Considering Hobby Build, Questions on Tools

donboody

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Hi,

I'm considering building a Stew Mac concert. My tendonitis has been getting worse and worse and if its going to stay with me, and I have to play less, then I need some other way to interact with this instrument. So I'm looking into the Stew Mac. Problem is, I dont have any of the tools listed in their documentation. Id have to build a little shop in the basement and purchase the tools. I am generally fine with that, but only if I can build like 2-3 ukes a year because while the cost of the kit is under $100, the tools are like $600ish combined. I wouldnt want to make that investment to build like 1 uke per year or something. I generally have no idea how many hours it takes. Id have maybe 4-8 hrs a week to build. And I'm a noob. But I am capable, I'm the one who finished the basement in the videos I post where I'm playing songs in the playroom. So just looking for some feedback I guess on the time commitment, feasibility of outputting multiple ukes per year, etc. If I go for it I'm going to start purchasing tools in Jan.

Thanks!
 

Red Cliff

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I had a look at the kit tool list, and there weren't any expensive items on there, I couldn't get it to add up to 600 if I tried. Many of the tools on the list are generic tools e.g. a flat file, measuring tape, drill, hammer, clamps etc. They don't need to be luthier specific and from the stewmac catalogue, or even new. You can pick a lot of them up from auction sites for nearly no money. But you should be able to get started for a lot less than 600 dollars with a kit.

I haven't built from a kit so couldn't tell you how long it takes. A non-kit instrument I would reckon on 100 hours as a minimum. Remember it can take as long to finish and set up and instrument as it does to build it. That is true of a kit or not.
 

donboody

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I had a look at the kit tool list, and there weren't any expensive items on there, I couldn't get it to add up to 600 if I tried. Many of the tools on the list are generic tools e.g. a flat file, measuring tape, drill, hammer, clamps etc. They don't need to be luthier specific and from the stewmac catalogue, or even new. You can pick a lot of them up from auction sites for nearly no money. But you should be able to get started for a lot less than 600 dollars with a kit.

I haven't built from a kit so couldn't tell you how long it takes. A non-kit instrument I would reckon on 100 hours as a minimum. Remember it can take as long to finish and set up and instrument as it does to build it. That is true of a kit or not.
Thanks for the reply. I got to the total by searching the full list of stewmac part IDs. Maybe I added wrong, or maybe the stew mac tools are more expensive than generics. The fretting kit alone is like $300.
 

necessaryrooster

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Hi donboody,

I've built one of these kits. You don't really need special tools for them, assuming you have a fairly robust tool kit already. I bought the little kit they sell that included the glue and the sandpaper and brushes, and some clamps for attaching the kerfing, but everything else I already had in my tool shed. The only other things I needed to buy was to build the jig -- some brackets and a piece of plywood.

You can use a regular hammer to get the frets in, for example. You don't need a fretting hammer. Files you already have will work fine on the frets. Yes, the StewMac tools will make some jobs easier, but the kit is put together well enough that you can do it with regular tools.

As to how long it'll take you to put together, you can probably get it together in a couple weeks with 4-8 hours a week. It didn't take a super long time for me; the longest part was waiting for glue/finish to dry. All of the pieces fit together just fine. I used a Dremel instead of a knife to trim the soundboard/back once I got the body together and that sped things up too.
 

Graham Greenbag

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Hi,

I'm considering building a Stew Mac concert. My tendonitis has been getting worse and worse and if its going to stay with me, and I have to play less, then I need some other way to interact with this instrument. So I'm looking into the Stew Mac. Problem is, I dont have any of the tools listed in their documentation. Id have to build a little shop in the basement and purchase the tools. I am generally fine with that, but only if I can build like 2-3 ukes a year because while the cost of the kit is under $100, the tools are like $600ish combined. I wouldnt want to make that investment to build like 1 uke per year or something. I generally have no idea how many hours it takes. Id have maybe 4-8 hrs a week to build. And I'm a noob. But I am capable, I'm the one who finished the basement in the videos I post where I'm playing songs in the playroom. So just looking for some feedback I guess on the time commitment, feasibility of outputting multiple ukes per year, etc. If I go for it I'm going to start purchasing tools in Jan.

Thanks!

Quite a few different issues here.

With regard to Uke scale I suggest that you try the Concert for size and string tension before doing anything else, to see how it works with your fingers and your health issues. An old second hand laminate Concert shouldn’t cost you much and just resell it once you’re done trying the size and string tension out. Of course (‘cause the strings are even easier on the hands) I’d encourage you to try a Soprano too, but that might be ‘a bridge too far for you’.

