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Wayne909
04-26-2009, 01:21 PM
Hello uke builders...


. I'm thinking of (havent entirely committed yet but I'm close) building a uke from scratch (or at least not a pre-bent, pre-cut kit). I've built one mountain banjo and have some other woodworking experience, but this will be only my second instrument and I don not consider myself skilled, just not a complete novice. Dont really want to do a kit if I can possibly avoid it.

I will be away from my normal home all summer, living in a tiny cabin with one small table. I have some woodworking tools, but I'm not real sure what I'll need. I dont want to bring any more along with me than the essentials, because space is very limited en route and when I get there. But I also dont want to have to buy something when I get there just because I didnt bring it along. In other words I want more than a knife but a lot less than a trunk full of tools.

So what will I definitely need and really wish I had, so I can bring it along if there is room...and if I have it?

I would also greatly appreciate recommendations on books or other written instruction. I have a dialup so I can access many of the great videos I'm sure are online...though I can occasionally connect to wireless its a sporadic thing.

herbsandspices
04-26-2009, 05:45 PM
Wayne,

Welcome to UU!

I'm building a kit, so I can only say so much... the big boys will chime in with much better advice than I have!

I bought way more tools than I've needed thus far. But the ones that have really gotten a lot of use are:
-chisel
-small plane
-6" & 12" rulers
-razor blade/utility knife
-combination square
-sandpaper & sanding blocks
-cutting board & no-slip grip stuff
-clamps (c-clamps, clothes pins, spring clamps, quick-grips, and a few cam clamps)
-glue (obviously!)

I've used so few power tools, and have loved it (just to make a makeshift jig up here and there). I've been loving the "neanderthal" approach (as the SawMill Creek folks call it) - very meditative, as long as you're a patient person.

As for books, the three biggies you hear 'round these parts are:
-"Ukulele Design and Construction" (I have this one and it's good)
-"Hana Lima 'Ia 'Ukulele Construction Manual"
-"Guitarmaking: Tradition and Technology" (Also good)

I'd actually recomend looking at the PDF instructions for the StewMac ukulele kit - they have a recommended tool list that is decent, although you'll obviously need more stuff if you're doing it from scratch.

Good luck and have fun!

john

Kekani
04-26-2009, 10:32 PM
. . . have some other woodworking experience, . . . just not a complete novice. Dont really want to do a kit if I can possibly avoid it. . .I would also greatly appreciate recommendations on books or other written instruction. I have a dialup so I can access many of the great videos I'm sure are online...though I can occasionally connect to wireless its a sporadic thing.

Given the fact that you have skills, I have to ask how much from scratch. My scratch, at this point is probably different from yours. Starting with lumber (I've actually started from harvesting a tree) is probably not where you're at with this build.

That being said, I would suggest buying a kit. Certainly not a Grizzly, but definitely a Hana Lima I`a or Pegasus kit. As for tapping into your woodworking knowledge, figure out the build in your mind, write the steps on paper, and log the tools and equipment you'll need to finish each step. Just because its an `ukulele, doesn't mean it takes any less accuracy to build. Its still a musical instrument. The more from scratch you start, the more tools and jigs you'll end up building.

You'll find yourself doing a lot of milling and jigging if you truly start from scratch. Examples:
Sides: Mill, thickness, taper (if necessary), bend (don't forget the tools to bend - blanket or pipe), set in mold. . .
Fretboard: Mill, thickness, cut fret slots (do I get a fret slotting saw, or make a jig for my portable table saw and fret slotting blade, or try and do it with my dremel and .024 down spiral bit (if I can find it)). Not forgetting my fretwire - pound, or press? Cut, bevel, dress. And, I haven't put marker dots in yet, or tapered the sides of the fretboard.

Cumpiano's book is probably the best to teach you "hand" building. However, be aware that he has updates on his website. There aren't any really good books on building `ukulele, save for Mike Chock's. And, that's if you're building a Spanish heel.

Me, I just packed a suitcase full of tools to teach an Inlay Class in Kona (this past Saturday), and I still didn't have everything I would've liked if I actually had to do an inlay.

Sorry if this hurts more than helps - I haven't been without electricity for a long time. We can go into more detail, but I'm not sure where your level of equipment availability is.

