Introduction: Electric Uke for Around $40
Before i begin, i must appologise that my phone is being very unkind and putting the pictures in the wrong folders, so i could'nt find about half of the pics i took. i am also still waiting for tuning pegs to be shipped, so there are currently no finished images, but i will update as soon as the tuning pegs come. I have tested the strings, though, (one by one so i dont break the neck) on a tenor uke to make sure that they can get the correct notes without the tension being too high for the neck.
I originally was not planning on making this into an instructable, so i must apollagize that most of the pics are of the (nearly) finished product. I decided to post it because it fit into the make to learn contest and it seemed like a good first instructable.
If you are not a judge for the contest just want to learn how i made this and don't really care about the questions, skip ahead, but, you may find the answers helpful.
I made a steel string, electric ukulele, originally to sell to a friend, but he changed his mind half-way through the build and i decided to keep it. Instead of nylon strings like a regular ukulele, i took guitar strings and tested them until i found ones that could be tuned to the notes of a tenor ukulele. It was made from red oak and birch (not common for guitars, but both are excelent tonewoods) and i only used common, basic(ish) tools, such as a router, jig-saw, and a sander.
I made it by laminating two 3/4" oak planks together (you can youse a solid piece if you find one big enough), cutting them to shape, carving a scarfed neck, painting it, assembling it, winding pickups for it, and putting on hardware and electronics. I made it with instructables and youtube as my only helpers, but i soon found that nothing like it already existed ( at least not that i could find)
I made it in my garage over the course of a few months, and worked on most of the smaller parts in my room. I spent hours on it a couple of times when i was doing the paint or sanding and left my freinds playing halo all alone. (I think that's what it means by how it tied into other activities in my life, but if not, then my answer to that is that i play nearly every instrument with strings and lofe to build things and challenge myself)
I learned to take half the money up front if someone has you make them something so you dont get stuck with half a guitar that you can't afford to finish. I also learned how to use a router and an airbrush (turned out better than even i expected) and how to fret a guitar. The most important thing i learned was to be patient, i was careful with every step, and precticed with each new router bit and technique along the way, and not to use cheaper materials that you just happen to have lying around because you dont want to wait to go to the lumber yard. The biggest suprize, wich made me very emberassed, and kind of made me laugh, was when i re- measured the scale length so i could include it in step 2, i realized that i had the scale- length for a tenor and not concert. If i had to redo this, (wich i probably will because i want to start selling ukuleles and mabe even guitars to my friends.) i would use better copper wire in the pickups, mabe use a lighter wood (the thing weighs nearly the same a my Les Paul) such as ash, alder, maple, or mabe even poplar on the body if it wasnt going to be moved and carried much, have a rosewood fingerboard rather than stained birch, and find a way to have adjustable saddles on the bridge.
Now, on to creation!
Step 1: Picking Your Style
You can model your uke after prettymuch any guitar ever made (even accoustic, but you wont be able to use this instructable if that's your goal) these pics are just to give you some ideas
I (my friend) chose a cross between a thinline flying v and an esp/bc rich V (i cant remember wich it was)
This step may seem unimportant, but will affect many aspects of the build, such as swich positions and shapes, but nothing really worth making another instructable for.
You will also need to chose wich wood(s) you will be using and calculate the amount that you will need (may vary depending on model you chose). ( neck size is most important and will not vary unless you decide to make a concert, wich would be more dificult because i will not give measurements for a concert... the scale length for a concert is 15 inches... there! i told you! satisfied!?)
Step 2: *insert Whitty Step Title*
laminate your wood (if you're not using a solid piece) and be sure to only laminate enough for the body so you are left with thinner pieces for the neck and head if your piece is large enough... if its not, you can just use a seperate piece, even of a different wood for the neck.
then trace your design on to the wood and cut (make sure that there is enough room to have 6 3/4" from the base of the neck to the bridge and at least 1 1/2 inches at the top for moumting the neck, so... minimum 9 inches body length)
Step 3: Silky- Smooth Corners
not a very long step, but, sand the edges and corners so they feel very smooth (do not sand the area where the neck will be mounted)
Step 4: Neckify It
i am sorry that the pics were taken after the uke was painted and dont really show much, but i wasnt going to post it at the time the neck was made
as you can (barely) see in the second photo, the neck and head have been glued together and cut so they appear nearly seamless, wich kinda makes a picture pointless
I did my best to illustrate the process in paint, if that is helpful
other than that, all you need to know is that the back of the neck should be routed and then sanded round, and the neck is 10 1/4 inches long. also it is 1 1/4" wide at the top and 2" wide at the bottom.
keep in mind that these measurements are not 100% important: you can make the neck whatever width you find comfortable, and neck length is un-important as long as the length from nut to bridge is 17 inches (15 for a tenor) these are just the measurements used on ukuleles that i have.
Step 5: Smiley Bolts
the next thing to do is attach the neck (you can paint first if you really want to and have already done the routing on the body)
I used a bolt- on neck, wich, you may have noticed, is smiling, but you can also do a neck- thru if you know how and chose to.
the first thing to do is route out the space where the neck will go and make it as snug as possible and make sure your neck is straight. then, clamp your neck in place so it will not move and pre drill your holes (make sure to have some sort of depth-stopper so it won't come out the other side). after that, HAND SCREW (very important) the strongest and widest threaded wood screws that you can find into the holes. the screws can also be included in your paintjob if you think it will look good.
Step 6: Routing
There is no pic for this step, because it will very depending on wich guitar that you choose, but the step is to route out holes for the electronics. make sure to leave a little extra room for wires and have a shape that you can create a thin, craftwood cover for.
Step 7: Paint!!
paint your guitar however you want, i have nothing to do with this step and it is completely your choice.
Step 8: Creating a Fingerboard
the fingerboard in the image is from a different ukulele i made because i could not find the correct picture on my phone
You want to find a wood that looks good in a thick ness that is correct for your ukulele, once you have done this, you cut it to shape and fret it. Before fretting, you have to mark the positions where the frets will be, either by using another uke that is the same size or using stew-mac's fret calculator (sorry for no link, but you can just search it on their website). To fret it, you saw holes with a fret saw, coping saw, or other saw with the correct kerf, then tap the frets in with a rubber mallet and glue them.
Then you glue on the fretboard and sand the seam smooth
Step 9: Electronics and Hardware
i made my pickups using the following instructable https://www.instructables.com/id/Make-A-Guitar-Pickup/
-the pickups and other electronics were placed into the holes i routed out a few steps before
-i made a metal version of the bridge in the image by grinding a chunk of steel i found and filing in the slots
-the strings on mine were thru-body, so i didnt have to build a more complicated bridge
-i cut a cover for the back from 1/8" plywood and painted it black
-when the tuners arrive, i will drill the corect size holes and screw them on
-i clear coated it and polished it and put my own logo on the head
sorry for lack of photos, my phone is pretty old, abused and dosent really organize files, so i cant find anything in there, i will update with better pics soon
Step 10: You're Done!!!!
Enjoy your new ukulele my friend (who i havent met and probably won't). I will post the finished pictures as soon as the tuners come and i get my dad to let me use his camera, but for now, you get a monkey.
Participated in the
Make-to-Learn Youth Contest