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g4ry
06-18-2008, 09:21 AM
I recently visited my parents for about a month. They live on a very small island (where I grew up) where there isn't really much entertaining to do. I was really interested in learning to play the ukulele, so I decided to build one while I was there. This is the first musical instrument I've ever built, but I was really pleased with how it turned out. I made it from some scrap birch wood. As you can see in the picture, the scrap wood I used was only around 2.5 inches wide, so I actually had to make a 4-piece top and back for the ukulele. I had no idea what I was doing, no templates or instruction, no experience, and very limited tools (and obviously not much selection of wood).

Anyway, just wanted to post so as to possibly inspire someone else to try something similar. My Koa Pili Koko arrived from MGM about a week before I finished the uke (and such was my inspiration for the bridge design ;) ), so I decided to give this one to my dad for fathers day. I had a blast building it, and may revisit this again someday with proper tools, and maybe some nicer wood.

Oh yeah, they had a dialup internet connection, so I was able to do some research (although it seems information on ukulele building is a little limited on the internet). Other than that, it was mostly just built out of creativity.

I took tons of photos during the process, if anyone is interested in some ill-informed guess work ukulele building ;)

Shown is the wood before i started, and the almost-finished uke hanging while the varnish was drying.

Edit: Here is a link (http://www.flickr.com/photos/g4ry/sets/72157605686972324/) to a bunch of photos during the building process.

http://i303.photobucket.com/albums/nn134/g4rymill3r/before.jpghttp://i303.photobucket.com/albums/nn134/g4rymill3r/after.jpg

russ_buss
06-18-2008, 09:29 AM
hey, nice work! you've got some skills there! can you post some of the in-between shots? pretty please?

deach
06-18-2008, 09:31 AM
That's cool! I would like to see the pics and your process.

g4ry
06-18-2008, 09:34 AM
I'll try to sort through them and upload them somewhere later on this evening. Thanks for the kind words.

//gary

NotoriousMOK
06-18-2008, 09:40 AM
Looks good Gary! Welcome to the forum! I'll look forward to seeing your in-progress pics.


Have fun!

mdnjustin
06-18-2008, 10:09 AM
Whoa, that looks so good. I can't believe you made that out of scrap wood. Awesome.

JackT
06-18-2008, 11:02 AM
Thats looks pretty sweet for a scapwood ukulele

KamakaTexas
06-18-2008, 11:24 AM
Impressive!

Yeah....I want to do that some day....

SailQwest
06-18-2008, 11:49 AM
It looks great, and what a fantastic gift for your father!!!

j312311
06-18-2008, 11:53 AM
is it just me, or can i not see the pictures?

JohnBoy
06-18-2008, 01:33 PM
Can I be your dad? I am GREEEEEN with envy!:D:biglaugh:

UkeNinja
06-18-2008, 01:41 PM
is it just me, or can i not see the pictures?

Not just you, I see the uke only in my imagination from the description. Scrap wood? Beaches, pieces of lumber, mandarin crates, coconut shells... but no clue what the thing must look like :)

Perhaps something like this (http://www.catfish1952.com/freakshowfiles/picassouke091803.jpg)...

g4ry
06-18-2008, 01:51 PM
LOL, that's epic.

Sorry, dunno why the photobucket pics won't show for some, but I'm uploading a bunch to Flickr right now.

NotoriousMOK
06-18-2008, 02:07 PM
looks like the upgraded forum software has also given us the ability to upload pictures -- though I have not yet tried it -- check out your User CP

:)

New2Uke
06-18-2008, 02:19 PM
thats one awsum build!

tad
06-18-2008, 02:58 PM
That's really beautiful.

Out of curiosity, how did you figure out the spacing of the frets? That's always been a mystery to me...

nikolo727
06-18-2008, 03:29 PM
wow that was amazing!

and you did that with no instructions and with scrapwood.


can you make me one? lol

great job broh!

