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DownUpDave
09-24-2015, 12:49 AM
I have had a burning desire to get an instrument with four steel strings for a while now. I do not want to go the stock tenor guitar route. They are too large in body size and the narrow neck bugs me. I have played a few of them and just not loving it.

So I thought a baritone uke with steel strings would fit my body size and neck preference much better. Has anyone converted a baritone uke over to steel strings. I have a inexpensive laminate Gianinni baritone that I can try this on. It is a 19" scale length.

Would I need to make it a string through bridge to avoid problems.
I am thinking of using baritone wound fourth and third strings. Any suggestions for the second and first steel strings. Or are there other options, tuning will be DGBE.

Do any of you known any builders that make an instrument close to what I am looking for.

Any and all suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

anthonyg
09-24-2015, 02:26 AM
Its next to impossible to do a conversion without a LOT of work that wouldn't be economical. The difference in string tensions is the main issue. An instrument designed for classical strings is built far too light to handle the extra tension of steel strings. An instrument built for the tension of steel strings is far too overbuilt for classic strings.

Also when talking about steel strings vs nylon/classic strings we are talking about the string core. Classic strings that are wound with a steel/metal wind still have a nylon/whatever core.

The other big issue is saddle compensation. Steel strings being less flexible need more saddle compensation and need to be slanted with even more compensation for the thicker strings. Nylon strings get away with a little less saddle compensation and with the saddle being perpendicular to the strings, although if your being fussy, then even classical strings could do with a tiny bit of saddle slant. Mind you the reentrant sting throws a spanner in the works so ukulele saddles are usually left at right angles to the strings.

EDIT: and then of course there is the issue of not ripping the bridge off with steel strings plus not twisting the neck. I've played a few steel string, acoustic ukulele's built from scratch specifically for the purpose by small builders. As much as I WANTED to like them they left me uninspired. Its something that could work if someone put enough R&D into it but then is the demand big enough to justify the development?

Anthony

Doc_J
09-24-2015, 02:45 AM
Dave,

Yep, an instrument has to be designed for steel strings.

The only acoustic steel string uke maker that I know of is Bruce Sexauer. Bruce makes wonderful instruments.

But, I'd recommend a solid body electric. Monkey wrench and Kona Blaster make good electric steel string ukes offered at excellent prices. My Monkey wrench is a 19" scale.

DownUpDave
09-24-2015, 02:57 AM
Great informative answers guys. That is why I threw the question out, so those in the know would chime in.

Rakelele
09-24-2015, 03:34 AM
Dave, we're on the very same page, again! I have just received my steel strung Kala Tenor Guitar... and it's a complete Game Changer. I intend to write a short review later this week, but that thing is amazing. Scale length is 21", not much longer and overall not that much bigger than a regular Baritone, right in the middle between a Uke and a fully grown Guitar. I find that size perfect. Only thing I'll have to get used to is the slimmer nut width (30mm instead of 35mm).

Other than that, I've read that Rick Turner of Compass Rose has built a steel string Baritone in the past, and as far as convertibles go, someone mentioned that Toby Chennell's arched Jazz Box Ukes could handle both nylon and steel strings.

Anyway, I too, will be looking out for more makers to come up with steel string Baritones.

billten
09-24-2015, 05:08 AM
Dave, you gotta try this, it's a hoot...


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7T2V0oTHj9U

70sSanO
09-24-2015, 05:33 AM
Since this has been on my mind for a while, here are my thoughts...

If I recall correctly, a Boat Paddle baritone ukulele will accept steel strings. Not sure if all of their baritones will. I came close to buying one a few years ago and passed on it. They are not inexpensive and I have no idea if you can find one or if Hoffman still makes them.

As for alternatives, I have been looking for a small body 4 string guitar with a wider neck that I can tune to the lowest 4 strings of a guitar. From another thread I understand this tuning used for a piccolo bass. I think this would be a great accompaniment to a ukulele that would allow chording as well as integrating individual notes; which seems to be the technique used.

