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View Full Version : Solid-body electric ukulele - SG style



arcbarron
08-26-2010, 08:09 PM
Sometime middle of last week I was setting in front of the computer, staring into the corner at a neglected and worn Indonesian Stratocaster copy with bad electronics when I suddenly remembered that I only had one ukulele. I know. I know. It's a silly thing to forget but I have my moments, especially when I get an awesome idea.

(They're few and far between, though, right?)

So I cannibalized the bad Strat copy and shoved all the parts off into a little pile at the foot of the bed that wasn't but probably could have been labeled...
"Mk I"

Pretty ominous, huh?
I know. haha

Pictures!
Keeping in mind what parts I had scavenged from the donor instrument, I made a sketch of the body. I based the dimensions on my Kala KA-TG tenor ukulele so I should end up with a tenor electric as long as I can manage to cut straight...
Here's that sketch:
http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4142/4928264205_4c8298e29f_m.jpg (http://www.flickr.com/photos/53357123@N02/4928264205/)
Plans (http://www.flickr.com/photos/53357123@N02/4928264205/) by ArcBarron (http://www.flickr.com/people/53357123@N02/), on Flickr

The first thing I had to do was rewire the dead donor electronics. I accomplished this by throwing out the five way switch and the [damaged] master volume pot. I then wired the three slightly-less-than-consumer grade single coil pickups in sequence through to a new master volume and a tone, both of which were originally tone knobs. Kondensators and solder and blah blah blah and it turns out it's actually very quiet even without any shielding. In truth, I'm lucky the thing works at all taking into account what it all looked like before. Seriously.
http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4077/4928276499_b361a5e49f_m.jpg (http://www.flickr.com/photos/53357123@N02/4928276499/)
Wiring 1 (http://www.flickr.com/photos/53357123@N02/4928276499/) by ArcBarron (http://www.flickr.com/people/53357123@N02/), on Flickr
And yes, all I had were huge wires... Like I said, I'm lucky it works. haha

arcbarron
08-26-2010, 08:10 PM
Here are various stages of body carving:
http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4093/4928270629_3054f72b42_m.jpg (http://www.flickr.com/photos/53357123@N02/4928270629/)
Body 1 (http://www.flickr.com/photos/53357123@N02/4928270629/) by ArcBarron (http://www.flickr.com/people/53357123@N02/), on Flickr
http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4099/4930849010_5b83f5181a_m.jpg (http://www.flickr.com/photos/53357123@N02/4930849010/)
Routing (http://www.flickr.com/photos/53357123@N02/4930849010/) by ArcBarron (http://www.flickr.com/people/53357123@N02/), on Flickr
http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4079/4930855478_98304fb597_m.jpg (http://www.flickr.com/photos/53357123@N02/4930855478/)
Contours (http://www.flickr.com/photos/53357123@N02/4930855478/) by ArcBarron (http://www.flickr.com/people/53357123@N02/), on Flickr
http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4093/4930273451_371eb769bb_m.jpg (http://www.flickr.com/photos/53357123@N02/4930273451/)
Routed and Sanded (http://www.flickr.com/photos/53357123@N02/4930273451/) by ArcBarron (http://www.flickr.com/people/53357123@N02/), on Flickr

Next on the list... sometime tomorrow I'm cutting the pick guard and drilling holes for screws. I'm also gluing up the laminations for the neck. The body is southern yellow pine and the neck is going to be that pine on the sides, red yew inside of that, and a nice ipe in the center. The fretboard is going to be ipe as well and I'm thinking I might carve the nut out a gemsbok horn or an antler or whatever I have lying around.

And as a special treat for those of you who have a pair of red-blue 3D glassing lying around from the last time you saw Jaws 3D, Freddy's Dead, or Spy Kids 3D, I present to you a 3D anaglyph of the sketch of this very ukulele:
Click here if you have your glasses ready! (http://tinyurl.com/sg-ukulele)

More as it develops...

Chris Tarman
08-26-2010, 08:21 PM
That is pretty dang cool-looking.

erich@muttcrew.net
08-26-2010, 10:42 PM
This looks like an awesome project - I look forward to seeing and hearing more.

