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Picture of Homemade banjo ukulele
making your own banjo ukulele from a neck taken from a kit and a cheap tambourine.

Please excuse any mispelling or mistake, I'm french and was taught english a long time ago ...
 
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Step 1: Materials

Picture of materials
- a ukulele neck and fretboard taken from a cheap soprano ukulele kit ($20 here in France). I bought mine here : http://www.thomann.de/fr/hosco_ukulele_kit.htm. Kit includes pegs and nuts. fine
- 8" tambourine (should cost about $15)
- a block of hard wood (1"1/2 x 2" approximately). I used sapelli, any harwood is fine.
- threaded rod (1/4", 2 ft.)
- aluminium tube (your threaded rod should fit in)
- 1/4" nuts + washers
- a metal piece with holes to make tailpiece. I used a piece of an old construction game called "Mecano".
- 2" of hard wood cleat (1/4" thick)
- plastic guitar saddle

Step 2: Making the neck longer

To play in tune, the most important thing is that the 12th fret must be placed exactly at the middle of the string length. If you attach the ukulele neck directly to the 8" tambourine, it won't work, you'll have to put the banjo bridge too near from the tambourine border in order to get a proper intonation.

THE SOLUTION : making the neck longer.

I used a block of hard wood and shaped in to fit the neck heel one side and the tambourine the other side. I used a dremel, various fillers ans sandpaper.

When doing this, you should have in mind that the neck is slightly tilted back on a ukulele, this helps getting appropriate action and intonation. Measure this on the kit you use and try to shape the wood block in consequence.

This piece of wood makes the neck 1" longer. It could be more, since the more the bridge is centered, the best the ukulele sounds.

Advice : you must take care of the wood grain. It's always better to have the grain of the block perpendicular to the tambourine. the piece of sapelli I found was too short to do this.
Since the neck is attached with a nut, the problem is cosmetic, but if you can get a piece of wood allowing this, it will look better and will be more durable.

Step 3: Attaching the neck to the tambourine

Picture of Attaching the neck to the tambourine
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This is how the neck is attached to the tambourine.

I drilled the heel and the hardwood and put two gudgeons to prevent the neck from rotating around the threaded rod.

The aluminium tube is cut to the exact internal size of the tambourine. Use washers everywhere it's possible (better look and finish and preventing loose fixation). Finish by nuts on the threaded rod.

Step 4: Glueing the fretboard

Picture of Glueing the fretboard
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See the kit's instructions on how to glue the fretboard.

This is how I did.

Finish the neck with sandpaper to get a smooth feeling.

Step 5: Making the bridge

Picture of Making the bridge
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I cut the bridge in a piece of hardwood cleat.

The guitar saddle is cut to length and its side glued on the bridge.

On this peculiar prototype, the bridge is about 1/2" or less. Best height is obtained by trial.
I've tried several possibilities and it appeared that 3 legs bridges work best... At your convenience...

You can find 4 strings banjo bridges on the net, also.

Make slots to hold the strings using a thin filler. Be very careful at this point. Slots should fit the strings exactly for a better sound.

Step 6: Making the tailpiece...

Picture of Making the tailpiece...
... depends on what you are using to attach the strings.

Attach the strings with small knots.

Step 7: Finishing the neck

Picture of finishing the neck
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I used varnish but oil is good for finishing ukulele necks.

pegs are mounted in the headstock and nut is put at the end of the fretboard. Don't glue it, string tension is enough to hold it in place.

Step 8: Finished !

Picture of Finished !
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Advice : apply as much tension as you can to the tambourine skin !!! Heavy skin tension really improves projection.

Use an electronic tuner to place the bridge correctly (BTW bridge is not glued, strings tension holds it in place). Once done, use a fine pencil to mark the place of the bridge (for further use :)

I've mounted Worth CM strings instead of the awful black strings supplied with the kit.

And this is how the banjo uke sounds like :

http://balno.free.fr/work/banjolele.mp3

The recording is quiet bad, and I'm just an average player, but hope this will give an idea of the uke sound.

Optionnaly, if you want to play your banjo ukulele through an amplifier or P.A when gigging for instance, you can get a piezo transducer jammed between the skin and the central "leg" of the bridge. It works very well when plugged in a D.I box or a mint box buffer (http://www.scotthelmke.com/Mint-box-buffer.html)

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Drdendro11 months ago

Fantastic. The aluminium tube is a great idea; it holds the neck on and stops the wooden hoop from changing shape.

wishes1 year ago

Heya, you may want to change the name of the item you are using from Tambourine to Hand Drum. A Tambourine has metal cymbals all around, when googling you will never find the hand drum. If you google Hand drum it shows the correct item

Thanks for the tutorial, now i have found the parts im going to make one :D

Drdendro wishes11 months ago

You can just buy a tambourine and cut the metal cymbals off it.

