More Ukulele Building

In an earlier post I mentioned the ukulele building that has been going on in the shop. For anyone out there who is looking for some inspiration to make your own ukulele, here are some examples to get you thinking.

Four Concert Ukuleles

All four of these ukuleles are concert sized, that is, bigger than a soprano ukulele and smaller than a tenor ukulele. I built one, and three other members of the SOLO staff have each built one. We have been getting together on our free evenings after work this autumn and winter to work in the shop.  Two of us have had some experience building instruments, and the other two are novices to wooden instrument making. Each ukulele has been built from a very nicely detailed sheet of plans that I bought from Hana-Lima-Ia in Hawaii. All of the hardware and some of the purfling and inlay material came from Stewart MacDonald Music supply. Some of the exotic wood was special ordered from Hawaii, and some came from a hardwood supplier called Highland Hardwoods in Brentwood, New Hampshire. Lastly, much of the wood in the ukulele that I am building is scrap wood leftover from when I did the restoration of our friendship sloop.

Starting with the one that I built; the neck is made from a strip of African ebony sandwiched between two pieces of cherry. The head is cherry with a piece of Indian ebony inlay. The back of the instrument is made of cherry, and the sides are mahogany. The belly of the instrument is Douglas fir with ebony and maple inlay around the sound hole. The fingerboard is African ebony with maple inlay. The strings are Aquila strings. The sound is excellent on this ukulele, bright and surprisingly loud for such a small instrument. I did have problems with the original fingerboard, and eventually replaced it, and I should also point out that the strings are set further apart than is typical because I have such large hands. This instrument makes an OK strumming instrument but it seems made for plucking.

detail of back

This next one also has a neck made with a strip of African ebony sandwiched between two pieces of cherry, and the head is a continuation of the same piece. The back is made from morado with cherry sides. The belly is mahogany inlayed with ebony and maple around the sound hole, and the fingerboard is made of African ebony and we finished this instrument with lacquer because the morado wood that the back is made from is so oily that it cannot be varnished because the varnish will never dry. The sound is softer, perhaps due to the softer wood used in the belly of the instrument. The strings are GHS strings, and I suspect changing them for Aquila strings would change the sound.

The third Ukulele has a neck made of African ebony sandwiched between two pieces of rock maple. The head is rock maple with African ebony inlay. The back is made of zebrawood with mahogany sides. The belly is Douglas fir with ebony and maple inlay and the fingerboard is African ebony. The strings are Aquila strings and the sound quality is somewhere between the first two ukuleles in both tone and brightness. The result is a rounder sound better adapted to strumming than plucking. I suspect that the reason that the sound is a little more muted in this instrument is that the zebrawood back is so hard.

The last one is the most exotic and took the most time to finish. The neck is made of seven alternating strips of rock maple and African ebony. The head is an extension of the neck with a complex palm tree inlay made of alternating rock maple and Indian ebony. The back is made of pheasant wood ordered from Hawaii, as are the sides. The Belly is cedar inlayed with maple ringed with ebony, and the fingerboard is made of African ebony.

All of the strings were purchased through Just Strings, and although we all started off with GHS brand strings several of us switched to Aquila for a brighter sound.

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One Response to “More Ukulele Building”

  1. SOLO Ukuleles? « SOLO school adventures! Says:

    […] Most recently, ukuleles have been appearing on campus. To date five SOLO staff have built Ukuleles, either from kits or from scratch. A total of seven ukuleles have been produced in the SOLO shop starting with two kits last September; two soprano ukuleles, one tenor, and four “concert” sized. If you would like to see pictures and read descriptions of the four concert ukuleles, you can check them out on the blog “dovetails”. […]

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