Ukulele #1: The Uke

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Blog entry by Fchilly posted 10-03-2018 11:18 PM 332 reads 0 times favorited 5 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of Ukulele series Part 2: Banding and catchup »

I’ve begun a new project. This will be my first attempt at creating an instrument.

I bought plans online, there are many different providers.

I’m following Youtube tutorials for tips and tricks, and planning out each step in advance to prevent significant losses.

Tools needed so far:

-Band saw with high quality blade
For ripping the side walls and front/back
-Smoothing plane
For cleaning up tool marks on the front and back
-Shooting board
For making crisp glue lines
-Table saw
For cutting the neck blank to size, and cutting the neck to body joint.
-Cabinet rasp & Spokeshave
For quickly shaping the neck
-Carving knives or chisels
For shaping the internal braces
-Japanese razor saw
For cutting frett dados
-A decent sander with assorted grits
For sanding a lot

I used what wood I thought would look nice. This is a small instrument and my first one. I’m not too concerned with sound quality. I understand It makes a big difference for acoustic guitars but all the ukulele models I tried out dont sound much different from one another, except for the very VERY cheap ones.

I made all components, including the neck and frett board. All fretts pressed in nicely in the end. A couple curled like a potato chip but I learned and fixed that issue.

Wood selection:

Front: Maple
Back: Koa
Neck: Maple
Frett board: Koa
Internal braces: Oak
Corner supports: Black Walnut

-- Fchilly

5 comments so far

View Eric's profile


22 posts in 15 days

#1 posted 10-03-2018 11:23 PM

That is one way to justify buying new tools. I have done that in the past, doing remodel jobs and low and behold I end up with a new tool of some sort.

-- Eric, Upstate South Carolina

View HankLP's profile


69 posts in 644 days

#2 posted 10-07-2018 05:15 PM

Off to a great start! Curious how you bent the wood, and is the neck joint a tenon or a dovetail – or is it tapered? It’s hard to tell from the pic’s.

View Fchilly's profile


24 posts in 623 days

#3 posted 10-08-2018 06:41 PM

Thanks! I’m enjoying this alot, i’ll post a few more pictures in the next blog entry that will show the joint a bit more clearly. But you’re right. The neck joint is a mortise and tenon.

Bending the wood was done with steam and clamping pressure into a form. A steam box would be nice but my method was to Soak the wood for a short amount of time, wrap it in paper towel and aluminum foil to maintain moisture, then hot iron it until flexible. At this point you quickly transfer it to a jig and clamp it secure.

I watched a video by ishitani where he was bending backrests on these chairs, he used this cloth/ aluminum foil technique.

-- Fchilly

View HankLP's profile


69 posts in 644 days

#4 posted 10-09-2018 04:24 AM

The iron gets a lot more heat to the wood than a steam box does at 212 F. My bending iron is 300+ F, but I’m very clumsy with it on the few instruments I’ve made. I’ll give this a try on my next uke. Are you using the StewMac plans? Looking forward to your next update.

View Fchilly's profile


24 posts in 623 days

#5 posted 10-16-2018 04:06 AM

@ Hank

A bending iron would be nice, i borrowed my wifes clothes iron! Did you buy a nice bending form with heated silicon pads? Or is your hot iron the type where you physically manipulate your work piece around the iron?

I looked at your tenor uke, looks very well done! I’d love to make a banjo too.

My plans were purchased from georgia luthier. I’ve heard great things about stewmac but only after I had started on mine. There is some reading between the lines I have to do, but overall theyve been good.

-- Fchilly

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