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ukulelebadass
05-28-2009, 08:03 AM
I have been toying with the idea of making a ukulele using the body from an old viola. I think that it would be comperable in size to a tenor uke.

Does any one have experience with this sort of thing? Or knowledge of whether it could even be possible based on the size and dimensions of a viola or violin?

Has anyone tried making new instruments out of old wood from broken instruments, i.e. the back wood, sides and sound boards from old guitars could be cut down and re shaped into a ukulele, or is this impossible once the wood has full cured.

I have wood-working skills and have done some instrument repair, but never attempted a full luthier project before. I know there are kits available to make new instruments, but I'm more of a figure it out for yourself type of guy, and I want to end up with something unique and different.

dave g
05-28-2009, 09:54 AM
That might be a fun project :cheers:

The proportions are totally different... I'm looking at a full size violin compared to a soprano ukulele: approx the same scale length, but the body of the violin is much longer (comes to about the 8th fret, so to speak, assuming that the bridge stays in the same place). It would be unique, that's for sure :)

E-Lo Roberts
05-28-2009, 10:09 AM
I have been toying with the idea of making a ukulele using the body from an old viola. I think that it would be comperable in size to a tenor uke.

Does any one have experience with this sort of thing? Or knowledge of whether it could even be possible based on the size and dimensions of a viola or violin?

Has anyone tried making new instruments out of old wood from broken instruments, i.e. the back wood, sides and sound boards from old guitars could be cut down and re shaped into a ukulele, or is this impossible once the wood has full cured.

I have wood-working skills and have done some instrument repair, but never attempted a full luthier project before. I know there are kits available to make new instruments, but I'm more of a figure it out for yourself type of guy, and I want to end up with something unique and different.

UkeBA, sounds like the viola uke would be a fun project. You'll most likely need some internal support for the neck. You could go with a Gibson 335 setup where it's a hollow body instrument but has a middle (2X4) type support running through the middle of the body. Just carve out the neck from some of mahogany or spanish cedar. The length of the neck (for a 17" tenor uke) would have to be thought out though. Try to draw out a line from where the front of the nut would be to where the front of the saddle would likely be on the viola body currently. This length should be 17 3/32". This will dictate your overall neck to body distance. Also, it might be easiest to make the neck and the internal body support wood the same piece. But again, think it through. It would be very cool if you could pull it off. But keep in mind, there are many different ways to skin this cat. Mine is just one approach to your project...e.lo...

toubisard
05-28-2009, 11:53 AM
I think its a great idea to re-cycle old unplayable instruments by using the wood that they 're made from to create something new. Think about it... an old guitar in a junk-shop might cost $10 but the spruce from the sound board and the wood from the neck might be worth more than the old instrument to a capable wood worker.
My word of caution is try not to destroy that which is good to replace it with that which is mediocre. Try to make something really clever.

zog
05-28-2009, 01:13 PM
I bought a 80 yr old zither on ebay it was so warped that it was un-tuneable and un-playable. I took it apart and use the spruce and maple for sound hole re-enforcement and braceing.

ukulelebadass
05-28-2009, 02:03 PM
Yes I've done a lot with using parts from old instruments that were beyond repair to make things like sound hole covers, or even non musical related items, my new idea is to use them to make completely new instruments. My thinking here is that in doing so, one would lend the matured sound of older instruments to new ones....

Regarding the violele, I have more for e-lo....

My research thus far leads me to believe that the 12" body from a violin will make an excellent tenor uke body. I was thinking along exactly the same lines that I would use a construction similar to that of a semi-hollow body guitar.

I had thought that the placement of the bridge and saddle would be determined by the length of the neck, and fret board, not the other way around...

In other words If I have a 12" body and I want my nut to bridge length to be 17 1/4 ", I would use a standard lenght neck of 9 1/2", and an 11 1/2" fret board that extends 2" past the edge of the body, which leads me to a couple of questions (assuming that you don't think its folly moving the location of the saddle from where the violin maker put it)

1. The soundboard of a violin is arched rather than flat as on a uke, so (I think) that means I have to have the fretboard and saddle higher than the soundboard so that the strings can clear the center. Correct me if I'm wrong... Should I be fabricating my neck that it is the same thickness as a normal uke neck but extends the additional two inches, and then gets narrower and goes back under the soundboard and turns into my support, in which case I would have to cut a (roughly 2" x 1 3/4") notch out of the soundboard, or should I have the neck go straight through, and then use a third piece between the neck and the fretboard to fill in the space? (if any of that makes any sense at all?)

2. How much space between the strings and the soundboard is too much to the point where I'm losing sound, or is it really the thickness of the saddle I need to be concerned with here? What type of saddle would you suggest?

I'm thinking someone with some experience working on arch-tops might have a good idea of how to tackle this problem...

Thanks very much to everyone for their thoughtful and informed replies!

Ukulele JJ
05-28-2009, 02:07 PM
The people behind Mahalo ukes (who also make violins) have a hybrid like that in their product catalog.

