View Full Version : Making a Banjolele from scratch

10-01-2011, 04:48 AM
i've seen a few instructionals on this. just curious if anyone has gone through with this?

i'm searching eBay for a soprano DIY kit for about 40$ which should supply the neck, fretboard and tuners.

i'm also looking for a tambourine or hand drum to demolish for cheap. i'll drill the neck into the hand drum.

i have the process down, just some fine tuning that might be good to know before i start/order everything. I don't want to get to a certain point and have to wait for more material.

not exactly sure which tamborine size i should use actually, not 100% confident on that aspect.

10-01-2011, 04:58 AM
someone else turned me on to this link for necks and tuners......probably better quality than what youll find on ebay and maybe a bit cheaper...Ive been looking at their site and it looks like they make some nice stuff!


10-01-2011, 05:05 AM
found this video to be very helpful!


i'm very excited at trying this!

10-01-2011, 05:20 AM
Try PMing ProfChris. Played a few of his banjoleles and they're really good and seemed rather simple to build.

10-01-2011, 06:04 AM
While you'll surely be able to make a "playable" banjo uke with a soprano kit and tambourine, I'm not going to lie to you --it's not gonna sound too great.

10-01-2011, 06:09 AM
I've got alot of banjo-uke parts, hoops, heads, clamps. I need to get them on our web page some day. Send me an email if you are interested.

10-01-2011, 06:51 AM
I had a trashed Mahalo Soprano,so I got a Hand drum (Tambourine
minus the jingles!) and went ahead and built my own.Plays okay,
sounds fine.I prefer wooden ukes myself,but for the odd song or
tune,its perfectly adequate!

10-01-2011, 07:33 AM
Is this what you have in mind?


The body is an 8 inch hand drum via eBay. The neck is a pine board, split and folded so the grain runs up and down and curves in towards the bottom of the neck, sandwiched round a piece of mahogany-faced ply from a recycled wardrobe (closet in US-speak?). Attachment to the body is via a 6mm (1/4 inch) threaded rod - I tapped the heel, soaked the threads in CA glue, and then screwed the rod into the heel. The rod passes right through the drum - wingnut inside the body, normal nut at the heel. Tailpiece is a scrap of 1/16 ply, faced with walnut (I think, use whatever pretty wood you have lying around) and attached to the body with a loop of picture wire (note, don't use an old uke string, because it will ring out on some notes). Frets are direct in neck to save time and effort.

However, I wouldn't use pine if you can find something better, as pine is a complete pain to carve and nasty to sand. Ash would give you the pale look, mahogany a more traditional appearance. Oak works too - BUs are supposed to be heavy, though this pine one is very light.

Adjustment of the neck angle is via shims cut from a drinks can - loosen nuts, inserts shims, tighten, repeat until action is as you like it.

Buy tuners, bridge and strings and you're done.

10-01-2011, 08:27 AM
yea i'm doing this as a personal project and i'll hopefully learn a lot about crafting and come to appreciate ukulele's more afterwards.

if you can remember... what type of hand drum? i really don't want to order one that won't be suitable since i'm not able to look at them directly. just visited Sam Ash and GuitarCenter and they didn't have the right things. Also, does your hand drum have a wooden rim?

i'm excited :)

10-01-2011, 08:49 AM
also--- mike check your email :)

10-01-2011, 10:34 AM
They sell out regularly, but laboratorymusic on ebay sells Remo tuneable 10" hand drums for $29.95 with free shipping. Not right now.

10-01-2011, 12:08 PM
They sell out regularly, but laboratorymusic on ebay sells Remo tuneable 10" hand drums for $29.95 with free shipping. Not right now.

That's a bit expensive. You want one of these (DADI seem to be the maker), but 8 inch for a soprano banjo-uke: http://www.ebay.com/itm/10-TUNABLE-HAND-DRUM-percussion-tom-drum-frame-/320715423802?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item4aac21003a

Wooden hoop with metal rim, 7 tension adjusters on the 8 inch model. These are fairly well made (the hardware is tough), but be careful driling the hoop as it splinters easily - I start with a small drill and work up to the full 6mm/ 1/4 inch.

Someone in the US will sell them. I'd pay the equivalent of $20 delivered in the UK, so you should pay less I'd expect

10-01-2011, 12:16 PM

Here's a picture of the back, to show you how I attach the neck to the drum.

10-01-2011, 03:16 PM
I made 2 tin can banjos. I carved the necks from some spruce I had around the house (7 years aged ). Used a cooky tin for the body/resonator. I wanted a tinny sound. These were 5 string banjos. The most expensive part was the fifth tuners. I built a resonnator (the wood back that bounces the sound back forward ) out of Oak for one of them. Used threaded rod for the trusses/support rod.

For frets, I used a thin (1/8") oak finger board. Sanded and shaped, then I soaked that in black alcohol based stain for a day. measured out where the frets needed to be. Then used a dremel with a router attachment and jig, to cut shallow V cuts for the frets. I used aluminum wire/rod, for the frets. Epoxied into the grooves I routed in the finger board. Made a fret file from an old level with emory paper glued to the one edge. Used a larger dia. aluminum rod for the nut. Filed the grooves for the strings in the nut, then used wet/dry sand paper to smooth them up. Strung with nikel/silver strings they have a nice twang to them.