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Thread: sub $100 ukulele

  1. #1

    Default sub $100 ukulele

    Hi,

    My girlfriend used to play guitar, and she's starting to play again. She always dreamed of having a ukulele too.

    I have a small experience with wood working (built a few pairs of loudspeakers, and I recently joined a woodworkers club).

    Since my parents are going to California next month, I want them to bring back a good first ukulele for my GF's birthday. Soprano is my actual choice, because it's more "ukulelish" and because, well, she has small hands

    I've never built a guitar, and would be very interested in trying, but for a first try, a glue-it-yourself kit seems a good idea. I have a $100 budget.

    For this budget, the options I see are :
    -Stewmac kit. I've heard about the not-so-good tuners, but it's just my budget (I have other things to order, so shipping is not an issue)
    -I also wander how the $25 Grizzly kit does sound, adding better tuners and shipping it would still be under budget. Then, I saw the thread in this forum which suggest to remove the top and back and replace them with better ones (which implies to make another saddle). I think that the kit + tuners + top and back may be around $100, so the question is just to know which one will be better in the end.
    -Other kits may be an option, but I don't want to shape the neck by myself. I can slot the holes for the frets (the wood-working club own a small CNC which is large enough for a uke fretboard !) Any sugestion ?
    -Are the Kala Makala MK-S or KA-15S a good base for tweaking ? They are just $40 / $50 + shipping. How would they sound compared to previous options ? Does they need some pieces replaced (like tunners, nuts, ...) ? Could they be improved by replacing the top and back like the grizzly kit ? (well, I would have to remove finishing first)
    -Or maybe I could just go for the higher priced Makala and get something better sounding than the kits. But all I can see is the $60+shipping KA-S, which is same as KA-15S with a nice binding (which is good if I don't replace the top ). I would then just buy the $25 grizzly kit just for me and play glueing it.

    Many questions for just buying a kit, I know. The problem is that it's just not possible to listen to acceptable under $100 uke where I live, and I only know a few chords for ukulele anyway !


    Thanks you,
    John.
    Last edited by jaunedeau; 03-26-2009 at 04:08 AM.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    Location
    Kirkland, WA
    Posts
    134

    Default

    I just finished building a Grizzly kit, but I replaced the soundboard (top) with Engleman spruce. Everything else is "stock" - as provided by Grizzly. It sounds great, and is louder than most factory-made sopranos I've played. The intonation is a bit off, so I still have some work to do on it. Tone-wise, I'm quite pleased.
    Most inexpensive factory sopranos are over-built - the sound board is too thick and too rigidly braced. That makes for a dead-sounding instrument. When you build your own uke, you get to decide how thick to make the soundboard, and how to brace it.
    It's a fun project, but I'm not convinced it's a much of a money-saver. Unless you already have all the supplies, you'll spend quite a few dollars getting all the glue, sandpaper, grain fillers and oil / laquer. Engleman spruce isn't cheap, either. Figure $20 for a decent sound-board sized piece.
    I've heard great things about the StewMac kit, too, but it's 4 times the price of the Grizz...
    Good luck!
    Mika

  3. #3

    Default

    Thanks you for feedback

    >It sounds great, and is louder than most factory-made sopranos I've played. The intonation is a bit off, so I still have some work to do on it.
    >...
    >It's a fun project, but I'm not convinced it's a much of a money-saver. Unless you already have all the supplies,

    I have most of the supplies, so the question to me is : Can it, soundwise, compete with the Kala KA-15S ($50 with free shipping since I'll take other things) or the Lanikai's.
    If it's no match to is, maybe I could have a look at the stewmac (which is about $90, let's say $110 with shipping, and which needs replacement with geared tuners, rising the price to $130). But to be interesting, this one would have to compete with Ka-ASMS (or any of the solid soprano). (well, Id don't want to glue my uke just to save money of course, but I would not pay more for a kit that I may spoil than I would pay for a finished one that sounds better )

    Regards,
    John.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    Location
    Kirkland, WA
    Posts
    134

