store. (I vote local. Did I mention that little bluegrass shop in Columbus? I walked in during an impromptu concert. Happens all the time there, I hear.)

    We now return you to your regularly scheduled list of stuff you need:

    1. A strap button with screw
    2. Some felt or other cushiony material
    3. Scissors
    4. A marker
    5. Masking tape
    6. A drill bit (probably 3/32” or 2.38 mm – more on that later)
    7. A drill
    8. A manual screwdriver

    [attachment=1]What-you-need.jpg[/attachment]

    Your first step is to mark and cut some of the felt to a size slightly smaller than the diameter of your button. This will be a washer to protect the finish and add compression to hold the hardware in. (Some buttons come with felt washers – lucky you!)

    [attachment=0]mark-felt.jpg[/attachment]

  2. Next, find the spot on the end of the ukulele where you want to install the button. NOTE: you need to make sure that you are going to seat the screw into the tail block. The tail block is located at the center of the butt of the ukulele.

    Check out this link at Kepasa custom ukes for a better idea of the location of the tail block: http://kepasaukulele.com/building-pages/fran.htm

    If you are not sure if your uke has a tail block, try tapping on the butt of the uke to tell where there is a solid piece, or use a flashlight (or torch to those of you who don’t speak American) to peek inside.

    Aim to put your end button in the middle of the ukulele, halfway between the top and the bottom.

    [attachment=2]Butts-haha-i-said-butts.jpg[/attachment]

    NOTE: the Makala Dolphin on the right is a plastic body so different instructions apply. (Also, the button is centered but the blue stripe is not.)

    Next, cover the installation area with masking tape. This will protect the finish and keep the thin wood from splintering while you drill. Mark the drilling spot with the marker.

    [attachment=1]Mainland-marked.jpg[/attachment]

    [attachment=0]Dolphin-marked.jpg[/attachment]
    (Did I mention the Dolphin has no tail block?)

    Take your time. Make sure you have the right spot. You can take off the tape and start over if you need to, but you can’t undrill a hole. (Well, you could fill it with putty, but you don’t want to have to do that.)

  3. Now you need to make sure you have the right size drill bit. It seems that strap buttons are mostly standard, so the 3/32”-2.38 mm bit I used should be the right size for you. BUT MAKE SURE YOU CHECK!

    Here’s how to check: hold the bit in front of the screw. You should not see the shaft of the screw behind the bit, but you should see the threads sticking out beyond it.

    [attachment=1]bit-fit.jpg[/attachment]

    This is very important because you want the screw to seat and hold firmly, but you do not want to split the wood as you screw it in. Drilling the right size hole will let the threads bite in and hold, but will keep the shaft from pushing the grain apart.

    Now, to make sure you drill to the right depth, find out how far the screw sticks out from the button and flag your bit with a piece of tape to that length. (Actually, just a smidge shorter to account for the narrow point.)

    [attachment=0]Bit-flag.jpg[/attachment]

  4. The scene is set. The victim is ready. Are you nervous? Don’t worry, you’ll do fine. Take a breath.

    To start the hole, press the tip of the screw into the center of the spot you marked. This will create a divot that can seat the drill bit in the right spot to start drilling.

    Now, put the bit in the drill and get ready to drill. DRILL SLOWLY. If you start too fast, there is a risk that the bit will skitter across the uke and mar the finish. Make sure the tip of the bit is well seated and drill slowly. (Most drills these days are variable speed so this is no problem.)

    Once you have a start on the hole and the bit is in the wood, you can drill a bit faster, but there is no need to go full speed. You aren’t framing a house, here.

    Push moderately – not too hard – and stop when the tape flag you made touches the wood. You should keep the drill moving slowly to pull the bit back out.

    Now, put the screw through the button, put on the felt washer you made (take a moment to see that it does not stick out from under the button all ugly-like) and put the screw in the hole. Voila!

    Use a manual screwdriver to drive the screw. A power-driver will go too fast and might go too far, splitting the wood. BAD!

    Drive the screw in until it’s firmly seated and the button does not easily spin around – but you don’t have to go as far as you can. Don’t strain yourself or, more importantly, the wood. Far enough is far enough.

    Next, you need to …

    … wait a minute … you’re done!

  5. thongar

    6 Sep 2012 Moderator

    Thanks Pootsie! I'll most likely get this done during the holidays.

  6. I exclusively use Schaller strap-locks on all of my instruments, so I have dozens of strap buttons laying around. I should do this.

  7. "BeZo" I exclusively use Schaller strap-locks on all of my instruments, so I have dozens of strap buttons laying around. I should do this.

    I ran across some of those when I began looking around. Very cool and probably awesome for a full-size e-bass. But way more than you need for a uke, I think

  8. "pootsie"

    "BeZo" I exclusively use Schaller strap-locks on all of my instruments, so I have dozens of strap buttons laying around. I should do this.

    I ran across some of those when I began looking around. Very cool and probably awesome for a full-size e-bass. But way more than you need for a uke, I think

    No, I wouldn't need strap-locks on a ukulele. I don't really even need a strap. I would just use one of the buttons I took off of one of my other instruments when I put the Schallers on it. That's why I have a million strap buttons tucked away in a drawer.

  9. Excellent guide. All I would add to that is that I tend to drill a very thin pilot hole first as a guide for the main drill. Also helps stop splintering and provides a guide for the next drill.

  10. UT

    10 Sep 2012 Administrator

    wonderful, many thanks !!

  11. Woo! ow I won't have to use the ole' guitar-strap-with-rubber-bands-to-hold-it-all-together trick.

  12. Also, one thing I found that works just as well as a strap is to take your shirt off. No, really. When I'm at home, I play the ukulele without my shirt on because my skin is humid so that the uke doesn't slip off when I'm pressing it against my chest.

  13. "Joberst" Also, one thing I found that works just as well as a strap is to take your shirt off. No, really. When I'm at home, I play the ukulele without my shirt on because my skin is humid so that the uke doesn't slip off when I'm pressing it against my chest.

    Some of us want to play in public, you know

  14. Last week ewe played a charity gig for a Cancer Care group - audience were mainly over 70. Not sure that would have gone down all that well, and there are ladies in our group.....

  15. "pootsie"

    "Joberst" Also, one thing I found that works just as well as a strap is to take your shirt off. No, really. When I'm at home, I play the ukulele without my shirt on because my skin is humid so that the uke doesn't slip off when I'm pressing it against my chest.

    Some of us want to play in public, you know

    You mean you don't usually walk around shirtless in public?

  16. I HAVE to try this! Thanks so much!

  17. 4 months ago

    Could you post info on how to add a strap button to a uke with a plastic body? I got a flight travel uke and would love to add a strap button to it, but am nervous to drill into the plastic...

  18. @wetzelkm Could you post info on how to add a strap button to a uke with a plastic body? I got a flight travel uke and would love to add a strap button to it, but am nervous to drill into the plastic...

    I would love to help you with this, I am new to the forums but I do have a small guitar repair shop and about 20 years of experience. I would strongly advise against doing anything without first seeing some pictures and getting more information about this uke. What make/model is it? Is the location you want to place the strap button a solid block of plastic or is it hollow? Do you have some simple hand tools and access to a hardware store?

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