Is it possible to add a side soundhole to a completed build?

mark10

Member
Joined
May 6, 2022
Messages
38
Points
8
I recently got a new uke and the soundhole is small. It's so quiet and not quite what I expected from it. The top is spruce and sides/back are maple. I think part of the problem is the tiny soundhole. Is it possible to add a side soundhole and would I get any benefit? Attached a pic
 

Attachments

  • 20220915_204724.jpg
    20220915_204724.jpg
    655 KB · Views: 23

sequoia

Well-known member
Joined
Oct 22, 2014
Messages
3,080
Points
63
Yes, that sound hole does look a bit small... Can you add a sound hole after the instrument is built? Sure you can. That is if you are a competent luthier. Personally I would not take that job on for love or money because too many things could go wrong and it would take a lot of time. However, if this is an inexpensive ukulele that you don't care how it looks, but just how it sounds, you can cut a round hole in the side in about, oh, 2 seconds with one of these babies:



kinzo-6pc-wood-hole-saw-drill-bit-set-792743-.jpg
Viola! A round hole in the side of your ukulele.
 

Oldscruggsfan

Well-known member
Joined
Jul 25, 2022
Messages
854
Points
93
Yes, that sound hole does look a bit small... Can you add a sound hole after the instrument is built? Sure you can. That is if you are a competent luthier. Personally I would not take that job on for love or money because too many things could go wrong and it would take a lot of time. However, if this is an inexpensive ukulele that you don't care how it looks, but just how it sounds, you can cut a round hole in the side in about, oh, 2 seconds with one of these babies:



View attachment 143642
Viola! A round hole in the side of your ukulele.
 

Oldscruggsfan

Well-known member
Joined
Jul 25, 2022
Messages
854
Points
93
Sequoia is correct (and far more knowledgeable than me) but it’s also possible with a sharp 5/8-inch wood bit. Check out UU member LorenFL’s recent post with a pic of the series of adjoining sound holes he added to his boat paddle uke. I plan to shortly add a “slot” port to my kit uke, by drilling two 5/8-inch holes in line with each other, 1.5 inches apart, then I’ll use my oscillating (plunge-cut) saw with a 1.5-inch-wide blade to cut away the edges to leave a slot (sort of an elongated ellipse) in the edge of the upper bout.
Cheers!
 

Pegasus Guitars

Active member
Joined
Sep 13, 2013
Messages
387
Points
28
It is very easy to do that soundport. You obviosly have to work carefully, but there really is not much that can go wrong and you can do it pretty quickly. If I am not going to bind the soundport, I always cut the port after the body is completed. If I am going to bind the port, I do that before the side is bent. I do usually put the cross grain veneer backing in before I close up the body, but there have been a number of times that I forgot and ended up doing it through the sound hole. Not that difficult. Just a bit of trial and error.DSC_0231 (1) copy.jpg Choose a shape other than round, so that any slight deviation from symmetry won't be obvious. I do ellipses. Just make yourself a pattern from some bendable material like card stock and get your backing material glued inside. Probably easiest to do with 5 minute epoxy and just holding it in place until it sets. Lay out your port pattern on the outside of the bout where you want it and trace it out. I use a Dremel with a pointed carbide bit so that I can plunge cut through the side. Make a series of plunge cuts a little bit to the inside of your pattern line, connecting them until the center falls out. Then switch to a 1/2" Dremel sanding drum and sand to the line. It's easy. just take your time. Round over the edge so that your backing does not show too much and you're done. I don't build anything without a soundport, unless asked not to. I'm a big fan of them. Good luck!-Bob
 

Arcy

Well-known member
Joined
Apr 19, 2018
Messages
1,014
Points
83
Doing this on an already finished uke I’d mask the area to prevent dinging it, though if you have a steady hand then sanding up to the line as Bob suggests should be safe. Save the coffee for after the dremeling ;)
 

Pegasus Guitars

Active member
Joined
Sep 13, 2013
Messages
387
Points
28
The small diameter Dremel type sanding drums don't dig very easily. A light touch and maybe 100 grit will get you by. Pretty easy to feather an edge right to a line with them. I realize that I did not read through the post correctly and ignored the fact that this is a completely finished uke. I still think that if you have some experience with the tools, it won't be difficult. I know builders who use hole saws and large routers to do soundports, but a more low key approach is safer here I think. Probably the safest finish to use on the raw exposed edge would be a bit of carefully rubbed shellac.
 

BuzzBD

Active member
Joined
May 4, 2018
Messages
377
Points
28
I am with Bob on this, I use a Dremel with a 60 grit sanding drum to cut out all my side sound ports.
 

Timbuck

Well-known member
Joined
Mar 10, 2009
Messages
6,277
Points
113
It might still not increase the volume .... all the sound dosn't come from the hole..But! there is no harm in having a go. :)

I was amazed at the volume of the Arican Kalimba with a tiny soundhole
 
Last edited:

Jerryc41

Well-known member
Joined
Jul 4, 2015
Messages
8,949
Points
113
I recently got a new uke and the soundhole is small. It's so quiet and not quite what I expected from it. The top is spruce and sides/back are maple. I think part of the problem is the tiny soundhole. Is it possible to add a side soundhole and would I get any benefit? Attached a pic
I've added soundholes to a couple of ukes, but I wouldn't do it with an expensive uke. The pros have slight supporting pieces around the inside of the hole. I didn't do that.