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by jaunedeau View Post
    Can it, soundwise, compete with the Kala KA-15S ($50 with free shipping since I'll take other things) or the Lanikai's.
    Unfortunately, I don't have any experience with those specific instruments. I've played a couple of Pono and Kamaka sopranos. My Grizz with the spruce top is louder than either. Volume-wise, it's more like a pineapple uke. However, it's not the most refined-sounding instrument. Kamaka pineapple is one of my favorite soprano-scale instruments, but it's also quite pricey.
    One thing to be aware of - the body of the Grizzly kit is roughly tuned to a "C" note. This means that the open C-string has a bit of a "wolf" tone to it. Without modifying the geometry of the body, there's no way around this problem.
    Mika
    Last edited by seeso; 03-27-2009 at 10:13 AM.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Location
    West Hills, SoCal
    Posts
    1,186

    Default

    Buying the Kala will get you playing in a few days worth of delivery time.

    Building a kit will get you playing after few days of delivery time. PLUS a few days of figuring out what you need. PLUS a few days of waiting for glue to dry. PLUS a few days of waiting for finish to dry. PLUS a few days of trying to adjust the thing to play correctly.

    Ultimate wonderful sounding instruments will not come from your first kit build. Experience, a story or two, satisfaction, etc will. Decide what your priorities are in the short term and go for it.
    Harold O.

    www.HOPublishing.com
    www.WestHillsWood.com
    Just because shooting fish in a barrel is easy doesn't mean there are some fish that should remain unshot.

  6. #6

    Default

    >Building a kit will get you playing after few days of delivery time. PLUS a few days of figuring out what you need. PLUS a few days of waiting for glue to dry. PLUS a few days of waiting for finish to dry. PLUS a few days of trying to adjust the thing to play correctly.

    To me, waiting for the glue to dry is as much fur as playing, so this is not an issue

    >Ultimate wonderful sounding instruments will not come from your first kit build. Experience, a story or two, satisfaction, etc will. Decide what your priorities are in the short term and go for it.

    Experience is certainly part of the fun, but I also have to take into acount that this ukulele might be a present, so if my first try with the $100 stewmac kit will probably be at least as good as the $170 KA-ASMS (all solid magohany soprano) and might be better, I'd go for it.
    If you think that it will probably that it sound like a MK-S ($40 laminated), I'd rather just buy the pretty KA-S for $60 (even if it sound like MK-S, it make a pretty present ), and maybe add a grizzly kit for myself so I can play trying to replace the top, just for experience and glue.

    What do you think ?

    Thanks,
    John.
    Last edited by jaunedeau; 03-27-2009 at 03:07 PM.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Apr 2008
    Location
    Palm Harbor FL USA
    Posts
    14,321

    Default

    Buy a completed uke for the gift, then promise to give her one you made once you are able to make one good enough to match your love for her.

    Or some crap like that.

    The JT Shea
    http://tampabayukulele.com for TBUG info
    http://www.youtube.com/user/jtpokie for my videos
    and http://www.nightgig.com for my Drawing the Wrong Conclusions Podcast
    love,

    That Guy 1:94

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jan 2008
    Location
    Hilo
    Posts
    31

    Default check this out

    http://www.hanalimastore.com/servlet/Detail?no=86 this kits only $89 and all the pieces are all shaped and ready to glue together. I built one of these kits and it sounds great! the only thing is i made the tenor kit not the saprano.. but i'm sure that it sounds great!
    Kau'inohea Ukuleles...HANDCRAFTED IN HILO, Big Island

  9. #9

    Default

    Hi,

    Apparently, the kit sold by hana lima is the same one sold by stewmac I was going to buy (and I considered buying it to hana lima because they also have aquila strings).

    Could you compare your to the KA-ASMT (kala's all solid magahony which can be found a $220 on ebay), or any linakai equivalent ?

    Did you feel that some parts in the kit should be replaced (the string should I've been told, but for tuners ? Nut and saddle ?)

    Edit : Kala all solid magahony soprano is $170 including shipping at elderly. The stewmac kit with shipping, finishing, will be $120 and may come to $150-$170 if tuners need upgrade. It's really itching me to build a kit for fun, but if I end up paying as much as a finished (resellable) one that sounds better, I won't go that route. I'd either buy the $25 grizzly and try to upgrade the top, or directly buy some wood and make one from start. So, could anyone compare the kits with the finished ones ?

    Regards,
    John.
    Last edited by jaunedeau; 03-27-2009 at 09:02 PM.

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