Building a ukulele..My first..

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realityguy
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Building a ukulele..My first..

Postby realityguy » Sun Mar 13, 2011 12:53 pm

About 20 years ago I was sawing on a black oak tree(Note:Rare tree around here but Asplundh power people had to take it out because of interference with the power lines in a friend's yard,they gave me the downed tree) with a Stihl chainsaw with a 3' bar to get it small enough to get it into my neighbor's bandsaw mill that could only handle 2' wide logs.Unfortunately the large end of the tree was 3' across.I spent quite awhile ripping the 10'long butt end in half to get it somewhat "movable" and "bandsaw-able..After quartersawing the tree into 1"-2" thick slabs,it was stickered and drying here since that time,eventually the slabs were moved into my garage about 10 years ago and I've been whittling on my half of the pile we got out of the tree into cabinet doors and other projects.
My latest project from the tree is far enough along that I can post it now--->
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I still need to cut the frets on the fretboard,install those,inlay some dots,add the tuners,make the bridge and install that,finish the dang thing and add some strings..but it's finally starting to look like what it is supposed to.
I've always loved working with wood,especially starting from the "tree" point.This wood after being stickered had to be run through a planer a lot of times down to 3/4" thick(except the one piece neck which had to be whittled down to shape)and to get rid of the bandsaw marks,then run through a table saw to straighten one edge..then run again for the other edge,then run through the tables saw again along both edges as deep as possible..put in a vise and the centers of the three slots cut through with a 3' back saw..to become 3 boards out of one..then run through the planer a whole bunch more down to 1/8" thick,then through a drumsander down to about .070..and ending up about 1/16" or .065 by the time it's done..Yeah..If I had a resawing bandsaw it would save a lot of work but mine is only 6" capacity and not that accurate.Oh well..You have to love working with wood to go through the longer process,but you enjoy the finished product more in the end. ;)
The next step is making up a lot of jigs for doing all the different steps of bending sides,cutting a neck slot to fit the body,molds for the bent pieces to form them around after soaking them,gluing forms,fret cutting box,etc..etc..I plan on making several so I'm making forms for 3-4 different sizes and shapes with at least two different neck lengths(down the road three)..I figure at least a dozen forms,perhaps more.Once the jigs are done,it'll take a lot less time to make one up.
Anyway..Sorry I've been sidetracked ..just letting you know where I've been and why..I figure another week or two and hopefully this project will be finished.I won't rush the project..it's my escape from other things going on in my life right now and enjoyable.Everybody needs something like that.
One more thing..My ukes are based off of dimensions of a Kamaka Soprano and a Gibson tenor ukuleles the wife and I have as far as bracing,thicknesses of wood,shapes,fret layouts, and such so they should (hopefully) turn out to be excellent quality players...The differences will be wood types(but some the same),a little different body shape,maybe longer fretboards and how they incorporate with the bodies(The 60-s-70s kamaka has the frets on the actual neck and not a separate board).This pineapple shape is larger than the soprano kamaka but I want more sound and a richer tone.I like the sound of tenors(next uke I build) rather than sopranos.Hopefully I'll get what I'm trying to achieve.It "thumps"(taps) richer..so that's a good sign. :mrgreen:
The views and opinions expressed by this person are his own and not the general consensus of others on this website.Realityguy

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zelph
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Re: Building a ukulele..My first..

Postby zelph » Sun Mar 13, 2011 3:49 pm

Looking very nice :D

You have to love working with wood to go through the longer process,but you enjoy the finished product more in the end.


I agree, time does not matter when working wood. There is much enjoyment in creating with with wood. I also like working with wood. Good way to kick back and work with a natural product.

Thanks for letting us in on your hobby. Soon you'll be making another one and have an enormous collection by the end of the year. ;)

Go easy on the fret board, no splintering. :o
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realityguy
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Re: Building a ukulele..My first..

Postby realityguy » Sun Mar 13, 2011 4:02 pm

I think I have the fretboard system worked out,going to go ahead and make up a fretboard today.I found a good way to clamp it in my old small miterbox using a piece of UHMW to keep the edge-splintering at bay,using the fretsaw I was thinking of using but have honed it down to the right snug .023 cut with a diamond whetstone..Looks like it'll work.I have a 3/4"x6"x8' piece of bulletwood to get an 1/8"x2"x7" fretboard out of so have lots of chances to get it right... :roll:
:lol:
I think it's going to work! ;) I'll know today..or go to "plan B"..
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zelph
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Re: Building a ukulele..My first..

Postby zelph » Sun Mar 13, 2011 9:20 pm

I have a 3/4"x6"x8' piece of bulletwood to get an 1/8"x2"x7" fretboard out of so have lots of chances to get it right...


If you can't get one out that, time to hang it up and go to plan Z. Plan Z is purchase one "online" :mrgreen:

Do ukes have sounding pegs inside? If yes, how are they installed?
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cadyak
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Re: Building a ukulele..My first..