Patented1 year ago

Combien est ce que sa coute au total ?

Whats the total price of this construction ?

donjojo2 years ago
Hi! A billion of thanks for your tutorial!

I'm building my own banjolele today. I just have a few question:

How do you fix the bridge to the skin of the drum? Do you simply glue it? How?

How do you fix the aluminium tube to the other side of the drum (not the neck side)? Do you think it's better to have an aluminium or a wooden element?

En français:

merci mille fois pour ton tutorial! J'ai toujours rêvé d'avoir un banjolele et les prix sur le net sont monstrueusement cher. Je me fabrique donc le mien, à l'aide de ton tutorial. Quelques questions:

Comment fixes-tu le "bridge" à la peau du tambour? Est-ce qu'il n'y a pas de risques pour la peau?

A quoi sert exactement la tige de métal, derrière le tambourin?

Merci beaucoup!
balno (author)  donjojo2 years ago
Hi, the bridge isn't fixed on the tambourine skin, it is only maintained by strings pressure. We must be able to adjust its position from time to time.

And in french :)

Le chevalet n'a pas besoin d'être fixé, c'est la pression des cordes qui le maintient en place. Il faut pouvoir ajuster sa position de temps en temps. Je te conseille cependant de tracer des petits repères au feutre fin quand tu as trouvé la position idéale. Comme ça, quand on change les cordes, c'est facile de la retrouver.

La tige filetée et le tube servent à raidir le tambourin... Mine de rien, 4 cordes de ukulele, ça tire pas mal :)

Bonne construction et vive le ukulele :)

PS. Ce serait sympa quelques photos de l'objet ;)
donjojo balno2 years ago
Thanks a million times for your crucial help!

I just finished my Banjo "Banjojo #1". I had some troubles on several moments, specially when fixing the neck on the drum. I also had troubles with the very last adjustments, for getting a proper sound and a sustained tune (i.e. in order not to have to tune it every 2 minutes).

I'm not a DIY-man at all, I had to try and purchase almost all the tools needed! So next time I'll probably change some elements and conceive a better tool.

But I'm already very happy with Banjojo #1!

Here is a link to a presentation video of the Beast:

https://dl.dropbox.com/u/19308726/Banjolele.m4v

As you'll see, it's not perfectly tuned and has a dirty sound - quite enjoyable, for me!

For doing it, I purchased:
A child hand drum, 8" (approximately 20 cm), 13€
A very cheap ukulele, 20€

Again, many thanks for your instructable!

Jojo
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donjojo donjojo2 years ago
Thanks! It's still experimental but I tested yesterday in rehearsal with my group and, well, it rocks!

Just a very important fact I noticed:

The humidity rate has a direct & huge impact on the tuning of the banjolele.
Humidity indeed distends the skin of the drum (if it's a natural skin, not a plastic one). Consequently, the bridge is lowered and the tuning of the 4 strings is altered. Strings are lowered and playing is more difficult.

So, when playing, check the "distortion" of the drum skin: if it's distorted, you just have to dry the skin (with a lighter, for example, but be careful...).

As Balno said, tension of the skin is primordial!

balno (author)  donjojo2 years ago
This one sounds and looks great !!!

Bravo !

François
balno (author) 2 years ago
Last minute, I've found this kit :

https://www.cbgitty.com/cubecart/concert-ukulele-parts-pack-everything-except-the-body-.html

and considering building a concert sized version.
Could you make this only instead of using a tambourine you use a round metal cookie tin of similar size?
mattyuke5 years ago
FINISHED here it is
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balno (author)  mattyuke5 years ago
Absolutely great !
I'm looking forward to hear this one !!! I bet it sounds really cool.
Thanks for posting this, you've made my day.

balno (author)  balno5 years ago
And yes, aquila special banjo set works great, I've recently tried this and id brings more tension, fine purchase.
mattyuke balno5 years ago
Yes I was buying a set of strings for my usual uke and found these I did'nt know they made them until recently, I will try and do a recording but at the moment I only have a very fuzzy microphone.

Thank you for your very helpful instructions,

Matt
balno (author)  mattyuke5 years ago
Hey Matt, I received your recording, really impressive, it sounds great and I love your strumming !
Good work ! BTW, I'd really like to see how you've made the tailpiece and how strings are attached... I want to make another banjuke and wasn't able to find the same metal piece used in the instructable...

Thanks, you've made my day !

François


mattyuke balno5 years ago
Thanks very much for your lovley comments.
Well I don't really have a tailpiece on it. What I did was, drilled 4 holes about the same size as the strings in the tambourine wood. To prevent the strings rubbing on the metal or the skin I put on small strips of rubber where they would have come in contact with  the metal.

I hope the pictures explain it better.

 Thanks
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balno (author)  mattyuke5 years ago
Very clever !!!
I'll use this method on my next banjolele... Thanks for sharing !

François

mattyuke balno4 years ago
Just an update. As i enjoy my banjolele so much i fitted it with a piezo, volume control and 1/4 jack so now everyone can hear how amazing it sounds. :D electric banjouke!
cflowers6 years ago
Awesome build! I featured it on The Daily Hack. Keep up the great work! :-)

Charlie Flowers
DailyHack.net
balno (author)  cflowers6 years ago
Hey !!! Thanks to everybody for the positive feedback !!! So cool !!! By the way, it seems I messed around with the size of the tambourine... Actually, I think it is a 8" tambourine... I measured 21 cm. diameter, I do believe it corresponds to 8"... Sorry for the wrong conversion, we are usually using centimeters in France and I made a mistake while converting in inches. Thanks to everybody and keep on strummin' anyway !!! François
Cool hack!
I have the same problem with inches and feet as i am from Sweden.
You can use the same online converter as i did when making my instructable http://www.instructables.com/id/How-to-build-an-Eskimohut-in-wood/.

Link: http://www.ekdahl.org/omvandlare.html
I'm from america but i'm living in russia right now so i have the same problem in reverse. Also, celcius throws me off a bit.
jesse8fox16 years ago
i have been waiting for this thank you... there isnt that many how to make instruments on instructabels
ya I'm going to try this with a six string from an old guitar.
balno (author)  abadfart6 years ago
I'd really like hearing this !
abadfart balno6 years ago
i got the idea from a dean i saw in a guitar shop
balno (author)  abadfart6 years ago
Great idea... looks like this http://images4.thomann.de/pics/prod/206771.jpg

Do you plan to get a 10" tambourine ? I guess it would look better.
abadfart balno6 years ago
ya
it'll be a guitlele
or a ukeitar
mattyuke6 years ago
For anyone wanting to make this in England this is the cheapest place I can find a drum for is

http://www.normans.co.uk/p-990-percussion-plus-pp876-8-inch-tunable-hand-drum.aspx

good luck
balno (author)  mattyuke6 years ago
Great deal for the price !!! Skin looks OK, I'd be very interested in hearing its sound. BTW, this model seems to have only 4 tensioners, if they're good, no matter, but remember the best sound is obtained at a really high skin tension and prepare yourself to turn the screws a lot ;) Many thanks and I hope to see (and hear) your own banjolele soon :)
mattyuke6 years ago
Where did you get the hand drum from I cant find any with tensioners? Awesome Instructable I'll try it when I get the parts
balno (author)  mattyuke6 years ago
I bought this one on an online store : http://www.thomann.de/fr/sonor_gthd8n_handdrum.htm. They're not really good. Tensioners work right, but skins are cheap ones... The most important thing about banjolele is skin tension, the more tension you get, the best it sounds.

I guess I could make my banjolele sounds a lot better just by replacing the head by one of these : http://www.stewmac.com/shop/Shop_by_instrument/Banjo:_Heads/1/Weatherking_Banjo_Heads.html

I'm still looking for a better tambourine for my next project indeed.
mattyuke balno6 years ago
Thanks i'll be getting started soon hopefully.
GusGrass6 years ago
I always wanted a reason to buy one of the kits from here...<br/><br/><a rel="nofollow" href="http://www.grizzly.com/products/Ukulele-Kit/H3125">http://www.grizzly.com/products/Ukulele-Kit/H3125</a><br/><br/>
balno (author)  GusGrass6 years ago
For sure, this is a great kit. If I had a chance to get one, I think I'd follow the instruction book faithfully. Looks like it would make a great regular ukulele :)
excellent! both your playing, and the ukulele. how does it sound compared to a regular ukulele?
balno (author)  mynameisjonas6 years ago
Thanks :) It actually sounds a lot louder, but with less sustain. Though it uses nylon (or exactly fluoro-carbon) strings, it has that peculiar banjo flavour. I realized that the tambourine skin is really important in the sound.
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