View Full Version : Planning to build my first Uke - help!

10-29-2009, 01:48 PM
Hi, I have now decided I'm going to build my first ukulele, rather than buy. The first reason being Ukuleles in the UK seem to cost a lot, or shipping does, and it will be a good project for me and my dad. We've made some stuff before, nothing complex, but we do enjoy the work.

Tools wise we've pretty much just got the regular stuff... few different hand saws, drills, planer, disc sander... no jigsaw or anything.
That's my first question.. what tools do I need? Ideally I don't want to buy a kit and just glue it together, I want to make as much as possible from scratch.

My second question is: What materials do I need?
I plan on building a concert ukulele, or perhaps a super concert.

Mahogany or koa is my wood preference, I don't like the look of some of the pale top ukes. So what I think I need materials wise is:

Wood for back and front, wood for fingerboard, wood for neck, purfling, tuners, wood for bridge, metal for frets, and wood for sides.

I live in the UK so if any of the members from the UK could recommend some places to get this stuff, keeping shipping costs to a minimum that would be great.

Sorry to be such a pain, I know I'm asking a lot.

10-29-2009, 02:11 PM
I've bought wood from David Dyke, Luthiers Supplies. Top quality, great service, but not cheap.

Advice? Don't use any expensive wood for your first build. You will learn so much from the first one, that I'll be very surprised if you do not go on to make another - and another.

If you are set on using dark wood, try sapele, or some reclaimed mahogany.

There's loads of information on line about building ukes. All the answers are out there.


10-29-2009, 03:04 PM
Don't use any expensive wood for your first build second that.
I get all my uke wood from a local joiner's shop, offcuts from door/window frames.. Meranti, Sapele, Luan, Seraya etc I go for the denser stuff and cut on the quarter. Some of it (Seraya for example) Can be nicely figured. I get tops cut to 3mm so I can hand plane them. Personally I wouldn't bother with purfling or rosette on a first build. I wouldn't get too hung up on "tonewood" either. Good luck

10-29-2009, 03:55 PM
Thanks guys, and yes I've looked through some online guides and videos, and whilst they're all pretty informative, none of them tell you all the things you need to buy in the first place :/

10-29-2009, 09:16 PM
Things that you should have include
- an iron of some kind that you can use for bending the sides (I used an iron and a heat gun to get it to temperature for bending)
- a bandsaw will be very helpful especially for the neck
- lots of clamps
- files and sanding gear
- planes, chisels
- miter box for sawing the frets
- wood glue, epoxy
- a mold of some kind that outlines the body of the uke

Have fun building!

10-30-2009, 02:30 AM
Hey I live in the UK too!!!! I mainly buy from http://www.hanalimastore.com/servlet/StoreFront . They have kits but you have to bend the wood cut everything and put frets in etc. Im about to build a new tenor uke using walnut back and sides and engleman spruce. I've got all the plans from here too. They do a really nice curly koa set that was introduced yesterday http://www.hanalimastore.com/servlet/the-110/Curly-Koa-Tenor-Ukulele/Detail so I think I might use koa sides instead!!!!! (just changed my mind!!!)
You can also get koa sets from http://www.curlykoa.com/item/koauke841 OR http://www.curlykoa.com/item/koauke843

Hope this helps!!

Also all the tools you have should be fine but I suggest you get a dremel because they are extremely useful for drilling, cutting but they can also cut channels for binding, purfling and rosettes. http://www.dremeleurope.com/dremelocs-uk/Category.jsp;jsessionid=07752ED0176025B56B1029DB80 3F14FC?&ccat_id=471
(Dont get the battery powered one as they run out really quickly)

Good luck!!!!!

Hope this helps!!

10-30-2009, 07:56 AM
You'll never save money by building it yourself.....lucky if you can get in for under double the price.

Anyway....that's no reason not to. :nana:

10-30-2009, 08:18 AM
You'll never save money by building it yourself.....lucky if you can get in for under double the price.

Anyway....that's no reason not to. :nana:

Yeah the first one is expensive but once you got all the tools it is fairly cheap.

11-02-2009, 10:17 AM
Welcome to the forum, Uke..

To add to your requests, I'm thinkin there should be a 'f.a.q.' thread in this section. I've been itching to start a build of some sort, but havent the slightest idea of where to start.

Good luck to u and ur pops if you do start the build! Make sure to do a tutorial w/ pics and all! Its always exciting to see what first-timers (esp from different walks of life) encounter during their first time around.

11-02-2009, 10:27 AM
Hey Uke,

It might not be a bad idea to cnotact Pete Howlett. He posts regularly on this site and I think he has mentioned in the past that he may have some koa sets to sell. But I may be wrong here.

He also seems to be a weatlh of knowledge on the subject. Depending on where in the Uk you are maybe you could go visit???

Take care and good luck,


11-03-2009, 11:59 AM
Thanks Thomas, yeah I think I will contact him, if I could see his workshop :O haha, thanks for the advice any-ho guys, just need to get this project underway!