Monday, February 15, 2010

Hobby Blog: Building a Ukulele

I thought a cheap and relatively painless entry into the world of musical instrument building and repair would be to build an instrument from a kit, and I figured you couldn't get much simpler than the Grizzly Ukulele kit.
The kit came with a lot of the work done for you, which is nice for the rank novice. The body was already shaped and together, and the frets were set in the fretboad, so the builder only has to attach the neck, glue on the fretboard and set the bridge saddle. The last was the scariest part, because if the bridge was not in the right place, the instrument would never play in tune.
I did a bit of poking around online before I started and found that the fret placement on the provided fretboard tended to be a little off, making the gap between the nut and the first fret a bit too long. This would cause chords to play out of tune. With that in mind, I used the fret calculator on the Stewart-MacDonald web site to work out the appropriate distance and shaved the right amount off the top of the board.
From there I did all the necessary sanding and prepped the headstock for my inlay, which I decided would be a shiny new penny, by carving out a coin-shaped hollow.

From there I glued the neck in place, and set the penny in the headstock, clamping the whole thing together with tapeAfter that, I decided to reinforce the neck with a wood screw, which I would later cover with a chip of wood to make it a bit less obvious
For the bridge, I followed the old carpenter's maxim of "measure twice, cut once." I measured and marked it in pencil before finally setting it down, which wasn't quite as frightening as I thought it would be. Finally, after giving all the glue to dry, I finished the whole think with a few coats of teak oil, which I thought brought out the color of the mahogany body nicely.

I substituted a new set of strings for the really terrible ones provided in the package and... well, it sounds like a $25 ukulele, but at least I can say I built it myself!



Larry Lane said...

Great stuff. I always wanted to build my own guitar. Perhaps a Ukulele would be a better thing to start on.

Finding a "Done for You" kit is the way to go. Thanks for the tip!

Sometimes, the lyrics just doesn't matter as in this video....

Albie Vickers aka said...

Hey Matt. How cool this is! I been playing bass guitar years and im 70 but its all hard work and heavy so I thought I would produce some sort of short scale bass. This I have done using both a Stratocaster and a Telecaster copies! But the Uk, looks too small for my hands. I live in Spain and interest is non existent here for Uks,!

Any advise you can give me will be appreciated thanks! ziggybass