New builder

cratitan

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Mar 12, 2022
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cratitan

New member​

JoinedMar 12, 2022Messages1Points1
Hi, I’m in the U.K. and new to ukulele playing and building so please excuse any incorrect terms used.
I currently play a standard mahogany laminated tenor (Chinese) in a group of 23 similar minded retirees.
I am by chosen hobby, a 30 year experienced model boat builder, and have been reading about different timbers, and their effects on sound and have decided on ( surprise, surprise)
a boat paddle tenor.
But
I would like it to have a mild curved back and mild curved sides, maybe wedge shaped?
Do the experienced members here have any strong views about making the back and sides from two different woods, say, mahogany and walnut in 12*4 mm stripes, as you would form and shape for a flat planked boat Hull, NOT clinker style.
I first thought 4 mm timber would be a good selection, to take the steaming and forming over temporary removable internal shaped formers, then of course gluing once the shape has been dried and set, or for the sound does the wood really need to be thicker, or thinner?
Sound board ( face ) from English 4 mm walnut, from pieces about 75 -100mm wide, depending what’s available here in the U.K., with a fret cut pattern sound hole in the lower section below strings area. ( as a jesters face )
All experienced comments and advice would be most appreciated. Thank you!
 

BradDonaldson

Active member
Joined
Sep 2, 2021
Messages
112
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Welcome cratitan! As a part time luthier, who has built his share of ship models, I can relate. The short answer to your question, is yes it can be done, but the real question is why would you want to? Like building model boats, there are lots of different ways to make ukulele and they offer advantages and disadvantages. These methods have been developed over time because they work. Your question about thickness indicates some ignorance about ukulele construction. 4mm thick is way too much, you should be aiming for one half that at the most. Get the free Grellier soprano ukulele plans off the net. Those are the wood dimensions you need to work with. For a tenor you can bump the thicknesses up a couple tenths of a mm, but no more. Better yet, get Graham McDonald’s book on ukulele construction. You will avoid a whole lot of frustration and up your odds of success considerably. You have built up a wonderful skill set over 30 years, much of which will be very useful in this. But be warned, instrument building is highly addictive, good luck.
Brad
 

sequoia

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Oct 22, 2014
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Yes, welcome to the wonderful world of ukulele building. It's a lot of fun... As Brad said, you are thinking in terms of thickness as way too thick. The ukulele overall is quite a thin, delicate instrument (unless it is a mass produced piece of junk out of Asia). Your soundboard of English walnut should be on the order of 1.5 - 2.0 mm thickness. There is an insult about ukuleles that some instruments sound about as responsive as canoe paddles. An ukulele with a 4 mm top would definitely qualify. My advice is to go ahead and build your ukulele, build it thin and then build a second one after you learn all your lessons on the first one because you first effort is probably going to be... a canoe paddle with strings.
 

Timbuck

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Mar 10, 2009
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6,070
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When you are getting experienced at building them..remember that you will never be 100% satisfied with the result of your last one ...but the next one will be perfect . :)
 

cratitan

New member
Joined
Mar 12, 2022
Messages
6
Points
1
Welcome cratitan! As a part time luthier, who has built his share of ship models, I can relate. The short answer to your question, is yes it can be done, but the real question is why would you want to? Like building model boats, there are lots of different ways to make ukulele and they offer advantages and disadvantages. These methods have been developed over time because they work. Your question about thickness indicates some ignorance about ukulele construction. 4mm thick is way too much, you should be aiming for one half that at the most. Get the free Grellier soprano ukulele plans off the net. Those are the wood dimensions you need to work with. For a tenor you can bump the thicknesses up a couple tenths of a mm, but no more. Better yet, get Graham McDonald’s book on ukulele construction. You will avoid a whole lot of frustration and up your odds of success considerably. You have built up a wonderful skill set over 30 years, much of which will be very useful in this. But be warned, instrument building is highly addictive, good luck.
Brad
Thank you for the honesty, I will seek out the items before jumping in with both feet.
 

greenscoe

Member
Joined
Feb 7, 2014
Messages
614
Points
18
Welcome to the forum.

It's possible to make a uke soundbox in many ways. I have tried a few different ideas over the years: cigar box, fruit bowl, chopping board, tennis racquet, luteback, African mask., pear shaped, pineapple shaped ..................but it helps to know what's important before you start.

There's a great deal of info on Youtube and on this forum and there are a few books on the subject. As other have said a soprano has a soundboard about 1.5 mm thick and a tenor about 1.8 mm thick. The soundboard (as the name suggests) is the most important element for sound production-if too thick there will be little volume.