I drilled a lot of holes in the shape I wanted and then cut between them. the next step was to smooth-out the edge of the hole. You could practice on a thin piece of wood. A soundhole definitely brings more sound to the player.

Below is a picture of a "Fluke" soundhole I cut into a Fluke ukulele.

102.jpg
 

mark10

Member
Joined
May 6, 2022
Messages
38
Points
8
A lot of great information here. Thanks everyone. One of the things I took from this thread is that I'm probably not going to save this new ukulele by creating a hole in the side, even if I'm successful.

So, I wanted to pivot the conversation some to what's wrong with my new maple-back spruce top ukulele. I expected to get a bright and boastful sound with the spruce. It's just not musical--sounds very dead.


Does this tap test prove anything? I've changed the strings to a few different ones. Not sure where to go from here. If you guys say to drill the side hole, I'll do it. 🫣
 

Attachments

  • 20220914_194802.jpg
    20220914_194802.jpg
    699.7 KB · Views: 14
  • 20220914_194754.jpg
    20220914_194754.jpg
    600.3 KB · Views: 14

mark10

Member
Joined
May 6, 2022
Messages
38
Points
8
From left to right, dunk dunk (resonance), dunk dunk (resonance), thud thud

Closed captions provided by Mark10
 

Coast_Ukulele

UU VIP
UU VIP
Joined
Sep 21, 2018
Messages
80
Points
18
i find it’s easy to get a nice looking circle side soundport with one of those vacuum hose adapters that look like a long plastic cone. i cut a random enough almost circle with a dremel or drill. switch to the sanding bit on the dremel and get close enough to a circle with that. then i wrap a piece of sandpaper around the vacuum adapter and use that cone shape to sand a nice circle. it ends up looking good to my eyes.

i also put a backing piece on the inside first so that might be a challenge after the uke is closed up.
 

Oldscruggsfan

Well-known member
Joined
Jul 25, 2022
Messages
854
Points
93
From left to right, dunk dunk (resonance), dunk dunk (resonance), thud thud

Closed captions provided by Mark10
I'm not a luthier but I heard resonance on all 3, including the far left which would be the spruce top. #1 is more of a banjo fix than uke but I suggest that you try:
(1) Grab a standard (#2 or whatever you have on hand) wooden pencil. Slide each string out of its nut slot. Run the graphite tip of the pencil through each of the nut slots. Move the strings back to the slots, tune-up and see if you hear a difference. It's possible that just moving and re-seating the strings will make a difference.
(2) Try changing out the saddle to a TUSQ or bison bone compensated saddle, which will reduce the surface area that the strings touch on the bridge side of things. You can find one online for less than the cost of a fast food meal, including delivery.
(3) Remove all 4 strings & use a small flat screwdriver or whatever you have on hand to push the nut away from the fret board end. It's possible that the nut isn't making good contact with the peg head but the main reason for removing it is to use the half-round blade from a cheap set of needle files to file the tuner side of the string slots at an angle which is also intended to significantly reduce the surface area that the strings touch.
(4) Lastly (and this is extreme for a uke that costs any more than $100.00), buy a $10.00 can of Minwax wood hardener and take your time pouring 4-5 cups of it (one cup at a time) through the sound hole onto the interior back of the sound body. Carefully swish the stuff around, then repeat, and leave it to dry for at least half an hour.
I don't guarantee that any of this will fix your dead uke but the expense is almost nothing so it's worth a try.
Cheers.
 

Oldscruggsfan

Well-known member
Joined
Jul 25, 2022
Messages
854
Points
93
I'm not a luthier but I heard resonance on all 3, including the far left which would be the spruce top. #1 is more of a banjo fix than uke but I suggest that you try:
(1) Grab a standard (#2 or whatever you have on hand) wooden pencil. Slide each string out of its nut slot. Run the graphite tip of the pencil through each of the nut slots. Move the strings back to the slots, tune-up and see if you hear a difference. It's possible that just moving and re-seating the strings will make a difference.
(2) Try changing out the saddle to a TUSQ or bison bone compensated saddle, which will reduce the surface area that the strings touch on the bridge side of things. You can find one online for less than the cost of a fast food meal, including delivery.
(3) Remove all 4 strings & use a small flat screwdriver or whatever you have on hand to push the nut away from the fret board end. It's possible that the nut isn't making good contact with the peg head but the main reason for removing it is to use the half-round blade from a cheap set of needle files to file the tuner side of the string slots at an angle which is also intended to significantly reduce the surface area that the strings touch.
(4) Lastly (and this is extreme for a uke that costs any more than $100.00), buy a $10.00 can of Minwax wood hardener and take your time pouring 4-5 cups of it (one cup at a time) through the sound hole onto the interior back of the sound body. Carefully swish the stuff around, then repeat, and leave it to dry for at least half an hour.
I don't guarantee that any of this will fix your dead uke but the expense is almost nothing so it's worth a try.
Cheers.
I should have mentioned that the wood hardener hack DID make a noticeable difference in volume and sustain for my US $29.00 DIY soprano.
 

Oldscruggsfan

Well-known member
Joined
Jul 25, 2022
Messages
854
Points
93
I should have mentioned that the wood hardener hack DID make a noticeable difference in volume and sustain for my US $29.00 DIY soprano.
FWIW, adding a side sound port will make the uke loader from the player’s perspective. It will not add volume for listeners.
 

mark10

Member
Joined
May 6, 2022
Messages
38
Points
8
I sent the spruce top back but I have decided I will try the soundport hack on another uke