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View Full Version : Do you do your own work on your Uke?



Tudorp
04-13-2010, 05:34 AM
Recently, I have gotten into restoration, and repair of my own Uke (non professional) . I think it is not only fun, but satisfying improving your own instrument, and hearing the different tones you have caused it to take on.

I have recently restored my 1930s Banjo Uke. It has gone from a troublesome, hard to play and toy sounding to a pleasure to play. I have now found myself playing it more than my Mahogany Uke. I shaved down, and installed a new bone nut, and maple/ebony/bone bridge. Lowered the action to make it easier to play. Along with Jasper Happy's (From England) strings, it greatly improved the sound, as well as playability. Polishing the frets made them much smoother on my fingers as well. I also removed the vintage friction tuners that were suffering, and retired them, and replaced them with a decent set of geared tuners. I now made a resonator from 5/8" thick Sapele. That was a HUGE improvement on the sustain, and tone of my Banjo Uke. It is a great pleasure to play the old gal now... The most delicate part I think was carefully, and slowly sanding down the nut and bridge being sure to keep them level. Taking them down enough to bring the action to a more playable level, but not too much to loose your sound quality.

Anyway.. It is fun, and like said, VERY satisfying to hear it and play it now, knowing it was because of my own hands...

dnewton2
04-13-2010, 06:06 AM
I have replaced both the nut and saddle on my KPK soprano and Stagg Concert ukulele. The KPK does sound better and I think it looks cooler with the bone instead of the rosewood that was there. My stagg still sounds like crap but that is because the bridge is comming off and I think it is warped or something. I am probably going to try and replace that sometime soon, Mainland has a bridge that is the same size. So it will really only be a remove and replace, but it should sound better when it is done.

wheelgunner
04-13-2010, 08:31 AM
There is something very satisfying about "doing it yourself". You learn a lot about the instrument and what makes it tick. Look out, though, the next step is making the whole thing yourself. (Don't ask me how I know this)

Tudorp
04-13-2010, 08:34 AM
Know what ya mean. I been eyeballing a "kit" Ukulele.. Not sure if I am ready to try that though.

wheelgunner
04-13-2010, 09:10 AM
Know what ya mean. I been eyeballing a "kit" Ukulele.. Not sure if I am ready to try that though.
Go for it. You won't learn any younger.

dnewton2
04-13-2010, 09:16 AM
I been eyeballing a "kit" Ukulele.. Not sure if I am ready to try that though.

I have been too. I think I could do it. The only reson I hesitate is lack of space to do work. I live in small apartment. What little work I have done has been out on my baclony, but I don't think I want to build a uke on my balcony. I think I could build the kit outside, except the finish, but would feel better with an indoor place to do it.

Tudorp
04-13-2010, 09:35 AM
I got the tools, and I will do it eventually, but the kit I am looking at is about $150-$200. Not sure if I am ready to ruin that much on a weekend, hahha.. Im sure I can do it. The only part that I am intimidated by is getting the frets good and level. I have a band saw, scroll saw, and a table disk sander which I think are important to build one. I'm confident on the whole thing except the fretting..

RyanMFT
04-13-2010, 09:47 AM
I have done all my own work so far, adjusting action on several ukes, fixed a small crack, changed tuners. For something major I would get some help but I enjoy learning along the way.

BBert
12-01-2011, 08:08 AM
I just bought a bone nut and saddle to replace the plastic ones on my (nine-year-old) daughter's soprano. They cost next to nothing, so it's no big deal if I ruin them, and I thought it might be a fun little project for the two of us.

The nut looks like it will fit just fine, it is even notched, but it will need to be filed, shaped a tiny bit and polished.

The saddle is the correct length but it is twice the width, and will need some work.

I do not yet have any tools.

I would appreciate some advice on what to use to sand down saddle to the proper width, to shape it, and to polish it, and anything else you could offer.

If anyone can direct me to another thread or link to a tutorial that would be great too.

Thanks.

-BBert.

Plainsong
12-01-2011, 09:26 AM
Short answer: no. I'm the girl who couldn't cut with scissors in a straight line, so not good with making the things with the hands. :)

My big brother-in-law was a carpenter, taught by an old pro from childhood on throughout his life. His day job was running a group home for special needs people, but he could also make anything. He was a guitar player too, so if I had discovered uke when he was still with us, I'd have to get two kits, because he'd want one to play for himself.

My husband has some of that skill too, he just didn't hone it like his brother did. He just finished his first pipe, using not much in the way of tools, and made something really nice.

Sometimes those things must run in families, because the making things gene ended with my grandpas. In the meantime, if Anders can't fix it, it's luthier time!

Trinimon
12-01-2011, 09:51 AM
I like tinkering with the basic stuff like installing a UST pickup, mucking with the action but I'm definitely not educated enough to be doing much more than that on the uke.

I'm used to being around tools. Did a few full basement renos including the mill work, cabinetry, electrical and plumbing. It helped having friends in these various fields to show me the ropes but since I was 5 I've had a hammer and a saw in my hand. The drawback to this is that I'm everyone's "best" friend when it comes to their home repairs 'cause I only charge 'em grub and beer after the work's done. lol

Skitzic
12-01-2011, 10:03 AM
I've been doing my own set ups for a long time. I started tinkering with repairs a few years ago, and was just about to start honing my fretting skills when some things hit the fan...and my tinkering got put on the back burner.

I've recently started fixing small things on instruments not mine. Cracks, separated seams, easy stuff like that. I have a guitar that needs a neck reset, and once I get a better work bench I'm going to tackle that and see how it goes. What else would you do with a guitar you found on the side of the road with a warped neck? Try to fix it of course!

ksiegel
12-01-2011, 02:31 PM
I don't work on any of my instruments - still have bad memories of taking the binding off of a guitar to take the back off so I could "fix that buzz" when I was around 14... The guitar I learned to play on, a very nice one that I don't recall any details about - well, other than hiding the pieces in the attic crawl space so my parents wouldn't find out what I'd done...

No, when I needed work done on my ukuleles, I sent them off to some guy in Michigan that I didn't know a whole lot about, except that he seemed to be a pretty decent sort, did a lot for kids, and said yes when I asked him if he'd be interested in working on my stuff - with no strings attached.

Well, there were strings, but...I meant that if the instruments got ruined, it wasn't his fault, and that he had no responsibility for any problems.

You know what that guy did????


He took two unplayable instruments, and made them into very nice, very playable ukuleles, and I had to twist his arm to take any payment for doing it! How's THAT for a friend????


...And he is my friend - I met him here on UU.

He goes by "Tudorp".



-Kurt

Tudorp
12-01-2011, 03:13 PM
Your too kind my brudda. I got to admit, when I cracked out one of them and played it, the 1st thought was "Oh S^&$T, what have I gotten myself into? " lol.. The other, I had some experience on... I was glad I was able to help ya out with those..


I don't work on any of my instruments - still have bad memories of taking the binding off of a guitar to take the back off so I could "fix that buzz" when I was around 14... The guitar I learned to play on, a very nice one that I don't recall any details about - well, other than hiding the pieces in the attic crawl space so my parents wouldn't find out what I'd done...

No, when I needed work done on my ukuleles, I sent them off to some guy in Michigan that I didn't know a whole lot about, except that he seemed to be a pretty decent sort, did a lot for kids, and said yes when I asked him if he'd be interested in working on my stuff - with no strings attached.

Well, there were strings, but...I meant that if the instruments got ruined, it wasn't his fault, and that he had no responsibility for any problems.

You know what that guy did????


He took two unplayable instruments, and made them into very nice, very playable ukuleles, and I had to twist his arm to take any payment for doing it! How's THAT for a friend????


...And he is my friend - I met him here on UU.

He goes by "Tudorp".



-Kurt

gyosh
12-01-2011, 07:07 PM
As I get more and more into ukes, I'm finding that I enjoy learning about repairing/building them more than I do learning to play. So much so, that I took a uke building class taught by Rick Turner and built my own pineapple tenor. I'm currently working on a couple of ukes I bought on the cheap and trying to see if I can get them sounding a little better. The most satisfaction I get however is from doing a little set-up work on my student's cheapies (I'm a high school teacher) and then seeing the amazement on their faces when they hear and feel the difference a little set-up work can do.

-Gary

arpie
12-01-2011, 08:51 PM
...I been eyeballing a "kit" Ukulele.. Not sure if I am ready to try that though.....

Go for it Tudorp!! You can do it, easy!! Make sure you take plenty of pics so we can follow the journey - then a video at the end, playing it! Cool!

I have bought a tunable timber Tambourine & getting a soprano neck, fretboard & wire & tuners, nut, bridge & tailpiece from Mike at Mainland ...... and will attempt to put it all together to create an open-backed banjo uke! That's the plan, anyway!! If it comes off, I may put up some pics & vid of it! If it doesn't, ....... I promise not to mention it ever again! :rolleyes:

So, I shall be trying to insert fret wires, honing them down level - may need some advice there ...... I have one of those 'diamond' 400grit 'bricks' that may do the job - just have to work out how to 'round them'! Plenty of time for that - the bits should be on their way already!

Good luck - grab that kit & start making!!

Cheerio

Roberta

Dan Uke
12-02-2011, 06:16 AM
...I been eyeballing a "kit" Ukulele.. Not sure if I am ready to try that though.....

Go for it Tudorp!! You can do it, easy!! Make sure you take plenty of pics so we can follow the journey - then a video at the end, playing it! Cool!

I have bought a tunable timber Tambourine & getting a soprano neck, fretboard & wire & tuners, nut, bridge & tailpiece from Mike at Mainland ...... and will attempt to put it all together to create an open-backed banjo uke! That's the plan, anyway!! If it comes off, I may put up some pics & vid of it! If it doesn't, ....... I promise not to mention it ever again! :rolleyes:

So, I shall be trying to insert fret wires, honing them down level - may need some advice there ...... I have one of those 'diamond' 400grit 'bricks' that may do the job - just have to work out how to 'round them'! Plenty of time for that - the bits should be on their way already!

Good luck - grab that kit & start making!!

Cheerio

Roberta


Roberta, you gotta look at the date!!! I think he's moved on from the kits...LOL

Tudorp
12-02-2011, 06:27 AM
Yep. This is an old dead thread that got risen the other day. I never did go for the kit, I just jumped in with both feet, and building from scratch these days, including fretboard, and custom scale set ups etc. I just figured the kits took the most fun part of the builds and did that part for ya, so I figured why should they have all the fun, lol.. The cool part is finding cool woods to do build them from..

fitncrafty
12-02-2011, 06:44 AM
Yep. This is an old dead thread that got risen the other day. I never did go for the kit, I just jumped in with both feet, and building from scratch these days, including fretboard, and custom scale set ups etc. I just figured the kits took the most fun part of the builds and did that part for ya, so I figured why should they have all the fun, lol.. The cool part is finding cool woods to do build them from..
Look how far you have come T since you started this thread! Ever think you be building "bugs" that people covet ?? I saw first hand the work you did for Kurts epiphone.. amazing to play 'the neglected twin' side by side with the one you worked on.. :)

Tudorp
12-02-2011, 06:58 AM
Yep. It's only been a little over a year. When I am passionate about something, I dive in full blown. Not sure if that is a good thing, because sometimes, by the time I realize I shouldn't have, I'm in too deep to back out, hahhah.. Not uke related but on other things, I have destroyed warrantees just minutes after getting something at times, lol..

That said, in my auto hobby years ago, me and a buddy built a mud racer 4x4 out of an economy car (this was back in the early 90s). We bought the car brand new, tore if completely appart and built a 800 horse power 4X4 mud drag car out of it. Trailered it about a block away from the dealership we bought the original car from, drove it into the lot and complained that it was making a weird noise and we needed them to look at it under the manufacture warrantee.. It was a specticle, and after they picked their jaws off the floor and realized we were joking, it was a huge distruption because everyone in the dealership from the back office to the mechanics were out admiring what they sold us 6 months before, lol.. Needless to say, they informed us we voided the warrantee and there was nothing they could do.. hehheh.. But, story of my life I reckon.. ;)



Look how far you have come T since you started this thread! Ever think you be building "bugs" that people covet ?? I saw first hand the work you did for Kurts epiphone.. amazing to play 'the neglected twin' side by side with the one you worked on.. :)

Dan Uke
12-02-2011, 07:09 AM
I am going to purchase a dressing fret file. Is there anything else I should buy? Maybe a nut file?

Tudorp
12-02-2011, 07:17 AM
A set of files in various size and shapes. I also use flat diamond honing stones (the type to hone knives and blades) in medium, fine and X fine grits. I use these to level and polish frets. A good size for ukes is about 3" wide, by 6 or 8" long give or take.

FPK
12-02-2011, 07:20 AM
When I was 6, my cheap ukulele's neck broke off from the body (kids are clumsy), and my dad fixed it with hide glue instead of the regular glue used. Though anything past that kid of skill level and price range (of the uke) would be out of the question. There is just too much to know.

allanr
12-02-2011, 08:12 AM
I have started doing lots of my own work, but definitely not everything.

