I love travel style ukuleles of all sorts. Finding ways to make instruments ultra portable is fascinating to me.
I’ve built a many different kinds of travel ukuleles. I even made a ukulele with a retractable neck.
If a neck folds for storage, the strings need to be managed. The new folding ukulele made by Astro Ukulele has a moving bridge that prevents the string from getting too floppy when it is folded for travel. When unfolded, it is a soprano ukulele. It even has two “wings” that pop out to make it easier to hold.
The Astro Ukulele comes in two different models, A and E. The A is acoustic, and the E is electric.
The Kickstarter campaign for the Astro Ukulele just launched. Check out the ukulele models and other perks of the project.
ASTRO UKULELE KICKSTARTER
It’s no secret that I love multi-tools. I have them on my wrist, on my belt buckle, and a few in my pocket.
I have now designed my own guitar shaped multi-tool that includes 3 wrenches sized for luthier jobs like adjusting tuning machine bushings, output jacks, and potentiometer nuts.
Head over to the FOR SALE tab to find out how to get one.
(I also just added Circuits and Strings guitar/ukulele straps to that page)
Shane Speal (cigar box guitar player/builder/guru) checking out my tool.
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.