-Aaron

Wayne909
04-27-2009, 06:14 AM
I am realizing as I go along here that building from scratch will not be very practical when I'm away from home and most of my tools. So I probably will have to go with a kit or at least buy some parts. Maybe I can build from scratch when I get back home in the fall. By "from scratch" I just mean from local wood, cut from local sawmill stock. Between me and my friend's tools I should have everything I need to build from scratch. I wont be felling any trees though.

I also dont want to overstate my woodworking skills, as they are rough. The things I have built in the past did not require much precision, and building a ukulele will. Having said that, all I care about is sound and playability. Bling, flash and finish are not high on my list of priorities, but this will require more attention to fine detail that anything I've built.

I will have electricity available this summer. I have no aversion to using it if necessary, though hand work is just fine too. I wont be buying any expensive or large electric tools though, and my bandsaw and table saw stay home. Electric hand tools are doable, or borrowable.

Is Denis Gilbert's book any good? I hope so cuz I already ordered it before I found this forum and it wasn't cheap. I will look at buying the Chock book too...

Thanks for the list, herbs. I can definitely bring that much along. I presume I'll need some kind of saw too.

Moore Bettah Ukuleles
04-27-2009, 07:42 AM
(I've actually started from harvesting a tree)
-Aaron

I once started from a seed. (I'm not quite finished yet.):rolleyes:

Saturday was great. Mahalo!

Moore Bettah Ukuleles
04-27-2009, 07:49 AM
Wayne, for inspiration of what you can do without a bunch of fancy tools, do a Google search on the guitar builders of Paracho, Mexico.

My first several dozen ukes were built with a table saw and hand held belt sander as my only power tools. Honestly, I think the more tools I have, the better job I do, and I just have more fun doing things when they are easier.
If I were you, I'd roughly prepare all the major parts at home and then glue, sand and finish at the cabin.

bbycrts
04-27-2009, 08:23 AM
Hana Lima 'Ia's site has a list of recommended tools, and in one of Pete Howlett's videos he lays out the essential and not-so-essential (but really nice to have) tools.

Wayne909
04-27-2009, 09:00 AM
Wayne, for inspiration of what you can do without a bunch of fancy tools, do a Google search on the guitar builders of Paracho, Mexico.

My first several dozen ukes were built with a table saw and hand held belt sander as my only power tools. Honestly, I think the more tools I have, the better job I do, and I just have more fun doing things when they are easier.
If I were you, I'd roughly prepare all the major parts at home and then glue, sand and finish at the cabin.


Haha! Funny you mention that. Actually I caught a segment of the PBS series "The Desert Speaks" on the guitar builders of Paracho, and they have been in mind ever since...

Konala
04-27-2009, 12:51 PM
Wayne:

Building a first ukulele at a cabin is probably not something you would want to attempt. There are so many tools and jigs to build for a first uke that it is something that is best started when you return. You will need forms to bend your sides unless you are going to use a hot pipe, and even then you need a form to hold the shape of the sides after they are bent. Unless you plan to thin the sides, back, and top by hand planing and sanding, you may want to build a thickness sander. You will spend more time building tools and jigs to build your first uke than you will spend building the uke.

I would suggest that between now and when you leave you get copies of as many guitar and ukulele building books as you can find and take them to the cabin with you. While there read the books and plan out your uke in your mind. There are a lot of decisions to make. What type of rosette will you use? Are you going to bind the body and if so how do you make it work if you are using spanish style neck construction. Do you want 12 frets at the body or 14 frets? Are you going to build a soprano, concert, tenor, or baritone uke? High G or low G tuning? Even with a set of plans, there are tons of decisions you will have to make and accomodate in your plan.

While at the cabin practice your woodworking skills like learning to sharpen a chisel and plane (see discussions on Scary Sharp). You could also practice carving a neck using your sharp chisel and a wood rasp.

Remember everything you accumulate while at the cabin has to come back with you. Building is a lot easier when you have power tools available.

Good luck. The planning process can be the best part of building.

Konala

Pete Howlett
04-27-2009, 01:11 PM
One thing I like about the posters on this forum who are total novices - they really have no grip on reality:eek: My goodness friend - building is not a 'weekend' thing but a lifetime's pursuit. All of the work in a ukulele is in the preparation and luckily, like most luthiers I have the tools to achieve it. best of luck tho...

Moore Bettah Ukuleles
04-27-2009, 01:14 PM
Very good points Konala and welcome to the forum. What I wouldn't give to have a couple of work free weeks at a cabin doing just what you described.