SnakeOiler
06-18-2008, 03:36 PM
Absoluty amazing!!!

seeso
06-18-2008, 03:44 PM
Really great!

g4ry
06-18-2008, 04:17 PM
Okies, I uploaded a bunch of photos to flickr.
This should get you there. (http://www.flickr.com/photos/g4ry/sets/72157605686972324/)

I hope this can give someone some ideas. I know i got a lot of ideas while browsing the internet, so if you see something and think you deserve credit, just give me a shout. Please remember that I had no idea what I was doing, but had a lot of fun learning. I'm and electrical engineer, not a carpenter ;)

@ Tad:

The fret spacing was actually really easy. If you consider that you want the 12th fret to be the exact middle, no matter what the scale, then it all becomes about the 12th root of 2. I don't see an equation editor handy, but it all simplifies down to dividing by 17.817. That is, for example, if you had a scale length of 17" (standard Tenor ukulele), then you divide that by 17.817. This will give you the position of your first fret - down 0.954 inches. Then you just repeat as many times as you want. Consider the first fret your nut, so now you have a theoretical scale length of 17"-0.954" = 16.046". Divide that by 17.817, and you'll get 0.900". So your 2nd fret goes 0.900" below the first...... and so on, and so forth, each one getting smaller. The number 17.817 isn't just pulled out of a hat, it's so that the 12th fret will be exactly 1/2 of the scale.

Cheers,
gary

PS: thanks for all the nice comments :)

russ_buss
06-18-2008, 04:49 PM
what an amazingly detailed documentation of your build. thanks for sharing!!

may i ask how long it took to complete?

g4ry
06-18-2008, 04:59 PM
what an amazingly detailed documentation of your build. thanks for sharing!!

may i ask how long it took to complete?

To get the bulk of the construction done, it was somewhere between 1 and 2 weeks, but a lot of that time was spent thinking about how to go about it. At that point, i hadn't spent any money on it, but I decided that I would shell out a few bucks for 3 feet of fretwire and some machineheads. I had to mail order them, so after waiting a week, i got back to work. All in, it took approximately 1 month from scrounging up wood to tuning it up. If I were just building it, and had all the materials available, it would be about 1 week to build, and 1 week for finishing, I'd guess.

Edit: lol, just looked at the dates on the pictures (gotta love the digital age). The picture of the wood was dated April 28th, the picture of it hanging with the varnish drying was May 21st, and the final picture was May 29th. So yeah, about a month.

dave g
06-18-2008, 05:00 PM
Nice :rock:

deach
06-18-2008, 05:38 PM
WOW again! What a great job on documenting.

If this doesn't convince the mods that a luthier section needs to be created, I don't know what will.

Howlin Hobbit
06-18-2008, 09:17 PM
A quick Google on "online fret calculator" turns up a ton of choices. I think that Stew-Mac (http://www.stewmac.com/cgi-bin/hazel.cgi)* probably has a good (i.e. accurate) one.

Lots more luthier info, even ukulele-specific, out on the web. Most of it in forums. The pros are exceedingly generous with their knowledge.

*Stewart-MacDonald, a luthier supply house.

UkeNinja
06-18-2008, 09:27 PM
Wow, no more scrap wood images in my head. That looks really nice! Too bad my Tokyo apartment does not have a woodshop attached to it, but documentation like yours is very useful for people planning to start such a project, thanks for the contribution.

Ah... did anyone ask how it sounds yet??? :nana:

g4ry
06-19-2008, 06:39 AM
Ah... did anyone ask how it sounds yet??? :nana:

Haha, guess i didn't mention that bit ;)

Well, i'm completely new to ukuleles, and all I had to compare it to was my Koa Pili Koko. I was pleasantly surprised with how it sounded. It had more volume, and was more "punchy". I played it for the week before I left, and when I picked up my KPK again, i was actually a little disappointed.