Postby cadyak » Mon Mar 14, 2011 9:13 am

Nice work RG. Ill bet your Uke will sound a lot better than an old cheap one for sure. MYOG -make your own guitar

realityguy
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Re: Building a ukulele..My first..

Postby realityguy » Mon Mar 14, 2011 3:47 pm

Do ukes have sounding pegs inside? If yes, how are they installed?


Don't think so..nothing inside the Kamaka other than ribs and a very thin support cross piece of wood under the bridge area.The Gibson tenor uses "pegs for holding the strings that stick through the bridge.
The fretboard is on..the bridge and nut are made in the style of the kamaka..since I'm following that.Today I need to sand the fretboard flush to the neck,mark out the bridge location, slot the neck across for insetting the nut a little,and start the finish work,benite slight stain,and then a rub on oil finish..a few coats..I'm not going for glossy,just a good satin finish.Can't find the strings i want closeby..but have another source I need to check.. :roll:The bridge and nut are hardwoods and not bone..so I'm sticking with the original Kamaka items,measurements(but the bridge is slightly longer and rounded at the ends) and ideas on those.This kamaka bridge seems to work well and a very simple idea,so I'm sticking with it for that reason.My only difference is a separate fretboard which raises the actual board about 1/16" off the body,rather than flush..so the strings at the body end will sit 1/16" closer to the frets,which I would think be even an improvement..we'll see.The original Kamaka has the fretboard even with the top of the body.

Nice work RG. Ill bet your Uke will sound a lot better than an old cheap one for sure. MYOG -make your own guitar


Starting with a Kamaka as a base for ideas is a huge step up from barebones cheap kits that are on the market.This koa Kamaka is probably a 1960s model and worth about $500 on today's market.It has excellent sound and projection of that sound for its size.The wood I am using,quartersawn black oak(top and bottom appear more "plain sawn") is untested on musical instruments as far as I know but the density level should be very close to koa.The size of the body is the same depth and width in the back but the front half has been straightened to a pineapple shape and probably 1" wider across than the original Kamaka soprano.My forms I built were for the original shape and also a smaller front end pineapple.I cheated to get the maximum body out of the width of the soundboard I had,barely making it across the top and bottom of the sides except with a little squeezing and lengthening of the body.The kerfing supports for the top and bottom(inside edge extra supports beside the thin sides) are a bit more modern than the original,more of a triangular shape cut almost through down to about less than 1/16" to allow it to bend to the body shape with soaking and drying.The original was only about 1/8" thick and kind of bent to the body..sliced where needed to get the bends around corners.The difference in width of the kerfing might change the tone or the open span area across the top,but the slightly larger body should bring that back in line with the original.
The change of the shape to the "pineapple" one will change the sound slightly,but Kamaka has made that pineapple shape for at least 80-90 years..(google kamaka pineapple,Ka-lai pineapple(had one of those with the small pineapple decal on the front,label inside dated1928!)with good results and sales.
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When I'm done with this uke, I'll post it side by side with the Kamaka so you can see the differences/similarities between the two.
The views and opinions expressed by this person are his own and not the general consensus of others on this website.Realityguy

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zelph
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Re: Building a ukulele..My first..

Postby zelph » Mon Mar 14, 2011 10:34 pm

When I'm done with this uke, I'll post it side by side with the Kamaka so you can see the differences/similarities between the two.


that's going to be cool!!!! give us some big photos to really be able to compare. We'll be able to see the quality of work you do :o
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realityguy
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Re: Building a ukulele..My first..

Postby realityguy » Wed Mar 16, 2011 9:46 pm

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Gotta go get some strings tomorrow and a couple more coats of finish needed...

Quite a big difference in weight(13oz vs 17oz)..mostly because of the geared tuners(stay in tune better)...I guess I'll have to make one the same shape and size to get it lighter for UL backpacking... :roll: EDIT:Actually a small older one that sounds pretty nice that I've been playing with weighs a whopping ten oz. :o ..Guess I'll use that one for now and continue making the bigger tenor size next..
The views and opinions expressed by this person are his own and not the general consensus of others on this website.Realityguy

realityguy
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Joined: Tue Feb 24, 2009 2:20 am
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Re: Building a ukulele..My first..

Postby realityguy » Thu Mar 17, 2011 9:41 pm

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The place I went to get strings has a Kamaka pineapple uke for sale at $1600.. :shock: ..There wasn't hardly any difference in the things other than the wood.They also had a nice older 1928 pineapple one with the pineapple decal on it for only $2200..Most stores around here are nuts on their prices! :roll:

Sounds nice!..but the damn strings keep stretching(constant tuning.. :evil: ),should for a week or so.
The views and opinions expressed by this person are his own and not the general consensus of others on this website.Realityguy

sudden
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Re: Building a ukulele..My first..

Postby sudden » Fri Mar 18, 2011 8:45 am

It deserves a video for its first play :)
"People are not persuaded by what we say, but rather by what they understand."


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