View Full Version : A few design questions.

The Curious Kid
01-31-2011, 09:02 AM
Hello UU community.

I've recently been researching and learning about building a soprano and I've got a few questions for those that know what they are doing.

First of all, because it is within my ability to make wood tuners, like those on a violin, I was wondering if anyone has insight on whether or not wood tuners could be effective on a uke, and if they could, what style headstock would be easiest to use them in? (I thought perhaps a slotted headstock?)

Another question is about fingerboard materials. I have walnut, maple, cherry, oak, and box elder at my disposal, and I was wondering which is my best option considering sound.

My last question is about bracing materials. Should I use soft or hard wood?

Thanks very much.

The Curious Kid

01-31-2011, 09:33 AM
You can certainly make wooden tuning pegs, but you're going to most likely regret the choice soon after trying to tune the instrument and keep it in tune. Old time ukes (very old) had them.

As far as sound being affected by the fret board, don't even put that into the equation when you are starting out building. There are heaps of other things that are going to be making a huge difference before you'll ever be able to distinguish the tone from a walnut or maple fret board. What you are looking for in a fret board is ability to hold a fret, ie hard wood that doesn't compress or chip easily. Good wear resistance, though not so much of an issue as compared to steel string instruments, and if you want to do inlay on it, the darker the wood ie black, the easier it is to get the inlay to look good without spaces showing.

Bracing is usually in mahogany or spruce.

01-31-2011, 10:20 AM
I'm going to disagree with Allen here - I have wooden pegs on my Joel Eckhaus concert, my Pete Howlett soprano and I have fitted them to several of the ukes I have built.

Of course, there is a "knack" to using them, but you quickly get the hang of it. They are no more or less difficult to use than metal friction tuners and I don't find myself struggling to keep my ukes in tune.

They also look good and save a lot of weight, which is good news on a soprano IMHO.

What I would suggest is, measure a violin peg first, them make your own pegs with the same taper, so you can use regular violin makers tools to fit them.

A standard soprano style headstock is fine with wooden pegs too. This is the head of the last one I used them on. It was a tiny sub-sopranino size CBU.

http://a5.sphotos.ak.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ak-snc4/hs069.snc4/34812_1675761807577_1043414509_1860288_116010_n.jp g

01-31-2011, 12:49 PM
I'm with Rob on this one, I never use anything but violin pegs. And I'm partly responsible for Rob using them.

I buy them ready made. And I like my super expensive reamer that I bought to make the tapered holes. It is a good tool.

I don't think they would work on a slotted headstock, but then I never liked Fleas and Flukes.

And Allen is right about what he says about wood.


01-31-2011, 01:10 PM
Rob and Sven, do you guys use the "pencil sharpener" type shaver to match your pegs to the tapered reamer, or do they come from your supplier with an appropriate taper?

01-31-2011, 01:26 PM
I eyeball each peg against the reamer, to check that the tapers match (they always have!) then I adjust each hole with the reamer, to match a specific peg such that all pegs protrude by the same amount. I generally label the pegs as I go, so I know which peg fits which hole.

Moore Bettah Ukuleles
01-31-2011, 01:57 PM
I love friction pegs. I've made a lot of money replacing them with geared tuners when the owners get fed up with them!

The Curious Kid
01-31-2011, 02:43 PM
Thanks a million for all the help everyone! that headstock image got me much more confident about the idea. I'll take a look at a some violin tuners and take some good notes. As for reaming the holes... reamers are stinking expensive and I think I'll make my own tool out of a big old screwdriver.

I've discovered that I need to ask another, more crucial question. Looking at my supply of wood, I've noticed the pieces are rather dauntingly short. I'm doubting that I'll be able to cut long enough pieces for the sides. Would it be an outrageous luthierical sin to shape the walls each with two pieces of wood joined at the ends with a bit of reinforcement on the inside of the uke?

thanks again!

Ken W
01-31-2011, 03:18 PM
A better alternative than a screwdriver would be one side of a scissors (a scissor?). It already has a cutting edge and it is tapered. I've never done this myself, but a search of the web will turn up an article on wooden tuning pegs that takes this approach. Still, a reamer seems to be the better way to go. They are expensive, but cheaper than a set of high-end geared tuners. I just bought a reamer and will be putting violin pegs on a banjo that I'm finishing this week. We'll see how it goes.

The Curious Kid
01-31-2011, 04:10 PM
the scissors idea sure tops ruining a screwdriver, thanks for the tip!

01-31-2011, 07:12 PM
As for using several pieces of wood for the sides, it depends on how clever you are. A F style mandolin uses several pieces for its sides. A venetian cutaway uses two pieces of wood for a side. You just have to think out of the box. On the other hand, you only need 13.5 inches for a soprano side. Go to a Woodcraft store.


02-01-2011, 12:58 AM
Don't ruin a pair of scissors.

Take a wooden peg, cut a slot down the middle, glue in a piece of hacksaw blade so that the teeth just protrude, file down the other side of the blade until it's a fraction proud of the peg surface.

Works well - go slowly because it cuts faster than you'd think, and back off every half turn or so to keep the hole round and stop it from sticking. Maybe 1 minute per hole.

02-01-2011, 11:30 AM
Rob and Sven, do you guys use the "pencil sharpener" type shaver to match your pegs to the tapered reamer, or do they come from your supplier with an appropriate taper?

Ooh. That shaving tool is much more expensive than the reamers. I thought I'd be needing one, but haven't so far. But it does look good. I buy 1/4 size violin pegs from metmusic in New York. Even with freight they're cheaper than the ones in Stockholm (no doubt imported by the shop from metmusic).

02-01-2011, 12:33 PM
I once bought violin pegs from a local luthier and got (wait for it) reamed on price. I was thinking of ordering some of those f-hole clamps you've got from metmusic so I may buy a couple of sets of pegs as well.