PDA

View Full Version : New Stewart MacDonald Ukulele Kit



sequoia
12-06-2017, 05:02 PM
Has anybody checked out the new SMD uke kits? Much different than what they used to offer. SMD used to offer a pretty sophisticated kit that made a very nice sounding mid-level quality ukulele. However, it was a bit challenging to the novice woodworker. Now they have simplified the concept and cut the price in half. From what I can see, it is a big step down from what they used to offer.

I know I gave Pete guff recently about specifically naming vendors in a critical email, but I think SMD doesn't apply nor does LMI when they get it wrong. This was obviously a dumbing down financial decision if you ask me. Too bad. They had a really superior kit and now they go for the low end toy. Way to go SMD! Don't be afraid of bottom feeding.

tobinsuke
12-07-2017, 02:11 AM
Not sure how this kit differs from the previous kits. Except I'm not sure they used to have a concert option. And I am sure that they used to offer a companion build DVD featuring Gordon from Mya Moe (bought that/lost it in shop fire). I guess I'll need to hear some reviews before forming a strong opinion.

Pete Howlett
12-07-2017, 01:05 PM
How's that glass house holding up :)

Doc_J
12-07-2017, 01:56 PM
The New Stew-Mac uke kits look pretty similar to the old one. The bracing pattern has changed from 3 fans to a modified X-bracing, and the new instruction look better.

I'm not sure how they got the price down. Maybe a new vendor for the kits?

A more challenging kit can be found at LMII.com
http://www.lmii.com/products/mostly-wood/instrument-kits/ukulele-kits
They supply a kit to go with the Rob O'Brien/ Heidi Litke Ukulele Course.
https://obrienguitars.com/courses/ukulele

http://www.lmii.com/images/stories/category2016/UKEKIT3at900.jpg

Stagehand
12-07-2017, 02:54 PM
Were the old kits solid not lam?



The New Stew-Mac uke kits look pretty similar to the old one. The bracing pattern has changed from 3 fans to a modified X-bracing, and the new instruction look better.

I'm not sure how they got the price down. Maybe a new vendor for the kits?

A more challenging kit can be found at LMII.com
http://www.lmii.com/products/mostly-wood/instrument-kits/ukulele-kits
They supply a kit to go with the Rob O'Brien/ Heidi Litke Ukulele Course.
https://obrienguitars.com/courses/ukulele

http://www.lmii.com/images/stories/category2016/UKEKIT3at900.jpg

Doc_J
12-07-2017, 04:02 PM
Were the old kits solid not lam?

The old kits were all solid wood. Looks like the new kits are only a solid top. The sides and the back are laminated.

OK. Now I know how they got the price down ..... cheaper sides and back.

HogTime
12-08-2017, 08:48 AM
I just started on the current StewMac concert kit. Finished a soprano model of their discontinued kit earlier this year for my granddaughter. The only change I see in quality is only the top is solid wood and there is no rosette. Good instructions and helpful free videos for building at https://www.stewmac.com/ukevideos.

The soprano kit I bought 4 years ago was $132. The current soprano kit is $80 ($20 off standard price until ???). Concert is $10 more.

I thought about getting solid wood for a back from LMI, then decided not to. I'm more interested in having a project to build than the best sound. I've never owned a uke to play. Have played guitar and mandolin for many years.

Several years back I built an F5 mandolin from a kit. Way more work than a uke! I'm building the ukes so I can get more use out of all the tools I bought for the mando build. :)

Ralph
Hog Time Music (http://HogTimeMusic.com) / F5 Mandolin Build (http://www.hogtimemusic.com/MandoBuild/)

gmtx77
12-19-2017, 10:55 AM
Nephew and I are seriously considering a tenor team effort on this kit. Never built one before but at this price it looks like a good place to start and get our feet wet. Watched the videos and they look like they are a great help.

Would like to hear from any others that have built this.

HogTime
12-20-2017, 07:45 AM
I say "go for it"! :) Then, you can have fun like this:

bsfloyd
01-18-2018, 01:14 AM
I've also been considering picking up one of these kits as the price seems good. For a first build, is this a recommended kit or is it better to have a little bit of experiencing before trying this one? For someone with no specialty build tools, what is an approximate cost to get what is needed to do a decent build? Thanks.

HogTime
01-18-2018, 05:48 AM
To get an easier kit, it would have to be partially assembled (body complete, frets installed, etc.). Not sure where you would find one.

As far as tools cost, the manual lists the recommended tools. Manual can be downloaded from http://www.stewmac.com/How-To/Online_Resources/Kit_Building/StewMac_Ukulele_Kit_Instructions.html

I'm currently building the concert kit, but already had all the tools needed from a previous mandolin build.

Take the plunge and have fun (and a bit frustration). :)

bsfloyd
01-18-2018, 12:25 PM
Thanks, Ralph! Much appreciated.

sequoia
01-18-2018, 05:05 PM
I built SMD previous uke kit and it definitely required intermediate wood-working skills but yielded a surprisingly good sounding instrument that could hold its own with any intermediate or even high end commercial product. I have not built the current offering, but it is much simplified and someone with virtually no wood working experience should be able to build it with no problem. However, looking at the parts and the bracing arrangement, it is a much cheaper and simplified project and I am skeptical how it will sound. Please build one and report back. I'm interested. Have fun!

steveholt
01-18-2018, 11:39 PM
I'm currently early into a build on the 'new' SMD soprano kit.

