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PostPosted: Thu Mar 22, 2018 3:40 pm 
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Koa
Koa

Joined: Thu Nov 04, 2010 1:46 pm
Posts: 1273
First name: Freeman
Last Name: Keller
Focus: Build
Status: Amateur
I was working on a customer's guitar yesterday and he asked me if I had ever built a ukulele. I said "not yet". He told me he had been thinking about getting one for his wife but wasn't crazy about some of the commercial ones he had seen - said he wanted it to be "special". I told him that I was quite sure I could build something for him - he could choose size and woods and details - I said I could inlay his wife's initials or whatever he wanted. He said "work me up a price and time line".

I've built enough acoustic guitars that I'm comfortable with the idea and I think I can do a pretty good job of estimating the materials. I've built guitars with dovetail, bolted M&T and Spanish heel necks, so again, I think I can do whatever is required here. He would probably want a concert size (unless there is a strong reason to consider something else) and I would lean towards koa, just because. I see several different sets of plans - I've built guitars from Antes plans (altho I typically lighten the bracing) - are these good or is there something better? Comments on neck joint or anything else I should consider. I like nitro altho I could also French polish it.

Thanks all


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PostPosted: Thu Mar 22, 2018 11:13 pm 
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Joined: Sat Jan 31, 2009 8:50 pm
Posts: 1445
Location: Seattle WA
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Freeman wrote:
I was working on a customer's guitar yesterday and he asked me if I had ever built a ukulele. I said "not yet". He told me he had been thinking about getting one for his wife but wasn't crazy about some of the commercial ones he had seen - said he wanted it to be "special". I told him that I was quite sure I could build something for him - he could choose size and woods and details - I said I could inlay his wife's initials or whatever he wanted. He said "work me up a price and time line".

I've built enough acoustic guitars that I'm comfortable with the idea and I think I can do a pretty good job of estimating the materials. I've built guitars with dovetail, bolted M&T and Spanish heel necks, so again, I think I can do whatever is required here. He would probably want a concert size (unless there is a strong reason to consider something else) and I would lean towards koa, just because. I see several different sets of plans - I've built guitars from Antes plans (altho I typically lighten the bracing) - are these good or is there something better? Comments on neck joint or anything else I should consider. I like nitro altho I could also French polish it.

Thanks all
My first was a concert from "Don's plans". It turned out pretty great! That first one I did a spline joint, but since then I've used a bolt on. on.

You're just going to have to make an educated guess about carving the soundboard to whatever compliance you think is good. There is way less tension coming from those strings than a guitar. I would make a test mule first. I think you'll feel a lot more confident going into the commission.


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PostPosted: Fri Mar 23, 2018 5:19 am 
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Cocobolo
Cocobolo

Joined: Thu Feb 09, 2012 4:10 pm
Posts: 165
First name: Chris
Last Name: Reed
City: Stowmarket
State: Suffolk
Zip/Postal Code: IP14 2EX
Country: UK
Focus: Build
Status: Amateur
Soprano ukes (which are mainly what I make) are rather different beasts from guitars. If you make one like a guitar there is a god chance it will end up dead-sounding.

Tenors made like small guitars work fine, if the player wants to play them more like a guitar than a uke was traditionally (either Hawaii-style or Tin Pan Alley style) played.

Concerts are a hybrid - either approach can work.

Assuming you're not making a soprano (if so ask again and I'll say more), I suspect you'd find it easiest to use your current ways of working, so a softwood top with fan braces would be the way to go. The soundboard will need to be pretty thin - I'd suggest 2mm or very little more, depending on the stiffness of your top. For me the test is whether I can flex it along the grain a little using very light finger pressure. If you use a hardwood top then you'll want to go down to something like 1.8 mm, looking for a similar flex.

Bracing will be very light, something like 6mm high x 4mm wide, something of a triangular cross section. Taper the fans (2 or 3, and I'd suggest 2 because you'll find it hard to build light enough) to nothing well before they reach the sides. I'd also taper the cross bracing (one above, one below the sound hole), either to nothing before they reach the sides or to nearly nothing if you plan to tuck them. No bridge plate with fan braces.

