View Full Version : Dennis Gilbert's "The Ukulele"

09-30-2009, 07:34 AM
I'm trying to get a copy of Gilbert's The Ukulele, but it's out of print. Anyone have this book?

Matt Clara
09-30-2009, 08:25 AM
I searched high and low for it myself, even checking semi obscure used book sellers like alibris.com--nada.

09-30-2009, 08:45 AM
I have the original version. From an ukulele building perspective I don't think it is very informative. The one thing that is good about it is the section describing the tools required and some of the jigs needed. If you are looking for a good book on how to build an ukulele then I highly recommend the manual from Hanalima Ia. It is the best I have seen. It builds in the spanish heel style but you don't have to do so. I use a bolt on style neck. But it is chock full of other good step by step information.

Wickman has a book but I don't think it is much better than the Gilbert book.



A few years back Dennis Gilbert was at the Ukulele Guild of Hawaii Exhibit and Conference and he had the newer reprint available. I can't imagine it not being available. I will see what I can find out. I never looked it over so I don't know if the reprint is any better than the original or not.

09-30-2009, 11:02 AM
I have the Hana Lima Ia book, and you are right, it is phenomenal. I guess my big question, or the thing I want to see most, is the different styles of neck attachment and the pros and cons of each.

How do you do a bolt on? I assume from the inside. With a post to stop rotation? Glued on as well as bolted?

My other big question was how to decide on bracing.

I have the Hana Lima Ia plans, but what I really want to build is a pineapple/boat paddle/fluke style tenor, so I'm thinking I'll have to design my own.

I had just read the review of the Gilbert book and though it sounded like it was worth looking at.

Moore Bettah Ukuleles
09-30-2009, 11:43 AM
The bracing pattern for either shape will be the same. It's really not that critical. The Gilbert book has it's place (I'm not sure just where though) and has a real "down home folksy" approach to building. The jigs and methods are rather crude but I'm sure they would be helpful to some people. Henry Wickham's book, in my opinion, is a bit better. Mike Chock The author of the Hana Lima book) on the other hand is an excellent builder and is very exact in his techniques and anyone would do well to look at his book if for no other reason than the excellent photographs. You can stray away from the Spanish heel and use bolt dowel or biscuit for you neck attachment. The fret board is glued onto the neck before the whole assembly is attached to the body so rotation of the neck is not a consideration.
If you are at all serious about building ukes you'd probably want all three of the books I mentioned as you'll likely get a little good information on each one.
BTW, If you really want to track down the Gilbert book there are a couple of uke stores in Waikiki that carry a good selection of books and I know I saw the Gilbert book at one of them a when I was there a couple of months ago. One shop is "Ukulele Pua Pua" and the other is across the street--I'm thinking "Ukulele House"? A Google search would help you out. (IMO, the Gilbert book isn't worth hunting for........)

Pete Howlett
09-30-2009, 12:07 PM
Read all the books you can, scour YouTube for information but best of all go and visit a luthier - half an hour spent watching how it's done in the real world is more than money can buy. I've tried to de-mystify the processes with my videos but the most frequent comment is 'you make it look so easy'. That's because it's my job and the heavily edited videos also make it look that way. It's not easy, it's more facile because of the daily 'practice' a full-time builder gets. It's less 'set-up' than a book but very much the same - a snapshot of a good moment in the building process.

Go with a bolt on neck - the Spanish/slipper heel stuff is 'the old method' although I stumbled across a video of the great classical guitar maker Jose Romanillos who has refined his Spanish heel making it 'glue-less' and capable of repair. I didn't think it could be done but he has worked it out...

09-30-2009, 02:13 PM
Thanks for the great replies. I have been scouring the internet for info. I really haven't seen any videos on actual neck attachment. Maybe I'm missing it somewhere (Pete, let me know if you have one).

I realize how much actually goes into the building process. I just thought it would be a fun project. (I've toyed with buying one of Pete's kits, but I think I want to try bending my own sides.

I have been a bit leary of the spanish neck attachment. It seemed like building the body, then attaching a neck would be a better way to go.

I'm still hoping to go pick the brains of some of the local uke builders here in Santa Cruz. A class or apprenticing would probably be the best route for learning, but nothing is happening that way here right now (Rick Turner has said he was going to teach his building class at some point here, but hasn't set a date.

I could actually see building jigs might take as long as building a uke, but then, I guess the second and third ones would probably go much faster.

We'll see.

Pete Howlett
09-30-2009, 02:18 PM
I learnt bolt on from Bill Collings - visited the factory before he expanded it and was pleasantly surprised at how low tech this method is. I have opportunity to video it this week so I'll d it for you... don't quite know how chuck and others approach it. We'll see.