View Full Version : Painting a Flea

08-08-2009, 09:03 PM
Hey everybody!
Recently, I've been toying with the idea of doing my own custom paint job of a flea (as I've seen others do) and I have a few questions that I hope some of you may be able to answer...

Would I want to just buy the average natural colored flea or is there some stipulation on finish I should consider?

What kind of paint should I use, and is there a special kind of paint for instruments? If so, where would I buy it (internet or otherwise)

What effect will painting it have on its tone/volume, and is there a limit I should place on the size of the design to preserve the tone/volume?

any tip for going about the actual painting would be appreciated as well


08-09-2009, 02:42 AM
This topics come up a few times, the general consensus is that the paint will probably have a negative effect on the resonance and tone. That's why the one I'm painting is gonna be a cheapo and I'm just gonna hang it on a wall. As per color of the instrument, a really light colored one would be the best choice, my recommendation is this
If you want something you can play a little you might want a higher price range.
As per type of paint, I think your normal acrylic paint would do the trick followed by a nice layer of gloss.

08-09-2009, 03:09 AM
There are people putting stickers over their ukes, whole selfmade designs, I would not worry too much about that paint thing. A Fluke is loud enough, so even if you were to lose a bit of volume, so what? Not to abuse the recent MGM blind sound test, but imho a lot of that sound stuff is just between the ears (not everything, no I did not say that).

It's like loads of amateur photographers who get worried about scratches on their lenses, or about minor sharpness differences in 100% view, when all they do is print small album pics. Sorry, kind of a rant, but you get my point. Keep an open mind, but don't get caught up in little worries (a small cover of paint) when you have bigger issues (designing the coolest uke this side of the Milky Way).

If you have a cool design, don't hesitate. Just be cool and clean and don't gob on the paint but make it smooth, and you should be one of the coolest ukers in your area.

Maybe just plan And what Citrus says, try search and some other opinions are bound to pop up. Go for it and show us the result! :nana:

edit: I just realized none of your questions were answered by this message. Still, please just see it as an encouragement :)

08-09-2009, 05:40 AM
I recently got a custom-painted Fluke and it sounds exactly the same as my other, factory finish, Fluke. Just as loud.

As far as painting goes, Flea Market Music offers a great option. They will send you an unfinished soundboard if you request it. You can paint it however you like, then send it back to the company so they can assemble the whole instrument. This is what I did with my Fluke. It's easy and they are SO nice to work with. The only extra cost is for shipping the soundboard back and forth... an extra $12 I think?

Feel free to send me a private message if you have any other questions about the process.

P.S. I forgot to mention, I didn't do the painting myself. An actual artist did. :-) She used acrylic paint and a gloss finish. Again, it had no effect on tone or volume.

david e
08-09-2009, 06:06 AM
Hi Fudgers--

I recently posted a photo of my painted Flea, now named "little kahuna" (thanks Brother Uke!). Here's what I did, and I can't hear any difference in volume or tone, although admittedly I am no expert:

I bought a used Ukeberry (blue) Flea--I wasn't concerned about color because I knew I would paint it anyway. I haven't seen a Natural Flea in person, but if it is just clearcoated pine then it would be alot easier to just lightly sand prior to painting than to have to sand the color off, which is what I did. In fact, sanding the soundboard near the outer edges becomes quite difficult, and as you can see in my photo I ended up with clearcoated pine in the center and the paint covered the not-perfectly-removed blue around the outer edges.

(Aside: my design required bare wood for the center section-if you don't need to see the wood, arguably just a light sanding of any colored Flea, enough to get the new paint to adhere, would suffice, depending on how many coats you intend to follow up with).

I didn't use any type of paint remover, I was nervous about affecting the thin wood (although maybe someone will chime in if they know about using a chemical remover).

I sanded just enough to remove the paint, trying not to sand the bare wood anymore than necessary.

First, I taped off the sections, and did a light primer coat. Then I painted the green (2 very thin coats--always thin when spraying). Let it dry. (the hardest part is waiting between coats!). I next applied the black auto detailing tape, which is very thin. Then I taped off the area for the red stripe, and gave it 2 thin coats, just enough to cover. Finally, a couple of very thin clearcoat sprays.

I used Krylon Interior-Exterior rattle can paint and Krylon Acrylic ClearCoat-available at WalMart and everywhere (are you in the US?)-they have a good color selection and I've had good results with them on all sorts of things like outdoor furniture.

I've been very happy with the result, and the Flea is so loud to begin with, I haven't noticed any problem sound or tone wise (the red Kala's I put on seem to have big volume too).

Again, I'm sure someone may have a more professional method, but this worked for me, it's a fun conversation piece, I live at the beach so it even fits my home decor--and since I've done it once, I don't worry if it gets chipped I can do it again! (But it seems pretty tough to me).

Good luck--I say go for it and you'll be glad to have your own customized Flea!

david e

ps in the photo the red edges don't look so fine, but they came out very well in person

Edit: NatalieS's reply came in while I was typing, and I have to say if you are buying new this sounds like a great option. I bought used to save a few $ and so I wouldn't feel so bad in case I screwed up!

08-09-2009, 06:16 AM
David - that is one mighty fine looking flea! :love:

david e
08-09-2009, 06:27 AM
Thanks lisaxy424! I think EVERYONE should have a custom Flea! :D

08-09-2009, 06:55 AM
I have some stuff coming for a Mango fluke I just bought...should have it ready to post pics of next week...IF I can pry it out of my greedy little fingers long enough! LOL! I got the UAS baaaad Ma!:p

08-09-2009, 06:58 AM
And just to clarify... the "natural" color Flea is a colored paint, not a stain, just like all other colors.

And another thing, I experimented with staining a Flea top instead of painting. I wanted an aquamarine stain that allowed the grain to show through. The FMM guys told me that the pine would take up the stain very unevenly. Indeed it looked awful.

08-09-2009, 08:36 AM
Wow, thanks for all the help everybody!

I think I'm going to end up trying the design out on a cheapy, and if I like how it comes out I'll look into that unfinished soundboard service that NatalieS mentioned. ( I prolly will have some questions :o )

I'm really excited about this and I'll be sure to show everyone if it turns out nicely.

Thanks again!

08-31-2009, 03:24 PM

I enjoyed reading this thread about painting your Fleas, and just thought I'd mention The Flea Museum website, which is a showcase for customized and limited-edition Flea ukuleles:


And, of course, there's a Fluke Museum, too:


So, stop by and check 'em out sometime, I think you'll like what you see there!

See ya,