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Thread: Newbie Advice

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jun 2020
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    7

    Default Newbie Advice

    Hi friends,
    A buddy and I are going to start building our first ukulele: I play a little, and he does a little woodworking, so we figure, what's there to lose trying to build one (besides a dollars)?
    We're making a four-stringed Tahitian-ish style uke because it looks a lot easier to build than a traditional Hawaiian ukulele.
    My questions for you fine folks are:
    1) Are there any woods for the body that I should absolutely avoid? We're beginners at this so we'll end up using cheap wood, but is there anything that will make the ukulele sound like literal a tin can?
    2) We're going to buy a pre-made fretboard, nut, pickup, and tuners. What brands do you guys recommend for these parts? Where should we buy them? It has to be online, since I live in DC, which doesn't have a ton of resources for ukulele luthiers...
    Thanks so much in advance for your advice!
    Best,
    Avi

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2015
    Location
    Catskill Mountains, NY
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    6,283

    Default

    My advice would be to look online for directions and YouTube videos. Include guitars in your search because there are a lot directions for making them. Look up cigar box ukes and guitars and parts for them, too. I wouldn't recommend making your own fretboard. You can find a variety on Amazon and eBay. Actually, you can easily find a neck with fretboard. An hour of reading can save you several hours of correcting mistakes. I have this book on my Amazon Wish List -

    https://smile.amazon.com/dp/15652394...v_ov_lig_dp_it

    https://www.cbgitty.com/
    Too many ukes, but I can't stop buying!
    https://www.catskillukulelegroup.com/

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2014
    Location
    Little River, California
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    2,505

    Default

    When you say a four-stringed Tahitian-ish style do you mean a more or less solid body? As I understand it, the style uses a solid body with a cavity and a wooden "resonator". When you say pick-up do you mean an electric guitar type or acoustic type?

    1) I would say any type of wood would work with this style since you are going to electrify it. I also would say not to cheap out since you are going to put some work in here and why use something cheap and ugly like pine. Also think about the workability of the wood. You might want to avoid oak.

    2) All of your parts are available online here: https://www.stewmac.com/ or here: https://www.lmii.com/. There are other suppliers of course, but these are the ones most builders turn too.

    And lastly some advice: Don't over think this and just get started. People have been known to ponder and consider for so long that they never actually get around to building the thing.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2011
    Location
    Grand Junction, Colorado
    Posts
    2,880

    Default

    I don't know what a Tahitian-ish uke is,. but i'd recommend a uke kit form stewmac- comes with everything and prebent sides which will help you out alot.

    https://www.stewmac.com/kits-and-pro.../ukulele-kits/

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Oct 2014
    Location
    Little River, California
    Posts
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Beau Hannam Ukuleles View Post
    I don't know what a Tahitian-ish uke is,. but i'd recommend a uke kit form stewmac- comes with everything and prebent sides which will help you out alot.

    https://www.stewmac.com/kits-and-pro.../ukulele-kits/
    Good advice.... Here is a typical "Tahitian style" uke 8-string style. 4-string styles are more ukulele like. I've never seen nor built one.

    tahitian ukulele.jpg

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jun 2020
    Posts
    7

    Default

    Thanks for all of the advice, guys!
    Looking forward to getting this project started.
    Sequoia, I'm buying an acoustic pickup and it's going to have a solid body, like you said.
    Here's what we're going off of, for reference: https://www.instructables.com/id/Mak...itian-Ukulele/
    Anyway, thanks again for the help!
    -Avi

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jul 2015
    Location
    Catskill Mountains, NY
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    Quote Originally Posted by AviBass View Post
    Here's what we're going off of, for reference: https://www.instructables.com/id/Mak...itian-Ukulele/
    Anyway, thanks again for the help!
    -Avi
    That's a great design, especially if you have a tree stump available. Temping.
    Too many ukes, but I can't stop buying!
    https://www.catskillukulelegroup.com/

  8. #8
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Greenville, VA.
    Posts
    833

    Default

    You can get everything you need at www.mgbguitars.com. Good prices, fast delivery. Your uke is going to have a very limited acoustic response, so make it out of whatever you have. The people who complain about pine have probably never used it for an instrument. It works well. Tahitian ukes are usually made from one piece of wood for the body and neck, so no joinery. Often they are ornately carved to appeal to tourists. Your project will teach you the minimum about lutherie, but that doesn't mean it won't be fun.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Greenville, VA.
    Posts
    833

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jerryc41 View Post
    My advice would be to look online for directions and YouTube videos. Include guitars in your search because there are a lot directions for making them. Look up cigar box ukes and guitars and parts for them, too. I wouldn't recommend making your own fretboard. You can find a variety on Amazon and eBay. Actually, you can easily find a neck with fretboard. An hour of reading can save you several hours of correcting mistakes. I have this book on my Amazon Wish List -

    https://smile.amazon.com/dp/15652394...v_ov_lig_dp_it

    https://www.cbgitty.com/
    I have that book, Jerry. If your goal is to build legitimate instruments its not that helpful. For making three-string guitars out of old boxes and oil cans and found objects for parts, it is good. The cigar box guitar crowd is pretty crazy and fun to hang out with, but most of them play fretless slide with a lot of distortion and very little technique. It gets old in a hurry. But if you don't tune in to Mike Snowden's "Three-string Thursday" on Utube you are missing out. He's one of the bright lights in CBG land.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Location
    Big Island, Hawaii
    Posts
    5,228

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    Tahitian ukuleles have a lively, unique sound, best expressed When outfitted with the traditional 8 strings. By their nature they are supposed to have a bright, thin, almost tin can sound. With the limited sound chamber and small soundboard you can not expect a full, deep resonant sound so don’t expect it to sound like a traditional ukulele. (In Tahiti they call traditional ukuleles “Kamakas”, regardless of the brand.) I’ve never built one but I own a couple and have played dozens. (I’ve never been able to master that unique strum though.) Most that I have seen have had sound resonators made of a light stiff wood like cedar. I think that particular wood choice is going to be the most critical part of Your build. Keep that cedar resonator thin, somewhere in the vicinity of 1/16” . Good luck. Tahitian ukes are great fun.
    Chuck Moore
    Moore Bettah Ukuleles
    http://www.moorebettahukes.com

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