Fully Playable Soprano Ukulele - 3D printed without supports!
Download and print the latest version of my 3D printed Ukulele design. This instructable will walk you through everything you need to know from printing to tuning of the 3d printed ukulele. This ukulele design has evolved over about a year, to print reliably while providing a finished product with great play-ability and sound. This latest version includes new guides in the 2 piece neck to aid in assembly and for the first time 3D printed tuning pegs. The only non-3d printed parts are the tuners and strings. Join the many who have already printed this soprano Ukulele from all over the world.
Step 1: Material and Tools
What you Need
- Access to a 3D printer with a build volume of at least 7 inches by 3 inches and a 6 inch height (11 inch height preferred).
- 1kg of ABS or PLA filament (you end up using over half)
- Standard Guitar Tuners - example link
- Soprano Ukulele Strings - example link
Required Tools - You will need access to the tools below to complete this project.
- Phillips Screw Driver
- 10mm Wrench
- Super Glue
- Sand Paper
Optional Tools - These tools will make the assembly and clean up of your prints easier.
- razor blade / knife
Print with ABS or PLA?
ABS sounds better, but it much more difficult to print. ABS has a tendency to crack if the plastic cools too fast. To print with ABS you must have a fully enclosed printer with a heater. If this is your first time printing large pieces or you are printing the 2 piece file I strongly recommend printing with PLA. PLA does not crack and is not sensitive to the rate at which it cools after being printed (no cracking or warping).
- If you printing with PLA make sure you have a cooling fan on your part.
- Be careful with your spools and prevent the filament from getting tangled. This can happen when the end is loose and unravels from the spool (when not connected to the printer). Keep the end of the spool tight and secure so it doesn't unravel (I just use a small piece of masking tape on each spool end).
Step 2: Download the Correct Files
1 Piece vs. 2 Piece files - How to decide?
Whether you can print the 1 piece body and neck or the 2 piece body and neck is dependent upon the build volume of your printer. The parts have the same length and width requirements, but the 2 piece files reduce the required height.
1 Piece Neck and Body - Length 7 inches, Width 3 inches, Height 11 inches.
2 piece Neck and Body - Length 7 inches, Width 3 inches, Height 6 inches.
2 Piece Files - If you're making the 2 piece neck and body, select the files with the following names:
1 Piece Files - If you're making the 1 piece neck and body, select the files with the following names:
Step 3: Printing the Neck
To print the neck use 50% fill with a perimeter of 3. The 50% fill is required to give the neck enough strength to withstand the tension of the strings.
Supports are not required for either the 2 piece or the 1 piece neck. Supports can be added to improve print quality of the frets. I generally do not use supports when printing the neck (especially the 1 piece).
If you're using PLA make sure to get good cooling on the part. It is needed to let the frets build properly since they are overhanging. Printing the neck in ABS is generally successful without any special considerations.
Step 4: Printing the Body
To print the body use 50% fill with a perimeter of at least 3 or 4. The 3 or 4 perimeters allows the walls and main part of the ukulele to print at 100% while reducing the print time in the neck and bridge area.
Supports are not required for either the 2 piece or the 1 piece body, but can be used to improve print quality of the 2 piece files. If you're printing the 2 piece body supports on the bottom can help the print quality of the very bottom where there are steep curves. Supports on the top portion can help the sounds hole quality (perfect circle). If you're printing the 1 piece body supports are not recommended because they are hard to remove from inside of the body.
- If you're using PLA make sure to get good cooling on the part at the beginning
- If you're using ABS ensure you have a fully enclosed printer with your heated bed turned up high. If the part cools unevenly the ABS will crack ruining your print.
Step 5: Assembling the Body
Skip this step if you're are using the 1 piece body file
It is recommended that you glue the body first to practice for the more sensitive neck.
- First clean up anything in your body especially if you used any supports. It will be very difficult to remove the supports after you connect the top and bottom.
- Use course sand paper to rough up the edges to be glued without sanding down the edges
- Test fit and practice placing the pieces on precisely.
- Apply a small amount of glue on all areas to be attached with a little extra at the guides at the center of the body.
- Place both pieces together and make any adjustments to alignment very quickly.
- Hold the top and bottom together with pressure while glue sets (usually about 30 seconds to a minute).
- If your glue drips during assembly quickly wipe the glue. Even if you don't get it all off it will be easier to clean up in the future.
- Test your super glue before using it on your Ukulele. I recommend buying multiple super glues and testing them to understand the set time. A super glue with a longer set time will be better to use to allow you to make adjustments to your alignment.
Step 6: Assembling the Neck
Skip this step if you're using the 1 piece neck files
It is recommended that you glue the body first to practice for the more sensitive neck.
- