View Full Version : FrankenUke finally in progress

06-12-2010, 10:14 AM
The ukulele in my signature is finally going to happen. My black sparkly dolphin ukulele is the test subject. It's really quite shiny, so to get the white and red paint to stick for more than a week, the gloss has to come off.

First, I took the strings off.
Then took off the tuners.
Then covered the fingerboard and bridge with masking tape. I will replace it with blue tape that sticks better when I get around to painting it.
I should have sanded the gloss off with 320 grit, but only had 220. I couldn't be bothered to wait for the shops to open on Monday, so I used it anyway.
The original finish is quite thin, and sanded through to the primer around the edges.
Looks like I'm going to have to begin the refinish by repainting it black. I'd hoped to use the original finish, but there you go.

06-12-2010, 10:16 AM
Once the sanding looked done, I wiped it down with a damp cloth, looked for shiny patches, and had another go.
Here's where things stand as of this evening.
Now I have to wait until next weekend, when I will have time to go shopping for paint.

06-12-2010, 11:09 AM
If you're trying to do the red/white/black pattern in your sig, I see the body being painted white first, followed by some tape and a spray coat of red and finishing with black stripes painted over the other two colors.

Come to think of it, black first, adding tape and spraying white, then more tape and spraying red would work too. What did you have in mind?

06-12-2010, 11:15 AM
The latter.

07-02-2010, 03:27 AM
Sorry about my lateness in updating this thread. That crazy little thing called love reared its beautiful head, and I fell (and am still falling) like a ton of bricks. I hope you understand that for the moment I prefer to spend my time doing things other than painting a ukulele.

I am alone this weekend, though, which should give me time to finish this project.

The sanding was a little too heavy-handed, so I have to start by repainting the instrument black. Then I will tape some stripes and paint it white, followed by more taped stripes and a finishing coat of red. Then I will remove the tape, and I hope I will have an instrument worthy of Eddie Van Halen.

Here is the paint and painter's tape:


I remask the bridge and fingerboard, and mask the sound hole with a plastic bag. Perhaps I should have used something absorbent, but time will tell.


Then I shake the paint for a couple of minutes, and give it the once over:


It will be dry in another hour or so. From what I can tell, I have been able to avoid runs and puddles. I'm still holding my breath, though. I don't want to jinx this.

07-02-2010, 08:13 AM
A few hours later, the paint is a little tacky, but it may be handled. I mask up some stripes that will remain black.

Then I paint white:
Now I have to wait until tomorrow for the white stripes and red coat.

(I don't seem to be able to get rid of the extra pics I uploaded by mistake.)

07-02-2010, 08:58 AM
Looks great! I hope you waited long enough before masking over the fresh black paint. It'd be a shame to see the paint come away with the tape....

07-02-2010, 09:38 AM
That would suck for sure.. As much as I do like Van Halen, you would have to be a hopeless Eddie fan to go through that much work.. lol.. I thought about it a year or so ago to paint an old Uke like that, but just kept thinking, "Do I really want to go through all that?". Needless to say, it never happened. But, Kudos to you for going at it. I hope it turns out well, and can't wait to see the final pics..

Chris Tarman
07-02-2010, 01:13 PM
I've never been much of a VH fan, but that is going to be one cool-looking uke when you're done. I have long admired your signature.

07-02-2010, 01:32 PM
can't wait to see it done + I want one!

07-03-2010, 03:52 AM
Thanks guys.

No, I'm not a hopeless VH fan, I just like the idea of a ukulele that is recognisable, but different. I am surprised at how little work is actually involved. Just some sanding, painting, taping, painting, taping, painting.

Some more progress today:

I checked this morning, and discovered that there were areas where the black was showing through the white.
I sprayed a light second coat of white.
When it was dry, I taped the white stripes. I think that if I do this again, I will work from a pattern. I have a sneaking suspicion that this ukulele is not going to look as striking as EVH's guitar, on account of the random nature of the striping.
Then I sprayed red: a good wet coat, so that I don't have to respray. I think it started to run down the headstock, so it may be that I will have to clearcoat the finished item.
The tape comes off later today. Fingers crossed!

07-03-2010, 03:58 AM
Wow, very art deco in design!

07-03-2010, 04:09 AM
I agree. Paint work on them isn't too bad. A few months ago, I painted "Skie". Not near as intricate than what you are doing with "Frank", but cool to make unique creations with such a fun instrument.

http://sphotos.ak.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ak-snc3/hs456.snc3/26078_112610895421376_100000173975723_266790_24440 45_n.jpg
http://hphotos-snc3.fbcdn.net/hs456.snc3/26078_112610908754708_100000173975723_266792_27406 89_n.jpg
http://hphotos-snc3.fbcdn.net/hs456.snc3/26078_112610898754709_100000173975723_266791_67833 20_n.jpg

07-03-2010, 10:04 AM
Well, it dried enough to allow me to remove the tape.
It looked pretty bound up, but I took my time, pulling the tape along itself to remove it, and removing layer by layer.
Until at last, it looked like this:
And this:
There are a few places the tape has pulled the paint up, especially the black. I guess next time I'll have to leave it a few hours more.
There are another few places the paint has crept underneath the tape, giving a couple of unclear lines. This is all part of the charm, however: I will call it relicked.

The paint lines are very obvious, to sight and to touch, so I will be clear-coating it in a few days. The beautiful lady I mentioned above is coming home tomorrow, but going away again in a week, so I should have time to completely finish it then.

All in all, I'm quite pleased for a first attempt. I will just have to be patient before clearcoating it and stringing it back up.

07-03-2010, 10:06 AM
One more pic:

07-03-2010, 10:30 AM
Well... I think it looks pretty cool. You should see EVH's after he beat the hell out of it for several years. I think it came out just fine. For future reference if you want finer lines, ya might try a modeler's paint masking tape. I also model very small trains (N Scale), and use for intricate paint jobs a painting masking tape made by "Tamiya". It leaves very laser clean lines. You can buy it on line at towerhobbies.com . Just look up "Tamiya masking tape".

But at any rate, it's looking good..

07-03-2010, 10:31 AM

07-04-2010, 02:17 AM
looks great, I'm sure next time you'll perfect it :)

07-04-2010, 03:41 PM
great job so far, it will look better when the clear coat goes over it. if its any consolation, i decided i needed a resonator uke on the weekend and made a massive hole in the bridge of my dolphin, if it works i will show you, if not i will have to put a solid wood top on it, then i will publish:)

the main problem so far is that the resonator is beetroot tin and a dog dish:)


07-04-2010, 04:46 PM
That is AWESOME! Great job!!! I have some old Makalas (not dolphins) that I want to paint up for my kiddos to play!!! Your persistence and hard work is an inspiration! :)

07-04-2010, 10:40 PM
Mim, I'm happy to inspire, but persistence and hard work? I was at a loose end this weekend, is all. You should go for painting the ukuleles. It's really quite easy once you have a basic plan.

Kalmario, you're a braver man than I. Will you still be able to use the dolphin as your bridge, or is the ukulele now an ex-dolphin?

Tudorp, thanks for pointing me at the model railway tape. I see from my original photoshop mockup that the tape needs to be thinner than it turned out being. I have been thinking of pinstriping tape, which I think comes in different widths.

07-05-2010, 12:18 AM
dolphin as bridge:)

07-05-2010, 11:02 AM

07-05-2010, 02:36 PM
Skrik you did a great job, but Kalmario's looks like lots more evil fun in the works! Make it an electric slide uke, man!

07-06-2010, 01:29 AM
Kalmario, you're just going to have to tell us all about that -- it has a slotted headstock, dolphin bridge, a tin can and a drain cover(?). Come on, spill it.

07-06-2010, 02:42 PM
its also got a mahalo pickup in it which is causing a lot of problems currently, but i think i have the solution via some old headphones.

07-16-2010, 12:58 AM
Well, the clearcoating is done, the tuners and strings have gone back on, and here she is:
Looks quite presentable from a distance.
But up close, the signs of my amateurishness are all too apparent: there are bits in the paint; and although there are no paint runs, I have been too impatient with the varnish, which has run down both sides of the headstock.

And trying to nail the clearcoat in two coats instead of three or more, the clear has pooled in a couple of places. (Want to know what colour clear urethane varnish is? It's in the name.)

What have I learned, then?

