Here are some helps and hints to make your own Backpacker Guitar. This project takes some knowledge and skill, so I wouldn’t recommend it as a first instrument building project.
Parts and supplies:
- 6 tuners
- Compass inlay
- 2 inches of bass fretwire (for the zero nut)
- Enough guitar fretwire for 15 frets
- 2 strap buttons
- Angled aluminum and aluminum tube for the bridge
- Material for the string turnaround
- Metal rivets (to make string ferrules for the ball ends)
- A set of “extra light” acoustic guitar strings
- Solid hardwood at least 24 inches long, 3.5 inches wide, and 1 inch thick.
- Wood at least 9.5 inches long, 3.5 inches wide, and 1/8 inch thick (for the back)
The rectangular body section is 9.75 by 3.5 inches. After the 9.75 inches, it curves in towards the neck.
Making the turnaround is very important. I modified the turnaround so that each of the strings turn independently on its own roller. That is not shown in the video. The string spacing (from string 1 to string 6) at the bridge and turnaround is 52 mm. The string spacing at the zero fret is 36 mm.
I recommend that you print out the fret template, and combine it with the dimensions of the body. The tines of the of the body are around .5 inch wide.
Download and print the fretboard below:
This is a walking stick for bassists that have a need to ramble.
Watch the video below to watch the major parts of the building process.
If you have some experience with woodwork and instrument building, here are some helps for making your own.
List of materials:
- Sturdy hardwood at least 1″ by 1.5″ by 44″ (I used cherry wood)
- Bass tuning machine
- Rubber tip
- Cane handle
- “D” or “G” bass string
- Medium sized eye screw
- Short piece of bass fretwire (for the zero fret nut)
- Few feet of guitar fretwire (for the rest of the frets)
- Angled aluminum
- Plastic tube
- Piezo rod
- Strat-style jack plate
- 1/4″ mono jack
- Miscellaneous screws
Below is the printable template for the fretboard. The scale length is 31 inches. The outside edge of the template can be used for shaping the main shape of the shaft. Then, it is up the builder to long how long the top and bottom need to be extended for the tuner, tip, output jack, and handle.
Walking Stick One String Bass Fretboard (31 inch scale length)
If all of this hasn’t scared you off yet, then good luck with your project. This isn’t a great “first instrument” project, but there are a few of those in my “Free Plans” section.
People from all over the world have utilized my free plans to make a travel ukulele (or it’s backpacker brother).
Here’s a ukulele made by Mark in Oregon.
The plans are for a concert version of the travel ukulele.
I’ve also made tenor and sopranino versions of that design.
Here are the downloadable and printable templates for the fret placement. They can be used in conjunction with the templates and hints.
Tenor fretboard template (17.5 inch scale length)
Sopranino fretboard template (11 inch scale length)
I busted out my handmade electric ukulele, my Namuai tenor ukulele, some bongos, and an 1980s Omnichord in this cover of the hit song “Don’t Let Me Down”.
I was able to attend the NAMM show in Anaheim, California for the first time this year. I (of course) searched out the ukuleles booths. Check out the above video to see some of the most interesting ukes (and other things) I saw at the show.
Michael from Ludwigsburg, Germany emailed some awesome files this week. We added upon the work that Craig from Seattle did.
He tweaked a few things according to his own taste.
He told me:
- I wasn’t very keen on the nut (0-fret) made of a bass fret, so I came up with the idea of modeling it from a piece of walnut.
- The turnaround will be made of a lathe-turned piece of walnut with a glued in 7mm dia. aluminium core with inner M4 thread (lathe + thread tap).
- The turnaround will be held in place by countersunk M4 x 25 screws (internal hex socket, cap-head).
- The position markers and strings will be black.
- The bridge is a thin aluminium pipe held in place by clamps similar to those you used in your early Travel Uke design.
- I skipped the electrical wiring and internal wire channels.
- I initially wanted to use black string pegs instead of simple holes but after a while I realized it would ruin the simplicity of the design.
Here are some great digital renders of the travel ukulele.
There are lots of thing that can be done to the original design.
Great job Michael! I can’t wait to see the final product.
Download file here: Travel Ukulele File
UPDATE SEPTEMBER 2017: I’ve stopped accepting new submissions to the waiting list. The list was getting long, and my ability to fulfill the requests was limited due to other obligations and projects. I’m now exploring some partnerships with luthier shops to make more of these ukuleles. If you want to get in touch with me, head over to the contact page.
Ever since releasing the video about my Backpacker Ukulele, I’ve had people inquiring about purchasing one.
You can now join the Backpacker Ukulele Waiting List. The price is $130 which includes free shipping within the USA. International order costs will be based on the actual shipping.
(UPDATE: As of right now, I am only planning on making concert versions [the size shown in the videos]. I will also be making the ukuleles acoustic only. After testing the removable pickup, I’ve found that it makes too much noise since it is not permanently embedded.)