It wasn't as mellow sounding as the KPK, but in reality, when I was playing it, the varnish hadn't really fully hardened yet (oil based, not lacquer). One thing i noticed was the A string, on my KPK it is somewhat dead, but on this uke it really rang out without needing to put emphasis on it. So when I was playing a song which had a melody line on the A string (Aldrine's version of Zelda's Lullaby), i was really surprised at how much better it sounded.

Overall, for not paying attention to terms like "tone wood" (are any ukuleles made out of birch???) and "tap tuning", it far surpassed my expectations in sound. When I make it down that way to visit again, perhaps I'll record a few chords and post it. Perhaps I'll even be able to play a full song by then :music:

cheers,
gary

IamRobbyah
06-19-2008, 07:45 AM
Wow!!! Truly truly amazing!!!!!

My hands have no finess when it comes to carpentry. I guess I did pretty well back in my highschool woodshop days, but I doubt that I could ever fly solo like that.

A number of years ago, I took the ferry from Vancouver to Victoria. I always wondered what kind of people lived on those little islands. That kind of seclusion would be bliss -- in moderation.

Beautiful job, sir. Cant wait to see those vids. Thanks for sharing.

seeso
06-19-2008, 07:50 AM
Thanks so much for posting those pictures, g4ry. So glad you decided to share your process with us. Thank the lord you had the foresight to take pictures!

This is seriously so cool.

g4ry
06-19-2008, 08:26 AM
A number of years ago, I took the ferry from Vancouver to Victoria. I always wondered what kind of people lived on those little islands. That kind of seclusion would be bliss -- in moderation.

Lol, in moderation is key. I had to take a boat to and from highschool every day. But yeah, the seclusion does make you take time to enjoy some of the simpler things in life. I doubt I could ever live there again permanently, but I do enjoy "getting away from life", time to time.

Glad everyone enjoyed the pics, I'll be sure to take my camera along for the next random project!

//gary

Kilika
06-19-2008, 02:40 PM
g4ry,

You did some fine work and you've inspired me to build my own ukulele when I have some free time. I don't know much about woodworking, but your pictures compel me to at least give it a shot.

Not only am I impressed with the final product, I'm impressed with the ingenuity it took to build some of the tools from scratch--a set of clamps from a broomstick? Nice. :)

Nice work!

tripl3thr33
06-19-2008, 04:26 PM
awesome! it's always inspiring to see works like these from scratch. i would have to wait till after this fall semester of school to start making my own uke. i don't have much time right now and seeing pictures like yours makes me want to do it even more lol

nikolo727
06-19-2008, 04:47 PM
i will pay you to make me one gary.

lol.

mr_dust
06-19-2008, 10:26 PM
Wow! You got a sweet uke there!
That link you posted with all the pics is going to help me alot becuase I'm gonna do a similar project in school. Thanks!:worship:

deach
06-20-2008, 12:33 AM
i will pay you to make me one gary.

lol.

Get in line. lol

c.b.fiddler
06-20-2008, 04:06 AM
That is an exceptional first build. Very impressive!

polynesianpop
06-20-2008, 04:15 AM
Wow that came out nice! :bowdown: I'm glad you had the foresight to take pics of the process. This is really motivating me to give it a shot -- with a kit first of course.... ;)

NotoriousMOK
06-20-2008, 07:20 AM
this gets me thinking about all these silly furnishings around the house (tables, bookshelves and the like). The kitchen table, for example, would probably net about 4 tenors . . . . hmm . . .

nikolo727
06-20-2008, 08:33 AM
Get in line. lol

I will and I am dead serious about it. rofl

polynesianpop
06-20-2008, 02:39 PM
this gets me thinking about all these silly furnishings around the house (tables, bookshelves and the like). The kitchen table, for example, would probably net about 4 tenors . . . . hmm . . .

Ha! That does it -- you've officially changed the way I look at ALL things made of some kind of wood! :D

nikolo727
06-20-2008, 04:26 PM
OMG!


ok guys listen to this.