Pre bent sides and pre slotted fretboard feel like they must take a bit of the luthiery out of it, but also reduce the tools cost barrier to entry.
I am not hugely familiar with the older kit - how did it differ beyond the sides and fretboard? How is the new bracing arrangement cheaper?

One question I have been thinking of asking here is - I ordered some friction pegs with the kit as I wanted to go a bit different and learn something new while learning a lot new. A half idea that crossed my mind is for this build or my next one - how thick would a headstock need to be to accommodate the carving of a Flea/Fluke style headstock?

anyway - back to lurking.

HogTime
01-19-2018, 05:27 AM
I ordered a SMD soprano kit 4 years ago and built it for my granddaughter. I don't see any significant difference in that kit and the current concert one, except for laminated back/sides and no rosette for the current kit. IMO, the lack of a rosette on the current model is the only thing that makes assembling the current model "easier".

sequoia
01-19-2018, 05:13 PM
I ordered a SMD soprano kit 4 years ago and built it for my granddaughter. I don't see any significant difference in that kit and the current concert one, except for laminated back/sides and no rosette for the current kit. IMO, the lack of a rosette on the current model is the only thing that makes assembling the current model "easier".

I was talking about the old tenor kit which differed significantly from the old soprano kit in its construction. We are talking peaches and apples here. The biggest difference in the "old" tenor kit and the new are in the laminated sides (saves costs but is icky in my mind), the lack of rosette (which was fun), the simplified and crude neck and tail blocks, but mostly in the bracing pattern which used to be a classic triple fan and is now some sort of X-bracing (???) pattern with weird floating side bars which make me curious on the difference in sound. I'm not saying it sounds any worse. Maybe it sounds killer. I don't know. I just wonder at why they went in this direction. I think they went this direction because the kit is easier to assemble, it costs less to produce because milling is much simplified, and it reduces the cost of having to field technical questions on the the tech help line, a not inconsiderable expense. Basically the whole thing has been cheaped and yes, dumbed down, and I think that is a shame. I take the ukulele seriously and I think SMD should also and put out a serious uke kit.

Harummmphhh. I feel better now.

dofthesea
01-21-2018, 11:38 AM
Don't get hung up on laminated sides some of the best luthiers out there laminate sides.

sequoia
01-21-2018, 05:29 PM
Don't get hung up on laminated sides some of the best luthiers out there laminate sides.

It is not just the laminated sides. It is the overall simplification and decrease in quality of the kit overall that bugs me. Grrrr..... Price has dropped by 2/3rds. Better price point I guess. Sorry, but I always hate to see a vendor cheap down their offerings be it tools, equipment, or what-ever. It seems to be rare that I see a vendor increase their quality on a product. Ukulele entropy? Must we go to the lowest common denominator always?

DPO
01-21-2018, 06:31 PM
It is not just the laminated sides. It is the overall simplification and decrease in quality of the kit overall that bugs me. Grrrr..... Price has dropped by 2/3rds. Better price point I guess. Sorry, but I always hate to see a vendor cheap down their offerings be it tools, equipment, or what-ever. It seems to be rare that I see a vendor increase their quality on a product. Ukulele entropy? Must we go to the lowest common denominator always?

It's market driven, if this is what the consumer wants, then this is what they get

Sven
01-23-2018, 04:13 AM
It's market driven, if this is what the consumer wants, then this is what they get
Never accept what the market dictates! Fight Mammon every step of the way.

resoman
01-23-2018, 04:34 AM
I hate starving, LOL :D

TimberTones
01-23-2018, 07:01 AM
To learn the basics about assembling ukuleles, I bought all three of the StewMac Ukulele kits while they were on sale last month. Starting with the Soprano, my plan is to build all three without making changes or adding anything to the instructions.

To date I have the Soprano finished, ready to glue the bridge onto the body, the Concert body assembled and frets installed on the fingerboard. Tapping the assembled bodies produces rich tones with some sustain (I don't really know what a good one should sound like, but believe I would know a bad one if I heard it).

This triple-build project began because I was stalled building a non-kit Baritone Ukulele (that's going to be a Bass)... not because I lack the woodworking skills or tools to do it, but because I didn't have a good understanding about what assembly is like. Without completing the first instrument I know much more -- and have greater confidence -- than when I started. The second body took me 1/2 the time of the first. The fretting the second finger board took 1/4 the time of the first.

Although speed is not my goal, experience with each of the steps takes the majority of wasted time and uncertainty out of the process. In addition, I'll end up with a matched set of three Ukuleles for me, my family and friends to learn how to play!

BrianMahoney
03-06-2018, 11:09 AM
I'm currently applying finish to a tenor, built as per instructions but with a bolt on neck. Its an enjoyable build and makes a nice looking Uke.

I'll soon be starting on a concert. I'm going to try my hand at a simple rosette and maybe thing the soundboard as I suspect 2.1mm is too thick for a mahogany soundboard.

They have got me hooked and I'm already collecting wood for another build or two. :-)

Brian

sequoia
03-06-2018, 12:59 PM
Yes, can be quite addictive. And expensive too... Don't forget to send pictures!

Jerryc41
03-08-2018, 11:53 AM
I made a SMD tenor uke a couple of years ago, the tenor being the only kit available. I relied heavily on the Mya Moe DVD. Aside from the laminated sides and back, it looks just like mine, which turned out much better than I thought it would. Of course, the price of the new one is a lot lower. As you said, it was challenging - exacting measurements and alignment - and the directions both on paper and DVD could have been more complete.