Building a Travel Ukulele

Difficulty: Advanced

Cost: $$

A lot of people seem to like my travel ukulele.  I’ve been asked a lot of questions about how to build one over the years.  I’m not going to write step by step plans on how to build it, but I will give give some hints and helps.  This project doesn’t lend itself to straightforward plans.  If this is your first time building an instrument, go over to the FREE PLANS tab and try a few of those projects.

Print out the body template below.  Make sure to print out the pages on 8.5″ X 11″ paper and print at 100% size.  Check to make sure that scaling isn’t wrong by matching up a ruler to the one on the page.  (NOTE:  The ruler is on the pages for size checking only, not for lining up the pages.  Line up the pages by matching the two template pieces.)

Concert Travel Ukulele Template

UPDATE:  Christopher Allan emailed me a cleaned up template that also has the backpacker travel ukulele.  Get it here —–>  Concert Travel Ukulele Template  

(And make sure to check out his cartoons and illustrations at his website

Print out the fret template below.  Make sure to print out the pages on 8.5″ X 11″ paper and print at 100% size.  The distance from the “zero fret” to the 12th fret should be just under 7.5″.

Travel Uke (15 in) Fretboard

Check out the video of my travel ukulele being assembled.


Here’s how another one like it sounds:


121 thoughts on “Building a Travel Ukulele

  1. Dave Green

    Hi, I’m really impressed by the electric travel ukulele – what is the thickness of the body, & what did you use for the zero fret, please?

      1. Norman Gilbert

        Hello Daniel
        Many thanks for all the info on the Back Packer Ukulele. I’m going to have a go making one. Have made a Cigar Box Guitar and a Canjo so this will be something different. Three questions;
        1. The Template drawing shows two frames, a full length and one with the bottom end cut off. Is this for the two versions of your Ukulele or are the two pieces meant to fit together somehow?
        2. Strings? What gauge of wire should be used for the four strings?
        3. To what ‘key’ is the instrument tuned?
        Many thanks, Norman

      2. danielhulbert Post author

        Hi Norman. The two templates are for two different models. I call the shorter one with end cut off the “backpacker ukulele”.
        I just use basic, nylon ukulele strings. I’ve used a variety of different brands.
        Normal ukuleles are tuned to the key of C. The normal tuning is G, C, E, A.

      3. Norman Gilbert

        Many thanks Daniel for your reply re Strings and Tuning. All helpful for a novice!
        Best regards, Norman

  2. Vincent

    Can you list down the parts? I could not catch them clearly from the assembly video and probably spell it all wrong it my search.

      1. Vincent

        Thanks for the reply. Waiting on reply for the list of parts. I might do 3/4 for body as that is the only thickness I found so far. Then add fretboard like sharkfin ukulele, another DIY.

      2. danielhulbert Post author

        What questions do you have about the parts? You need friction tuners, piezo rod, endpin jack, angled aluminum and styrene tube for the bridge, fretwire, Chicago bolts, turnaround made from a tattoo grip from eBay, and a strap button.

  3. Nathan

    What size holes did you make for the tuners and holes for the bridge and what metal is used for the fretboard. And did you just tie the strings to the back ?

    1. danielhulbert Post author

      Thanks for checking out the project. The size of the holes will vary depending on what tuners and screws you get. The frets are made with medium/medium fretwire. The strings are simply fed through the tuners.

      1. Nathan

        Thank you !! And two more question, what type of wood is used for your project and what wood would be best for one?

  4. Pingback: Backpacker Travel Ukulele | Circuits and Strings

  5. Tyler Morse

    Thank you so much for everything you post on your blog – I’m so inspired! I’m working on an Altoid Ukulele first, but already planning for the next build. I’m planning on doing the backpacker version. I’ve ordered the tattoo grip for the turnaround – your link was super helpful. I’m wondering where you found your Chicago bolts that were the right width? So far, I’ve found just one place online that stocks them longer than 2″ ( but they seem pretty narrow in diameter. Thanks for any pointers!

      1. Michael

        >>Thanks Michael. Good info.<<

        My pleasure Daniel. I'm starting on a build of my own soon and am gathering parts. Your shared knowledge and experience is certainly making it much easier.

  6. Brillant fabien

    Hi from France, really good stuff, I plan to build my own “travel uke” could please tell me where I could find the “tattoo hand grip ” you use.
    thank you very much

  7. alec sieto

    came across this when looking for a good backpacking instrument and i fell in love with this, I’m currently in the process of building my own, but i have a question; what is the width of the neck at the zero fret and the 12th fret?

  8. piccoloboy14

    Question: what endpin jack and what rod piezo do you use? They seem to work well in your videos, and as this is the first instrument build I’m doing with electronics, I don’t know what is good and what is crap on the market. Thanks!

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    Im starting to build it from a mango wood as im living in india where cherry wood and walnut wood is not available i have one question that tattoo turnaround is of 6linings here in india not of 4linings can u help me about that turnaround

      1. nick

        Hi Dan! I ordered a pack of these, but the spacing between the grooves is not consistent. Also, the spacing between the grooves is much tighter then on a standard ukulele. The 4 grooves equals approximately the width of 3 strings spaced regularly on a ukulele. Perhaps they changed the product. Any advice or feedback. Thanks.

      2. danielhulbert Post author

        Hi Nick.

        The tattoo grips turnarounds are a little different spacing than a normal ukulele bridge. The spacing on the tattoo grips I order is about 27-28 mm from 1st groove to 4th groove. That is about the same as the spacing on the nut, so the strings will not fan out at all (like a normal uke does).
        What’s the measurement on your grooves?

