Picture of How to Build an Electric Ukulele!
When I saw the telelele on tumblr, I was inspired to start building one of my own. I had never built anything instrument related before, and it sounded like an easy way to prep me for building my dream project; an archtop/hollow body electric guitar. (possibly looking a bit like the Gibson Trini-Lopez) This project taught me a lot about making fretboards, wiring, and the importance of being patient while the paint is drying! Although its not perfect, and although i'm not quite ready for the hollow body yet, this experience was very important (and really awesome!) and I plan to build an acoustic guitar next to give me a little more experience with building guitars. This instructable is not specific to this design, but instead gives you the steps you need to build an electric guitar/uke/bass personalized just for you. If you want instructions specific to my design, just ask me on my orange board or inbox, and I will try to work something out! And for all you experts out there: yes, I probably did some things wrong; feel free to correct me! Hopefully you will understand what iv'e done! Enjoy!
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Step 1: Lingo

After I finished the instructable and read it over, I realized that people may not know what some of the guitar parts/ building related words meant. So, I made this list. Here we go!

- Pots: Potentiometers; Used to control the volume and tone of the instrument.
- Nut: Bone or plastic piece at the beginning of the fretboard that holds the strings in place
- Bridge: In this case the metal piece at the bottom end of the guitar that also holds the strings.
- Pickup: Electromagnetic pickup; helps amplify the guitar string's sound
- Machine Heads/ Tuning Machines: Guitar strings are wrapped through and around these to tighten or slacken the strings.

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Shanderson1 year ago
I too have made an Electric Ukulele... However, it didn't turn out as clean(?) as yours did.
However, I will let you judge that for yourself.

What do you mean it didn't turn out as clean? That ukulele is boss. I love the striping on the body and neck. Sure, the bridge wasn't a perfect fit, but it took me a while to notice it because I was fascinated by the rest of it.

How did you make the striping? It looks like multiple strips of wood glued together.

The fret board is zebra wood, and it looks like a marble cake.

The body was actually a sandwich of three different boards that I had put together. The top is cherry, walnut, oak in quarter inch strips. The bottom is cherry, maple, oak. The center is a creamy solid board of maple. I had made each separately and then crossed them to get my own 2" plywood, so to speak.

I did little of the electronic assembly since I didn't have the means (or know how) to fit all the components. Thanks for looking!

OutdoorGirl16196 (author)  Shanderson1 year ago
I like it! Did you come up with your own design? Also, how does it sound? I'm working on figuring out why mine goes off pitch when you try to play it.
sokuna7 months ago

Your instrument is very impressive. I've made a few solid body electric guitars pretty much the same way although I haven't tried to make necks yet. I have a few tips from my experience if you ever make another solid body instrument.

A plunge router with a template and a piloted bit would make much cleaner cavities for the pickup and electronics but I also did the job using a drill press and forstner bits. However, afterwards I went back with some sharp chisels and cleaned it up. Basically, you use different forstner bits to create curves of the appropriate radius then you use the chisels to connect the straight lines between them.

Two tools that make shaping the body easier are a spindle sander and a panel sander. The spindle sander was particularly useful for doing inside the horn and the curves, use the largest size drum possible for the job to avoid leaving valleys. You can buy drum sander attachments for the drill press which will do the same job. I used the panel sander to smooth out the curves on the body, roll the body into the panel and keep turning the body, if you let it stop you'll leave a flat spot. A belt sander that is squared off and mounted on it side securely can do the same job although you'll need to clean the paper frequently.

You mentioned the instrument goes off pitch when played, there are a few possibilities you can check out with a tuner. If it progressively goes out of tune as you go up the fretboard the bridge may be too close or too far from the neck. You may be able to correct this using the saddles but if it is too far off you may need to reposition the bridge. Another possibility is that both the nut and the saddles are too high or too low, depending of the height of the strings from the fretboard, the amount of pressure to fret it will change the pitch. You may be able to correct this by adjusting the nut, saddles or the height of the fretwire (last resort).

If the instrument is off pitch inconsistently between frets you may have made slight errors with the spacing. Unfortunately there isn't much to do about this. You may be able to bevel the frets slightly to adjust this but ultimately the best fix would be to replace the fretboard.

If the instrument is off pitch going from open to the first fret, then your nut is too high or too low, you can use needle files to adjust the height of the grooves in the nut if they are too high, if they are too low you can either shim the nut or replace it and try again.

This is one of the bodies I've made although this one I used a plunge router for the cavities, you can see the bite marks and filler where I slipped with the router. I used 1" maple and mahogany instead of one 2" piece so I could get a two tone effect and so I could use the top of the mahogany as the floor for the neck pocket and pickup cavity, although I still had to route it deeper.

julio navarro9 months ago

You are a very impressive young lady. Keep up the good work.

Did you solve the problem with the lose of pitch?

OutdoorGirl16196 (author)  julio navarro9 months ago

Thank you! And yes, I did fix the pitch problem. I simply had to adjust the position of the nut!

is the templet the Stretched out one ? if not what are the dimensions if i may ask (great project by the way)
OutdoorGirl16196 (author)  aharðarson1 year ago
the template is the picture on this step. there is a link to it in the step. i'll try to get somw dimensions of it in a day or two
and thank you
Seeing examples of young folks with consequential interests and skills warms my soul. Excellent Ible, I love the drawings, uniquely fun and informative. Awesome ukulele, well done!
OutdoorGirl16196 (author)  technovative1 year ago
thank you!
I've made a regular paddle style soprano ukulele. what works really well for shaping the neck is a sanding drum. You can buy them single out as a set to fit your drill press. You then lock the press at the height you want to work with and start shaping.
oh yes! thanks for the tip! We have some of those, i never thought to use them for that
Skye21711 year ago
May I ask how old are you? And did you make it by yourself? :)
OutdoorGirl16196 (author)  Skye21711 year ago
i'm 14, and I did everything accept soldering, drilling the hole where the jack goes, cutting out metal plates
This is a seriously impressive Instructable, and a beautiful piece of work. Even without looking through the other entries for this competition I've cast my vote for you already.

Your drawings are not only clear and informative, you have a really cheerful drawing style which makes them especially attractive.

I've been planning on building a telecaster over the winter months but am now seriously tempted to make one of these first. Thank you for posting it.
Wow! Thank you for your vote! (I could really use a new leatherman) If you end up making a telecaster, send me some pictures! I'd love to see how it turns out!
uding501 year ago
Thank you very much
sylrig1 year ago
Nice job! And I like your use of hand drawings to add information.
OutdoorGirl16196 (author)  sylrig1 year ago
Thank you! I'm glad the drawings helped.
i worked at fender HQ for much of my adult life, and i think this thing is FANTASTIC! great job, BTW, fender has a contest for product ideas, you should look into it.
OutdoorGirl16196 (author)  chriswatsen1 year ago
Cool! I definitely will! and thank you for your feedback.
rhino1 year ago
Extremely awesome! Here is a link to one of the best guitar building websites out there. It says it is a Telecaster forum, but folks are building everything under the sun there.
OutdoorGirl16196 (author)  rhino1 year ago
Thanks for the link! It seems like a cool site.
onemoroni11 year ago
I congratulate you for how great this worked out and all your good work. Love the sketches.
OutdoorGirl16196 (author)  onemoroni11 year ago
thank you!
Jerry991 year ago
I predict that the "Outdoor Girl Guitar & Ukelele Co." will be a big success. An excellent project executed superbly.
OutdoorGirl16196 (author)  Jerry991 year ago
hahaha, thanks!
While you're at this you might also find it fun to look at the people who are building Cigar Box Guitars. Check out http://cigarboxnation,com
I actually have seen that site! its pretty cool!

I am seriously impressed. Seriously. Your work quality speaks highly of you.
Thank you!
pehughes1 year ago

Very seriously impressed here. Well thought out and elegantly related through your drawings and narrative. You reference those before you that had ideas you could borrow to fulfill your endeavor. Very beautiful, high quality work!
I play a uke, or at least try to. You have rev'ed me up up to start on my own electric. I will be borrowing your ideas!

Thank you.
OutdoorGirl16196 (author)  pehughes1 year ago
Thanks! I hope yours goes well! When your done, tell me how it sounds!
Quizicat1 year ago
Quite an undertaking. Particularly the neck and fretboard. I see you found Stew-Mac. They are a wonderful resource. They have great tutorials on guitar repair (free).
The washer thingy is called a ferrule. I am surprised you didn't go so far as to wind your own pickups since you did all the rest. :) Also you could use a plane to round out the neck. How long did this project take you? How does it sound? Nice work!
OutdoorGirl16196 (author)  Quizicat1 year ago
Thank you! It took me about a month, more or less. And I actually did decide to wind my own pickup, It sounds a lot better than I thought it would. The whole rig sounds great, except for the pitch problem with the strings (I am working on resolving).
hreid1 year ago
Awesome job, there. Did you do all of this yourself because, please don't be offended, you don't even look 15. If you're as young as you look and you did all of this on your own, it's all the more impressive.
OutdoorGirl16196 (author)  hreid1 year ago
thank you very much. I am actuslly 14, and I did the majority of it myself, except for where I have noted; my grandfather helped me rout out the part of the body where the neck goes in, He soldered the wires where I had attatched them (I am terrible at that), He cut out the metal plates from the templates I made, and drilled the hole in the side where the jack goes. There was a crack in the wood we did not see, so it was very difficult not to break. (while drilling that hole)
smstivers1 year ago
Could you show the steps to build the pickup?
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