Introduction: Constructing the Laser-cut Folding Ukulele

About: Designer in origami, hand crafts, and rapid prototyping!

This folding ukulele is a soprano-size instrument that can be folded up into a package measuring about 9 inches long max. I bring mine everywhere! Here's a short video on how it works:

Follow these picture steps to construct your own folding ukulele from kit. The kit is available from

Before you get started...

- Please thoroughly read through these instructions before building.
- Test-fit all the pieces before gluing them together.
-  Note that all joints are to be glued unless otherwise specified. Pay close attention to the parts that are not to be glued.

You will need...

  1) Folding Ukulele Kit, available from
  2) Wood glue (such as Titebond II or superglue)
  3) Four cylindrical magnets, 0.25” diameter and 0.125” thick.
  4) Sandpaper, 150 grit and 220 grit.
  5) A small, flat file (like a needle file or slightly larger)
  6) A set of ukulele strings (or similar gauge fishing line:            0.024”, 0.032”, 0.034”, and 0.028” diameters)
  7) Two lengths of 0.25" hardwood dowel - 3.5" long and 1.75" long

Take your time and enjoy the building process, and of course enjoy your Folding Ukulele anywhere you go!

                        - Brian Chan

Step 1: Constructing the Head

The first component we will construct is the head, or pegbox, of the ukulele. It houses the pegs on which the strings will be wrapped. Because there is quite a bit of force on the pegs from the tension of the strings, it's important to make sure all the joints are well-glued.

Remember to dry-fit each part before gluing them together.

Step 2: Constructing the Neck (1)

Attached to the head is the neck of the ukulele, which also contains most of the fretboard.

Securely glue all the pieces together according to the sequence shown, after test fitting each piece.

After completing the last step on this page, flip the neck over to begin working on the fretboard.

Step 3: Constructing the Neck (2) - the Fretboard.

Start by gluing on the nut, part 17, onto the end of the neck. Make sure the nut is aligned exactly with the edges of part 15. Once the glue is dry, attach the frets (parts f1 through f15) onto the sloped ridges of part 10 so that the wider edge of the fret protrudes slightly (see detail). The completed fretboard should have the appearance of steps.

You may notice that frets 5, 7, 12, and 15 have tabs protruding out of them from below. Sand the tabs flush with the surface of the fret (see detail). These become fret markers, which are useful in learning to play ukulele.

Finally, drill the holes to 0.25"

Sand all around the edges of the neck. This is very important because your hand will be rubbing the neck a lot when you play. Proper sanding will prevent splinters from forming.

Step 4: Constructing the Body (1) - the Endoskeleton.

The endoskeleton is the inner frame of the ukulele. I designed it to have this internal frame because the opening, folding structure of the body necessitates a more rigid frame.

Glue the pieces together as shown. It is absolutely essential that you test fit all pieces before gluing them. Be very careful with the orientation of the pieces before you glue them; for example, it is easy to accidentally flip 24 and 25. Double-check before gluing.

Step 5: Constructing the Body (2) - the Shell.

NOTE: You may wish to omit 23 (the bracing) for a slightly louder, but less sturdy ukulele. Feel free to experiment!

Attach the fret supports (parts 42) and bracing (parts 23) onto the soundboard (part 20). Flip the soundboard over and assemble the bridge (parts 21, 22) and attach the frets.

Glue the endoskeleton onto the soundboard, test-fitting first to make sure that all the tabs fit well.

Attach the side panels (parts 31, 32, 33, 34, 36) onto the assembly. Make sure that all the panels are aligned vertically. You may wish to dry-fit part 37 while gluing the panels. After all the panels are in place, glue part 37 onto the entire assembly, being sure to fit all the tabs correctly.

Glue a magnet in each of the recesses on the body (see detail) and also onto the back cover (part 39). Make sure the magnets are aligned so that the back cover is attached to the body. Glue the tab (part 40) onto part 39 so that the holes are aligned (see detail)

Sand all around the body to round or chamfer the edges.

Step 6: Final Assembly

OPTIONAL PRO TIP: Use a violin peg-hole reamer to ream the peg-holes to a nice finish.

Glue the peg halves (part 41) together face-to-face, forming 4 pegs. Next, carefully file the pegs so that they have a tapered shape that fits snugly into the peg holes. This may take some time; The best way to do it is to file and test- fit it repeatedly until a good fit is achieved.

[DO NOT USE GLUE for the following steps]

Attach the head, neck, and body together using the dowels to pin them together. If the parts are too tight, sand them down until they fit. Tie a knot on the end of each ukulele string and insert the knots into the holes bridge, string them along the neck and into the holes on each of their respective pegs. Tighten the pegs, wrapping the string. Tune the instrument; attach the magnetic back cover. Your ukulele is ready to play!

Optionally, you can finish the ukulele in a wood varnish such as Tru-oil or gel varnish. Make sure not to get any varnish in the peg holes or the hinges, which would hinder their functioning.

To retract the ukulele into its portable mode, loosen the four strings and pull the knotted end from the body. Bundle the strings together (you can weave them around the peg heads) and fold the head adjacent to the neck, then the neck into the body, and replace the back cover. Your ukulele is ready to go anywhere!

I made a short video demonstrating the finished ukulele:

Thanks for watching!

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