The alternative is simple ladder bracing, one above and one below the sound hole, plus a bridge patch 2mm thick or less.

With all of these, the trade off is between stiffness for sustain, and attack. Stiffer tops sustain more but don't have the initial attack you expect for Tin Pan Alley playing. For that style I'd use a hardwood top, don't tuck the braces and feather the bridge plate to nearly nothing at the edges. For small guitar style playing I'd tuck the braces and use fans.

A lot of builders don't put a dome in the top. The bridge will pull up the top 1 to 1.5mm and that's enough to cope with humidity changes.

Any neck joint should do well, some ukes have a glued butt joint with nothing else (though that's risky because of gluing end grain).

Back and sides around 1.8mm, and I'd get some curve into the back.

Plans - I wouldn't bother. I'm convinced precise placement of bracing makes only marginal differences, the most important thing is making the soundboard as fully responsive as you can for one of these playing styles. Just draw out a body shape you like and build that.



These users thanked the author profchris for the post (total 3): Bryan Bear (Tue Mar 27, 2018 9:03 am) • SmilinBuddha (Sat Mar 24, 2018 8:26 am) • pat macaluso (Fri Mar 23, 2018 11:12 pm)
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 23, 2018 11:14 pm 
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Thanks for explaining that ProfChris!


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PostPosted: Mon Mar 26, 2018 11:22 pm 
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Cocobolo
Cocobolo

Joined: Mon Apr 14, 2008 3:20 am
Posts: 260
Location: Kapolei HI
First name: Aaron
Focus: Build
Status: Semi-pro
These are for reference (since you already know how to build); maybe you can glean some specs, in order (note: we pretty much all build Tenors here, mostly):

Shawn Yacavone has a page called Luthier Insights - all Ukulele builders. Quick vids:
http://ukulelefriend.com/video/

I got a few more here maybe you can snag something. . .read: 5 fan brace in action:
https://m.youtube.com/channel/UCJQxljMMre-6icubF9ssY9Q

Pete Howlett took down some, but still has a fair amount of vids:
https://m.youtube.com/user/PeteHowlett

And of course, there’s David Hurd’s site:
http://ukuleles.com


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PostPosted: Sat Mar 31, 2018 7:03 pm 
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Koa
Koa

Joined: Thu Nov 04, 2010 1:46 pm
Posts: 1273
First name: Freeman
Last Name: Keller
Focus: Build
Status: Amateur
I explained to the potential customer that he could buy a pretty nice uke for what I would pay for materials and their was simply no way I could compete. He understands, is going to get her a nice starter uke and when she is ready I'll build here one. Thanks for the advice folks.


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PostPosted: Sun Apr 01, 2018 4:00 pm 
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Joined: Sat Jan 31, 2009 8:50 pm
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Location: Seattle WA
Focus: Build
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..... the moment someone realises a "homemade" instrument is more expensive than a store-bought one! Lol


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PostPosted: Thu Apr 26, 2018 1:06 pm 
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Brazilian Rosewood
Brazilian Rosewood

Joined: Tue May 13, 2008 10:44 am
Posts: 3485
I've built 3 soprano ukes now and they all came out pretty good. I think I over built the first one but it still was ok. I based it off of one my Wife got as a child when she lived in Hawaii. I had a 50's Martin soprano come in for a repair a couple months ago and honestly the ones I built sounded better. In the end though it is easier then building a guitar in some respects but in others it's the same. It is going to take you a lot of time and as such will cost a lot. You can cut some corners like for example some people might only bind the top or even none at all. I used more or less the same process as guitar building.


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PostPosted: Wed May 02, 2018 7:26 am 
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Brazilian Rosewood
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Joined: Thu Jan 06, 2011 6:08 pm
Posts: 2630
First name: ernest
Last Name: kleinman
City: lee's summit
State: mo
Zip/Postal Code: 64081
Country: usa
Focus: Build
Status: Professional
Freeman, I have built about 60 ukes, and there are quite a few videos on youtube showing our methods under ernie kleinman or PM me for more info or you can call me on my cell fone PM me and I will do my best to answer your questions , Good luck ernie


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