View Full Version : Uke building checklist

01-18-2016, 10:51 AM
Hi. I'm new to uke building, as a hobbyist to build for my relatives, friends, and a local elementary school. I've acquired several printed references, view YouTube videos, and read various websites on building methods.

I plan to make a checklist for myself of the key building steps so I can try to minimize silly mistakes and so that I can share with others who might want to work on their own ukuleles in my shop.

So, my request: Do you have a checklist of building tasks that help guide you, and/or do you know of a handy reference on the Internet?

I'd appreciate any guidance. Thank you!

01-18-2016, 11:26 AM
I'm not a builder but from what I've seen much depends on the construction style, finish, etc.
The birth of a MyaMoe ukulele is a good documentary example of what they do. http://www.myamoeukuleles.com/videos.php

A kit is a better way to start, StewMac has a PDF file of building directions for the ukulele kits. They even have a DVD of how to build the kit.

01-18-2016, 11:48 AM
The Hana Lima book is a good step-by-step reference:


01-19-2016, 09:07 AM
ditto on the Hana Lima book. I made a step list below but it really depends how you build. There are many types of body construction that will change the steps. And many ways to perform each step based on what tools you have. My list is based on bolt on neck construction and "standard" style uke bodies. I don't say how to do each step so you'll have to figure what works best for you

- Read the building steps and plan how you will do each step.
- Buy or create a set of plans
- Decide all the materials and decorations (this is the hardest step for me)
- Purchase materials all at once
- Build molds, templates, fixtures

Body build (bolt on neck):
- Joint top and back plates (if book matched)
- Glue up top and back plates
- Inlay back strip (if using)
- Side, top and back thinning
- Glue the back seem reinforcing strip
- Trace body outline and center lines on to top and back plates. Cut a small notch at each end of the center line so you can find it if erased later.
- Bend the sides and let dry in the mold
- Cut and shape the neck and heel blocks
- Trim the sides to final length
- Glue in the neck and heel blocks
- Cut the back taper into the rim
- Glue in linings
- Sand rim and linings to final shape (radius dish if you're using one)
- Butt graft installation
- Drill holes for bolt on neck
- Cut top and back plates to shape. About 3/16" outside the layout line
- Prepare rosette materials (make or buy or whatever)
- Lay out sound hole on the top measured from the body outline
- Inlay top rosette
- Cut sound hole
- Sand rosette smooth and sand the edge of the sound hole
- Layout bracing in pencil
- Cut braces and bridge patch. Radius if you're doing a radius
- Glue braces and bridge patch per the lay out lines
- Carve braces to final shape
- Notch the rim linings to fit the brace ends
- Glue the top and back to the rim
- Bend bindings (if using wood)
- Cut the binding rabbet
- Sand the sides flat top to back and smooth any small bumps
- Re-cut the binding rabbet and check fit of the binding all the way around
- Glue bindings

Neck Steps:
- Square up the blank
- Cut the scarf joint and heel blocks. Clean up joints if needed
- Glue up scarf joint
- Glue up heel blocks
- Re-square the glued up blank, remove squeeze out
- Glue on head stock veneer (if using)
- Mark that center line!!
- Lay out neck shape in pencil. Top and side profiles of the neck as well as nut width and final length
- Cut neck blank to final length at the heel end
- Mark center line on the heel end and lay out the heel shape
- Drill holes for threaded inserts and install inserts
- Cut side profile
- Cut Top profile and head stock shape
- Mark hole positions for tuning machines and drill
- Carve neck to final shape
- Cut fret slots in the finger board
- Cut the finger board taper and dry fit to neck
- Cut and fit fingerboard binding (if using). Dry fit to neck
- Glue binding (if using)
- Install inlays on finger board (if using)
- Sand inlays smooth
- Install frets
- Trim fret ends and file end bevel
- Glue fingerboard to neck
- Level frets if needed. Reshape any filed fret crowns
- Fit neck to body and adjust as needed
- Inlay head stock (if using)

Finishing steps:
- Unbolt neck
- Final sand body and neck
- Grain fill body and neck
- Apply finish, level and polish
- Clear filler and finish from tuner holes, neck joint area
- Bolt on neck
- Cut and shape Nut. Fit to the neck
- Measure and mark out bridge position
- Scrape finish from under the bridge to bare wood
- Glue bridge in place
- Shape and fit saddle
- Install tuning machines
- String up and set up the action
- Final clean and polish....polish frets, vacuum dust from inside the body, oil fingerboard, apply paper label etc

01-19-2016, 05:33 PM
Well that was heroic. Thanks for taking the time to parse that out. I build without a punch list (checklist) because I think I will remember. Ha ha ha. Basically it is called laziness. I'm always forgetting something though. Like I forgot to put in a label the other day and today I forgot to stuff newspaper into the soundhole before I sprayed shellac before cutting in my binding which means I have spray marks on my insides. Sigh. No doubt, I will eventually get around to making a punch list. It is just good sound carpentry and sound lutherie. No excuse to not have one and more importantly, to follow it. Check, check, check. Rodger. Over and out.

01-20-2016, 05:33 AM
I do all that lot in my head...I think most of us do...but not always in that order;)

01-20-2016, 05:54 AM
Yep...pretty standard build order. I'm a manufacturing engineer in real life so it pretty easy for me to bang out a list of tasks like that. Same steps you'd see on a tour of the Martin Guitar factory.
It makes me realize that the uke is a poorly designed product from a manufacturing point of view :p

01-27-2016, 06:21 PM
Thank you so much!

01-27-2016, 06:32 PM
I appreciate your kindness in taking the time to provide an excellent list. I'll use it as my guide.

01-31-2016, 09:51 AM
That's a nice piece of work Ksquine, thanks for taking the time.
The kits and books are good but start with some pieces done.
My list is not this detailed, and is in pencil and a mess with inserts and re-ordering.
If I could go back start over with your list I'd be two ukes ahead in the learning curve and at least one in time saved.
-Vinnie in Juneau