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View Full Version : Hacking up a $25 uke kit



sweets
01-31-2009, 12:42 PM
A friend of mine with a few builds under his belt suggested that we do a pair of ukes together. Instead of starting with a stewmac or hanalima kit and fretting over ruining $100 of materials, we went the grizzly route and will add spruce tops and rosewood accessories. He has done one like this before to give away and was pretty happy with it.

We are two half-days in; you can see some pictures at this updated link (http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=134045&id=779140141&l=9df412b20f)(sorry about the iphone pictures on day 1).

Harold O.
01-31-2009, 02:49 PM
Looks like a good way to spend a couple of days.

Harold O.
www.westhillswood.com
www.hopublishing.com

Ukuleleblues
01-31-2009, 04:41 PM
Did the same thing. Original Griz on the left Engleman Spruce top on the right. Go for it!!!!!!!

sweets
02-08-2009, 01:41 PM
This week's pictures are up (http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=134045&l=9df41&id=779140141), mostly of reshaping the neck and fretting.

Unfortunately as I was packing things up I broke a piece off the end of my fretboard, which was probably inevitable because the 12th fret was beyond the heel, and that very thin rosewood should have been supported by a block (something I've done in the meantime). Hopefully I'll be able to make a new fretboard end and slip it under the fret, gluing it to the soundboard.

GrumpyOldMan
02-23-2009, 09:48 AM
Hi, I'm following your build with interest as I have one on the go too. I notice you have some more pics added. What is the Blue masking tape that you used on your neck? I've noticed other builders on here using it too but I've never seen it before.

Ian.

dnewton2
02-23-2009, 10:06 AM
Hi, I'm following your build with interest as I have one on the go too. I notice you have some more pics added. What is the Blue masking tape that you used on your neck? I've noticed other builders on here using it too but I've never seen it before.

Ian.

It looks a lot like painters tape. The stuff people use to tape around molding and stuff when they are painting walls. It should be availible at any store that sells paint or painting supplies.

I also am enjoying the pictures of the build.

cpatch
02-23-2009, 10:21 AM
It looks a lot like painters tape. The stuff people use to tape around molding and stuff when they are painting walls. It should be availible at any store that sells paint or painting supplies.
In case you're wondering, painter's tape differs from regular masking tape mainly in that it is less likely to leave adhesive residue behind when you remove it and it's also much easier to get clean lines (the paint doesn't bleed under the edges).

Moore Bettah Ukuleles
02-23-2009, 10:50 AM
To make things more confusing there are to kinds of Scotch blue tape. Although at first glance they look the same, one has a matte outer finish, the other is more shiny. The shinier tape is for low adhesion applications, called "60 day tape", good for masking, especially fretboards. The "14 day tape" is stronger and better for taping down bindings and such and is called "medium" adhesion. There are uses for both kinds in the shop. You've got to read the fine print inside the roll (they don't even put it on the outside label) to find out which kind you're buying. Wouldn't it have been nice if Scotch made their "blue" tape in two different colors?

Harold O.
02-23-2009, 11:52 AM
Wouldn't it have been nice if Scotch made their "blue" tape in two different colors?

Now you're just talking silly...



There is a lot of good, challenging fun to be had with uke kits and a few tools.

GrumpyOldMan
02-23-2009, 12:54 PM
Ah right, Scotch 3m painters tape. I will see if I can find some locally. In the UK good small hardware stores are getting fewer and fewer, there was one last local one but it closed a few months ago. It's all big superstores nowadays and if there isn't a big demand combined with a fat profit they simply won't bother to stock items like this. It's the way of the world I guess.
Did notice that Screwfix have some own brand tape which looks very similar so I may need to spend some money with The Man.
Cheers,
Ian.

sweets
02-23-2009, 02:05 PM
Wow, I didn't even post an update to this thread - thanks everyone for your interest!

There's also a green painter's tape, I think it's for rough surfaces?

Some of these jobs are much easier with the right tool (the fret file, the thickness caliper, a thickness sander or planer), but it seems you really have to be dedicated to making multiple instruments to justify the cost of these things. In the meantime I've quite happy to mooch. :)

sweets
02-23-2009, 02:09 PM
Also, I had a PM question about how the top was removed. We laid a towel on the uke bodies and then used a warm iron at the neck end, then pried with a sharp knife right at the head block. Working my way around with the knife and a few wedges, it was necessary to use heat in a few other spots.

sweets
03-09-2009, 04:25 PM
Well, day 5 was another short one, but also exciting. Pics here (http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=134045&id=779140141&l=9df41) of adding the rosette and bracing the top.

Daigoro
03-18-2009, 02:22 AM
Hi - I'd like to see these pictures but Facebook tells me "This public photo link has expired. To see these photos, please ask the owner to generate a new public link."

Would you mind sharing them again?