I have changed tuners, installed passive pickups, filed rough fret edges, lowered high frets, replaced and rebuilt saddles, and built a Grizzly style kit. I also did a major overhaul of a cheap baritone that I won on Ebay - right down to taking the back off completely and replacing the end block.

I'd like to start getting some purpose-built luthier tools from Stewmac so that I can do more, and bump up the level of craftsmanship.

arpie
12-02-2011, 09:25 AM
ha ha Silly me for not looking at the date!! Duh!!

....That said, in my auto hobby years ago, me and a buddy built a mud racer 4x4 out of an economy car (this was back in the early 90s). We bought the car brand new, tore if completely appart and built a 800 horse power 4X4 mud drag car out of it. Trailered it about a block away from the dealership we bought the original car from, drove it into the lot and complained that it was making a weird noise and we needed them to look at it under the manufacture warrantee.. It was a specticle, and after they picked their jaws off the floor and realized we were joking, it was a huge distruption because everyone in the dealership from the back office to the mechanics were out admiring what they sold us 6 months before, lol.. Needless to say, they informed us we voided the warrantee and there was nothing they could do.. hehheh.. But, story of my life I reckon....

You would have got on well with my stepbrother,Rob, Tudorp - he built his first car engine from bits he found at the dump, when he was 12 - and sold it as a working engine a year later!! He went on to make his own parts, teaching himself how to use a metal lathe and then built engines for racing cars - he used to race Minis and then got into a bigger car - but sadly he died too young, a few years back from myeloid leukemia. The world lost a very innovative person. Like you - he would jump right in, work out what needed to be done, create something that would do it & then just DID IT!

I think there would be SO MUCH satisfaction from creating something from scratch - if I did that, I would try a pineapple first, I reckon, to 'keep it simpler'!

I didn't realise you BUILT your own ukes as well!!:eek: You were already at the top of my ladder. Now you go even higher in my estimation!! :)

Cheerio

Roberta

....I am going to purchase a dressing fret file. Is there anything else I should buy? Maybe a nut file?

A set of files in various size and shapes. I also use flat diamond honing stones (the type to hone knives and blades) in medium, fine and X fine grits. I use these to level and polish frets. A good size for ukes is about 3" wide, by 6 or 8" long give or take....

Thank you - that was going to be one of my questions! :D

Tudorp
12-02-2011, 09:49 AM
Well.. these are my 1st ones.. I started out small, lol.. My first was a traditional shape, then went to the pineapple. I dove right in and built a bending iron to bend my own sides etc. Then started building these mini ukes. Sold several of them to date already...

This was my very 1st scratch built from raw materials. Mahogany, ebony fretboard and bridge, bone nut and saddle, ebony headstock veneer and tuners. All from raw materials. I made several more of these but with rosewood fretboard in lue of ebony (ebony is a PITA to work with I found out).

http://i1238.photobucket.com/albums/ff490/Tudorp/Aphid/aphidtangi4b.jpg

Then here is my pineapple version next to a Ohana soprano.
30603

Also since this original thread, I built a Tenor solid body, steel string electric Les Paul uke that turned out pretty good. That one was ALLOT of work though.

yep, vintage cars and hot rods have always been a huge hobby of mine since I was about 14. Built several 4x4 jeeps, and hot rods over the years. Can't anymore due to disability, but sure miss that work..

arpie
12-02-2011, 10:25 AM
Wow!! THose mini ukes are cool!! If it's not rude - how much are they? (You can PM/email me if you prefer not to answer here!)

They look like JasperHappy strings too!? I have just ordered some as well - I think it will help one of my 'older' beginners with her playing!! She is nearly 80 & gets a bit mixed up with which finger goes where - so I shall swap her strings to the coloured ones & it will be easier for her!

Yeah, this getting old isn't what it is cracked up to be, eh? I need surgery on my left thumb (arthritis) as it is bone on bone & extremely painful - I can't do Barre Chords & it has been affecting my fishing for over 12 months now, so will get it done in winter (when I kayak fish less! :) )

Cheers

Roberta

Tudorp
12-02-2011, 10:46 AM
Yep, those are Jasper Happy's "Lil Barney" strings. I like them best for the mini ukes, because they just fit it better. They are smaller in diameter than most standard soprano strings, and the "C" string isn't too much larger than the rest, which is really good for the mini ukes. The standard "C" string is normally pretty awkward to string up and get to fit in the mini's bridge, and tuner, so the Barney's work perfectly. They are pretty bright sounding too, which helps on such small ukes too.
Besides, being colored strings adds to the "cute" factor of the mini..