View Full Version : New to the forum - gourd body Ukes!

02-25-2015, 06:26 AM
Hi all,

I just found this forum - looks to be a great place for sharing techniques and builds. I've recently caught the bug and have been exploring some very amateur luthierie. Please have a look at some of my gourd-bodied ukuleles, I'd appreciate any comments and feedback!

Habanera Hal
02-25-2015, 06:57 AM
I love those! Would like to try a build. Where do you get the gourds?

Michael Smith
02-25-2015, 07:17 AM
Nice work, welcome aboard.

02-25-2015, 07:18 AM
Fun and good looking ukes. I like the smiley one best.

02-25-2015, 08:00 AM
Very sweet looking ukes! How do they sound?

02-25-2015, 08:19 AM
All very interesting-I'd like to see how you have made them (more photos if possible) and of course whether you are pleased with the way they sound?

02-25-2015, 10:38 AM
My comments for you would be to reduce the size of the bridge by half, and don't put the sound hole in the middle of the sound board, you are loosing top wood, better to put the hole below the fingerboard. Have fun.

02-25-2015, 11:15 AM
Thank you all for the kind comments. There has been quite a bit of evolution in hte process of building and refining these ukes. I have no musical background whatsoever, and only started music lessons after building the first of these instruments. That said, I think that the sounds that they produce despite my limited playing ability is quite good, and improving with iterations.

Uke #1 (first picture, cedar top) think is only accidentally playable - it has a very tinny tone and a strange reverberation when the C string is played - I built this with no research whatsoever, and have some very odd supporting structures internally, which necessitated the off center sound hole. Additionally, without knowing better, I placed the bridge at the very edge of the gourd, and get very little vibration out of the sound board.

Uke #2 (first picture, spruce top), improved dramatically from the first, this was a bit rushed and sloppy, but is very playable. Also strung with a wound low G string.

Uke #3 (long body) sounds very rich and mellow - likely due to the much longer resonant top

Uke #4 (koa top soprano) as a soprano, is pitched higher than some of the others. I think the bridge and sound hole placement is close to correct, and sounds much richer than #1

Uke #5 (round body with C holes) - just finished this one, and strings are still settling in. Sounds a bit more balanced than #3, but not as loud? Very nice to play

Using the gourd bodies makes each build a unique challenge - I can't control the body shape, so its best guess for component placement. The most exciting part is to string it up and hear its voice for the first time.

Thank you for your suggestions in particular, Black Bear. Can you provide some guidance for sound hole placement and bridge dimension? I've primarily been using off the shelf parts, although uke #5's bridge was built from scratch.

I'll be happy to share the build sequence and suppliers in a later post, Greescoe and Hal.

02-25-2015, 11:28 AM
Besides the bridge on a couple in a position that doesn't make sense from a traditional perspective, which may result in being a non-issue, your markers are off and may confuse players that go above the octave.

Clean builds from what I can see on my Galaxy.

02-27-2015, 05:52 AM
Those look kinda cool. I agree with Kekani that your bridge placement is way too close to the edge on #1 and #2. Uke #3 looks about right for where to put the bridge....on the active part of the soundboard. You could make a longer neck and move the body/neck joint up a fret or two

02-27-2015, 06:30 AM
Nice work, welcome aboard.

I think you really mean "Welcome Agourd"!

02-27-2015, 10:49 AM
Cool work! Gourds are really interesting, though I've never seen local ones large enough to bother with. I've seen large squashes with lute shapes while driving by farmer's markets, and thought it would be fun to make a mold from one and cast an instrument shell in fiberglass, but the mess and bother always turned me off. Gourd banjos really do a number on me.

02-27-2015, 11:47 AM
I have seen very few gourds round here as well. I did consider using a butter nut, but luckily someone on the forum here set me straight. Butter is not hard enough to use as a nut. You need something hard like bone or plastic.

Moore Bettah Ukuleles
02-27-2015, 11:49 AM
Very creative. Welcome & thanks for sharing.

02-27-2015, 08:26 PM
Nice looking work for sure!

02-28-2015, 05:07 AM
Nice work! Danny Ferrington did a series of pretty basic gourd ukes a few years ago and sold them to Neiman Marcus who retailed them for $5000 each. You never know...

02-28-2015, 06:06 AM
Hi all,

I just found this forum - looks to be a great place for sharing techniques and builds. I've recently caught the bug and have been exploring some very amateur luthierie. Please have a look at some of my gourd-bodied ukuleles, I'd appreciate any comments and feedback!

This might be redundant. I didn't have time to read all the posts. Whoever suggested making a mold of the gourds gave solid advice. Even well cured gourds deteriorate very quickly. You asked about the geometry of sound hole and bridge placement. I'm an engineer and a musician, not much of a luthier.
Every gourd is different. When you cut open the gourd for use try to visually identify where its center of mass would be. Learn about harmonic series. The n terms will help you with lots of things accoustically. Try to come up with some standardized scale lenghts. Don't limit yourself to traditional Scale lengths. A tenor Gourd and A tenor uke are two different animals.

Once you have determined the scale length you now where the bridge goes. try different n values relative to the perceived center of mass and bridge location on the sound board. n= i, i= 2 to 4 should be enough to play with I think. Develop a relationship between bridge, CoM and center point of sound hole. stick to round sound holes til you figure these things out. I think I would build these ukes fretless and install fret spacing later as you might have to cut the gourd body down to get good sound. when you get the design where you have a superior product make a mold anf go into production. When the luthiers get ahold of this post listen to their advice. I am an engineer. your project would make for a good masters thesis at least. good luck. (anisotropic)

03-02-2015, 04:53 AM
Again, thanks for the feedback and comments. I've found several gourd sellers on line, here are three good websites:


After making a few of these, the tall/vase, pear, and martin shapes seem best suited if cut open longitudinally. Some of the flat canteen shapes also work if sliced equitorially - this results in a round, banjo like body. I've started by working with pre fabricated neck and fretboard kits from C.B. Gitty and from Mainland ukes, but plan to branch into shaping my own neck soon. For my soprano koa topped uke, I had to cut down a concert neck significantly and fabricated my own fretboard from mora wood. The challenge of using a prefabed neck is figuring out the joint to the ukulele. Once I have opened the gourd, I shape a Basswood plug to fit the inner curvature of the neck and glue it in place. Once bonded, I can flatten the top soundboard bonding surface using a lapping board and then trim and square the neck bonding joint. Then I have to size and shape an adapter or knuckle to transition from the neck to the gourd body - the length of this joint is the critical dimension that I can adjust to set my bridge placement on the gourd body. I could be more flexible here if I were not using prefabricated fretboards. I bond up the neck joint assembly by boring a 14" hole into the neck and epoxying in place a section of 14" threaded rod. Once that is set, I bore oversized holes in the nuckle and basswood plug in the body. I bond the assembly with wood glue and clamp using two washers separated with a rubber grommet and a nut inside of the gourd body. The grommet compensates for non parrallel surfaces of the basswood plug that arise from shaping as squaring the bonding face.

I hope to begin a baritone ukulele build soon with a nice curly redwood top, and will follow the build process with more pictures.

03-03-2015, 01:38 AM
I use a fretboard duplicating jig which is just a home made mitre box with a bit of snap off blade in the bottom. I use this with a commercially made 26 fret 648mm guitar fretboard which I double sided tape to the bottom of a blank fretboard. The preslotted fretboard slots onto the snap off blade and cutting into the unslotted fretboard in the mitre box. By starting at the 8th fret on the guitar fretboard I get a 408.204mm scale length fretboard. By starting on the 15th fret I get a 272.45 mm scale length fretboard. This gives enough flexibility to satisfy my needs around the variety of sizes needed for cookie tin and similar builds so I am expecting that gourds would have similar variability.

The other thing I might advise is to use boat building epoxy. Mixed with sawdust it would make a goop capable of filling any imperfections in the fit of the internal shape to the basswood plug you are using. Using it to encapsulate the gourd, especially if you lined it with fibreglass would just about make it bulletproof. Use carbon fibre and you could stand on it. Strip built cedar canoes are coated with epoxy and fiberglass and the transparent nature of the finish and the decorative nature of the cedar stripping give no indication of how ridiculously strong they are.
If you are wary of epoxy then a poly resin like bondo or builders bog might make fitting the plug easier, especially as it is going to be held in compression.

04-10-2015, 05:26 AM
New ukulele day! Recently finished my latest addition to the growing family. This is a baritone with curly redwood soundboard and mora headplate and neck joint. I would have been happier with sound hole placed lower on the body, as the neck bolt is more visible than I would care for. Sounds lovely!