View Full Version : Collected "things I wish the Stewmac instructions told me" thread

08-29-2010, 02:17 PM
I think these kits are an awesome way to get started, but there's always room for improvement. Some stuff that I learned the hard way, or figured out on my own before doing any damage:

Make a mold: I've seen lots of slightly lopsided stewmac ukes out there, and heard others say that they couldn't get their partially completed uke back into the workboard after removing it to trim the sides (meaning the sides weren't square to the top during gluing). You can make a traditional thick outer mold to solve both these problems, but even adding a layer of 1/4" ply with the outline cut out of it to the workboard surface or driving in some finish nails around the traced outline will help.

Trim your top and back before gluing: That 1" of overhang is hurting you if you're trying to do the rubber band clamping method, and it's going to be a huge pain to trim. Since you made a mold, there's no guesswork about the shape of your sides

Dowel and dry fit your neck before attaching the fretboard: the instructions say to lay out the neck joint after the fretboard has been glued on, and use spacers underneath the body to maintain the flat neck angle. Doing things out of order and laying both the neck and body face down on a flat surface is much easier.

Stagger your rosette joint: You can cut the individual black and white pieces all at once, but you may have trouble getting the angle and length right. Whether you cut them at once or one at a time, staggering the seams around the soundhole will hide any mistakes and be more visually appealing.

The DVD is worth it: or at least it was for me. Especially if you don't have a ton of woodworking experience, watching someone demonstrate the techniques described in the instructions is helpful. Free videos like Pete's are a great resource as well but they may not apply.

What did you learn when building *your* stewmac kit?

08-29-2010, 04:16 PM
Lol! Nice thread, I agree with much that you have posted!

see my post and pics a while back about my build progress...Here... (http://www.ukuleleunderground.com/forum/showthread.php?33722-Stew-Mac-Tenor-Progress)

For anyone interested in building a Stew-Mac... BUILD A MOLD! i did the Stew-Mac one, but added a little bit to it to help kep it from moving, but now it's still a bit inaccurate(the bridge sits about 3/8" to one side of the body, but the bridge is still 17 3/32" from the nut to saddle and square relative to the fingerboard/nut so hopefully everything works out fine...)

As for the rosette, I ended up getting abalone and inlaying this, which actually came out halfway decent and I felt like I learned a bit from this process :)

I did not have any problems glueing the top or back on and usnig the rubberband method, however I did end up using some cauls and bar clamps in the waist areas because the bands just wouldn't apply enough pressure in these areas...

I loved the DVD! Mya-Moe builds some beautiful ukes and having thier input and tips on the exact kit you are building is priceless. There are some tips and techniques in the video that will help me later when I try a scratch build as well. For me, seeing something being done and reading instructions off a page are two different worlds...personally I would much rather watch a process being done rather than read it, you know?

One major thing I learned...pay more attention when leveling frets!!! Some how I flattened out part of the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd fret...I think I'm just going to pull and re-fret those, relevel, etc... And hey, at least I'll learn a little about a re-fret job as well :)

I actually just did my first coat of z-poxy last night and so far it's looking great. Overall very happy with the build, i can't wait to finish and get it strung up and see how it sounds!!

mm stan
08-29-2010, 05:48 PM
Thanks for sharing your experience with the stewmac kit....good to know before diving in...MM Stan...

08-30-2010, 11:55 AM
Richard G has multiple thoughts on the stewmac kits. You can find his pdf's here:


08-31-2010, 04:09 AM
Hey all Richard G here. Yes, my thoughts on the Stewmacs are in the documents that can be accessed from my website.......I'm never sure if they make sense, but I hope that they are of some help.

I kept the first Stewmac I made and then made a number of others for friends. The later ukes sound great and play well. The two major issues with Scorpex Ukulele 001 (my uke!) are: 1. Neck alignment. The neck is angled slightly down from the body. This meant I had to put in a high saddle. Like our parents used to say, be very careful when necking! 2. Finish - I sprayed the first uke with a quick drying clear finish. It sounds a little dull. I did the later ukes with a light tung oil. They sing.

I now have a Pete Howlett Koa Concert kit to build sometime.....that will be fun!



04-06-2011, 01:25 PM
I'm just building my first Stewmac tenors and have come across something Stewmac don't tell you. The issue is the position of the end of the fretboard in relation to the sound hole.

If you place the fretboard on the neck with the 14th fret at the end of the neck (as per Stewmac instructions), the fretboard overhangs the neck by 57mm. This is a reasonable position for the fretboard - it gives just enough flat space to glue on the nut at the headstock end.

The template supplied with the kits shows the soundhole at 54 mm from the neck end of the uke. The template has a centre reference line and also a side to side reference line to help you get the top in the right place on the body. The problem is that if you place the soundboard according to the template, the fretboard will overhang the sound hole by 2-3mm, which is not a good look.

So....be very careful when locating the soundboard and fretboard on the tenor kits to make sure that the fretboard finishes just short of the sound hole.