You can't make a ukulele with a pocket knife they say.

You need hundreds of dollars worth of fancy tools and super special skills and fancy materials they say.

Well you can consign those views to the scrap heap of history. This uke will be built with a pocket knife(and a ruler) using mostly materials you can get from a $2 shop or your recycling bin. The only special materials here are the tuning pegs which can be bought on ebay for about five bucks.

  • One 60 cm length of 89 by 19 radiata pine found in shed ($3.78 for a 1.2m length)
  • One pocket knife $3.99
  • One pack cheap superglue $2.00
  • a steel ruler $2.00
  • One pack thumb tacks $1.95
  • Ukulele Tuning Pegs $4.69
  • Some bamboo toothpicks ($2 for quite a few)
  • 1/4 sheet of 40 grit sandpaper (48c for a full sheet)
  • An empty PET bottle (Type 1 recyclable).
  • Ukulele strings (tenor) - or 40 80 60 and 30 lb fishing line ~$10-20 depending on quality. My fishing line was $3.80 a spool.
  • A beer bottle cap full of methylated spirits (denatured alcohol) and a lighter.

When buying tuning pegs try to get ukulele tuning pegs and not guitar tuning pegs as Guitar tuning pegs are longer, which may mean they won't work as well in this design. Feel free to substitute wood glue for super glue or staple gun for thumb tacks if you have them in your tool kit or think the kids might superglue their foreheads to the table.

For those of you who are having trouble with the embedded video Try this:

Demonstration video

Step 1: OK So the Pocket Knife Is a Bit of Dud

After removing the pocket knife from its clamshell packaging, the blunt state of the saw blade was revealed. A bit of work with a triangular file was required to make it cut wood at all.

<p>I have a very old guitar here that has bar frets that remind me of those metal strips one sees in wooden rulers. Since I have lots of broken band saw blades in the shop, I was thinking of grinding them down to use for frets. </p>
<p>Great idea. Detempering them first might make them easier to handle. Otherwise levelling and smoothing off the sharp edges will take ages. </p>
<p>Just gave using an old broken bandsaw blade of my own a bit of a try. Did not bother detempering it. I just put the blade in a fret slot in some scrap. The blade I had was very thin and wobbled a bit in the fret slot. I glued it in using super glue and hit it with the file. It shaped quite nicely if a bit slowly. It needed a bit of work to make it blunt enough to not cut my finger. It looks doable but will need a fair amount of work to get rid of edges and make them smooth enough so they don't cut either your fingers or the strings.</p>
<p>You could perhaps purchase a cheap angle grinder and a diamond wheel, to grind the saw blade. Make a custom clamp to hold strips of saw blades, as well. </p>
What a great build - you have managed to outdo the mass production guys that sell the little electric uke that has the same shape as yours - by adding that really innovative membrane not only does it have a real nice sound as an acoustic but I bet it would be wicked with a little pick up added.<br>Made with simple tools<br>Looks cool<br>Did not cost an arm n a leg.<br><br>Brilliant
<p>I'm sitting here with a big smile on my face, this is awesome! I though I'd contribute with a little bit of theory on wavelength and frets!<br>When measuring and installing a neck you can easily determine where the string's octave will be, half the distance between the bridge and stable. You can do this because doubling the frequency = going up one octave: the A-string on a guitar is 440Hz (wavelength 78.41). The octave is 880 (wavelength 39.20), next octave 1760 (wavelength 19.60). And so on.<br>This is true for all frequencies. </p><p>This is also why the frets get closer together the further up the neck you go.</p><p>So if you have a good ear you can fret an entire guitar entirely by ear.<br><br>Here's a video that explain things better than I can: <iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="281" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/i_0DXxNeaQ" width="500"></iframe></p>
<p>me too (big smile)</p>
<p>That is just beautiful! What a master craftsman; thank you for sharing </p>
Anyone else using an Android Tablet? I'm told there is a video on this instructable ...but I can't see it I guess cause I can not find one on here ..was wondering if its an Android thing..<br>
<p>Added link to youtube video</p>
<p>Have been ndoing CGs for a while, will try this because it is a product of genius</p>
<p>Great job. Good Luck!</p>
<p>I think I will make one of these. Fortunately, I won't have to deal with a no-quality pocket knife like that one. :-) </p>
<p>nice. one suggestion/question though. would cut down pieces of wire coat hangar work better for the frets? </p>
<p>The wire coat hangers are tougher than toothpicks but they do not have a flat bottom, making them much more work to attach. Plus being a dissimilar material from wood suffer from different expansion stresses when tempratures change, meaning they may be difficult to glue. The cigar box nation has lots of badly organised information on alternative fret materials used from copper wire, framing nails to bobby pins.</p>
<p>not sure the expansion/contraction rates would be much of an issue since most fretted string instruments use metal frets. </p>
<p>Agreed about the coat hanger frets... I have unsuccessfully tried it 3 times on 2 different Cigar Box builds. Actual fret wire is fairly inexpensive, but not as inexpensive as the skewers. Bobby pins cost about as much as fret wire (almost), but I have been successful with trimming and gluing them down as frets. They honestly sound about as good as the traditional frets in my opinion (depending on the guitar of course... and I am only talking handmade guitars at that). <br><br>Here's the Cookie Tin, Dulcijo I made using the bobby-pin frets: http://www.cigarboxnation.com/video/cookie-tin-dulci-jo-sound-check </p>
<p>Oh, and I don't mean to just spam your comments here <a href="https://www.instructables.com/member/titchtheclown/" rel="nofollow">titchtheclown</a>. Great uke! Awesomely bright, and loud sound. I can't play a uke, but would love to build a 3 or 4 string 25&quot; scale version. :-)</p>
<p>The profile of metal frets are a rounded T, or mushroom shape. Frets are held in a slot by tangs on the vertical of the t section. I have filed frets nice and even with the edge of the fret board only to find that after leaving it in the hot car the frets hang out by a bit leaving sharp edges. The frets stayed in fine they just hung out by a bit. This was contributed to by me using wood that was not 100% dry and wood can shrink considerably when it loses moisture.</p><p>Some of the ways used to fasten ordinary (round) wire as frets include shaping it into staple like shapes and hammering the staple ends into drilled holes or having a separate fret board and rolling the wire around the fret board before gluing it on. This technique was invented by Beethoven, hence the song - Roll over Beethoven ;) Some of the examples I have seen of these methods look really down home and rustic in a good way. It is a awful lot more work than toothpicks though</p>
<p>Great job. I want to make one just like it.</p>
Awesome work! only thing that would have made it better, would be a small sample of how it sounds..<br><br>
<p>Fantastic instructable and completely within the ethos of the old days of the site. Well done </p>
<p>OK so the knife is a little dodgy but we will soldier on.</p><p>I carry the big Vitorinox Swill Army knife and the saw is unbelievable. If you do this kind of stuff or just repair get one. Doesn't have to be the big one but it should have the wood saw( will and has cut a 2X 4) and file/metal saw. The steel is top line so the tools work -perhaps best Phillips driver I have ever used . The small slot driver is also a real can opener. Biggest drawback is it needs to be checked when you fly and I carry the knife everyday. Then there is the toothpick!.</p><p>Consider it part of a DIY uniform of the day. </p>
<p>I'd like to be Captain Obvious and state that your commentary and self deprecating humour really made an already nice project , a great one.</p>
<p>nice. one suggestion/question though. would cut down pieces of wire coat hangar work better for the frets? </p>
<p>Clever build!</p><p>Round of applause for soldiering on with the cheap crappy &quot;knife&quot;. You demonstrated that determination and sheer bloody-mindedness trumps money and expensive tools. </p><p>I think the PET bottle resonator membrane was the best idea you presented in this instructable. I hope to appropriate that idea for a fretless banjo head.</p><p>Again: Bravo, Sir!</p>
<p>I wouldn't say you can't make a ukulele with a pocket knife. You just can't make a ukulele profitably with only a pocket knife. That is where thousands of dollars worth of woodworking equipment helps. Great job on your build though.</p>
<p>This is THE instructable that I have been waiting for, Ive been wanting to build and learn how to use a ukelele and i have parts for it but Ive been toointimidated by the very complex builds and their cost. Thank You!!!</p>
<p>Amazing... just amazing!!! WELL DONE!! I've got to build this! I love playing ukuleles and I always wanted to build one... Also, I was wondering if you could use a screw or something like that instead of a real tuning peg? Again GREAT job! </p>
You can use bolts, and eye bolts are popular with cigar box guitar makers, but they actually cost more than tuning pegs. I show how to make wooden ones in my good enough for the bush tahitian ukulele instructible. You need more tools than just a pocket knife but.
<p>Amazing instructable! This is defnitely a project I'd like to do in the future</p>
<p>This is a really cool project. Thank you for sharing. I would love to make an instrument, but I am very intimidated by them because I am not musically inclined myself.</p>
<p>Wow! That sounds amazing! You would never have been able to tell that it was made with so few tools!</p>
This is amazing!!

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