Wayne909
04-27-2009, 01:34 PM
Good points to consider there...but I'll be at the cabin from late May into October, and thats a long time. BUt I certainly will take all the time I need to review the available materials and decisions. I dont know if I can wait till fall to start, but I certainly am not rushing either.

Where'yat in MN? I'm way up north...

herbsandspices
04-28-2009, 06:06 AM
Wayne, you're a lucky dude, no matter what you end up doing! :shaka:
john

thomas
04-28-2009, 06:35 AM
Do it. Dont let anyone discourage you. You can do anything you want anywhere you want if you set your mind to it and know what you are getting into.

Just for encouragement, I once built a hollow wooden surfboard in a hotel room. It rode great. Was full of minor and somewhat major problems, but it worked great. I think building an ukulele in a cabin is completely doable.

Take a jigsaw, a finger plane, a good hand saw, and a drill for starters. A sheet of plywood for the molds, some threaded rods, with bolts and wingnuts. And dont forget your moms iron and an old towel to steam bend the sides of your pineapple ukulele. Buy a slotted fretboard.

Hana Lima book and website contain invaluable resources for the porch or cabin builder.

And like Ambrose says "go van gogh"

Good luck
THomas

Wayne909
04-28-2009, 11:39 AM
One thing I like about the posters on this forum who are total novices - they really have no grip on reality:eek: My goodness friend - building is not a 'weekend' thing but a lifetime's pursuit. All of the work in a ukulele is in the preparation and luckily, like most luthiers I have the tools to achieve it. best of luck tho...

I have to assume you are talking about about me, but I have no idea what you are talking about, or why, unless its that snobbish elitist attitude I've encountered from a small number of builder's elsewhere. I hope I'm mistaken about that.

Wayne909
04-28-2009, 05:34 PM
Do it. Dont let anyone discourage you. You can do anything you want anywhere you want if you set your mind to it and know what you are getting into.

Thanks. I dont get discouraged, just annoyed. I have built kayaks and canoes in my living room too. I know my capabilities and my limitations. I can do whatever I decide to do. Right now I dont have the ability to build a good uke, and I dont have the precision woodworking skills... but I learn by doing....I will make mistakes and I will learn from them...thats how it goes. Everyone has to start somewhere. I have two books on lutherie here now, and I have 2 more coming...I'm nowhere near starting anything yet. The negativity is not warranted. I'm simply in the research stage.

Konala
04-29-2009, 10:30 AM
Wayne:

Don't confuse suggestions that you wait for at least some of the work until you get home with criticism of your wanting to build while you at the cabin.

If you look at the evolution of side bending you will discover that the most common method for bending the sides in the past was a hot pipe heated with a propane torch. That gave way to the fox bender using light bulbs as a heat source. Today, the same fox bender is used with a heat blanket. This evolution took place because it made the work much easier and much more accurate in getting the bends in the right spots. You could bend your sides at the cabin with a chunk of scrap pipe and a propane torch but waiting until you are back and building a bending form with light bulbs or heat blanket will give you so much better results.

The same observation can be made for thinning the top, back and sides. You can plane the sides to remove excess wood or spend a lot of time with a random orbit or belt sander and get acceptable results. Most builders have built their own thickness sander or blought an open end thickness sander because it gives them a nice uniform thickness when they are done. It is not being negative to suggest that you may want to wait until you get back and then do this work with the aid of a thickness sander.

While you can drill acceptable holes with a hand drill or an auger a drill press does so much better of a job.

The list goes on and on.

The cost of materials for a ukulele is relatively high if you are buying a kit from Hana Lima. If you resaw your materials on a band saw using figured maple mahogany from Youngblood Lumber the cost drops way down, but you have to have access to a good band saw.

The process of building these instruments is also infectious. You probably will not build just one ukulele because you will want to correct all of the minor mistakes you make on your first ukulele in the second build. And then, you know that if you just make a few changes the third will sound so much better than the first two. If you quit building ukuleles, you will probably move on to guitars or other instruments.

None of us want to discourage you. We all want you to succeed and join us in enjoying the ukulele building process. Pete Howlett has spent so much time producing great videos to help us novices and wouldn't be doing it unless he wanted to share what he has learned. Chuck Moore makes some of the most artistic ukuleles I have ever seen.

