One of the downsides of being addicted to the creative process is that sometimes-innocent investigation of a new craft or skill can unexpectedly take over your life. This happened to me recently. After a January, which I spent cranking out 42 watercolors for a new children’s book to come out in May, several younger staff at SOLO asked me if I could help them build ukuleles.
Now I know next to nothing about ukuleles, or I should say I did know next to nothing about ukuleles, but I have built guitars and lutes, as well as the odd fiddle and dulcimer. So I thought sure, no problem—we order a couple of cheap kits—replace the cheaper pieces with better ones we make ourselves, and we’ll be all set. So kits were ordered, and them I made a fateful mistake; I started reading about Ukuleles. I also went to “you Tube” (almost always a mistake) and started watching videos about ukulele tunings, and ukulele songs, and building ukuleles. Well before you know it I was ordering some detailed plans—you know—just to check up on the kits.
Things spiraled out of control, and I am still not even sure how. Anyway, there are now one ukulele being built from a kit, two being built partly with kits, and I have pieces for two more, one a concert size and one a tenor ukulele, scattered all over the shop. In other words two ukulele projects turned into five (there are rumors of a sixth).
The nearest thing I have to a rationalization for the two ukuleles that I am building is that they are for the boat…because…um…oh, never mind.
plans for the tenor ukulele
bindings being glued into ukulele body
tenor ukulele ready for the back
soprano ukulele body ready to be glued to the sound board
one tenor and two soprano ukuleles in the varnishing room
If you are inspired to make Ukulele yourself, here are some resources:
Lark in the Morning has a basic ukulele kit for $40. The body comes-pre assembled so you can be up and playing soon. One note: the instructions for this kit were clearly translated from another language, so you may have to do some pondering.
Stewart MacDonald has a ukulele kit for about $100. This is one where you have to build the body, but the sides are pre-bent, which eliminates one step that can be intimidating. Stewart Macdonald also has scale plans for a tenor ukulele and a how-to book. The plans are not quite as exact as I might expect for a musical instrument, but they are certainly workable. If you have never built musical instruments of this kind before, you will need a book to guide you. More importantly, Stewart MacDonald is the best source for parts and supplies that I know of, and that goes for almost any string instrument that you might want to build. Their shipping is prompt and their service is excellent.
If you want authenticity, you can’t go wrong with Hana Lima ‘Ia, as you might have guessed they are in Hawaii. Excellent, detailed, plans, building materials, kits, and hardware, their service is also excellent, but be aware that since they are in Hawaii you will pay more for shipping unless you are in Hawaii.
For Ukulele strings my recommendation is Just Strings; fast service and simple site to navigate make this an easy one-stop shopping experience.