With regard to the Stew Mac build and tools I’m surprised at the indicated bill. Might I suggest that you start a separate thread seeking the experience of those who have built those kits. Quite a few members have built them and not necessarily with expensive equipment.
 
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donboody

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Quite a few different issues here.

With regard to Uke scale I suggest that you try the Concert for size and string tension before doing anything else, to see how it works with your fingers and your health issues. An old second hand laminate Concert shouldn’t cost you much and just resell it once you’re done trying the size and string tension out. Of course (‘cause the strings are even easier on the hands) I’d encourage you to try a Soprano too, but that might be ‘a bridge too far for you’.

With regard to the Stew Mac build and tools I’m surprised at the indicated bill. Might I suggest that you start a separate thread seeking the experience of those who have built those kits. Quite a few members have built them and not necessarily with expensive equipment.
Thanks. Ive actually got a concert already, a soprano too. My main problem isnt so much playing the ukes. I'm a coder and I have 2 jobs, so I'm coding around 12 hrs a day. I cant really cut down on that, so I had to cut down on really the only other thing I use my hands for, which is playing uke. But youre right I do find concert easiest to play at this time, I usually play a tenor. I have snuck a little time in with the concert, I just get nervous about the long-term.
 

Graham Greenbag

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It is many decades since my work life overlapped with RSI (in others) due to keyboard use. No doubt you’re onto this already but if not then do investigate better and alternative keyboards, it’s really important not to permanently injure yourself - recovery can take a very long time and might not even happen. If you haven’t already done so then I’d suggest getting medical advice too. Twelve hour days and two jobs, if you damage your health then you might not be able to buy it back ... I’m in my retirement years now but during my working life I sometimes didn’t understand that life’s a Marathon and not a Sprint, make of that what works for you but I favour the sustainable pace.
 
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Red Cliff

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Thanks for the reply. I got to the total by searching the full list of stewmac part IDs. Maybe I added wrong, or maybe the stew mac tools are more expensive than generics. The fretting kit alone is like $300.
That makes me smile. All those tools are very nice but you don't need them to start with. One flat mill file. Five bucks. One small triangular file. Five bucks. A roll of Emery cloth or even some rolled up sandpaper. Less than a dollar. Any wire nippers will do, you probably already have some. They probably won't cut as flush to the fretboard so leave a little more filing to do, but hey....

Total cost of fretting kit = 11 dollars.
 

ProfChris

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That makes me smile. All those tools are very nice but you don't need them to start with. One flat mill file. Five bucks. One small triangular file. Five bucks. A roll of Emery cloth or even some rolled up sandpaper. Less than a dollar. Any wire nippers will do, you probably already have some. They probably won't cut as flush to the fretboard so leave a little more filing to do, but hey....

Total cost of fretting kit = 11 dollars.
I was going to reply something similar. I built my first uke from raw wood (no kit) using just a couple of hand saws, a block plane, a file, a hammer, some sandpaper, some clamps (not enough!) and a cabinet scraper. 50+ instruments later I have acquired a lot of tools, but I could still manage with just those few if I had to.

I don't know how much of the work the StewMac kit does for you, but at a minimum you know you will need:
  1. Clamps for glueing up - at least 6, more is useful. The ones I use most are screw F clamps, which you can buy from budget supermarkets, home improvements stores, Amazon, eBay etc. Usually sold at 3 for something like US$10-15, if your prices are like mine in the UK
  2. Maybe a knife to trim the body back to the sides, or a chisel
  3. Maybe a saw to cut fret slots
  4. A hammer to tap frets in (plastic faced works OK)
  5. Flush side cutters (best) or some other nippers to cut fret wire
  6. A flat file to smooth fret ends
  7. A flat surface to stick sandpaper to to level frets - maybe a spirit level, a pice of heavyweight MDF, etc
  8. Masking tape is good to mask the fretboard while levelling and smoothing frets
  9. A triangular file to crown your frets (find a friend with a grinder to take the corners off so they are smooth to avoid marking the fretboard)
  10. Sandpaper in 3 grits - I'd suggest P120, P180 and P240. Buy rolls, not single sheets, you'll need much more sandpaper than you expect.
  11. Something to finish the uke with - Tru-Oil is the easiest for a first build, you can apply that with paper towels.
Rather than buying everything in advance, just stock up for each step - online delivery is usually within a few days. That way you won't waste money on stuff you don't need.

My list looks more like $50-$100, assuming you have no tools at all to begin with.