My mom is obsessed with restoring antique furniture and just all around buying furniture from garage sales and whatever. anyway, I have a SHAT load of old furniture in the garage and in my room. heres the best part. My mom loves wooden made furniture. She bought an old church pew for durn's sake!

if anyone needs wood(ill talk to my mom about it of course) I can hook you up!

nikolo727
06-20-2008, 04:27 PM
just a thought by the way im not really sure yet.lol

NotoriousMOK
06-20-2008, 04:47 PM
oooooh, a pew -- just one's gotta be worth what, 15 ukes??? :love:

deach
06-20-2008, 04:51 PM
oooooh, a pew -- just one's gotta be worth what, 15 ukes??? :love:

pewkulele ?

nikolo727
06-20-2008, 05:51 PM
three cheers for the pewkulele!

:nana::nana::nana:

(more like three nanas)

NotoriousMOK
06-20-2008, 09:33 PM
pewkulele ?


with a butt-rubbed finish??

salukulady
06-20-2008, 09:59 PM
The fret spacing was actually really easy. If you consider that you want the 12th fret to be the exact middle, no matter what the scale, then it all becomes about the 12th root of 2. I don't see an equation editor handy, but it all simplifies down to dividing by 17.817. That is, for example, if you had a scale length of 17" (standard Tenor ukulele), then you divide that by 17.817. This will give you the position of your first fret - down 0.954 inches. Then you just repeat as many times as you want. Consider the first fret your nut, so now you have a theoretical scale length of 17"-0.954" = 16.046". Divide that by 17.817, and you'll get 0.900". So your 2nd fret goes 0.900" below the first...... and so on, and so forth, each one getting smaller. The number 17.817 isn't just pulled out of a hat, it's so that the 12th fret will be exactly 1/2 of the scale.
:)You're an engineer? No kidding......

deach
06-21-2008, 02:52 AM
with a butt-rubbed finish??

That's pretty gross. Not that being gross is a bad thing.

Howlin Hobbit
06-21-2008, 06:17 AM
The fret spacing was actually really easy. If you consider that you want the 12th fret to be the exact middle, no matter what the scale, then it all becomes about the 12th root of 2.

Actually, the 12th fret shouldn't be the exact middle. You want the distance between the 12th fret and saddle to be a skosh bigger than the distance between the nut and 12th fret.

Dave Means has posted a lot on this but, alas, I don't have time right now to go through a bunch of different sites looking for his exact quotes. I think he recommends something like an extra 1/32" to 1/16" range as a "ballpark" figure.

And that's before you do any of the fancy filing on the saddle if you're going to do the compensated saddle thing.

g4ry
06-22-2008, 10:38 AM
Actually, the 12th fret shouldn't be the exact middle. You want the distance between the 12th fret and saddle to be a skosh bigger than the distance between the nut and 12th fret.

Dave Means has posted a lot on this but, alas, I don't have time right now to go through a bunch of different sites looking for his exact quotes. I think he recommends something like an extra 1/32" to 1/16" range as a "ballpark" figure.

And that's before you do any of the fancy filing on the saddle if you're going to do the compensated saddle thing.

Could this be due to the fact that when you press the string into the fret, you are increasing the tension of the string slightly? That would compensate for that action.

Very interesting stuff, I haven't run into that yet, but I've been hitting the library pretty hard since this project (tons of books on guitar building there, not to call a uku a guitar, but the contruction theory seems to port rather well) so I'll undoubtedly run into something about it.

I actually just made it as close as possible with the bridge, so that the front of the saddle slot was at an equal distance from the 12th fret as the nut. This, in effect, ended up doing exactly what you spoke of, as the actual saddle ended up fitting slightly back further.

I admittedly had to make 2 different saddles before I got the intonation on the 12th fret perfect.

As per the original question however, I still believe what I said holds true for figuring out the fret spacing. The bridge position, however, would be changed slightly. I wish we had some experienced luthiers around here, I find this kind of thing incredibly interesting.

cheers,
gary