Both mahogany and walnut are good woods fo instrument making. There's nothing wrong with constucting in strips as you suggest if you want all that extra work. The sides and back could be thicker but this makes for a heaver instrument ( a disadvantage), but for a simple shape with relatively little bending, would work. (Look at videos on Youtube about Oud making in Turkey or Egypt if you want to learn how to build complex bent shaped soundboxes) For a conventional uke, sides with a thickness of more than 2 mm are difficult to bend without breakage. For the soundboard 1 or 2 pieces of quartersawn wood are what is required.

You wrote: "with a fret cut pattern sound hole in the lower section below strings area. ( as a jesters face )".........maybe I am misunderstanding you, but if you mean between the bridge and the butt end of the soundbox, then that would be a mistake. The area between soundhole and butt end is where the sound is produced, especially the part south of the bridge. An instrument can have F holes either side of the bridge but a soundhole south of the bridge would be like cutting a hole in the skin of a drum or a banjo.

But my best advice would be to spend a few weeks watching Youtube videos. Try to find the pros or experienced hobby makers and not the "first timers" and start to appreciate what's required not only to make an instrument that looks good but sounds good. After my 5th instrument, I thought I was getting there, so don't expect your first uke to be a masterpiece.
 

mikeyb2

Member
Joined
Sep 17, 2015
Messages
553
Points
18
As stated above, watch some YT videos and a good place to start would be the "Birth of a Mya-Moe" series of videos. There are about 100 or so in the series, and although set in a professional shop, there is a lot to learn from them. They will give you a far better understanding of Uke construction having watched them.
Also a good reference further down the line.
 

cratitan

New member
Joined
Mar 12, 2022
Messages
6
Points
1
Welcome to the forum.

It's possible to make a uke soundbox in many ways. I have tried a few different ideas over the years: cigar box, fruit bowl, chopping board, tennis racquet, luteback, African mask., pear shaped, pineapple shaped ..................but it helps to know what's important before you start.

There's a great deal of info on Youtube and on this forum and there are a few books on the subject. As other have said a soprano has a soundboard about 1.5 mm thick and a tenor about 1.8 mm thick. The soundboard (as the name suggests) is the most important element for sound production-if too thick there will be little volume.

Both mahogany and walnut are good woods fo instrument making. There's nothing wrong with constucting in strips as you suggest if you want all that extra work. The sides and back could be thicker but this makes for a heaver instrument ( a disadvantage), but for a simple shape with relatively little bending, would work. (Look at videos on Youtube about Oud making in Turkey or Egypt if you want to learn how to build complex bent shaped soundboxes) For a conventional uke, sides with a thickness of more than 2 mm are difficult to bend without breakage. For the soundboard 1 or 2 pieces of quartersawn wood are what is required.

You wrote: "with a fret cut pattern sound hole in the lower section below strings area. ( as a jesters face )".........maybe I am misunderstanding you, but if you mean between the bridge and the butt end of the soundbox, then that would be a mistake. The area between soundhole and butt end is where the sound is produced, especially the part south of the bridge. An instrument can have F holes either side of the bridge but a soundhole south of the bridge would be like cutting a hole in the skin of a drum or a banjo.

But my best advice would be to spend a few weeks watching Youtube videos. Try to find the pros or experienced hobby makers and not the "first timers" and start to appreciate what's required not only to make an instrument that looks good but sounds good. After my 5th instrument, I thought I was getting there, so don't expect your first uke to be a masterpiece.
Thankyou for taking the time to impart your experience and knowledge it’s very much appreciated.
 

cratitan

New member
Joined
Mar 12, 2022
Messages
6
Points
1
As stated above, watch some YT videos and a good place to start would be the "Birth of a Mya-Moe" series of videos. There are about 100 or so in the series, and although set in a professional shop, there is a lot to learn from them. They will give you a far better understanding of Uke construction having watched them.
Also a good reference further down the line.
Thank you 👍
 

BrianMahoney

Member
Joined
Jan 2, 2018
Messages
56
Points
8
Kits are available. For about 30 quid you can get kits withe the body already assembled that will build pretty much like a 30 quid Chinese uke. Even better would be a stu Mac kit, probably about 100 quid.
 

ukatee

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Joined
Oct 22, 2016
Messages
209
Points
18

cratitan

New member​

JoinedMar 12, 2022Messages1Points1
Hi, I’m in the U.K. and new to ukulele playing and building so please excuse any incorrect terms used.
I currently play a standard mahogany laminated tenor (Chinese) in a group of 23 similar minded retirees.
I am by chosen hobby, a 30 year experienced model boat builder, and have been reading about different timbers, and their effects on sound and have decided on ( surprise, surprise)
a boat paddle tenor.
But
I would like it to have a mild curved back and mild curved sides, maybe wedge shaped?
...
How about making it lute-style like this: https://www.musikhausprince.de/heartland-baroque-ukulele-4-strings-tenor-variegated-walnut.html ? I got one a few years ago and rather like it. It's not particularly loud but that's fine by me.