View Full Version : Uke Making

12-17-2007, 06:57 PM
I know Dominator makes his own ukuleles. I've always been interested in trying it out. I guess this question is mostly for Dom, is it tough to get into and does it cost a lot?

Fred Miu
12-17-2007, 07:11 PM
and is it hard too?

i would like to make one myself, but i have no guidance

12-17-2007, 07:30 PM
Is it tough to get into. Well that depends on whether or not you've had any previous woodworking experience. I have been building furniture as a hobby since about 1986. So when I decided to get into building ukes I bought a couple of books. One was called Guitar Making - Tradition and Technology by William Cumpiano and Jonathan Natelson and the other was called The Ukulele by Dennis Gilbert. The latter is not a very good book. It shows how to build a very crude instrument IMHO. I would recommend getting the book from the guys over at Hanalima on Oahu. Check out there website when you get a chance. They have kits and all the parts you need to build your first uke. http://www.hanalimastore.com/servlet/StoreFront

For me the woodworking part came easy because of my wwg experience. The harder part is getting a grasp on the engineering side of things (how thin to make the pieces, how to shape the braces etc. etc.) to produce good sounding instruments. I have had help from other excellent luthiers sharing their knowledge with me and that it why my ukes have come along as quickly as they have after only building 6 tenors. Without them sharing their knowledge and experience I would still be building boat anchors probably.

As to cost - Depends. I invested about $1000 into some specialized tools needed for instrument building. I probably could have done it for less but I wanted to have everything I needed to do it right. You could do a soprano kit from stew mac with a minimum of tools because the sides come pre-bent etc. If you are serious I could give it some thought as to what a list of tools you would need to assemble one of those kits. I don't have time right at the moment. Time to pay attention to my wife if you know what I mean.

Fred Miu
12-17-2007, 08:02 PM
thanks dominator for some tips.

i know for sure that i cannot make a uke on my own for the first time, but when i do, i will save all this and read up on the books that you mentioned.

12-17-2007, 08:49 PM
i've always wanted to make my own uke too. i remember my woodshop teacher said he used to teach his students how to make ukes but it got too expensive when people kept messing up lol.

12-17-2007, 09:45 PM
mr dominator, how about if one of us would like to have you build one for us? do you have information on that?

12-19-2007, 02:41 PM
mr dominator, how about if one of us would like to have you build one for us? do you have information on that?

Ok, finally a little time to address this question.

Currently, I'm only building for select people because of other commitments to my day job, my rock band, my wife etc. etc. I just never know how much shop time I will have so it's hard to commit to delivery dates etc. The people I have been building for have put no time limits on when their uke will be done and pretty much allow me to build at me leisure.

I haven't established a published price list as of yet and won't until I'm at the point of accepting orders from the general public. Currently, I just work up a price on a piece by piece basis. As an example, this grade AAAA Curly Koa tenor with Gotoh geared tuners and Mi-Si battery free pickup system sold for $1300. There are a number of decent production ukuleles that you can get for much less. It just depends on what you can afford and whether you want (or need) a hand made instrument that is crafted with mucho Aloha specifically for you.


I do have a list that I'm keeping of those that are seriously interested in having one of my ukuleles once I gear up to dedicate more time to building. Anyone interested can just email me to start a dialog and we can take it from there.

12-19-2007, 04:36 PM

im somewhat of a do-it-yourself kinda guy. im an avid fisherman, both leisure and competition, with a couple of tournament wins under my belt. so it wasnt long before i started building my own fishing rods and making my own lures. so i would love to be able to build my own uke.

unfortunately, a lot of the value that goes into a high end $300 fishing rod goes into the attention to detail of building it, and understanding the components and their purpose. because i do, i could easily build a rod that could sell for about $400 and only spend about $150 in materials. those ukulele building kits are interesting, but basically, it comes down to building an ukulele that someone else designed. its great for learning, but man, thats an expensive lesson haha.

what i would love to do is, through a somewhat informal apprenticeship, build the uke of my dreams... slowly... under the watchful eye of an accomplished luthier. but i dont see that happening anytime soon hehe.

12-19-2007, 05:36 PM

That is a really nice looking uke!

12-19-2007, 06:43 PM
I would hope my next uke to be a Dominator uke.. I'm now waiting for another William King Concert by the end of Dec, so I gotta save up the budget again.. I'm not in a rush at all, so this may work out. Do you do Concert scale Dom?

I have my own story regarding building.. I HAD that desire a couple of years ago, so I ordered a Tenor uke kit from Hanalima.. and Asa Chock was kind enough to include 2 bookmatched pairs of nice semi-curly Koa for top and back for a sweet deal. Also, I figured I ought to buy one of their Grizzly Soprano kits to get my feet wet at the same time. Also, Gotoh tuners, a heat blanket for bending... I had high expectations.:rolleyes:

The Grizzly kit is pre-built so assembly involves gluing on the neck, fretboard, bridge, finish, etc. Well one look at the plywood fretboard, and I knew that had to go. I dug out a piece of Cherry and surface planed it to the right thickness, measure and cut the slots for the frets, and proceed with assembly... had my son do all the sanding prep etc and finish with cheap brush-on furniture lacquer.

Well, as the pic tells, I hand cut the fret slots crooked..

finished .. pretty sad, but not too bad, good for when my 2 nieces come over.. this is the uke they can play/bash around with. Even sounds decent with the junk ghs strings. and it stays sort-of in tune pretty well for the cheap tuners included in the kit.

Needless to say, I gave up on the idea of building that Tenor kit, it's gonna take me too much time and in the end, I'll probably goof it up and ruin good Koa.. so the kit sits in a box.:rolleyes:

Fred Miu
12-19-2007, 07:00 PM
Dominator, i am VERY interested in a Tenor ukulele.

please put me on your list. my frets are kinda busted....:(

01-27-2009, 09:11 AM
dom.. your uke runs around in my mind ever since i saw it and heard it live. haha.. it is truly a beautiful piece of work. i must have one! haha