I do wonder what kind of sound you'll get from the three singlecoils compared to the humbuckers on an SG.

What kind of finish did you want to use?

Keep rockin' :music:
Erich

Vic D
08-27-2010, 08:19 AM
I've had this same uke in my head for the past week or so. I'll be watching, looks great already.

arcbarron
08-27-2010, 05:33 PM
Thanks everyone for the kind words.
Here's a bit more to whet your pallets:

I found some truly disgusting Formica in the local high school wood shop. The shop teacher, a twenty-something year veteran at the school, says it's been around since before he started there so it's got to be from at least 1984 or so. It was so disgusting I just HAD to use it, though.

So... Disgusting Formica pick guard: check.

You'll see the pick guard in this next picture along with the beginnings of my finish job for the body. Since you asked, Erich, the process starts with a little pyrotechnics show. If you look at the body in this next picture and compare it to the last few pictures, you'll notice that all of the wood that was light is now dark.
Here's the picture:
http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4121/4933122937_9a7dfd7bd6_m.jpg (http://www.flickr.com/photos/53357123@N02/4933122937/)

So I took a blowtorch, turned it low, and waved it around in front of the body until it turned all of the lighter rings good and dark. Then, I sanded lightly and rubbed in a little Tru-Oil. Since this is sort of a practice instrument using throw-away parts, I'm probably going to go back in with an oil based varnish and stipple around for a bit of a textured effect around the edges. Maybe I'll get a little colour in there. Who knows?

Here's a second picture for size comparison with the Kala KA-TG:
http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4077/4933111185_17cb99d3d3_m.jpg (http://www.flickr.com/photos/53357123@N02/4933111185/)
Comparison (http://www.flickr.com/photos/53357123@N02/4933111185/) by ArcBarron (http://www.flickr.com/people/53357123@N02/), on Flickr

They're the same width within a quarter inch or so (the Kala is nine inches wide at the thickest bit) but the SG body is about an inch taller, mostly due to those devil horn things. It doesn't look bigger in the picture, though, because the Kala has a neck to prop it up and the SG is only two inches thick, so... take that picture with a grain of salt. It's mostly so you can see they're about the same size and all.

Also, to get back to the humbucker question, a humbucker is pretty much just two single coil pickups wired in sequence with a special bar magnet glued between them. The bar magnet has its poles along its sides (as opposed to the tips) forcing the two coils have opposite magnetic polarities. To add to this, the second pickup is wired backwards. The electrons flow the opposite way from pickup to pickup and... ya know.. I really have no idea how any of that cancels the hum.

My pickups are all wired in sequence, but I could try wiring the middle one up backwards and see if it makes any difference to ambient sound. I'll have to put the neck together first, but it's not like it would take very long just to experiment. I assume the magnets are necessary, though...

I'll probably glue some lams up tomorrow for the neck but I'm planning on doing nothing the rest of the day. It sounds like a nice plan to me. haha

Chris Tarman
08-27-2010, 05:46 PM
Oh yeah! LOVE the Formica pick guard!

erich@muttcrew.net
08-27-2010, 10:41 PM
Wow, lookin' good. I like those "burned in" grain lines - gotta try that some time.

Reversing the wiring on the middle pickup might help (maybe just a little, maybe enough to matter). Anyway it shouldn't hurt - at least I don't think so.

arcbarron
08-29-2010, 07:49 AM
A bit more progress to report.

The neck has been glued up. I'll spare you a picture filled with C clamps and Urac, but here's what it looks like after sawing it back into something that resembles a board:
http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4075/4937823967_8e22c004d1_m.jpg (http://www.flickr.com/photos/53357123@N02/4937823967/)

And, just in case you were wondering, here's a picture of that next to a scrap that I rubbed some Tru-oil into:
http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4142/4937823995_25206eeaed_m.jpg (http://www.flickr.com/photos/53357123@N02/4937823995/)

Next up is shaping the neck and figuring out something for a fretboard and nut.

proctor.sm
10-09-2011, 06:39 AM
How did you secure all of the electronics, were they simply screwed to the base?