View Full Version : Something a little different.

Vespa Bob
11-29-2017, 05:03 PM
Let me state right up front that I cannot accept full credit for this latest effort, since it is the result of a rebuild of my very first ukulele, bought some nine years ago, a cheap plywood model, costing me all of $75. Since I've recently felt the desire to to take an instrument apart and refurbish it, I decided that this would be an ideal donor.
My intention was to remove the top and replace it with some Sitka spruce I had lying around, to improve the somewhat dull sound of the original and also, to decrease the height of the body by 1/2"
Using heat, a putty knife and a Japanese pull saw, I managed to separate the various parts, leaving only the sides and the neck attached to each other. After reattaching the back and top, the neck somehow ended up at a very negative angle, requiring me to add a shim to level it out with the body. The only problem was that the shim was a different color to the rest of the neck. How to disguise it? It was then that I decided to paint all but the top and, immediately, black came to mind, to look like a black lacquered grand piano! Not an easy feat when the original wood had a very coarse grain which would need a lot of filling. Nevertheless, after a few coats of shellac, followed by several applications of CA, then a few coats of sanding sealer and clear lacquer, the surface was smooth enough to accept a coat or two of water based acrylic paint, followed by a coat of clear with black dye added, then final coats of pure clear lacquer. Buffing it all out by hand is a painful process when no electric buffer is at hand, but then I thought of my Festool random orbital sander as a possible buffing tool. Cutting down an old terry cloth towel into disks to fit on the sander in place of sanding disks, I was able to buff out the top and back with good results. The neck and sides still had to be done by hand, but the final result was satisfactory to my eyes. Spraying the sunburst on the top was no problem, using an airbrush and clear lacquer with yellow, then orange, then red added to produce the right effect.
Oh, I also reshaped the neck to a more appealing shape an decided to gain more practice, in adding a binding to the top. Likewise with the rosette, more trial and error!
Right up until the final finish application, I had no idea what to do about the headstock veneer. After abandoning the idea of creating a mosaic of different woods, similar to the rosette, I opted for a simple hand painted design.
That's about it. I'm happy with the results, it's certainly a looker, although the sound improvement isn't as great as I'd like. Maybe it still needs to open up!


11-29-2017, 06:18 PM
Nice job Bob! Your idea to do the back and sides in black really worked. It all looks great and I love the sunburst. All in all a great job. Now why don't you just build your own uke from scratch rather than doing these rehab projects? Might be less work in the end and making a silk purse out of sows ear never ended well from what I understand.

Vespa Bob
11-30-2017, 04:51 AM
Thanks, sequoia, but this is actually my first attempt at rebuilding an instrument, all my others were built from scratch. Or were you just kidding?


12-01-2017, 04:48 AM
Your Festool trick really did a nice job. Beautiful looking finish!!

Vespa Bob
12-01-2017, 06:44 AM
Thanks, yes it worked like a charm!