View Full Version : Half guitar to Tenor uke conversion.

09-03-2013, 05:40 AM
Hello everyone,

A couple of years ago I was lucky enough to go travelling around SE Asia. While in Vietnam I stumbled into a tiny music shop. In my infinite wisdom I decided I didn't have enough luggage to cart around with me so i purchased a tiny guitar. (I cant play guitar. Tried..failed..gave up) For some reason I thought the smaller size would make it easier to learn. How wrong was I!? My large fingers made it almost impossible to fret 6 strings properly. So on my return from the trip the guitar sat alone collecting dust.
Fast forward a year or so and I discovered the wonderful world of ukuleles. Much fun had by all! (excluding the mrs) :) My sister-in-law came round with a tenor uke and left it here. YAY! While hanging the uke i noticed that it was almost exactly the same size as ol' dusty. A project starting forming in my brain and it was then that i decided to give dusty one final chance and see if I could convert it into a useable tenor uke.


Above is "Dusty" next to a Kamoa Tenor. As you can see they are almost identical in length and bridge position.

Bearing in mind that the build quality of dusty isn't great. Neither is the paint finish. I'm not expecting this to be easy. It needs a new fretboard, nut, saddle, bridge and possibly new tuning pegs. A new paint job will also be needed. If it doesn't fall apart after i take the paint off I will be very suprised.

"Why bother?" some of you may ask. I'm not in a position to build a new uke from scratch. I have neither the tools nor the workspace for such a task. Not yet anyway. I'm hoping I can skip the main building sections and concentrate on getting the set up and finish correct while learning more about how ukes work along the way. This thing cost me somewhere in the region of 4 quid. Can't remember how many Dong but it was cheap. So if it all goes tits up I'm not out of pocket.

Removal of the fretboard turned out to be a nightmare. I've no idea what glue/resin/epoxy they used to attach it but my god it was stuck fast. No amount of heating or prying was working so there was only one thing for it....out came the saw. Leason 1- patience. In my frenzied attepmt to get the bugger off i sawed a little into the neck. oops. Eventually i got most of it off and planed/sanded the last few remains.
The bridge was a little easier. I took the blade out of the plane and with a hammer worked very slowly round the bridge. It came off in one peice and caused minimal damage to the soundboard.
Then came the sanding to remove the finish and paint job.


Below you can see the damage i caused with the saw to the neck.


Thats it for the moment. I hope you dont mind me sharing this project with you. I'm sure i'm going to have a ton of questions for you all as it progresses. My first one is...Is it better to attach the fretbard, mask it then paint or do the painting first then attach? same question for the bridge. attach before or after painting? I look forward to hearing any ideas, views and opinions. Any advice is greatly appreciated. :)

09-06-2013, 12:11 PM
Good idea!

I did a less-involved conversion from a Ibanez Day-tripper 3/4 guitar to a five-string. All it took was a new nut and bridge with notches for the five strings, since they now came at a slight angle from the bridge pins, and a notch in one of the bridge pin holes to re-direct the string to the most repositioned of the srtings.

I was inspired after reading the Keith Richards biography and learning about open tunings. The neck that was too narrow for my fingers seems just fine now with just the five upper strings. It's really fun to play and a local blues guy really likes it.

Good luck with this project.

-Vinnie in Juneau