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Picture of Playable Cardboard Ukulele...
This Instructable will show you how to create a playable soprano ukulele from cardboard and items found at your local hardware store (plus some tuners and strings).

A video of the cardboard uke in action can be found on YouTube.

Step 1: Materials...

Picture of Materials...
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Items you need for this project:

Several large shipping boxes made from corrugated cardboard.  The tighter the corrugation the better.
Several sheets of non-corrugated composite cardboard like cereal boxes or the back of notepads
2 fully threaded bolts or a threaded rod
4 geared guitar or ukulele tuners with flanged bushings
1 set of soprano ukulele strings
12 1.5" long cotter pins
2 small hinges
1 bottle of wood glue
2 wood screws (1.5 - 2 inches)

Tools:
Sharp hobby blade
Pencil
Measuring tape/Scale
Drill
Screwdriver
 
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eplunkett (author)  isaakol2 years ago
Perhaps. Is it all the frets that are wrong? Can you send me the Distance from the nut to the bridge? Then send me the distance from the nut to the first fret.
gboy11972 years ago
Just one quick question, how would you rate the durability of the uke? I mean, I'm not going to go about smashing it or anything, but I just don't want the thing to be destroyed by a minor accident, you know? Does all the cardboard packed together keep the uke pretty sturdy?
ltafalla2 years ago
can i use foam bord from dollar tree ?
two questions
one: where do you get the tuners just at a music store?
two: do you have to use the correct carb-board
eplunkett (author)  DIY and STUFF2 years ago
1) You can buy tuners at music stores. You don't have to get ukulele specific tuners. I bought one set at a little shop and another set on amazon.com. They key is that you get tuners that have a flanged bushing.... not all of them have that.

2) I'm not sure what kind of card board you are considering. I'm sure that there are other types of cardboard that would work for this project. I chose to use mostly corrugated cardboard because it is stiff and its strength to weight ratio is high. Also, I had a lot of it. If you make it out of something else and it works, I would be interested to see the results.

Good Luck!
Thank you i will look into that
look what your instructable made my kitchen table into lol
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eplunkett (author)  DIY and STUFF2 years ago
I love it!
I am trying your method with !/2" plywood and 1/8 plywood sound board and back by your plans. Did bust band saw cutting curve. ues my scroll saw I am currently sanding body and need to cut neck. will post pick here need to pull camera out.
eplunkett (author)  [Silver Dragon]2 years ago
I am really interested to see how this project turns out!
GCR2 years ago
Could I paint this? Or would that mess with the resonance?

Thanks!
eplunkett (author)  GCR2 years ago
I have yet to paint any of mine. I am considering building another one that I will paint, but I have yet to do it. I've searched online to find people posting their homemade ukes using these instructions and found that some of them are painted. They still seem to have pretty good sound. (I laugh when I get questions like this because I should think that corrugated cardboard would have terrible resonance, and yet it actually has surprisingly good sound. So, when it comes to adding paint, I really have no idea.)
warehouse322 years ago
cotter pin frets = genius!
wnordmann3 years ago
I think I missed the step of "completely dry" and the head of my cardboard Ukulele bent forward once I started to tighten up the strings.  

I am afraid I will have to start over from scratch.  I don't think I can get the neck to separate from the body,  


Mine very definitely was completely dry, but the head of it bowed forward as well... the action is nearly 3/8 in and I still haven't managed to get it in tune for more than a few seconds, because I don't want to let it keep bending. Does anybody have any ideas about why this might be or how to fix it? Is the issue just my own shoddy construction?
fritz412563 years ago
Looks great gonna try to cover some of the peices in carbon fiber to strengthen
BenBurge3 years ago
This is amazing! I think i might just attempt to make my own, if it works out i'll post some pics! Thanks for the idea!
baconrocks3 years ago
I was wanting to create a jaguar/mustang shaped acoustic cardboard ukulele, similar to the Strat shaped acoustic guitars. Do you think the bridge design from these plans will work with the offset shape, or will I need to find a different bridge design for my cardboard uke?
freeza363 years ago
you need to share how to play house of the rising sun, like ou do in yor video. I know 4 versions on guitar, and that is the 1st song that everyone in my family that plays learned.
eplunkett (author)  freeza363 years ago
I learned how to play by watching Ukulele Mike's tutorial on youTube. When I posted this instructable originally, I wanted to link to his video, but it appears it has been taken down. He might be willing to send you the video file if you contact him.
freeza363 years ago
just wondering, did you draw the templates yourself? I wand to make a telecaster shaped cardboard uke.
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eplunkett (author)  freeza363 years ago
I had a soprano uke sitting around. I think you could probably find a picture online that you like and size it to make your own template. Just make sure you have enough meat around where the neck meets the body for the string load to get in there.

Once of these days, I'd like to make a "solid body" cardboard uke that is electric... I'm thinking about going Les Paul, when I do.

If you make something, be sure to post some pics.
Hey what brand and kind of geared tuners did u use. could u also tell me where you bought them (i.e. in store, online)?
I too was wondering the same thing, so I investigated a bit more, and I just wanted to make sure that you also found, there is a comment by @eplunkett from November 21, giving specifics about the tuning pegs.
Slowly but with determination, my version is ready. Well almost. I have only one string but as a test, it seemed to sound ok with no buzzing. A set of strings in the mail any day.
Instead of cotter pins I cut up some baling wire, filed the edges. With a very small file I made an indentation for each wire fret to fit.
Also instead of hinges, I cut up an old piece of a license for the string holder, drilled holes for strings and screws and used 3 screw to hold it in place.
Inside I glued a shiny side out piece of cardboard from box of crackers because I thought maybe the sound would bounce around better with a smooth surface.
At this point the uke looks great, but it's more of a sculpture than a playable instrument because of the strings. Any day now it will come alive. It's a great project and again I thank you for the idea, work and for sharing.
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eplunkett (author)  joe speakerz3 years ago
Very nice! You will have to report back about lining the inside of the cardboard... I've been considering this. I really like the tailpiece that you put on there.... I might do something similar on a future version. Thanks for posting!
Strings arrived, all tuned up. Moment of truth came when I strummed a tune. The cardboard uke is now making music. There was some adjustment of the wire frets but easy enough. The sound is pretty amazing all things considered. It is indeed a playable instrument now. If I were to ever make another one, I would consider using composite cardboard for the sound board to see if the volume or sustain were changed. The uke is fun to play or just to look at. A real fun project.
parrster3 years ago
You did a fantastic job. In fact I was so impressed I used your idea to do create a Ukulele instructable of my own, with a few mods. See it here http://www.instructables.com/id/Make-a-Ukulele-out-of-Cardboard/

Lacks your artistic finesse, but being made of boxboard it's pretty robust.
Thanks for the idea and your wonderful instructable!
eplunkett (author)  parrster3 years ago
It looks pretty nice! Did you get it tuned up with some strings yet? I'm interested in how it sounds.
Thanks eplunkett, for the great idea to start with, also your awesome instructable, and lastly for the encouraging comment.
I don't have strings yet. I don't actually play, but I do have family that does. As soon as I get it stringed I'll get them to tune it and record them playing. That'll be the litmus test.
D_ROBO3 years ago
Here is my version of your cardboard ukulele. I had to wait for my tuners so I put some tape on the sides to hide the cardboard braces. Then I spray painted the whole thing. It looks really nice, but sounds bad. I'm continuing to experiment with it.
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eplunkett (author)  D_ROBO3 years ago
How does it sound bad? Does it sound like certain notes buzz?
I think so. The obvious problem I'm finding is that the string may not be high enough off of the frets. If I press on a fret the string makes contact with another fret or two up the fret board. I'm planning on raising my nut and saddle some and maybe redoing some of the neck to get a flatter surface. This is my first musical instrument in 10 years or so. So i'm rusty on proper operations of stringed instruments.
eplunkett (author)  D_ROBO3 years ago
Sounds like you have a good plan.
uncle frogy3 years ago
I like this project and was looking for what to do with some of the 4 x 8 sheets of cardboard I found (only slightly dented )
I have used some of it to make shelving inserts and found regular wood glue to be too much trouble and slow. I have tried a water-born wood finish such as stays clear and will not use anything else dries quick cleanup is easy has a good open time and adds strength and durability to the cardboard . works well when applying paper to re-enforce joints I used it like fiberglass. I am going to make one of these and I think applying paper to the inside would make the sound box more resonant.

uncle frogy
jonnyboy3233 years ago
Awesome Instructable. Thanks! Here is my replica! I noticed your barcode through your sound hole. Found a box with something applicable for my own :)
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eplunkett (author)  jonnyboy3233 years ago
Love it! Thanks for posting pictures!
http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=2768626016662
eplunkett (author)  Paul.Helbert3 years ago
Yay! After I wrote the instructable, I wound up gluing down my frets to eliminate buzzing. Looks like the rubberbands work okay too.

Thanks for sharing!
A few tips:

Be aware that once it has set, PVA (Crosslink Polyvinyl Acetate) glues such as Titebond II, will not stick to themselves. Thus you will want to keep it off the surface of the top of the stack of body parts prior to adding the bracing and soundboard unless you are so well organized that you are going to add those parts in the same glue-up operation as building the body. (I'm thinking that sanding will remove this plastic glaze once the glue is cured hard - stay tuned).

I'm sure the neck joint would be stronger without PVA glue oozed out in the mortise as well. I'm thinking of using epoxy thickened with wood flour there, since it is gap filling and will get a grip in the corrugation holes thus increasing surface area.

A couple of straight pins driven through the stack can prevent shifting while waiting for the glue to set.
eplunkett (author)  Paul.Helbert3 years ago
This is really good info. I did not know that about wood glue. Is this plastic glaze a problem with all wood glues? Honestly when I was making my first cardboard uke, I just used whatever glue I had an it worked. I like the idea of epoxy with wood flour.
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