I posted about it (http://www.ukuleleunderground.com/forum/showthread.php?t=9212)a while back. I think it's cool idea. Go for it!

JJ

ukulelebadass
05-28-2009, 02:24 PM
Hmm... So they put the bridge in the middle like a violin and used a violin style saddle, interesting I hadn't of that it certainly would make the project a lot easier than what I had been thinking... anybody know what the dimensions on the Mahalo are?

E-Lo Roberts
05-28-2009, 03:15 PM
Hmm... So they put the bridge in the middle like a violin and used a violin style saddle, interesting I hadn't of that it certainly would make the project a lot easier than what I had been thinking... anybody know what the dimensions on the Mahalo are?

UkeBS, yes the Mahalo uke is quite nice. You might want to just copy their specs. The only downside is your excitment level probably just dropped knowing your concept has already been covered...let me know if you still need your questions addressed though. I'd be glad to help you hash it out, time allowing on my end..thanks, e.lo...

ukulelebadass
05-28-2009, 05:18 PM
I'm definitely still going to do it, what else am I going to do with old violin parts? Half the fun is in the challenge any way, I think I'll still try to figure it out.

Pete Howlett
05-29-2009, 05:12 AM
Try and locate Marshall Stapleton - you can do it through ukulelcosmos.com search if you are a member. Marshall's own performing uke is an arch top 8 string that he built himself. As someone who is familiar with the construction of an instrument that you are attempting to make, he should be able to give you some helpful pointers. Also, you might wish to look at how archtop mandolin makers do.

The elevated fingerboard on a violin is there to give bridge height so the bow is able to clear the waist. I personally would work with the neck angle to give a 'mandolin' bridge height off the soundboard. I think this is around 1/2" - 5/8", so I don't think there is much that needs to be modified except I would remove the sound post. By doing this you may 'weaken' the front so you will want to have low tension strings. Having said that, tension on violin strings is phenomenal. This would be the obvious area of 'experimentation' but if you leave that sound post in, you will be very disappointed with the sound.

I think this is a fab idea and were it not for the pressure of work, would be doing this myself. All the best and keep us posted!

ukulelebadass
05-29-2009, 11:58 AM
Try and locate Marshall Stapleton - you can do it through ukulelcosmos.com search if you are a member. Marshall's own if you leave that sound post in, you will be very disappointed with the sound.

I think this is a fab idea and were it not for the pressure of work, would be doing this myself. All the best and keep us posted!

Thanks!

The sound post and bass bar definitely both come out so I can extend my neck through the body as e-lo suggests. I think what I want to do is use a straight uke neck from a tenor, and replace the block at the neck end with a piece of mahogany or maple that connects to the neck and runs the length of the body and either gets glued to the block at the saddle end or replaces it entirely.

BTW- my hope is to fabricate this entire instrument out of pieces of old instruments so if anyone has any broken ukes, guitars, or violins laying around please let me know, I'm having some trouble finding stuff that is exactly what I want. I am of course trying for stuff that is in such need of repair that you wouldn't try and fix it, I don't want to pull apart an instrument that could potentially be nice just for parts.

Bradford
05-31-2009, 05:49 PM
I am currently designing and building an archtop tenor uke. I've been building for 23 years now with the next serial number being 154. Half of those instruments have been carved top mandolins and 16 others have been archtop guitars. Here is what I would advise. As Pete said remove the sound post and bass bar. The bass bars in violin construction are prestressed during installation and are designed to be replaced after so many years anyway. The key to how this will sound is in the graduating of the top and back. I just finished graduating my top, thickness in the recurve area is 1.7 mm, and in the middle is 3.8 mm. The back will be slightly thinner overall. With these types of instruments, the back plays as much of a role in sound production as the top. The width of the sides is another critical issue. I'm going to start with 1.5 inches and see how that works. I would not run the neck full length thru the instrument, a mahogany head block with whatever neck joint would be better. I am assuming you plan to run the strings over the bridge to some kind of tailpiece. If so, a bridge height of around 3/4 of an inch is about right. Keep us informed of your progress and I'll do the same as mine progresses.

Brad

bbycrts
05-31-2009, 07:36 PM
Brad - you ever show visitors around your operation - I live in Portland and visit Cannon Beach once or twice a year - at least...

Bradford
06-01-2009, 09:33 AM
Anyone who wants to visit and talk instrument building is more than welcome. Just give me a few days notice to make sure I'm around.

Brad

ukulelebadass
06-02-2009, 04:40 PM
I would not run the neck full length thru the instrument, a mahogany head block with whatever neck joint would be better. I am assuming you plan to run the strings over the bridge to some kind of tailpiece. If so, a bridge height of around 3/4 of an inch is about right. Keep us informed of your progress and I'll do the same as mine progresses.

Brad

My original plan had been to use a fixed saddle/ bridge design, but the consensus seems to be that a separate bridge with a tailpiece would work better.

Thanks for the tips I will certainly continue to keep folks up-dated on my progress, I am still working on gathering all the parts I need....

UB