View Full Version : Cheap ukulele kits usable?

01-27-2018, 07:01 AM
I'm planning on getting a ukulele kit to build with my daughter.

You can get a DIY kit on ebay for $10-20 from China / Hong Kong.

Does anyone have experience with those? Here's one (https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/21-Ukulele-Soprano-Wooden-Musical-Instrument-Hawaiian-Guitar-Uke-Kit-DIY-Tool/162757694079).

I'm not expecting any great sound, but given that I build it properly, it has to:
1. Be tunable.
2. Stay in tune.
3. Not wrap or break.
4. Be playable.

Is that wishful thinking for such a cheap kit? I can do the sanding / setup required.
My main concerns are the quality of the wood and the placements of the frets.

Any other kit recommendations welcome.

Joe King
01-27-2018, 12:16 PM
You'd be much better off to spend a little more and to with something like a Wolfele kit, as previously discussed on UU which you can see by clicking here (http://goo.gl/Mnsm33).

01-27-2018, 07:08 PM
I mean what do you really have to lose? $20 bucks??? Hell, if it doesn't sound good you can use it for kindling in your fireplace. Go for it... I did note that the ukulele that the lovely young woman is playing in the picture and looks pretty good is not the kit pictured. You get what pay for in life and uke kits are probably no different. You might want to consider the Stuart McDonald kit as an alternative.


01-27-2018, 10:56 PM
The cheapest kits like the one you show are basswood ply soprano ukes. They will never look good -they really should be painted. All components are very basic. You can buy a complete painted soprano for a little more money.

There are better DIY concert and tenor kits on EBay or Amazon: I can only speak of the Ammoon kits. I have used a mahogany ply tenor and a zebrawood ply tenor as experimental bases (also available as concert). In both cases I replaced the soundboards with Spruce to try out new bracing patterns. I ended up with good looking and great sounding instruments.

Here's my post on my first experiment with the mahogany kit.


So what do I reckon to the kits? You get a soundbox which requires light sanding and then can be finished with shellac, tru oil etc to give a good appearance. Remember the surface veneer is thin so hand sanding is best. In both my kits the back was dented from cramping in several places. The zebrawood kit is complete with plastic binding to front and back so looks better (I replaced with wood).

The neck is roughed out and needs finishing. The fretboards were OK except on one the distance to the 1st fret was 2mm too long. You need to attach the neck to the box with butt joint, dowel or bolt and get it aligned.

I didn't use the strings, bridge or nut provided but these are usable/acceptable. I was aiming for something better.

The Ammoon kit has no instructions, so you need to know where to stick the bridge otherwise it will never play in tune. I cant say how the kit sounds with its ply soundboard but reviews say its fine.

In UK the Ammoon kit costs 27 inc postage from China. A concert or tenor Zebrawood kit may be what you are seeking-minimum cash outlay and minimum effort/tools for something that will be playable.

01-28-2018, 12:58 AM
A second thumbs up for the ammoon kit, I've built few for the grandchildren. If you think you will enjoy the build go for it. They fulfill all your criteria.


01-28-2018, 03:37 AM
That kit in concert size was my first stringed instrument build, and it only took a couple hours... it's really an assembly puzzle without instructions. Very simple to do (very little sanding required and just 3 glue joints) if you understand how a ukulele is built and how to get the bridge placed correctly.

I used everything that came with the kit, except for the strings. It sounds surprisingly good and is fun to play. By far the weakest component is the tuners, because they creep out of tune, but when paying solo it doesn't make very much difference to me, but I'm a guitar player just learning the ukulele.

01-29-2018, 01:22 AM
These kits look like you would get the equivalent of a similarly priced whole uke. What you might get better are the things in your control like action and intonation.

