Category Archives: Advanced

LEGO Ukulele

After planning, gathering the parts, and designing this ukulele, I was finally able to start  build this LEGO ukulele.

Here is the ukulele before I glued the top on.  As you can see in the picture, I followed the traditional building method and installed bracing on the top and back.

This is the completed ukulele with Strings.

Any idea why I used these shirts for this picture?

I hired a new setup technician to help me adjust the string action.

 

Here is a video about the building of the LEGO ukulele.  Towards the end there is a playing demo.

Backpacker Guitar

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:

Backpacker_Guitar_22inch_fretboard

 

Walking Stick One String Bass

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 determine 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.

 

Tennis Racquet Ukulele

Difficulty:  Advanced

Cost:  $$

I made a tennis racquet ukulele before, but this time I wanted to do a few thing differently.  I wanted to have a wooden top and back, and I wanted to widen the neck enough to use a normal sized fretboard.

Here is the racquet before the strings were removed.

Goodbye strings!

I planed down the body and the handle.

To make the neck wide enough for the fretboard, I glued cherry wood pieces to the side.

Gluing on the basswood top and fretboard.  It has a tenor (17″) scale length.

 

After gluing on the bridge, I applied a few coats of Tru-Oil.

Check out the beautiful lamination of this racquet.

With the tuners installed, this uke is ready for strings.

I used a string retainer since this ukulele doesn’t have an angled headstock.

Here is the ukulele compared with Tennis Racquet Banjo ukulele that I made a few years ago.

 

Check out the demo video of the tennis racquet ukulele.

Backpacker Travel Ukulele

Difficulty:  Advanced

Cost:  $$

If you follow this website, you know that my Travel Ukulele plans are popular.  This ukulele is a variation of that design.

 

I took my travel ukulele design and cut off the back portion. I also omitted the pickup and jack. Requiring an amp definitely make a ukulele less portable. Not having the pickup also meant that I could start out with a piece of wood only .75″ instead of the normal 1″.  This uke has a concert scale length (15″) but the overall length is just 17.5″.

Because I took out the pickup, I decided to add a thin piece of wood to the back to help out with the resonance.

I stamped my last name into the back.

The main wood is maple and the back piece is basswood.

Even after applying a few coats of Tru-Oil and adding strings, this ukulele weighs just 11 ounces.

This uke even has a working compass inlayed into the neck.

This ukulele would be great to throw in a backpack, keep in a car, or stow in some luggage.

If you want to use a strap, there are strap pegs at the back and where the headstock would normally be.

This ukulele is heading on an epic trek.  Check out Her Odyssey to follow along with the journey.

Video demo time!

Headless Stratocaster Ukulele

Difficulty: Advanced 

Cost: $$$

A few years ago I made a travel ukulele with features similar to this one, but this one has a Stratocaster style body.  This has a tenor scale length (17″) and an overall length of just 20 inches.

The body is maple, and the fretboard is walnut.  Before painting, I made sure that all of the hardware fits.

The body is taped off and it’s ready for spraying.

Prime time!

Painting the body blue.

En garde!  After the blue paint came the matte clear coat.

I put a low g on it.  I put a section of plastic pipe at the back to cut down on the friction off the strings turning back towards the tuners.

The tuners are mounted to two additional pieces on wood on the back. The output jack is a Stratocaster jack plate mounted upside down.

I love how this turned out.  It’s pretty and it sounds great plugged into an amp.

Check out the demo video!

Eastman Mandocello Repair

A friend brought this mandocello in rough shape. He had purchased it at an estate sale in its damaged condition.

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It had a significant crack on the side.

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Before I started the glue job, I loosened the strings a lot so they would not add extra stress to the joint.

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I got a few syringes on eBay and filled them with glue.

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I carefully injected glue into the cracks.

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I used some DIY spool clamps that I made last year to keep the joint together.

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After the glue dried, I sprayed two coat of nitrocellulose lacquer over the joint to seal everything up.

Even though this mandocello got a battle scar, it is still a gorgeous instrument.
  

 

This was my first chance to play a mandocello.  They are really cool sounding instrument that would be a great addition to any folk ensemble.

 

Handmade Travel Guitar

Difficulty: Advanced

Cost: $$$

This is not an easy project, but it is simpler than doing a full size normally shaped guitar.  This is a short scale guitar with a body that doesn’t need any bending.  The neck was made with a .75 inch thick board that was stacked at the headstock and cut to make the angle.  While this isn’t a great first project, I have included a fret template and dimensions of the body.  With a little instrument building experience, this is a very doable project.

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If you don’t have a cutaway, the body is an isosceles trapezoid.  The dimensions are in the picture above in inches.

Download the fret template here:

Travel Guitar Fretboard 23.25 inch scale length

(Note: The template has 19 frets, while my instrument has 18 frets.  I normally make my templates with one extra fret and then use the last fret as the end of the fretboard)

 

If you want to get more complicated, make a cutaway on the guitar.  Even if you don’t, you’ll still need a neck block.  I made my neck block 62 mm thick.  The neck block needs to be thick enough that the fretboard is over the top piece of wood.

Here’s some pictures of the neck block and cutaway, and some other pictures of the project in progress.

The bracing for the top and back is just simple ladder bracing.

 

 

 

The body and neck are finished with Tru-Oil.  The fretboard has fretboard oil.

The overall length of this instrument is 30.5 inches.

I used regular guitar neck ferrules, and some 3 inch screws.  The screws and ferrules are countersunk into the back and neck block.

The top is spruce.  The back, sides and neck are cherry.  The fretboard is walnut.  The side pieces are 3 inches thick.

Just a simple squarish headstock.
  

I really like the rosewood eagle bridge.  I got it from eBay.  I strung it with “extra light” acoustic guitar strings.

 

Here’s a video with more info:

Utah Uke Fest – 2015

On July 18th, 2015 I was able to attend the 4th Annual Utah Uke Fest in American Fork Utah.  Well, we will get to that a little later.  Two days before that I was on live morning TV to promote the Uke Fest.

Here is the video of the segment I was on:

 

Ok, back the real Fest.  It was a full day of fun.  The morning had a workshops taught by M. Ryan Taylor (the founder of the Fest) and the headliner of this year’s festival Danielle Ate the Sandwich.

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After the lunchtime open mic contest (I was a judge again this year), it was time for my 2 hour workshop.  During this time, we assembled my travel uke kits.  The workshop was limited to 5 people, and it sold out quickly weeks before the festival.

Completed travel ukulele ready for strings.

A whole of completed travel ukuleles (including my demo model).

A happy bunch of fellows.

A highlight video of the workshop.

 

That night I played one song at the main concert.  I used my electric harp ukulele and played a cover of “The Blur, The Line and the Thickest of Onions” by Little Comets.

Video of my performance:

It was another great Utah Uke Fest.  I’m looking forward to next year!

 

 

 

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 cjksallan.com)

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: