View Full Version : Buildin a Soprano Kit

05-30-2017, 03:06 PM
I got a mahogany soprano kit from my Father.
Ive had it awhile and decided to start it.. I thought it would go pretty fast which it has to this point..
It came with the fret board already slotted and marked in rosewood..
I thought Id like to change the fret board to a different wood and also lengthen it..
The kit was designed for a 13.5 scale..
I had purchased the stew mac fret scale template, its for a 13.75 scale... Can I use the 13.75 with that particular pre-shaped neck and body?
Im pretty sure the neck will meet the body at the 13th fret instead of the 12th like the stock fret board does that came with the kit.
Im wondering if this 13.75 scale is going to throw my plans that Ive purchased for my own builds out the window.. The whole scale thing is confusing to me. Maybe I wasted my money on these fret templates.. I should of stuck with how I was doing it before.. I got my idea from sixgunguitars.com and just used already serviced fret boards and made exact copies of them.
I thought that if you were going to build a soprano.. the scale is what it is. same for all sops.. concert... its the same for all concerts... apparently not..
I understand people are doing the super ukes and such... maybe it doesnt matter.. but I thought Id pose it here and see what the experienced have to say about my confused thinking...


05-30-2017, 05:10 PM
ok..... I took a break away from it... and it came to me... the scale is the distance from the nut to the saddle.. so.. if Ive got a 13.75 scale instead of 13.5 then the only thing that really changes is the distance to the saddle...
like a quarter of an inch... Doh...
Feeling a tad slow at this moment.. but hey.. thats what happens as you age... right?

Croaky Keith
05-30-2017, 11:05 PM
There's a lot to take in with ukes, & you're jumping in to build one for yourself, I bought all mine, so good luck with your build.

P.S. If you don't ask, how are you ever going to know. :)

05-31-2017, 12:55 AM
As I think about your question my first response was no - it will not work. BUT i see you are intending to ditch the existing fingerboard and make a new one. Using the existing neck it would mean placing the bridge about a half inch lower on the body of the instrument. Since much of my background is in banjos the placement of the bridge is an easy thing as you simply slide it into the place where you get proper intonation. You may want to find the correct placement of the bridge by setting up the instrument temporarily with a tailpiece - there are old style banjo ones that are held in place by a strap peg in the manner of a violin. The critical thing is that the 12th fret will be halfway between the bridge saddle and the nut. The fine adjustment on the banjo is achieved by using the harmonics. IMHO to do this simply by measurement is iffy/chancy.

Your next challenge might be the support under the bridge and that will be determined too by the bracing. I am assuming later bracing. On guitars we use a supporting plate of wood glued up under where the bridge goes so that it is not simply the top wood of the instrument that is supporting the bridge. Lack of support can result in the bowing of a top that is often seen in cheap instruments, especially when the strings are too high a tension - usually on guitars when steel strings are installed on an instrument designed for nylon. Some ukulele strings are fairly high tension. Bowing of the top creates action issues as well.

You have set yourself some challenges! My quick answer would be to build with a tailpiece, like on a banjo ukulele. I am not sure how it would sound. You could check on the web site of Terry Mead where he makes non traditional ukuleles and banjos with wooden tops. http://tmeadbanjos.com - his non traditional ukuleles use a round body (sort of like the Gretsch campfire models). How this would sound with a traditionally shaped body I cannot tell. There are several guitar makers who have used tailpieces on folk style instruments - especially twelve string instruments where the tension is HUGE. On the Mead instruments the strings are held simply by screws on the back of the instrument and the body is protected by a hardwood insert on the bottom edge of the top. BTW Mead's regular ukuleles use a glued on bridge.

Have fun.

My 0.02 cents worth - Ian

05-31-2017, 11:35 AM
If you want to keep the 13.5 scale then tape the precut original fretboard and the new fretboard back to back. Then use it with the original slots facing down as a guide for cutting the new slots. Use a thin bit of metal like a razor blade as an index when sawing. To add any extra feet slots on the extended section you can use a fret calculator (stew mac website) and mark them manually and cut. Chances are if they are not perfect it won't matter as the dusty end tends not to be used much ☺️
Good luck!

05-31-2017, 01:53 PM
Thank you all for your comments..
Alot to take in and some of it I should have thought of ahead of time but didnt..
Especially the bridge bracing... Not sure why I didnt realize that with the quarter inch difference in the scale that it would bump my bridge off of the bracing for it.. That hadnt even crossed my mind.. I knew something was really wrong but couldnt put my finger on it..
So... I think I may just go back to the stock finger board and call it good... The Box is already built, the braces are set... Thanks Ian for bringing that up..
This is something Ill have to make some notes on so I dont forget it in the future...

Keith your right about asking questions...
Ive built a couple from plans... this is my first kit and I was getting carried away with customizing it... Glad I posted as I believe I just saved myself a ton of aggravation and bad words..

Andy... The method you described is the way I did my fret boards before, buying the template from Stew Mac I thought would be better.....
Im thinking of ditching the stew mac templates.. Not sure Im happy with the odd scale... I spoke with one of their tech guys and he told me that they chose the scales before he got there.. He wasnt sure why they chose what they chose.. Maybe they took the majority of ukes they came across and decided that way.. I checked my Martin Soprano...... 13.5 inch scale.. I dont know why Martins choice of scales wouldnt come into their decision making as they are a very popular ukulele and almost a standard in some ways. But they went with 13.75.. oh well..
All the fret boards I was using for templates are different than the stew mac templates scale wise.
Thanks again guys!!