Alternatively you can get a thing you can't buy in a shop by starting from scratch and build what you like.
Cigar box nation

Our own 2 by 4 challenge


Dan Hulbert

01-29-2018, 01:57 AM
seems fun thing to do with your kid, I might do one too when my kid is old enough, all your doing is just glueing on the neck , fretboard and bridge.

but to help you out it can sound good.
1... ((most important))you must place the bridge at the proper location. you must know what scale length it is so you can place it for right intonation. if you don't it will not sound good..
2.. ((Big Difference))get flourocarbon strings. do not use the ones it come with. probably not even real strings. but with the right quality strings like aquilas or worths flourocarbon can also increase your chance for better sounding ukulele.
3. if you want to go even more further but not nessary is the change the nut/saddle to a bone/tusq/etc etc materrial
4... then last get it setup right by getting the action to proper level.

01-29-2018, 02:48 AM
Thanks a bunch for all your comments, much appreciated!

I had a good look at the Ammoon kits, but their soprano (https://www.amazon.co.uk/ammoon-Soprano-Rosewood-Fingerboard-Self-Build/dp/B07529JKN6/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1517229471&sr=8-3) kit looks a bit substandard quality than their tenor (https://www.amazon.co.uk/ammoon-Ukelele-Ukulele-Rosewood-Fingerboard/dp/B0752DYRHD/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1517229471&sr=8-1) ones. The soprano one is also for sale on ebay (https://www.ebay.com/itm/DIY-Ukulele-Make-Your-Own-21-Ukulele-DIY-Soprano-Hawaii-Ukulele-Kit-Soprano-Uku/182753894541?hash=item2a8cfb208d:g:-mwAAOSw5ulZso-S) as a no-name brand from china for 12.

I've just ordered this kit (https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B01DBK571C/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1), for 29 (from UK). It does look better than the cheap ones, and I figured that since I'm putting the time into this it might as well spend some extra on it for better quality. Fingers crossed that the tuners are OK.

01-29-2018, 04:21 AM
That looks to be a fun kit. As mentioned above sometimes the distance from the nut to the first fret is a couple of mm too long so use stewmac's scale length calculator to check and get the position of the bridge.

01-29-2018, 06:41 AM
I have a one of the $16 ukulele kits coming in the mail. I want to see if they could work for a building workshop at a ukulele festival. I'm looking for something that is fast enough to be completed in a couple of hours. I've done cigar box ukes, Wolfelele kits, and C.B. Gitty ukulele kits in the past.

01-30-2018, 11:16 AM
I just got one off of the bay:

I didn’t expect much so I wasn’t disappointed. The fingerboard is plastic and I doubt it will be long before the frets are pitted. I did order necks seperately with wood fingerboard and metal frets.

There is no bracing that I can see except for a small piece glued under where the saddle will go, so that’s something.

The kerfing where top and back join the sides is a thin strip. It all looks like pine so the wood resonance won’t be all that. I expect it to be kind of like a cigar box build but to sound a little worse than most such creations. It is unfinished. I didn’t notice in the posting if it was shown, but there were some. Little pots of paint and some little brushes.

The tuners appear ok, but I will be surprised if they are a durable metal.

Oh, the edges of the top and back are kinda rough.

All in all, it might be fun as a very first experience in putting something together.

What I am going to do with it is to make a thinner neck for it out of some sturdy wood at Homer’s. I am going to put a single string on it an fret it like a dulcimer with frets for the major scale only. This is for a seven year old kid of a friend’s who thinks he wants to learn to play. No one in his family will be able to tune it or help him. I figure this way, with one string fretted in a scale anything he plays will be in tune referencing itself. I want it to be fun and not put him off of his interest. Maybe this will keep him stoked till he gets in a better learning situation.


02-17-2018, 10:21 AM

I finally got my kit put together.

02-17-2018, 11:10 AM
Ohana make a kit for either soprano or concert size. There is not much left to do with the neck already attached, so for $55 they are reasonable. I have seen them for sale at Uke Republic. Here is the detail from Ohana. https://ohana-music.com/diy-ukulele-kits/ - naturally they are plywood but I like Ohana and this way one can make the instrument ones own by paint, decal or whatever.