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Thread: Building my first uke!

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 2011

    Default Building my first uke!

    This summer I'm making my first ukulele, from wood I got from Chuck Moore years ago!

    If you would, what are your biggest pieces of first-time advice?

    P.s. it's an all koa ukulele, so the topwood is a hardwood, do you heavily brace all koa ukes, or can you get away with minimal bracing?

    Thanks everyone in advance for your input!
    Mya Moe Tenor
    Luna High Tide Tenor
    Breedlove Pursuit Concert

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2013
    JoCo, NC (near Raleigh)


    Ok, I have no business replying here but I will anyway.

    My advice would be not to use the wood from Chuck for your first build. Maybe try a kit or something first?
    Iriguchi Tenor "Weeble" - A, WoU Clarity
    Blue Star 19" baritone Konablaster - DGBE
    Cocobolo 16" SC#1-gCEA, SC SLMU
    Ono #42 19" baritone, Ab, LW
    Imua iET-Bb, M600
    Covered Bridge CLN pineapple - Eb cuatro, SC XLL
    Rogue bari
    Bonanza super tenor, cFAD SC LHU
    Kala KSLNG, Eb SC XLU
    Hanson 5-string tenor, dGCEA
    Bonanza SLN GCEA
    Southern Cross concert GCEA
    Jupiter #47, G, TI CF127
    Pelem, B reentrant
    Jupiter #71, A, UG1


  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2011
    So. Oregon


    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Hanks View Post
    My advice would be not to use the wood from Chuck for your first build. Maybe try a kit or something first?
    Got that right!

    Here's a book that you might find very useful:

    The UU luthier's forum has a wealth of good information. The standard UU search facility isn't very helpful so try this:

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Aug 2018


    I agree with Jim and David's advice on not using a valuable wood set for a first build. Not too many first builds go exactly to plan, and retrospectively, there is usually always something that needs revising. Feel free to ask how I know this to be true.
    The answer to your second question is reliant on the size (scale length) of the proposed instrument, the shape, the nature of the top wood grain and its thickness, and the sound characteristics being sought. There is a lot of information on bracing on this forum and other sites, and any time spent on researching the subject will be time well spent. If possible, try to find information relating to Koa, or perhaps, even Tasmanian Blackwood tops for your Koa build.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Feb 2014
    Cumbria, NW England


    Spend some time on Youtube looking at uke making/classical guitar making ( I mean a few weeks not a few hours). Soak up lots of different methods of construction, (eg use of moulds or solera, methods of attaching the neck, types of bracing and linings, use of a radius disc for the back etc etc ). Form some opinions about which methods appeal to you before you start based on your present skill level and what tools/equipment you have. Consider whether you need to buy a few new tools but dont go overboard, its surprising how few you really need to make a first uke. If you decide to make a mould or solera take as much care with these as you do making the instrument: if these are not true then neither will be the instrument.

    Dont expect your first instrument to be a masterpiece, consider it to be a lesson in construction. Its therefore good advice to use inexpensive wood for the first few instruments. If things go wrong, its often easier to scrap that part and remake it-thats often considerably easier than trying to repair/correct.

    When the building is finished there's still a lot of work to be done in getting a good finish especially if you seek a high gloss.

    Satisfaction comes from learning/mastering new skills. Take your time and enjoy. Its great to make a first instrument but for most it takes several instrument before you get a feel of how its done: its not just about slavishly following a plan.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Aug 2013
    North Somerset UK


    I spent a year looking at YouTube, guitar and ukulele building forums and every book i could lay my hands on before starting. I am an experienced hobby woodworker but this level of research was for me essential. If you have not worked wood before there are some basic skills you will need to acquire first. Here is a pic of my first two ukes.
    DSC_1141 (410x640) (192x300).jpgDSC_1138 (640x609) (300x285).jpgDSC_1132 (640x424).jpgDSC_1146 (422x640).jpg

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    Stockton on Tees..North East UK.


    When I first started in 2008 I went at it like a bull at a gate ..I made a bending machine and a mould and a jig for cutting neck joint dovetails first.. then I successfully bent a dozen side sets and got them built up with linings and end blocks all ready for the tops and backs...then it all went downhill from there (mainly getting the dovetail and neck alignment all wrong) and I finally ended up scrapping nine of them and I ended up with three that were reasonably ok but not very good sounding cos the tops were too thick ... then Pete Howlett sent me a ready thickened top and back and then my next soprano sounded great using these...I started to make some progress following that stage. Now 12 years later I’m still struggling with some, but my success rate is improving... So save Chuck’s Koa set until a later date.
    Last edited by Timbuck; 02-20-2020 at 12:26 AM. ebay i/d squarepeg_3000 Email

    If you can believe that moving images and sound, can fly through empty space across the universe and be seen and heard on a box in your living room ?.. then you can believe in anything.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Dec 2018


    I begin my first uke two years ago, and i was so excited to use AAA wood from Madinter! of course this wonderful set finished is life in my barbecue because i was not able to bend it (same problem with the thickiness of my top ... and carving my first neck...)
    I actually use basic sapele and red cedar top for finish my first uke (and it's not perfect building at all!!)... and keep other great wood in my storage
    ... i have also bought book of luthery because youtube is not a solution for me (except video from luthier here like Allen Mc Farlen, Beau Hannam and Ken Timms)

    PS : Eucalyptus gives an interesting smell to the meat

  9. #9
    Join Date
    May 2015


    I have told people who wanted to make a guitar to build a ukulele first to learn the ropes (at least some of them). And they also benefit by ending up with a uke! As for advice to someone wanting to build a uke, I would say go for plain wood for the first one. That would make the second one more pleasurable and less stressful.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jul 2012
    Mangawhai NZ


    It takes a tree many, many years to create beautiful pieces of wood. You can ruin it in a matter of seconds.
    When I first got bitten by the building bug I was working, had plenty of disposable income and bought all sorts of magnificent wood. Thankfully I was too busy to use it at the time.
    Now that I'm retired I have the time to build but also the wisdom to realise that the beauty inherent in those pieces of wood is way above my level of expertise as a builder. I am now slowly improving my skills working on lesser quality tonewoods until I feel I am skilled enough to work on the really good stuff.
    If that never happens, so be it. The wood will still be beautiful and can be gifted to one of the local luthiers who does have the skills to turn it into a work of art.

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