View Full Version : Templates for neck and body?

08-25-2017, 07:25 PM
Looking into my first builds...I've got the woods and want to make tenors.

I just don't know if I should wing it all and just take the precautions of a good neck set, and scale length.

Cutting frets makes me nervous...but I feel like the extra time is worth it knowing pre-slottled stuff can be a little thin.

08-26-2017, 12:25 AM
Welcome to the forum.

Its always difficult to advise. Some come to this forum with no knowledge of tools and wood, others have quite the opposite background.

Wherever you are starting, I suggest you spend some weeks (not just a few hours) reading posts on this and other uke/guitar sites, and watching Youtube (ukes and classical guitar making). This will make you aware of the many different methods of making instruments, moulds, jigs, hand tools and machine tools.......... which can be used.

It will help you decide which techniques to try and make you aware of issues as yet unknown to you.

Many decide to start with a kit. Some simply buy and follow a plan. Others design their instruments from day one. Once you have a better idea of whats involved, you should be able to decide what approach is right for you. You can then decide what to buy and what to try to design or make.

Once you start making, answers to specific issues can probably be found here in previous posts: if not you can also ask for help.

08-26-2017, 07:02 PM
Well said... and welcome.

I'm a big fan of kits when starting the first one, but since you say you have the wood this might not be an option. However, consider buying a kit and then building a second one after you have discovered the pit-falls and tricky parts and how the parts are milled and fit together. This increases your odds of success for building a great sounding and structurally sound instrument. You didn't say if you just want to build just one instrument and then move on. If you just want to build one, I would resist the temptation to buy all sorts of specialized luthier tools because they can be expensive and of limited use down the line. You can build an acceptable uke using common shop tools just fine.

And keep in mind that the instrument you build is not going to be perfect. Perfection in ukulele building is an allusive goal. Sometimes it just has to be good enough. And have fun!

08-26-2017, 09:03 PM
A kit.
First time builder, a kit, but a good wood kit.
Keep your wood for the building of the second uke.
Don't think about inlays, binding, rosette and more ...
A simple uke.
A book to have and read before even the first cut: "Ukulele Design & Construction" by D. Henry Wickham.
Matertial list, jigs, construction tips and so ...
And keep in mind : pleasure & fun.

08-27-2017, 09:13 AM
Welcome to the forums, NotDonHo!

I will second what greenscoe said. Get yourself a tall drink of your choice and settle in for a long period of reading and watching videos. The Luthier's Lounge is invaluable for the new builder. Don't be afraid to ask questions, but also realize that almost anything you could ask has been covered extensively here, so do a search first. The search feature on this site blows, but since there is so much information here, Google will almost always route you back here anyways.

Any builder here is going to tell you that jigs and templates a vitally important if you want to make a decent instrument. I know as a beginner, you will probably not heed that advice and go it alone anyways, and that's ok! It will definitely teach you what is right and wrong. Just don't expect sympathy if you come back looking for advice on how to fix your ill-advised mistakes.

Whether you build your first from scratch or use a kit, just don't be afraid to dive in and get started! Just take your time and think your steps through before you execute them. It's almost always impossible to go back once you've committed. We all love progress threads here, so let's see what your doing! Just so you are aware though, if you ask for opinions here you need to have a thick skin, because opinions you will get. It's because we all respect each other and the process.

Most of all, have fun with your build! :D

08-27-2017, 12:25 PM
Great advice above -- jump in! Back when I first started messing around with fretted instruments all of my answers came from the books I was able to find. Things have become much, much easier. Google, for example, "fret cutting jig" and you'll find all sorts of things from commercially available jigs to things folks have cobbled together in their shops. Remember, when searching for information, that a ukulele is in many ways a downsized guitar, so much of what you find from builder's guitar shops will apply.

Take it step by step and don't become obsessive about either perfection or finishing within a fixed length of time. For example, prepping, slotting and fretting the fingerboard can be considered it's own project. There are lots of Youtube videos that are very good and go into plenty of detail.

You can -- and should learn how to -- make your own templates either from the plans of others or your own if you're going to keep at this.

Fretting, scale length (positioning the bridge/saddle) and that sort of thing are matters of measuring accurately and double checking before gooping things together. Good measuring tools are invaluable.

Spending all the time others have suggested reading and watching videos, take into account what type of neck to body joint looks good to you -- and the least intimidating. It's one of the trickier bits, particularly where glue is involved.

Handle as many ukes as you can, be it in retail stores, uke groups or whatever. Play and learn to listen carefully. After awhile you'll be able to assess a lot about a uke just by picking it up and feeling both its weight and balance. Read a few articles on stringed instrument acoustics so you have an idea about things like wood choices, top and bottom thickness, bracing patterns, etc.

Keep it fun! This isn't a college course and there are no tests. Just sort of absorb information as you can. You don't have to memorize anything because it's all within reach if you've got a smartphone.

Oh yeah -- while you're doing all of that I heartily agree about the kit idea.

08-27-2017, 07:46 PM
Here is some hard won advice: Always keep in mind before making cuts that you have a line of retreat if it doesn't work out. In other words, if it goes bad and you have to do it over, have a Plan B in mind. You are going to make mistakes and that is guaranteed , just don't let them be fatal. Give yourself wiggle room and then nibble it in where possible. And then there are a few operations where there is no going back. Take a deep breath, rehearse, rehearse, rehearse and cut. But these operations are thankfully rare. Most times there is always a Plan B.

Example: Today I was cutting in an end graft (butt graft). I've gotten pretty good at these things lately, but today I botched it. Poor fit. Bad cut. But here is the thing: I can do it over again with a slightly larger rabit and recut a new wedge and nobody will know. So keep in mind how you are going to fix the potential screw up because everybody screws up.