Alvarez AU70C Setup & Pickup Installation

Worked on this uke last month.


The AU70C belongs to the missus and it’s been sitting there for some time. I figured it’s time to install the last few pickups I have and do a setup too.


It’s a pretty well-made uke with a solid spruce top and laminate rosewood b/s, and really aesthetically pleasing with the satin finish, abalone rosette and herringbone binding on the body.


Lowering nut height

The strings at nut tend to sit a lil’ high so I guess it’s better to sand down the nut instead of filing each slot individually. I used a flat chip board and gently knocked off the nut.


Warning: Be very gentle or you risk breaking off the headstock. Most nuts should have some glue to hold it in place and it may also be a good idea to heat up the area before removal.


Sanding nut and saddle

So we got both the nut and saddle ready to be filed down.


Just a tiny wad of glue will do.


And we have the nut nicely glued in.


I took the time to give the fretboard and frets some TLC. Ax Wax and steel wool perform their magic with Bowie overseeing the work.


Installing JJB 110 pickup

Drilling for the end jack

We need a 12mm hole at the base. Always tape up to prevent cracks on the finish. The exact point to drill was located using a simple caliper and ruler.

I work from 3mm – 5mm – 8mm – 10mm and finally 12mm. This is actually faster than using a step bit. We’ll clean up the wood dust later.

OK, we got a nice 12mm hole.

Some filing is needed to smooth out the insides which will have some splinters. I use a cheap small file for this.

The trusted copper wire is inserted from the end…

Then it exits via the sound hole for me to attach the endjack…

And finally I “fish” it back out at the bottom end.

Screw in the end pin and it’s done.

Since there’s only one transducer to be glued, it’s a fairly easy job. But try to glue the single transducer as near as the centre of the bridge plate.

Restrung with Aquila Nylguts

Tune up, and we’re good to go. 🙂 Bowie had been the sole assistant for this project.

Let’s see when this will get a chance to be played plugged-in.



Grateful Dead Ukes by Alvarez

Alvarez has launched the Grateful Dead ukuleles with some cool artwork.


A quick look at the build shows an all-laminate construction so I guess this is more for the fancy printing.

Still cool if you’re a fan.

Read more:

*photo from Alvarez

Alvarez MDA70 Setup

This came home last month because I’m a big fan of Alvarez and the MDA70 is just too beautiful to pass.


First launched in 2014, the revamped Masterworks Series features some cool appointments such as gold tuners and abalone body binding.


The MDA70 is the all-solid dread with Sitka top and rosewood body. Here’s a look at the beautiful maple binding with 1.5mm abalone lines. Wow.

Let’s get down to dialing in a good setup.

Nut slots


The thicker strings A & E seem to sit too high so I used a needle file to sand down the slots. How do you determine if the slots are high? Capo on the middle of 3rd fret and check for clearance between string and 1st fretwire. The clearance here should be minimal.

Neck Relief


I also straightened the neck a lil’ on this. Stock relief seem a tad too high. Remember, righty tightey, lefty loosey.

Saddle height


Not sure if its intentional, but the stock saddle is too “straight” at the thicker strings. So I dropped in a generic bone saddle that has a 16″ radius. Of course, further adjustments will be made later to achieve a better setup. That’ll be the last few steps.

Bearclaw Special


The rosewood fretboard got some TLC from steel wool, lemon oil and Ax Wax. Harvey was assistant today. He said the 12th fret inlay looks classy. I agree.


Pencil lead for the nut slots.


Restrung with Elixirs and added new plastic bridge pins. Yes, you read correctly, I have been turning to plastic pins lately. I actually prefer them over the stock ebony pins. I know, strange but true.


Just look at the sexy chocolate grains on the back. Wow. Alvarez will not make anymore guitars with rosewood due to CITES, so I’m just gonna keep this one for collection’s sake.


One more look at the maple/abalone binding.


My humble No.1 came out to pose. I love Alvarez. They make really nice stuff for the money.


Bob was happy to pose with the new kid on the sofa.

Closing notes:

Retailing at $990, the MDA70 really changes the game. For the money, you’re getting similar specs as American-made guitars in the $4-$5k zone. I would say that’s pretty impressive and one wouldn’t be able to hear or feel the big difference in price by playing them.

This guitar is very loud and powerful. Ironically, I find that it lends itself more towards plucking than strumming.

I do wish that it’s more “opened”. Perhaps that can be solved as it gets played more. But that probably won’t happen because I’d very much prefer the guitar to have a narrower 1-11/16 nut instead of the 1-3/4 found here.

Oh well, what to do? Guitars makers need to make what the majority wants.

I’m just glad to have this to accompany my No.1. 🙂




Alvarez-Yairi Honduran

New release from Alvarez. These guitars feature Honduran mahogany seasoned for minimum 40 years.


DYM60HD pictured above. A look at the seasoned mahogany back below.


The FYM60HD (below) has s shorter 25″ scale.


And the FYM66HD (below) sports an all mahogany construction.


These are all premium models that come with Gotoh 510 tuners and deluxe hardshell cases. Not exactly affordable but one can be sure anything from Alvarez-Yairi are winners.

*photos from Alvarez



New Alvarez MD60BG

Alvarez has added the new MD60BG into their Masterworks Series.


The new guitar features spruce top with khaya mahogany body and should be a direct replacement for the old MD60 which discontinued in the last Masterworks revamp.

Along with the use of pau ferro for fretboard and bridge, Guitarbear is also sad to see the MDA70 being taken off the catalogue. Obviously this is a move forced by the CITES situation. Perhaps we should be coming to terms that rosewood guitars are truly a thing of the past.

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*photo from Alvarez