The good news is northern Minnesota is not the end of the world. You can get tools and supplies there -- you just won't have the choice you would have in Minneapolis (I'm from East Bethel). So, load up you car with tools and enjoy your summer.

By the way, if you don't play the uklulele and are getting into building for the fun of it you may want to take a low cost uke with you and a couple of instruction books. Once you have built a uke you will want to learn to play what you have built and practice time takes away from building time by about an hour each day. I am one who is just learnig to play after building.

Start building your list of tool and add to it every time you think of another tool you should take. That way you will be less likely to forget something you need.

Konala

Wayne909
04-29-2009, 12:15 PM
Wayne:

Don't confuse suggestions that you wait for at least some of the work until you get home with criticism of your wanting to build while you at the cabin.

If you look at the evolution of side bending you will discover that the most common method for bending the sides in the past was a hot pipe heated with a propane torch. That gave way to the fox bender using light bulbs as a heat source. Today, the same fox bender is used with a heat blanket. This evolution took place because it made the work much easier and much more accurate in getting the bends in the right spots. You could bend your sides at the cabin with a chunk of scrap pipe and a propane torch but waiting until you are back and building a bending form with light bulbs or heat blanket will give you so much better results.

The same observation can be made for thinning the top, back and sides. You can plane the sides to remove excess wood or spend a lot of time with a random orbit or belt sander and get acceptable results. Most builders have built their own thickness sander or blought an open end thickness sander because it gives them a nice uniform thickness when they are done. It is not being negative to suggest that you may want to wait until you get back and then do this work with the aid of a thickness sander.

While you can drill acceptable holes with a hand drill or an auger a drill press does so much better of a job.

The list goes on and on.

The cost of materials for a ukulele is relatively high if you are buying a kit from Hana Lima. If you resaw your materials on a band saw using figured maple mahogany from Youngblood Lumber the cost drops way down, but you have to have access to a good band saw.

The process of building these instruments is also infectious. You probably will not build just one ukulele because you will want to correct all of the minor mistakes you make on your first ukulele in the second build. And then, you know that if you just make a few changes the third will sound so much better than the first two. If you quit building ukuleles, you will probably move on to guitars or other instruments.

None of us want to discourage you. We all want you to succeed and join us in enjoying the ukulele building process. Pete Howlett has spent so much time producing great videos to help us novices and wouldn't be doing it unless he wanted to share what he has learned. Chuck Moore makes some of the most artistic ukuleles I have ever seen.

The good news is northern Minnesota is not the end of the world. You can get tools and supplies there -- you just won't have the choice you would have in Minneapolis (I'm from East Bethel). So, load up you car with tools and enjoy your summer.

By the way, if you don't play the uklulele and are getting into building for the fun of it you may want to take a low cost uke with you and a couple of instruction books. Once you have built a uke you will want to learn to play what you have built and practice time takes away from building time by about an hour each day. I am one who is just learnig to play after building.

Start building your list of tool and add to it every time you think of another tool you should take. That way you will be less likely to forget something you need.

Konala

Konala, I found all of your comments in this thread constructive, helpful and worthy of consideration. Comments on the order of ridicule, are, of course neither.

I guess I will start to build when I feel ready, and I'm no where near ready yet. Maybe it will be 2 months, maybe it will be 6, I dont know. I will know when I get there. That seems a pretty prudent approach to me. I'm not going to barge into it without seeing what lies ahead, and I appreciate all constructive comments, of which there have been many in this thread.

bbycrts
04-29-2009, 12:41 PM
I have to assume you are talking about about me, but I have no idea what you are talking about, or why, unless its that snobbish elitist attitude I've encountered from a small number of builder's elsewhere. I hope I'm mistaken about that.

Yeah - there are those on any site who post rude comments or backhanded putdowns and then seem to think it's okay by saying things like "that's the way I am" or "but I have the experience to say that." Wayne, I envy your will to try - you may succeed, you may not - but only you have control over that. I for one hope you document the whole process and proudly show off the finished product!

Timbuck
04-29-2009, 01:05 PM
I don't want to insult you Wayne you seem to be a nice guy.. in fact I'd like to help, if I can?... but you don't appear to be all that keen on building a uke to me.... all this spaced out stuff about "maybe in 2 month or maybe 6 month"??? ...Last year Jan 2008.. I'd never built a ukulele before either.. but I decided there and then that I would...3 months later I was at this stage (See below).. now I'm into 30 odd ukes completed since then ...There's "talkers and do'ers" which one are you???:) I don't want to display myself as a "show off" but this is the way it was, as I was recovering from a bout of "clinical depression" and for me this project as been very theraputical...I hope i've given you a kick in the pants in the right direction. Regards Ken.
(click on the pic's for a slideshow.)
http://i219.photobucket.com/albums/cc143/shiregreenbod/ukulele%20pics/ukulele%202/th_uke014.jpg (http://s219.photobucket.com/albums/cc143/shiregreenbod/ukulele%20pics/ukulele%202/?action=view&current=b2cafa43.pbw)

and here's some more things I made to help me with this project .

http://i219.photobucket.com/albums/cc143/shiregreenbod/Jigs%20and%20things%201/th_IMG_1605.jpg (http://s219.photobucket.com/albums/cc143/shiregreenbod/Jigs%20and%20things%201/?action=view&current=26debd17.pbw)
http://i219.photobucket.com/albums/cc143/shiregreenbod/ukulele%20pics/th_IMG_1582.jpg (http://s219.photobucket.com/albums/cc143/shiregreenbod/ukulele%20pics/?action=view&current=48bff085.pbw)

Pete Howlett
04-29-2009, 03:44 PM
Careful Wayne... I am not elitist. Building a ukulele is not the same as building a boat and even the best of us have days when it all goes impossibly wrong - it took me 2 hours to fit one neck, 20 minutes another today... We are only trying to help you avoid disappointemnt :cool:

Wayne909
05-06-2009, 07:57 PM
I don't want to insult you Wayne you seem to be a nice guy.. in fact I'd like to help, if I can?... but you don't appear to be all that keen on building a uke to me.... all this spaced out stuff about "maybe in 2 month or maybe 6 month"??? ...Last year Jan 2008.. I'd never built a ukulele before either.. but I decided there and then that I would...3 months later I was at this stage (See below).. now I'm into 30 odd ukes completed since then ...There's "talkers and do'ers" which one are you???:) I don't want to display myself as a "show off" but this is the way it was, as I was recovering from a bout of "clinical depression" and for me this project as been very theraputical...I hope i've given you a kick in the pants in the right direction. Regards Ken.
(click on the pic's for a slideshow.)
http://i219.photobucket.com/albums/cc143/shiregreenbod/ukulele%20pics/ukulele%202/th_uke014.jpg (http://s219.photobucket.com/albums/cc143/shiregreenbod/ukulele%20pics/ukulele%202/?action=view&current=b2cafa43.pbw)

and here's some more things I made to help me with this project .

http://i219.photobucket.com/albums/cc143/shiregreenbod/Jigs%20and%20things%201/th_IMG_1605.jpg (http://s219.photobucket.com/albums/cc143/shiregreenbod/Jigs%20and%20things%201/?action=view&current=26debd17.pbw)
http://i219.photobucket.com/albums/cc143/shiregreenbod/ukulele%20pics/th_IMG_1582.jpg (http://s219.photobucket.com/albums/cc143/shiregreenbod/ukulele%20pics/?action=view&current=48bff085.pbw)

Thanks for the pics. As I said in my first post, I'm thinking of building a ukulele. I'm also thinking about building a guitar. I have many demands on my time in the next 6 months so I dont know when I will be able to start a build.
I'd like to start this summer but work could interfere, and limitations (spatial and otherwise) at the cabin could make it impractical. I'll start when I feel ready and educated enough to start, but I feel the best education will be the starting itself...

dave g
05-08-2009, 11:27 AM
Thanks. I dont get discouraged, just annoyed. I have built kayaks and canoes in my living room too.

A kayak or a canoe is considerably more involved than a ukulele; I'd say you're perfectly able!

Timbuck
05-08-2009, 11:52 AM
A kayak or a canoe is considerably more involved than a ukulele; I'd say you're perfectly able!

I agree with that...I've built all sorts of stuff in my time (by myself, and sometimes with the help of others)
Ship & Power station Boilers...Nuclear Subs...The "Thames Barrier", a caravan with my Dad.
Racing Bicycle Frames, Loud Speakers, Restored vintage motorbikes, and designed and built sound & lighting sytems for nightclubs and bars and festivals ...but Ukes are easier to make, and more enjoyable (Most days):)...but to build a great uke... I think that happens by accident when all the right bits suddenly come together.:old: (still waiting for that one):)