  12. David Drake

    I built my own version a couple of weeks ago. It isn’t beautiful because I had to use mostly hand tools (hand saws, rasps, files, etc.), but it plays really well and is as tough as a tank. I used an Amazon-sourced prebuilt rosewood fretboard ($6) and a piece of scrap oak from around the basement. I added the X-vive acoustic amp. Now I can play as loudly as I want without disturbing the family. It was great fun! Thanks so much for the idea springboard.

      1. ductileironbagpiper

        I do have pics, but I don’t know how to make them available on this particular blog. I’ll try to get some video as well and maybe post to YouTube.

  13. Bob Maze

    Hi Daniel, I’m a big fan of your catalog of work! I’m gathering the supplies to build a tenor sized travel uke. I’ve sourced a really sweet piece of tiger maple for this build — I’ll share pictures when done. Questions: Do you have a fret board layout for the tenor size? Also, for the Tenor size, can you advise on width of neck at “0” fret and last fret, and the distance between the Nut and the Aluminum Saddle? Overall length of tenor instrument from tip to tail?

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  15. Don M.

    My son found this project and asked if we could do it. Ive almost completed mine, but i seem to have a pretty loud buzz when i plug it into our guitar amp. With the output jack slid out and if i wrap my hand around it, the buzz completely disappears and it sounds great. Once i let go………buzzzzzzz. Any ideas? I soldered the connections, and heat shrinked them individually so i have no clue. Appreciate any thoughts………….thx

      1. Don M.

        We actually got it. It was simply crossed wires. We had tested by holding the wires before hand, but must have somehow switched them. Its working great now. My son is excited to finish his. Thanks for a great project!
        Don M.

  16. Jeff Fryett

    Thanks for all the free plans and great inspiration. Just finished one of these it turned out real good

  17. Pingback: Tenor and Sopranino Travel Ukulele Fret Templates | Circuits and Strings

  18. Michael Fowler

    I built a tenor version and having some difficultly find the right size strings to get a good low G sound with the right tension and the increase in string length due to the turn back – Any suggestions?

  19. Michael Fowler

    I built a tenor version and having some difficultly find the right size strings to get a good low G sound with the right tension and the increase in string length due to the turn back – Any suggestions?

  20. groaner

    Does the Bass fret wire raise the strings up high enough to clear the frets enough? I didn’t get any bass fret wire, all i have is medium. Maybe I need to put in a nut? What do you suggest?

    1. Marc Dufour (Groan)

      Continuing that thought. I read above you say the narrowest end of the neck is 40mm. Most nuts I see online are 35mm. I guess I could get a blank 40mm, un-notched one and notch it myself. I do see some 40mm ones mentioned for a base guitar.

    2. danielhulbert Post author

      The bass fret wire helps to make the string height a little easier to adjust. The medium fret wire can work well to. You just have to make sure all of the other frets are very level.

      1. danielhulbert Post author

        The zero fret is also hammered flush with the fretboard. The zero nut works in the same way a capo works. When a capo is clamped to the neck, the fret essentially becomes the nut. Does that make sense?

  21. Escape Route

    Thank you for all your work on this and all your other uke projects. Can I ask you what height the saddle ( where the strings pass over) should be from the uke body? Thank you

  22. markjones99

    Hi Daniel, I am in the process of making this travel use (great idea and design). One question, the strings at the zero fret/nut end go through the four drilled holes to the back of the neck. Are the strings held in position from the back of the neck simply by a few knots in the string or did you tie on a bead or something similar?

    1. danielhulbert Post author

      Hello Mark,
      I used to tie the ends in a knot, and have the knots sit in the countersunk holes. But now I use half of a small rivet to reinforce the holes. I haven’t used beads yet, but those would work too.
      Good luck!

  23. Pietro Rossin

    Hello Daniel
    thanks for your plans.This will be my first hand made instrument.
    Some question if you could answer.
    a) you said you used a bass fret wire for the zero fret and medium/medium fret fot the others. I can see many different frets on amazon. I see bass frets can use 2.9mm wide frets height is 1.47mm. Other frets can be 2.04mm wide/1.09 tall?

    b) I’ll like to make a soprano/sopranino amplified, are there some plans ready or I must mix what is available here on your web site?

    Thanks again

    1. danielhulbert Post author

      Hello Pietro.
      The bass fretwire that I used is 2.794mm wide and 1.346mm high. But the most important thing is that the fretwire is a little bit higher than the eat of the frets. It makes to easier to not have fret buzz.

      I don’t have plans for an amplified soprano or sopranino, but I’d be happy to answer any questions if you run into problems or have questions.

    1. danielhulbert Post author

      I’m not familiar with that wood, so I did a little research. It seems that the hardness can vary depending on the individual pieces. I would take some scrap wood and see if it can take frets without compressing. Hard is better than too soft.

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  25. Erik Runge


    Really appreciate your content!

    Do you happen to have a tenor ukulele fret template to print on a larger single paper sheet?

  26. Ashley Dewing

    I’m looking to take on this project with a family member. Do you have the exact details of the materials needed? Exact sizes per item?

  27. Kevin

    What are your thoughts on building the electric version out of a composite material like phoenalic linen and zither pins to keep the tuners from being disturbed in transit? Would the having the waterproof properties of the compsite be worth the potential loss in spud quality if there were any?

    1. danielhulbert Post author

      The bridge is 3 inches long, 1/2 inches wide, and 1/8 inches high.

      El puente mide 3 pulgadas de largo, 1/2 pulgadas de ancho y 1/8 pulgadas de alto.


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