Instructables

Playable Cardboard Ukulele...

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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.
 
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Step 1: 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

Step 2: Templates...

Picture of Templates...
Attached are word files (now also in PDF!) with templates for the body and neck.  Print and cut out each template.  Glue these templates onto some thin cardboard or cardstock (I used a file folder) because you will be using them a lot.  In the files, the templates are labeled as follows:

Body A: Top (aka Soundboard)
Body B:  Middle
Body C:  Back

Neck A:  Edge
Neck B: Middle

Step 3: Trace templates...

Picture of Trace templates...
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Trace the templates on to the corrugated cardboard.  You will need the following number of pieces (save some extra pieces of cardboard in case you need more later):

Body A: 1
Body B: 9
Body C: 1

Neck A: 6
Neck B: 7

Tips: 
1)  The majority of the body pieces should be cut with the lines of the cardboard running along the length of the piece.
2) Mix in a few pieces of "Body B" cut in other directions to provide strength in all directions.
3) For the neck, cut the pieces in a variety of orientations, but avoid any with the lines running along the neck.
4) Avoid any areas of the cardboard that has dents or wrinkles. 

Step 4: A couple more...

Picture of A couple more...
Trace Body A and Body B onto non-corrugated composite carboard sheet (the back of a legal pad or thick cereal box should work).  Do not cut the notch out of the Body B piece.
baconrocks2 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?
freeza362 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)  freeza362 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.
freeza362 years ago
just wondering, did you draw the templates yourself? I wand to make a telecaster shaped cardboard uke.
tele.jpg
eplunkett (author)  freeza362 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 speakerz2 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.
parrster2 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)  parrster2 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_ROBO2 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_ROBO2 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_ROBO2 years ago
Sounds like you have a good plan.
uncle frogy2 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
jonnyboy3232 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)  jonnyboy3232 years ago
Love it! Thanks for posting pictures!
http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=2768626016662
eplunkett (author)  Paul.Helbert2 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.Helbert2 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.
"Wood glues": http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wood_glue

The problem is mainly with the PVA's, I think. Epoxy might be kind of spendy for this project, except for setting the neck, It does set up hard, is gap filling and does not reqire as much pressure. It might give altogether different acoustical properties. Hummm...
http://www.facebook.com/photo.php fbid=2745865127654&set=a.1100213307387.2017816.1288317674&type=1&theater

Awaiting Fedex for tuners and strings.

Happy Thanksgiving!
Here goes: http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=2768626016662
eplunkett (author)  Paul.Helbert2 years ago
Awesome! I love the little debbie cardboard!
ampaxx2 years ago
Would it be correct to assume that all these steps could be replicated using wood? would that even work?
eplunkett (author)  ampaxx2 years ago
I would think so. Since it was designed for cardboard, it will be very overdesigned for wood. And it probably goes without saying that your tools for the job will change (saw versus hobby knife).
jcee22 years ago
Thats Insian! Can you even play it?
eplunkett (author)  jcee22 years ago
Yeah, its definitely playable. Here's a link to the youtube video of me playing it:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9we7wwHr_Co
freeza362 years ago
What are Cotter Pins? I probably sound really stupid, but i must know in order to make this.
eplunkett (author)  freeza362 years ago
The second picture In step 1 shows a cotter pin. They are usually found in the specialty section of the fastener department of a hardware store. Both major hardware stores in my area have drawers of them in different sizes. I would select the thinnest ones you can find in the 1.5 inch length.
Thanks. I am going to have to build this. Do you play uke?
eplunkett (author)  freeza362 years ago
The YouTube video is me playing... I started playing this past January, but I've been working a lot these days, so I haven't been playing as much as I'd like.
cool. I just got my Lanikai LU-11 in august. I have been more focused on guitar than uke recently, so i cannot play much.
They are also called 'split pins', depending on where in the world you are. They are often used with shackles to stick through the hole in the end of the bolt and the ends of the pin are then pried apart to ensure the nut doesn't come undone.
eplunkett (author)  ericocean2 years ago
Ericocean, thank you for replying to this, I was having a hard time describing the purpose of a cotter pin. I appreciate you doing that!
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