Much appreciated. Thanks

sweets
03-18-2009, 09:55 AM
Thanks for the heads up.

New link (http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=134045&id=779140141&l=9df412b20f)

sweets
03-23-2009, 09:43 AM
This week I bent my rosewood binding! It was the most fun I've had so far, although shaping the neck comes close. Current link (http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=134045&id=779140141&l=9df412b20f)

sweets
04-13-2009, 04:10 PM
Okay, the uke is ready for finish and final assembly (new pics at the end of the link above). Anyone have opinions on quick and easy finishes? I'm looking at clear spray lacquer or spray poly.

FourChordWonder
04-14-2009, 02:28 PM
I've heard good things about a "tung oil"/wiping varnish. It's cheap, pretty fast and easy. You can even make your own if you always have some varnish and paint thinner laying around, just whip up a 50/50 varnish/paint thinner mix and have at it. I'm actually about to do it now to refinish my uke. Just gotta finish sanding the neck and I can get started on the first coat.

But if you have access to spray equipment you could probably get a more professional finish using that polymerised whatever spray the factories use.

sweets
10-04-2009, 08:05 PM
resurrecting my build (and this thread) for a few reasons:

The weather is about to turn and I no longer feel guilty about not spending weekends outdoors.

I purchased the slot-head tenor kit Pete posted here last week and my wife says I have to finish the soprano before I start on it.


So, I went to the local fancy woodworking store and picked up a can of Behlen Vinyl sealer and a can of Behlen lacquer. Here's my little spray booth - I taped a TP roll to the fretboard so I'd have something to grab.

2 coats of stinky sealer went on tonight, I hope to sand them down tomorrow and start with the second can. Any tips from those who have gone before?

Matt Clara
10-05-2009, 08:28 AM
I've heard good things about a "tung oil"/wiping varnish. It's cheap, pretty fast and easy. You can even make your own if you always have some varnish and paint thinner laying around, just whip up a 50/50 varnish/paint thinner mix and have at it. I'm actually about to do it now to refinish my uke. Just gotta finish sanding the neck and I can get started on the first coat.

But if you have access to spray equipment you could probably get a more professional finish using that polymerised whatever spray the factories use.

Doesn't tung oil come from the tung nut? I know they mix it with varnish these days, but I didn't know you could leave it completely out and still call your creation tung oil. :confused:

Moore Bettah Ukuleles
10-05-2009, 02:31 PM
Any tips from those who have gone before?

Behlens is good stuff. I'm assuming you're not bothering with grain filling and I'm also assuming your using rattle cans. I have no experience with them, so I'm guessing here. Take it FWIW. As a general procedure I would lightly sand the vinyl sealer with 600 wet then shoot three coats of lacquer, wait three days and wet sand with 600. Shoot three more coats and evaluate. If your satisfied with how it went and you've built a good base then wait a minimum of a week, wet sand with 1000, 1500, 2000 then buff as desired.
This is a super over-simplification of the finishing process, there are volumes written on it. Good finishing is not easy and demands all of your attention. Don't expect perfect results the first time. A couple of tips: always back your sandpaper up with a block, I like a foam one. You can make a block from a pair of flip flops or even styrofoam. A little squirt of Dawn dishwashing detergent will keep your sand paper from loading and pilling. Mirka wet papers are hands down the best for this task. Flourescent light will show your sanding scratches (and your progress) best. Day light is the worst. Sand thoroughly but no more than necessary.
Good luck.

sweets
10-05-2009, 02:51 PM
Chuck, mahalo.

I am indeed using rattle cans. The lacquer is not the behlen "instrument" variety, just their "topcoat". Realized this after it was too late, and the shop didn't have the former anyway. Grain filling probably would have been good practice but there's always the next one...

Shot the lacquer today and was happy with the result but I had a significant amount of orange peel, but I didn't know any better so I wet sanded after only a couple hours. I shot a few more coats after cleaning up, so now I guess I'll wait the three days and hope I haven't totally messed things up :)

Milla
10-05-2009, 04:15 PM
Sweets, I'm attempting the same thing, how did you get the top of the grizzly off?

sweets
10-05-2009, 04:48 PM
Use an iron on top of a doubled over towel to heat up the top in the area of the neck (where the side is stapled to the block). Use a knife or very slim chisel to cut between the side and the top. Once you have a break, you can work your way on either side down to the tail. If you need to go back and use more heat, do it.

Milla
10-05-2009, 05:23 PM
Should be able to start on mine soon. I don't think it will be quite as nice as yours, but I have high hopes. As long as it sounds good I will be pleased.

Brewerpaul
10-06-2009, 04:34 PM
Did the same thing. Original Griz on the left Engleman Spruce top on the right. Go for it!!!!!!!

Nice job!
How does the stock Grizzly play? Yours looks great, and for 25 bucks, I'm tempted to slap one together. Is that totally stock, or did you upgrade the fingerboard, etc?