View Full Version : Archtop Ukulele

12-04-2014, 01:01 PM
In an inspired moment last Christmas, my beloved bought me a “build your own ukulele” voucher from a local luthier, Trevor Binford. Trevor, having worked for Bob Benedetto, is a skilled archtop maker so the voucher was really a “build your own archtop ukulele” voucher. Trevor was somewhat bemused as to why anyone would want an archtop ukulele and figured “how hard could it be?” Obviously we were both in for a big learning curve.

Over 114 hours between February and November this year, in Trevor’s workshop, the instrument slowly took shape and we both learned a lot. I learned that I will never make another archtop ukulele and Trevor learned he should never agree to teach anyone else how to make an archtop ukulele. Even with a few uke builds under my belt, this was just another level of difficulty and complexity.

However, the result is very gratifying. It looks great and it sounds even better. I have a number of ukuleles, big brands, lesser brands and self made. This beats them all hands down – no contest. Sound clip to come.

Specs are: Flamed maple back and sides; birds eye maple neck; sitka spruce top; Ebony fretboard, tailpiece & headplate, plastic BWB binding, Waverly tuners.

I think strings are going to be very important as the sound is so rich and much more mellow than I anticipated. Current strings are Aquila with a wound 3rd & 4th (low G tuning). I have a number of experiments to do with Living Water strings, South Coast and Aquila reds. Also more experimentation to do with lightening the bridge to see how that affects tone.

12-04-2014, 01:04 PM
Some build photos7370673707737087370973710

12-04-2014, 01:06 PM
Some more build photos7371173712737137371473715

12-04-2014, 01:08 PM
And even more build photos7371673717737187371973720

12-04-2014, 01:11 PM
Nearly there7372173722737237372473725

12-04-2014, 01:15 PM
:drool::iwant::bowdown::worship: (at a loss for words,tears, sniffle, OMG)

Matt Clara
12-04-2014, 02:42 PM
It's gorgeous! Looks like a tremendous amount of work, and (maybe even) worth the effort! (Really, only you can say if it was worth it or not.) I spent a good ten hours designing an archtop in a cad program. I cut my first top using a cnc a few weeks ago. That took maybe a half an hour...


Patrick Madsen
12-04-2014, 03:23 PM
Wow! Congratulations, I bet is sounds spectacular. I'm having an Archtop baritone build just after Christmas. I asked him to wait til after Xmas so he wouldn't be hurried to get it done. Jazzboxukes.com.

Will have the same combination as yours but with f holes and X braced so it can tolerate steel strings.

Yours makes me looking forward to it getting done. Looks really good L. I bet you learned a lot.

12-04-2014, 08:26 PM
Lovely clean lines: it's certainly a head turner. I'm glad you are pleased with the way it sounds after all your efforts.

A while ago, the question was asked on the forum about normal building times. Whilst tool use varies, and decoration greatly adds to build time, I seem to remember that 40-60 hrs was a typical build time. I like to see build times because they show just how much effort goes into instruments. For the pros this is reflected in the price they must charge and for the hobby builders it shows their passion/enthusiasm. It wouldn't surprise me if you decide to make another at some point in the future despite the additional effort needed.

12-07-2014, 12:32 PM
Hopefully the soundclip will play if you click on the link below:

As I don't have any tame virtuoso uke players at hand, I had to do the demo myself. Try to ignore the mistakes and focus on the sound.

12-07-2014, 04:09 PM
Wow, this is very cool. There seems to be no need to hurry great work like this. I know i would be anxious, but I wouldn't ever hurry a luthier working on a project for me, unless I knew he was goofing off too much.
I just saw part of a documentary about violins, the stiudent luthiers now can take up to a full year to build thier first fiddle....fascinating....an Italian violinist went into the forest where the wood has come from for 300 years, to play his violin for the trees....wow....I almost cried.....

12-07-2014, 11:19 PM
:drool::iwant::bowdown::worship: (at a loss for words,tears, sniffle, OMG)

It's gorgeous! Looks like a tremendous amount of work

Wow! Congratulations, I bet is sounds spectacular. Looks really good L. I bet you learned a lot.

OMG, That looks and sounds AMAZING. I love the way it looks, and now I want one too.

Matt Clara
12-08-2014, 03:55 AM
Having listened to your clip, I must say, you've got to be super happy with that. Sounds fantastic, and as I've already said, it's gorgeous, too. Very very nice.

TJ Uke
12-15-2014, 11:58 AM
That is -obscenely- wicked.


12-15-2014, 12:44 PM
Oh that sounds nice. How much does your uke weigh or perhaps more appropriately mass in at? BTW my wife liked your musical arrangement very much.

Jim Yates
12-15-2014, 03:24 PM
Super job! It looks wonderful and sounds just as good.

01-14-2015, 09:19 AM
How much does your uke weigh
Sorry for the late reply - I am slowly picking off the items on my to do list. To atone, I have added some comparative info which may be useful.
Pls note: the weighing was done using the kitchen scales so accuracy is likely to be plus or minus a few percent.

Archtop as described = 725 grams
Veelah VKOT tenor = 685g
Ko'olau 100 tenor = 675g
Kamaka HF3 tenor = 650g
Kanilea K2T tenor = 585g
Pono PTES -CM tenor = 810g