View Full Version : Hawaiian Souvenir Uke Rescue Project

08-07-2016, 01:47 PM
I just completed a really fun project in which I took a 'souvenir' uke that I found at the Rosebowl Flea Market and replaced the finger board, nut and bridge to make it a playable instrument. It turned out looking and sounding great and I wanted to share with the forum. I'll post an abbreviated summary here - if you want more details and pics (I'm limited to 4 pics in this post - there are many more), you can check out the build posts on my website here:

Hawaii Ukulele Project (http://eubie.com/?s=hawaii+ukulele&submit=Search)

Here's what I started with:

The finger board was a thin piece of painted plywood and the frets barely rose above the level of the wood. The bridge was small and very rough with a plastic saddle, and the nut was missing in action.

There were two things that attracted me to the instrument. First was the look. I love the 'Hawaii' screen print on the front of the soundbox, and the hibiscus on the head stock. It's funky, kitschy and fun. But beyond the looks, the instrument just had a really nice tone when I tapped on the sound box, both front and back. It felt really good in my hands and I just felt like, with a little love, it could actually be a great sounding uke without losing the kitschy, souvenir character.

So I removed the finger board and the bridge.


Made a new, radiused fret board from maple with rosewood bindings, rosewoood markers and new nickel-steel frets.


I cut/shaped a new bone nut, and added a new rosewood bridge with a bone saddle, and strung it up with a new set of Martin strings. I kept the original tuner hardware because it actually did a great job of keeping the instrument in tune, and keeping the original hardware helps with my goal of retaining as much as I could of the original character of the instrument.

The finished product came out great, exceeding my expectations.


It looks great, and sounds great as well. Here's a link to the wrap-up video I posted on YouTube - it includes some demo play by a young man named Jake Sharp who is a friend of my son and did me a favor by stopping by to play for the video, because unfortunately, I am not a uke player myself.

YouTube demo video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PoYu3FqbzQ4)

I'd love to get some feedback and comments, especially from anyone who has time to read through the more detailed build posts and watch the video. I really enjoyed the project, and learned a lot, and would appreciate what more I can learn from others on the forum.

-- se

08-11-2016, 04:10 PM
I think this is genius. its nice to find a kindred spirit. and you should learn to play, its alot of fun.

I'll raise you a Fijiian tourist ukulele conversion. my son wanted it playable so the fret board was changed, kwila solid top (cause that's what i had), new bridge, bone nut and saddle and new tuners, its since been trimmed and painted bright orange. its in low G and sounds ok to my ear. scale lenght might be 7 inches? and playing a G chord is hell, but fun all the same.

Cheers (from NZ)


08-12-2016, 05:22 PM
Very nice save, looks great! Good idea, the radius.

08-12-2016, 06:59 PM
Thanks. Have an old Chicago made uke I want to do the same thing to. Have your project outline saved in my favorite places.