View Full Version : Built Three Heirloom Ukuleles

12-18-2012, 03:01 PM
Greetings UU-

Under the tutelage, supervision and help of luthier John Kinnard (http://www.johnkinnard.com), I built three ukuleles for my adult children with the hope that they will become family heirlooms.

I knew that John took on students so while the tenor he built for me was finishing up I approached him with my plan- to build three ukes and have them done in time for Christmas.

I couldn't be happier with how they turned out and the experience working with John was nothing short of amazing. I learned so much during this process and gained an immense appreciation for what goes into building a really fine instrument.

John is a master luthier and his teaching method and patience made the process fun and extremely satisfying. This old school mentor/apprenticeship relationship really made me appreciate how skills (and tricks) are passed along and I learned a lot.

Having worked with wood in the past (www.kbeddoeboats.com), I had the advantage of knowing my way around power tools and such but I knew that I would be building within tolerances I had not been required to in the past. Under John's guidance, each step of the process was shown and explained and progress moved along at a steady pace.

When I told John I wanted to build all three at the same time he was reluctant to agree but as I explained to him, while one uke is drying or a tool is set up, I could work on the others and in this way could maximize my shop time.

So we built all the bodies first, the necks second and then did the neck body assembly. After that, the finish, final assembly and set up.

This batch process turned out to be pretty efficient in that when I was shown how to do a step or process I had the benefit of immediate reinforcement because I had two more times to do it (this also helped when I made a mistake because I had two more times to vindicate myself).

All an all a very satisfying experience and one I would highly recommend if you are interested in the building process. John is located in San Diego County but there may be luthiers near you that might offer the same experience.

I built the tenors for my sons and the concert for my daughter.

Tenors(low G):

Peruvian Walnut
Sitka Spruce top (from a bowsprit off an old sailing yacht)
Honduran Mahogany neck
Rosewood fretboard and bridge, face plate
Ivoroid binding with purfling
Peghed tuners

Concert (low G):

All Zebrawood body
Mahogany neck
No binding
Wenge fretboard and bridge, face plate
Peghed tuners

As good as I thought they turned out, they sound even better than what I hoped...

Pictures can be seen at the link below.


12-18-2012, 03:06 PM
Very nicely done! Your adult children are fortunate.

12-18-2012, 03:28 PM
Nice work !

12-18-2012, 07:14 PM
Um...want to adopt me?

Your kids are very lucky indeed. What a generous and beautiful gift.

12-18-2012, 07:22 PM
I am no luthier, but those ukes look amazing! What an awesome gift! This will be a blessing to them, and your whole family, for generations to come! Any thoughts of building more?

12-18-2012, 08:10 PM
Those are truly beautiful instruments. I'm sure they will be cherished for generations.

12-19-2012, 02:08 AM
Beautiful ukes and a great story. What a wonderful idea.

uncle david
12-20-2012, 09:07 AM
Outstanding work! I hope to do that for my children one day :-)

02-10-2013, 08:59 AM
Sound samples?

02-10-2013, 09:15 AM
Sound samples?

PM me your address and I can get you a sample of one of the Peruvian Walnut/Sitka Tenors-


02-10-2013, 10:43 AM
What a wonderful gift. I'm sure they will be treasured.

02-10-2013, 12:01 PM
Those look top-end! You have a group of lucky kids.

02-10-2013, 12:39 PM
Fantastic effort - and three great gifts that I'm sure will be appreiciated for many years to come!

02-10-2013, 07:36 PM
Very nice-I'm sure they will be cherished. Love that zebra-wow-nice work!

02-13-2013, 08:03 PM
Sound samples?

I uploaded a sound sample of the Zebrawood Concert Uke. This recording was made just a few days after being strung up. It has opened up nicely since this was made....