View Full Version : Just built my first uke.

04-13-2015, 03:57 AM
Over the last week I engaged in some woodwork, having signed up to an intensive 6day (extended to 6.5) uke building course with Tim Spittle (of Australian Tonewoods) through the Australian Guitar Making School located at Toronto.

A very hands on course, with demos and advice as required/requested - with very little prepared (fret board slotted and the timber pre thicknessed - everything else we did). 10-11 hours days with not a lot of time sitting around as there was always a little task to complete whilst glue was drying on one part or another.

A couple finished the build. Some have a bit more work to do. I have to glue a heel cap and fit the tuners and its ready for a test stringing prior to finish sanding and a protective finish applied (which was not part of this course) - grateful for any advice here.

Diverse group of 6 of us building ukes. From retired engineers, a man of the cloth (from Penrith), school teachers and an physicist studying the age of light (amongst other things) from Canberra. Needless to say the conversations during the build were entertaining and almost always educational.

Some had a couple of guitars under their belts already, others had not previously picked up hand tools at all. I hadn't built an instrument before but have a background in model building. We all came out with a pretty good end product.

I guess the build is probably a little unconventional in terms of having completed the build before some of the finishing steps, but it provided an end product in the short time we had.

Most of the others built a 12fret to the body tenor. I built mine as a 14 fret to the body tenor and differed with a string through the bridge (rather than a tie on). It has back and sides from bookmatched Tasmanian blackwood from a large tree that fell naturally and apparently had ferns, etc growing in the centre. Its very dark and chocolatey with nice figure through it. Top is bookmatched Swiss spruce. Bindings are Tasmanian curly blackwood (of a different shade to the body). Neck is Queensland maple, fretboard is curly blackwood and the headplate veneer is Silver Wattle. Fretboard dots are Paua Shell. Heel cap will be Silver wattle.

Other timbers Tim had with him that the others built with included Tasmanian Tiger Myrtle, Silver Wattle and a small amount of King Billy pine for tops.

I learnt a lot over the week from Tim and the others in th group and look forward to another build sometime in the future.

04-13-2015, 04:00 AM
Nice. Must have been fun. Do you think you'll have "UBS" now?

04-13-2015, 06:05 AM
Nice. Must have been fun. Do you think you'll have "UBS" now?

Ha ha.... You never see a thread titled "I just built a ukulele," but you'll find tons that mention "FIRST ukulele"! Quite telling, I think.

04-13-2015, 07:05 AM
I'm always interested to see how people brace their tops and that is an interesting arrangement/design. What are the black fan braces made out of?

04-13-2015, 02:24 PM
Braces are spruce capped with carbon. It is an interesting arrangement - but I cannot argue for its merits or otherwise other than to say this was a newish layout based on the schools experience of building quite a few of this design uke. The others used tie bridges and did not have the plate under the bridge that I added.

I have some wood already for the next build :)

Vespa Bob
04-13-2015, 04:33 PM
I have some wood already for the next build :)[/QUOTE]

Atta boy, you can't just build one! Take that from one who's been there!


04-13-2015, 04:40 PM
I have some wood already for the next build :)

Yup. Sounds like another victim of UBS...

Sorry, but I'm a little hung up on bracing. I'm not a super experienced builder and I've read where inexperienced builders get all hung up here, but I really do believe this is what drives a great sounding uke. So far I've found that bracing as light as possible on a thin top yields the best results. However, I wonder how my ukes are going to stand the test of time. This is impossible to experiment with since, well, it involves more time than I have.

Anyway, I'm just fascinated by the thinking behind the spruce capped with carbon and how you did that. Thanks.

04-19-2015, 01:26 AM
Its "falcate" bracing. And the carbon caps are from Uni-directional carbon or carbon tow epoxied onto the spuce stock under pressure (simple weight is sufficent. vac clamped if you have the equipment).

I think the bracing is quite light (when comparing to readily avaialble mid-priced commerical ukes) , but the tops are probably a little bit thicker. In saying this an element of the course was to use our ears and listen to the tap tones as we added material and or took material away. Also need to consider that the aim of the course was to introduce some us of to building a playable instrument in a fairly tight time frame (with some who had never really used hand tools previously). Noting these constraints the course suceeded quite well

Heres a couple of links to some of the other participants.

Wade (https://www.maluguitars.com.au/newcastle-ukulele-building-workshop-day-1/)
Aaron (http://www.anzlf.com/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=6730)