Luna makes a steel string bass that is tuned this way, but the acoustic volume is supposed to be pretty bad. I think the best solution would be an Ohana bass that is tuned up an octave. I need to contact Ohana to make sure of the tension, but from my quick calculations, I think it will be fine for E-G tuning.

I found a site, can't find it now, where you can attach a trapeze to a six string guitar, swap out the nut and string it with 4 strings so you don't have to do all of the bridge mods. that seem like a fairly easy test but I have not brought myself around to trying it out.

There are a lot of small 3/4 size 6 string guitars that range from inexpensive to whatever. Parlor guitars would be a good choice especially if you can find a vintage one that already has a trapeze. I'm not sure what mods are needed, if any, on the trapeze.

John

Found it. It was to a bass... http://www.instructables.com/id/Acoustic-Guitar-to-Acoustic-Bass-Conversion/

I would probably pick a nicer trapeze.

Down Up Dick
09-24-2015, 05:44 AM
I have had a burning desire to get an instrument with four steel strings for a while now. I do not want to go the stock tenor guitar route. They are too large in body size and the narrow neck bugs me. I have played a few of them and just not loving it.

So I thought a baritone uke with steel strings would fit my body size and neck preference much better. Has anyone converted a baritone uke over to steel strings. I have a inexpensive laminate Gianinni baritone that I can try this on. It is a 19" scale length.

Would I need to make it a string through bridge to avoid problems.
I am thinking of using baritone wound fourth and third strings. Any suggestions for the second and first steel strings. Or are there other options, tuning will be DGBE.

Do any of you known any builders that make an instrument close to what I am looking for.

Any and all suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

Hey, Name-Bro, I got just what you need. My new Gold Tone "Cripple Creek" mini BANJO (travel banjo) has steel strings, and it's about the same size as a tenor Banjolele and tuned (C-5th) Lo-G CEG. It could easily be tuned to Lo-G CEA, and the 5Th string can be taken off. It's really loud; it cost around $400, and I really like it.

Buy it, disable (or remove) the 5th string, raise the 1st string to A, and Bob's yer uncle. Enjoy! :old:

Tootler
09-24-2015, 05:46 AM
Risa make a Les Paul copy steel string tenor. It's a solid body electric with (I think) humbucker pickups. Maybe that's a bit smaller than you're looking for and they're not all that cheap but Risa make quality instruments so They're worth thinking about IMO. I have two Uke'Ellies myself so can vouch for that.

Here's a link to their website: https://www.ukulele.de/shop4/en-Tenor-Ukuleles?cat=2&next_page=3

k0k0peli
09-24-2015, 07:24 AM
Get a mandolin (with the widest neck you can find) or a mandola and restring it to your preferred tuning. I try to treat my cheap mandola (19-inch scale) like an 8-string tenor guitar. Or look at steel-string Latino instruments. My 5-course 10-string Puerto Rican cuatro (21-inch scale, nominally tuned BEADG) is rather like a small guitar, as are vihuelas, cavaquinhos, cincos, and others.

kypfer
09-24-2015, 07:27 AM
My Washburn Rover travel guitar has a body sized between my tenor and my baritone, but with a full-length neck (and 6 strings, obviously)! Judicious use of a capo will adjust the scale length for you, if that's a problem, the extra strings can be ignored or omitted as suits. The thickness of the guitar body is less than either of the ukuleles, nearer to 2" rather than the approx. 3" of the uke's, so the low frequency response is reduced, but for a compact steel-strung instrument, it ticks a lot of boxes ... even has an adjustable truss-rod :)

83725

Patrick Madsen
09-24-2015, 07:56 AM
Hey Dave. I've been on the hunt for a good steel strung acoustic baritone myself, preferably an archtop. I found Jazzboxukes and loved the handcarved top and backs. Toby said he had a few others put light gauge steel strings on his so thought it would work fine. During the build we changed to nylon as one of the guys had the cable holding the floating bridge break. I guess he found a better violin cable capable of handling the stress.