Taking the bridge off is probably a good idea, so that I don't have to mask around it. (It will bolt right back on.)
Use a utility knife more on the masking tape: make sure all the edges are crisp, instead of folding the tape upwards. This will help avoid getting paint underneath the tape.
Patience: this is not a quick job, despite it being quite easy. Use several thinner coats instead of fewer thick coats. Give the paint enough time to dry between stages.
Use a pattern for the stripes, or they won't look quite right.
Get a facemask -- that paint is poisonous (and not in a good way).

The sound hasn't changed much. It's a little quieter, but so would you be with half a ton of paint and varnish on your soundboard. I'm taking this instrument on holiday with me. I am also taking a video camera.

07-16-2010, 01:41 AM
I think it came out pretty cool.

You should get some looks and comments playing for sure..

07-16-2010, 05:24 AM
I wish I would have seen this earlier. I'm an RC car hobbyist and do a lot of painting of cars. This would be some same techniques.

For future reference, (or if you wanna get another and do a different scheme), Here's what I would have done.
I'd probably use tamiya TS modeling paints and masking tape too.

- Sand surface like you did, but make your way up to about 600-1000 grit paper.
- Clean surface with alcohol.
- Spray lightest color first, in thin coats to build it up. Maybe 3 coats.
- Let dry 1-2 days.
- Wetsand lightly with 1000-2000 grit.
- Mask.
- Spray second darkest color next.
- Let dry 1-2 days.
- Mask.
- Spray lightest color last.
- Pull all masking after a few hours of last spray.
- Let dry for 1-2 days.
- Wetsand with 2000 grit or higher.
- Clearcoat with a few hours between coats. Perhaps 2-3 coats.
- Let dry for a week.
- Wetsand with 3000 grit or higher. Polish with auto paint polish/wax.

You should end up with a high gloss, smooth surface uke!

Now I've painted a basic FLEA uke before with clear to coat some writing that was on it.
I do notice the sound has changed. Any time you add coats to a uke, the sound will dampen.

All in all, I think your uke looks AWESOME! Makes me want to do a custom paint job!

07-16-2010, 07:55 AM
This thread was a great read. Awesome job!!

07-16-2010, 08:17 AM
wow! i don't know what you're talking about, in all the pictures it looks like it came out awesome!
Don't kill yourself over the tiniest of imperfections.
You now have a one-of-a-kind ukulele. congratulations!

07-26-2010, 07:19 PM

nowhere near as pretty as shrik's effort, but it works all the same.

07-26-2010, 09:05 PM

07-26-2010, 11:44 PM

I like that pic with the blue paint.

You need to put the "Hemi" logo on there. It just looks like that thing should be riding shotgun inside a Charger.

07-27-2010, 02:58 PM
cheers, i sold it though, to pay for an impulse buy on an onlne auction. cursed trademe!!


03-03-2011, 06:59 PM
Wow, it looks like personalizing the little Dolphin can either be simple, or quite complicated. I saw a video of a fine ukulele factory, where the lacquer is applied at 0.002". Painting like this is certainly much thicker than that. 'Course, I don't think my Dolphin sounds good anyway, even with new Martin strings.

02-18-2012, 10:06 AM
Looks like you did a good job on the striped uke. I've made several EVH guitar copies on Strat bodies. I took a photo of Eddie's guitar in a magazine ad and projected it onto the bodies to get the stripes right. It's much more fun to work up a random pattern of your own. Striping was a big deal for awhile, but that was a long time ago. I hope you guys keep doin' what you're doin", it looks like fun. Pros get a funny reputation if they do such work and then let it get around. It takes some of the fun out of luthing.

03-23-2012, 07:07 AM
I love that ukulele! Fantastic job! SO impressed!

03-23-2012, 08:13 AM
The ukulele looks great!
I stripped and painted my Mainland Gecko last year.
It looked great but the clearcoat has melted while it was in the gig bag. I had to PEEL the gig bag off the ukulele and now the finish is completely ruined. I have to start all over.

I used R/C model lacquer paint, since the Gecko is a plastic body. I used R/C clearcoat over the top.
I don't know if it was the higher ambient temperature of moving to Hawaii or the increased humidity or both but now I need to figure out how to save it.
What type of clearcoat did you use, and how is it holding up?

01-18-2017, 11:39 PM
Quick bump to this aged thread as I'm just in the middle of painting up a FrankenUke and it's looking ok so far, needs rubbing back and a lacquer coat but, quite happy thus far.