View Full Version : Another "Silent" Uke

Pete Beardsley
11-27-2011, 04:50 AM
You may remember Ambient Doughnut's thread about his quiet practice uke about a week ago.


Well I have been working on a similar project which is coming to a close. Made largely from bits and pieces I had hanging around the garage to keep costs minimal.
Main body and neck are leftover pieces of Beech worktop. The back is *cough* MDF *cough* as I had nothing else about. The back is now painted red and you wouldn't know, doesn't look too bad actually. Fretboard and bridge are Indian Rosewood and the headstock was veneered in Walnut. Mortice and tenon neck joint.
I also put in a piezo under saddle pickup so I can amp it up when the mood takes me and make some noise.


It is concert scale length and strung with some Worth browns I had in the office. Loosely based on the Les Paul style, but basically I made it up as I went along.
All built without any specialist tools, just usual woodworking hand tools, plane, chisels, wood rasps, a drill, jigsaw, router and a finish sander.
Just taken it apart again to re-do the finish as it was very ropey. Actually there are a lot of bits that are ropey, but hell, its my first attempt at an instrument and I am not exactly a skilled woodworker either. Soon as it is back together I'll see about getting a sound clip up.
The whole thing has cost (excluding a couple of tools I bought) about 30 including glue, pickup, bridge, tuners and fretwire etc.

11-27-2011, 07:07 AM
I love these DIY home uke threads! Very nice work.

I'd like to see some more pics of how you installed the piezo under saddle setup.

11-27-2011, 07:24 AM
Sorry, I can't enjoy your embarrassment about using MDF because I don't know what it is.

And what do you do in your workshop that you have all these bits lying about? Can you make a car?

Pete Beardsley
11-27-2011, 08:23 AM
Thanks for the comments guys.

The pickup was installed like an acoustic bodied uke, I had hollowed out the body with a forstner bit and then a router to try to cut the weight down a bit, so it was just a case of drilling down through the bridge and drilling a hole in the end to mount the jack plug, then just fishing the wire through with a bit of wire coathanger.

MDF is the absolute cheapest sheet material you can get at the DIY shed, its made by sticking together sawdust with a resin and pressing it in a huge mould to make 8 x 4 sheets. Its the next step from chipboard. Not really renowned as a quality timber or a tonewood!! I had some left over from a DIY project that I did ages ago. The worktops were left over from my neighbours kitchen refit.
I am an habitual hoarder so have piles of junk everywhere! Might be pretty close to a car now, I have spare wheels, a motor, a couple of seats and some doors, so not much more to find! :D

11-27-2011, 10:05 AM
Bonus points if you make the car body out of MDF too.

11-27-2011, 10:20 AM
Bonus points if you make the car body out of MDF too.

In that case you might end up with a musical Trabant, maybe a Trabantulele...

11-27-2011, 11:28 AM
I wish I had some woodworking ability, that looks great

11-28-2011, 02:53 AM
Wow! That looks fantastic! I've also been wanting to build an electric pineapple, ever since seeing saltytri's uke. However, I have no experience and no tools!

Ambient Doughnut
11-28-2011, 04:34 AM
Nice job! I like the cutaway body. So is the Piezo pickup basically a replacement saddle? I may have to try that as my next mod.

MDF is Medium Density Fibreboard. Although not exactly classy it's easy to work and sands or routes to a really smooth finish. Painted or varnished it can look quite nice plus it's very stable. On the downside the dust is possibly carcinogenic. Unfortunate as I inhaled tones of the stuff when working as builder a few years back.

Great job on doing your own neck, fretting etc - I've got to give that a go!


Pete Beardsley
11-28-2011, 05:50 AM
An MDF car body, now that would be a challenge!

rem50 and MisterRios, you would be surprised what you can achieve if you give it a go. I am by no means a woodworker, I just gave it ago and wasn't afraid to fail. If it didn't work out I would have tried again, though it helped to have very cheap materials so I wasn't losing much if it failed. A drill is really the only essential power tool, everything else can be achieved with hand tools, though I will admit roughing a neck out with a coping saw might be hard work! A jigsaw or better a bandsaw would be very useful. The only other things you really need are lots of sandpaper, a couple of wood rasps, a junior hacksaw to cut the fret slots, a few clamps and an accurate ruler/straightedge. That was about ball I used.

Ambient Doughnut, the saddle and bridge are just standard jobbies, the piezo is a 50mm x 2mm x 2mm "strip" that sits under the original saddle. Something like this


You just need to cut the saddle down a bit so the action doesn't get too high.The wire then plugs into a 1/4" jack socket on the lower bout, mine doubles as an endpin for a strap.Unfortunately I didn't have the presence of mind to take photographs when I was fitting it. Doh!
I have to say, that the fretting and neck shaping was a lot simpler than I dared to imagine. It is not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but I am very happy with it for a first attempt.

Ambient Doughnut
11-28-2011, 06:16 AM
That does look pretty simple! I guess that's the next project then - Seems that all the cheap pickups are come from overseas.

Have you tried the electric sound yet? I'm thinking that one of those little vox headphone amps should work pretty well...

Pete Beardsley
11-28-2011, 10:08 AM
Yes indeed, all the cheap pick ups do seem to be abroad, I imported mine from the states.
Not tried it in electric mode yet as I am waiting for my micro amp to arrive, plus I tore the uke down again to redo the finish which was, frankly, appalling!

11-28-2011, 12:13 PM
Here's my contribution to after hours in-home practice:

It's my CBU w/o sound hole. Sounds great unplugged, and very quiet comparatively. Plugged in with its MiSi pick up, I can crank it as loud as I want thru anything with absolutely no feedback. No matter how load the band gets, I've never had a problem cutting thru. I could put a hole in it and stick a cork in there for feedback control, but I'm happy with it like this, so I'm not gonna go there, yet.

Pete Beardsley
11-29-2011, 11:03 AM
Nice job! MiSi PU was a bit out of my price range, so I ended up with an "ACME" one instead. That sounds great, any clips of it amped up?

11-29-2011, 03:24 PM
Nice job! MiSi PU was a bit out of my price range, so I ended up with an "ACME" one instead. That sounds great, any clips of it amped up?Hey, anything by ACME can be that bad. Here's a sloppy performance on the CBU split between a Fender Acoustisonic and the house PA: