Introduction: PVC Ukulele Stand (improved)
I've been accumulating ukuleles and decided it was time to build a stand; I have one stand, a folding one I can bring with me to classes and performances, but I wanted another one mainly for use at home. I decided to build it from 1/2" PVC.
While it's my own design it does borrow from others. I especially used some ideas — mainly for the base — from Stratomaster's PVC Single Guitar Stand.
The first version of this stand had stability issues. I've left all the steps intact but added a new step at the end showing how I improved the stand for greater stability. The pictures seen here show the improved version.
Step 1: Materials
Here's what I used:
- 1/2" PVC pipe. I used a single 10' piece with lots left over for mistakes/redesigns and another, entirely different project. The lengths I ended up using were:
- 2" x 2 pieces
- 3" x 6 pieces
- 6" x 1 piece
- 15 1/2" x 1 piece
*All these dimensions are approximate; the only one that's slightly critical is one of the 3" ones — and in fact 3" is only approximate for that one; really it should just be cut to fit. See Step 3 for details.
- 1/2" PVC fittings:
- 90° elbows, 4 pieces
- 90° street elbows, 5 pieces
- Tees, 4 pieces
- Caps, 2 pieces
The PVC pipe, fittings, insulation, and zip ties cost about $10 or so altogether. The primer, cement, cleaner, and paint cost more than the parts, but I'll have enough for several projects.
Tools and other supplies:
- Saw or pipe cutting tool. I used a power miter saw to cut my pipe but you can get away with almost any sort of hand or power saw, or use a pipe cutting tool.
- Scissors to cut the insulation
- Diagonal cutters to trim the zip tie ends
- Safety glasses. Use these while cutting! Also while gluing — you don't want that stuff in your eyes
- Disposable Nitrile gloves
- Carpenter's square
- Paper towels
I cut my pipe pieces and dry fit everything first. It held together pretty well by friction, but I wanted to cement most of the parts when I was happy with them.
Step 2: Base
The base is made from one 6" pipe piece, two 3" pipe pieces, two 90° elbows, one 90° street elbow, and one tee. They go together in a tee shape with the street elbow pointing up and the two other elbows pointing down — these act as legs to impart a small backward tilt to the stand for stability.
Step 3: Body Support
The section of the stand that supports the uke body is made from four 3" pipe pieces, two 90° elbows, two 90° street elbows, and two tees. Two of the street elbows go into the cross arms of one of the tees; then two 3" pipe pieces into the street elbows. Now for the only piece whose length really matters. The outer side of the square was about a 3" piece, but rather than a specific length I just marked and cut the piece to fit.
Another 3" piece connects the base of the tee to the base of the other tee, which is oriented vertically. (I ended up having to shorten this piece by about 3/4" due to an error while gluing the stand together. It still works, though the full 3" piece probably would have been better.)
Step 4: Neck Support
The neck support is made from two 2" pipe pieces, two 90° street elbows, one tee, and two caps. (There are three street elbows in the pictures. The one in the center pointing down I ended up omitting, instead pointing the tee down.) The street elbows go into the tee, pointed forward. The pipes go into the latter two street elbows and the caps go onto the pipes.
Step 5: Assembly
The vertical tee on the body support goes onto the street elbow on the base; the long pipe piece goes into the other side of that tee, and the neck support goes onto the other end of the long pipe. (Again, the pictures show a street tee on the neck support which I later got rid of.)
Step 6: Gluing
Once I was happy with the dry fit, I waited for a nice day and glued the stand together. The PVC cement is fairly noxious stuff, so I wanted a nice day when I could do it outdoors.
As seen in the pictures, I protected my hands and eyes with disposable Nitrile gloves and safety glasses. I had at hand a carpenter's square to check alignment, and a roll of paper towels for cleaning up as I went.
I tried to be careful to check I was gluing the right parts in the right places oriented the right way. I mostly succeeded...
I followed the directions on the primer and the cement. They come with a brush under the cap for application. You put primer on a pipe end and inside the fitting, then (while the primer's still wet) put solvent cement on both, then press the pieces together. The directions say to hold them together for 30 seconds, and they're not kidding: Especially in the first few seconds, they tend to want to push apart again if you don't. Apply the primer and solvent away from where the pieces are lying, because you will drip. Keep a paper towel handy and wipe up excess from the pieces immediately.
I checked the parts for squareness and levelness right away, before the cement grabbed up — which it does quickly.
When it came to making the square part of the body support, I glued elbows to both ends of the outer side, then glued both ends to the rest of the square at the same time. It wouldn't have worked to try to build up the square one piece at a time!
I did not glue the long vertical piece. This allows me to break the stand down somewhat for storage or transport, or to substitute a different length piece if I decide I need it for whatever reason.
Step 7: Cleaning
This probably should have come before gluing. Next time I'll do it in that order. The cleaner is about as nasty as the cement, so I used gloves and safety glasses again. It did a good job of taking most of the markings off the PVC — except a few spots where I suspect a drop of solvent got onto the marking and hardened there. The purple primer seemed mostly immune to the cleaner.
All of this might not have mattered; I suspect the spray paint I used would have covered the markings anyway.
Step 8: Painting
Online somewhere there's a nice tutorial about using PVC cleaner mixed with dye to stain PVC. This seems a good idea, because PVC doesn't take paint extremely well — it tends to flake off. But the dye is a bit of a hassle to get. I've also seen varying and inconsistent reports of attempting to do similar stuff using Rit dye. I thought I'd try that — on some extra PVC — to see if I could get it to work well for me. I had no success with it. It might be possible but my quick experiments didn't go well.
So I decided to go ahead and paint the stand. I've had good luck with Rustoleum 2X on other kinds of plastic, so I figured it was worth a try.
Rustoleum claims their 2X paint is "paint and primer in one", and if you think that's a load of baloney, I'm not going to argue. Normally I would use primer, but with PVC I'm not sure it'd help. Anyway, I just sprayed gloss black 2X directly.
As usual it's best not to try to get full coverage with one thick coat, but use several thinner coats.
I let the paint dry for about a day before doing anything more. I didn't want not-quite-dry black paint all over everything, especially my ukuleles.
Step 9: Foam
Finally I completed the stand by cutting pieces of foam insulation to length and cutting slits to enable me to push them onto the neck and body supports. I secured them with zip ties.
If I get ambitious enough one of these days I might upgrade the stand with some fabric sleeves to go over the foam. I'm a little worried the foam might stick to a uke that's been sitting on it too long. But it's probably okay.
And that's it! Pictures show the stand holding my Kala soprano and my Islander tenor. It's not big enough for my Lanikai baritone; maybe I'll make a bigger stand just for that.
This Instructable originally ended here. Since then I've made a multi-uke PVC stand that will hold my bari along with several other ukes — there's an Instructable for that too — and I've improved this one. See the next and final step.
Step 10: Stability Improvement
After using this stand a bit, I decided it had a problem: Not stable enough. When used with the tenor uke especially, it tended to tip. I thought it seemed pretty stable when I dry fit it originally, but either I didn't check it thoroughly enough, or the two changes that crept in between dry fit and final cementing (both of which had the effect of moving the center of gravity back a bit) had a bigger effect on stability than I expected. Perhaps both.
So I decided to fix that. I added two feet, each consisting of a 12" piece of tubing, a street elbow, and a cap. These give a 4-point rather than 3-point base, extending further back.
This probably isn't how I'd design it if I were starting from scratch, but it seemed a good way to improve the existing stand.
After testing, I painted the feet to match the rest of the stand. I didn't use PVC cleaner, and the markings didn't show through the paint, so that confirms I could have skipped that step. I also didn't cement anything. Friction fitting works well enough for these parts. (But cementing is still a good idea for the base and body and neck supports.)
It's a lot more solid now.