View Full Version : Uke body types

06-05-2018, 08:27 AM

Was just wondering about the merits of the different types of uke bodies. To forego steaming the wood, I had thought of making a trapezoid body, but I'm not really sure how it would affect the sound.

Would love some clarification.


06-05-2018, 10:21 AM
I have no idea, but just chiming in my thoughts. I know there is a science to it, as many professional Luths learn, and know. But, in my amateur mind, I would think the sound would resonate off of sharp corners differently. I assume the sound in the body bounces around in there before it leaves the body. Type of wood matters, density of the wood matters, thickness of the wood matters. How it is braced matters, so I would only suspect that shape of the body would matter. As far as a trap type shape, not sure if that is a good thing, or bad thing, but I would suspect it would depend on what sound you are going for. Personally, I like the traditional shape. Most the ones I have built are traditional, but have made a few paddle shaped. I would be interested in hearing what the pros say about it.

06-05-2018, 10:50 AM
Body shape will definitely affect the sound of the instrument, as will just about everything else that goes into it. How much or in what way is hard to say without actually building one. And if not wanting to deal with bending sides means building a trapezoid shaped ukulele instead of building no ukulele at all, then go for it. It may sound a little bit different than a standard shaped body, it may not. But at the end of the day, it will still sound like an ukulele... And it will still be fun to play!

06-05-2018, 10:53 AM
I think you might want to look at Specter


06-05-2018, 11:57 AM
Maybe Pete will chip in to comment, but here's a sound sample of his "marmite". https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8yr9a7R-vIw

06-05-2018, 12:13 PM
Great, will keep you guys updated. Was just making sure if it was a major pitfall, but since it doesn't seem to matter as much I'll build it trapezoidal.

06-06-2018, 03:28 AM
For what it is worth, bending sides isn't as hard as it would seem. Patients, and finesse is your friend in bending them. I didn't have all the specialized tools, and skills as a professional would, and maybe bent mine is non-traditional ways, but it was fun, and didn't take long to learn what worked and what didn't. I just used a small heat blanket and a heat gun that I modified with a iron pipe nozzle to use as something to bend on. I powered it with a foot pedal from an old sewing machine to run or shut off with my foot as I was bending to keep it hot, but was able to easily let off the power so as not to get too hot to burn the wood. If I can find an picture of what I made, I will post it. But it gave me a curved, hot surface to slowly bend it on while staying hot. Once I got it to close to what I needed, I put it in a mold I made to clamp it in to cool and dry. I soaked the wood before slowly bending it to shape. After a day in the mold, the shaped stayed in shape to add the top and bottom, etc. It was actually fun and therapeutically satisfying to bend it myself with tools I made with my own hand. I tend to always use Mahogany, because that is my favorite wood, and it's much more forgiving to bend than say, Koa. I did one in Acacia, but it was more of a pain to do without cracking it, so I just stuck with Mahogany, which is the wood of my choice anyway.

06-06-2018, 03:52 AM
Found some old pictures of the heater I made to bend sides. Had very little money in it. Just made with scrap stuff I had laying around. Took the guts out of a heat gun, and put them in the big pipe (blower and heating element), ran power through the old sewing machine foot switch. Step on it, and the pipe got good and hot and I regulated it with the on/off foot control. Used the pipe to slowly bend the sides around after soaking them in water. Larger pipe for larger bends, smaller pipe for tighter bends. It steamed the sides and worked very well.




A couple of the little mini ukes I used to build using the heat pipe to bend the sides. Made all from scratch and raw materials. Mahogany, Ebony fret board. Neck and all made from raw materials. Even the ebony friction tuning pegs.


06-06-2018, 04:26 AM
A piece of 2" muffler pipe and a heat gun blowing into it did the first few guitars I made. Use some practice pieces of wood before you bend your sides to get a feel at how it works. You can use a spray bottle to mist the pipe, when the water flashes off it is hot enough. You get a big sense of accomplishment bending your first set of sides. Might not be perfect in shape but that is ok.

Graham Greenbag
06-06-2018, 05:59 AM

Was just wondering about the merits of the different types of uke bodies. To forego steaming the wood, I had thought of making a trapezoid body, but I'm not really sure how it would affect the sound.

Would love some clarification.


I asked a similar question (about flat sided Ukes) about a year ago but, no mater how hard I search, I can’t find the thread. Anyway IIRC the general response was that multifaceted Ukes work just fine, and some examples of what folk had made were given. As an aside, for what it’s worth, I find that I prefer the mellower / deeper sound of pineapple shaped Ukes over otherwise identical figure eight shapes (eg. Lanikai LU21P versus LU21S).

Rather than avoiding bending sides (because it’s perhaps hard or involved to do, etc.) you could just choose to build something with straight sides. I’ve heard a few good examples of ‘Cigar Box’ / box body Ukes and, to be honest, they sounded really good - certainly to the point where the ability of the player, rather than the quality of the Uke, was the limiting factor in the quality of music produced. Why complicate things for yourself by bending sides when that isn’t absolutely necessary?

This thread and the video at the end illustrate how good a reasonable Box Uke can be: https://forum.ukuleleunderground.com/showthread.php?132317-Dog-Chew-Neck-up-for-grabs/page2&highlight=chew+neck

Ken Middleton has some interesting and positive things to say about a Box Uke that he bought too, see: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=j69pkVK3xCg .

06-07-2018, 03:59 AM
I made a cigar box uke with a spruce top instead of the normal lid and it sounded reasonable.

Pete Howlett
06-11-2018, 11:29 AM
This is done by cold bending. I've sold about 50 or so of these since I launched in 2013