Category Archives: High Cost ($$$)

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:



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!

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.

Screen Shot 2015-09-13 at 8.31.35 PM

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:

Les Paul Electric Ukulele

Difficulty: Advanced

Cost: $$$

Here’s another electric ukulele modeled after a classic guitar shape.



For the first tiime, I used gold hardware.  I’m normally use chrome or occasionally black hardware.  I think the gold hardware looks great on the red body.



The paint was from an auto parts store.  It’s red with metal flecks.



The body wood is alder and the neck wood is maple.  The fretboard is rosewood.




WIth the ukulele complete and a gig bag case from eBay, this thing is ready to rock.


See it in action:

Ukulele with headphone amp

Difficulty: Advanced

Cost: $$$

For this project, I wanted to have a headphone preamp built into the the body of the instrument. I decided to make the instrument a tenor ukulele.


The outline of the body is a aluminum rod.



The heaphone amp is powered by a 9 volt battery.  The battery is housed in a little compartment on the back.



The body is basswood, the neck is maple and the fretboard is rosewood.



The output jack is is attached to a strat style jack plate.



On the top of the instrument is a combination volume control/power switch.  There is also a green LED power indicator and a headphone jack.


Here’s a video demo of it:

Electric Harp Ukulele

Difficulty: Advanced+

Cost: $$$

Here’e something a little different.  It’s a ukulele with three extra harp strings.  I want to eventually build an acoustic harp ukulele too someday, but I thought I’d tackle this first.

Here’s a early plan of what I thought the electric harp ukulele would look like.  I originally wanted to have individual pickups for each set of strings, two volume controls, and a selector switch.  I also planned on using a curved control plate.  After laying out the parts, I realized that the body would be too crowded if I didn’t modify the design a bit.

The body is a solid slab of alder.  I carved out an arm bevel on the upper left corner of the body.

I also put a “tummy cut” on the back.

After the body and neck were roughed out, I couldn’t help but put some yarn on the uke to mock up where the strings would go.

Here’s what the body looked like after the first coat of green wood stain.


Here’s the body after a few more coats of wood stain, and some Tru-Oil.

The neck is maple and the fretboard is rosewood.  Instead of a chrome control plate, I made a custom maple one.

I bought the 7 string pickup and bridge from eBay because they are fairly uncommon items.  The control plate has a master volume and the output jack.

Many people have asked about how the harp strings are tuned.  They are tuned to whichever notes are needed for the song you are playing.  I mainly tuned them to the root notes of the chords I am playing in the song.

I really pleased with the body color and and finish. I used Briwax Wood Dye and Tru-Oil.

This project turned out great.  I’m pumped to make an acoustic harp ukulele now.


See it in action:

Travel Ukulele

Difficulty: Advanced

Cost: $$

I really love making compact travel ukuleles. In fact, if there is someone that has made more varieties of travel ukuleles than me, I’d love to get to know them. 🙂


Here’s another travel ukulele that I built. It’s concert size made with a hunk of maple.


The friction tuners have white buttons. The wraparound for the strings is chrome along with most of the other hardware.


Even with a scale length of 15 inches, the overall length of this uke is right around 20 inches. It’s small and sturdy; perfect for travel.



Here it is with a travel ukulele I built back in 2012.


Violin Bass Ukulele

Difficulty: Advanced

Cost: $$$

I’ve made a few bass ukuleles.  For this one I wanted to try a slotted headstock and a multiple piece neck.  I also wanted to make one that only has 3 strings.  It is still tuned like the bottom 3 strings of a normal bass guitar (E, A, D).


Here it is before I added the finish.


The neck was made with 5 pieces of wood; 3 maple and 2 padauk.  The body is alder wood.


I gave the body a dark brown finish.


Just making sure that everything fits together nicely.  I gave the body a dark brown finish.  The fretboard is bubinga.


Now the instrument is complete.  I used Aquila Thundergut strings.


The under saddle piezo pickup has a volume control and an endpin jack.  The saddle is made with purpleheart wood.



The laminated wood neck looks nice and snazzy.


This project turned out really nice.  Even though it’s really small, it packs a punch.

See it in action!

Tenor Acoustic Ukulele

Difficulty: Advanced

Cost: $$$

The more and more I play the uke, the more I enjoy a slightly longer scale length.  I like having the bigger fretboard and the fuller sound.   So I made an acoustic tenor ukulele.



I got a tweed hard case for it. They look really snazzy together.


The back, neck, and sides are cherry. The top is spruce and the fretboard is rosewood.


See it in action!