So now I am on the hunt for a proper set of light steel strings to try. I've been playing it with a pick lately and am liking the nylon again but would still like to try a set os ss. I'll stop by my local music store and see what they suggest. Probably a nickel of some sort as that was what the old jazz players used. I have a set of the DiAdddarios EXP16's that are the bronze combination but hate to break up the set just to try on the uke.

Will probably have to go with the old suggestions of the Alida thread and go with the middle four strings. I was sent a site to check for string tensions and gauges but I don't know the tensions I want.

Toby Chennell assured me the arch top could handle a light gauge SS because it uses a floating bridge and the bracing is adequate. Still kind of nervous to try though.

I've been thinking of a tenor guitar a lot lately myself. I'd need one that's small bodied and shorter scale. I'd have to go with the one out/in policy so deciding whether to sell the vintage Martin bari. or the Webber is why I haven't done it yet. Good luck buddy, the UAS never ends does it.

70sSanO
09-24-2015, 08:06 AM
I found a Boat Paddle that was for sale here a few years ago. there is also a video that will knock you socks off.

http://forum.ukuleleunderground.com/showthread.php?45729-Terrific-Boat-Paddle-baritone

John

SteveZ
09-24-2015, 08:18 AM
Building an instrument to accommodate steel requires considerably more bracing and selection of parts which can endure the stress. A baritone uke that is not built under "guitar and mandolin" standards just won't handle steel strings reliably or safely. Steel requires approximately three times the tension that nylon does. So, where a nylon string may require 20 pounds, a comoarable steel string will be in the 55-65 pound range. Putting triple the pull on tuners and bridges not designed for that sort of load can have disastrous results, especially in the personal injury front.

If steel is the quest, then looking at a mandola (20 1/4 inch scale length), mandolin (13 7/8 inch sl), tenor guitar (22 3/4 inch sl) or even a 17-fret tenor banjo (21 inch sl) is the safe way to get in on the fun.

Jon Moody
09-24-2015, 08:47 AM
Actually, with a little math, you "can" make a set of steel strings for any instrument.

A packaged baritone ukulele set puts around 52lbs of tension on the instrument (using the EJ53B set as a guide, from the D'Addario site). The tension is below:

1st/E - 11.77lb
2nd/B - 10.32lb
3rd/G - 14.37lb
4th/D - 14.87lb
Total - 51.33lb

Using their weights of steel strings as a guide, with a 19" scale you "could" make a set like this:

1st/E - .011 plain steel - 11.89lb
2nd/B - .014 plain steel - 11.0lb
3rd/G - .022 flatwound - 13.55lb
4th/D - .028 flatwound - 11.96lb
Total - 48.4lb

As said, there's a bit more to it than just throwing some steel strings on a ukulele, but if tension is the only consideration people are throwing out, it's easy to get around that.

Disclaimer: I take absolutely no liability if you try this and the uke gets harmed in any way. I'm just pointing out that tension isn't nearly as hard and fast as people think.

DownUpDave
09-24-2015, 08:56 AM
This is awesome, so much food for thought and fuel for SSUAS ( steel string UAS).

So glad I posted the question. I just knew that beneath the love of nylon lied a desire to slip over to the dark side of steel for so many others here.

That boat paddle has me hooked. Good Lord the UAS never does stop does it.........banjo, banjolele, mandola etc. etc. all screaming "pick me, pick me"

Wicked
09-24-2015, 12:20 PM
Dave, give Southcoast "classical metals" strings a go. They are pretty close to a full-on steel string sound without having to worry about the tension.

k0k0peli
09-24-2015, 12:43 PM
The easy and cheap way to get a steel sound on a nylon-string axe is to go to silk-n-steel strings. Otherwise you really do need a steel-braced instrument, the cheapest of any tolerable quality probably being the Rogue RM-100A mandolin (US$46 shipped from Musician's Friend). Yes, it has a narrow neck, but restrung with single courses of DGBE or GCEA it would be okay for 'uke-type chording, even with my big fingers. (I just checked.) Use one of the online string calculators to get the gages and tensions right for your stringing.