After seeing the acoustic guitar I built, a co-worker asked if I would build him a ukulele. Well…yeah…probably…maybe…I don’t know. So, as an experiment, I made one, not for him, but as a gift to the guy that gave me the cherry I used to build the acoustic. That way, if it turned out like crap, nobody would need to know. It didn’t turn out like crap, so, here is the story…
Here’s what was left of the cherry after the acoustic build.
There looks to be enough here. A few pieces may have to be glued up for the neck, but it looks possible.
The top and back pieces were re-sawn, edge jointed, glued up and then planed to thickness.
Cherry planes soooo nicely!
The rosette channel perimeter is cut, then chiseled out.
A piece of walnut is soaked in water, carefully bent on the hot iron pipe into the rosette shape and then clamped into a form to dry. The roll of tape was the perfect size!
Rosette is glued in and planed/scraped flush. The sound hole is then cut out.
The bridge plate and a couple of braces are glued in place.
While the glue dries, the neck is cut to width…
Back bracing is radiused and glued to the back…
Top braces are shaped, the neck and heel blocks are glued on.
The sides are planed to thickness, soaked in water, bent on the hot pipe and then clamped to the template to dry.
Kerfing is glued to the side, notched for the braces then glued to the top.
The back-side edge of the sides is shaped to match the back piece radius.
The back is glued on.
More neck shaping as glue dries…
I couldn’t find the right size container to soak the walnut for the binding, so, I made one out of aluminum foil.
The fingerboard was too thin for side dots so that meant dots on the front, which I’ve never done before, nor did I have any dot material on hand. So, I cut a small piece of hard maple, chucked it into the drill press and used a file and sand paper to bring it down to ¼” diameter.
Then cut off very thin slices and glued them in.
Walnut is super brittle and was a pain to use for the binding…
…but it turned out pretty nice.
A bit of tiger maple for the end wedge.
The fingerboard is glued to the neck using a bicycle inner tube as a clamp.
A quick wipe with naptha before applying Tru-Oil.
6 coats of Tru-Oil, sanded up to 1,000 grit, then it’s buffed.
Bridge, tuners, nut, saddle and strings installed, shaped, etc…
Overall, I’m really happy with how this sounds and plays. The more I played it, the more fun it was! I was kind of surprised how long it took, but, it’s really not much different than building an acoustic guitar.
I gave it to the guy this morning and he was very grateful and excited. He's also a woodworker and really appreciated all that went into the build. It's those reactions that make it worth the effort.
The guy that asked if I could build one was kinda mad (or disappointed) it wasn't for him, but, hey, he didn't give me wood....hmmm...that just sounds so wrong.
Making your own instruments is metal.