View Full Version : A tenor Ukulele build

09-23-2014, 10:33 AM
I decided to give building a ukulele ago and I am now having a love hate relationship with the whole project.

First I didn't have the tools, table-saw, thicknesser, router table so I had to make them.
Then I had to make the jigs and bits I even made a soundhole cutter.

These were all made by harvesting images from this site and Google images and interpreting them as best I could.

Then I couldn't find any wood that was cheap enough to fail a few times with so I went with laminating mahogany veneer sheets.
This worked really well for the top and bottom but the sides failed miserably, separated all over the place.

I managed to score a hardwood window sill from the wood yard and sliced a few 3mm thick length off of it. They were then run through my diy thicknesser (worked a treat, I was so proud) and heat bent them over a thick piece of copper pipe.

Here are a couple of pictures I have taken. I wasn't going to document this build, but I had a few photos and everyone loves a build post.
I 'll take a few photos of the tools and jigs I have built once I tidy my shop up.

Does anyone have any idea how to build a cheap and simple channel cutter for bindings?.

Also, I know its a few steps ahead but I do not know how to finish this wood ready for a Tru-oil finish. Does anyone recognise the wood that the sides are made from?
I am not a carpenter and learn from reading other peoples build post, so be gentle. :)

09-23-2014, 10:50 AM
Great effort so far. Once you play the first notes there won't be any hate in the relationship, you'll be making plans for ukulele number 2.

09-23-2014, 12:03 PM
Does anyone have any idea how to build a cheap and simple channel cutter for bindings?

There's a photo of a binding ledge attachment that I made for my rotary hobby tool on my Uke building tips page:


You can post shop pics without cleaning things up; it makes us all feel better to see a dirty shop! Here's my shop tour page:


You may find a few ideas for tooling there that are low-budget but do what is needed.

09-23-2014, 10:08 PM
I'm not sure what hand tools you have or your skill level but so far it looks like you are doing fine. You dont really need a lot, it just takes longer. An accurate mold and a means of bending the sides are the first requirements -it looks like you have these.

I've now made 7 tenors and 1 soprano and the only purchased tonewood I have used is 3 soundboards ( 1 spruce, 1 cedar, 1 sapele). Old furniture/shelves/doors can be a source of cheap timber to save cash. A saw, plane and scraper are what are have used to produce my sides/backs/tops. It sounds like you have more jigs than me: I don't have a thicknessing sander.

As you probably know, solid wood, especially for the soundboard will make a better sounding instrument than laminate/ply.

All my instrument have purfling/banding. 40 years ago I did my first guitar binding by hand: it was slow. Then I bought a router and straight cutter and bolted a fabricated distance piece to the bottom of the router to set my channel width. These days I have a piloted bit with my router-the bit bearing diameter determines the channel width. In the UK a router can be bought for as little as 30/35, a single bit can cost 15-30. You have to shop around for a quality bit at a low price-a cheap bit will be false economy! I am sure you can rig up something.

There are many Youtube clips using Tru oil. I've tried Danish oil, Liberon finishing oil and Tru oil. I prefer Tru oil. It will show up any sanding marks rather than fill them. I sand with 120, 240, 400 grit and then wipe over with white spirit and hold to the light to carefully check I've removed all marks. I wipe on with a piece of old T shirt cloth or similar. I find its best to apply thin coats and not leave surplus standing on the surface. I leave 3-4 hrs between coats and dont pore fill. I wet sand with Tru oil and 1000 or 1500 grit after 3 or 4 coats and then wipe clean-this does some pore filling and leveling. The number of coats subsequently applied depends on the finish you want. Achieving a semi matt slightly open finish is relatively easy. Achieving a glass like finish can be frustrating especially if like me you are impatient, try to apply too many coats too quickly and too thickly. However for the hobby builder Tru oil is great.

Hope some of what I have written is useful.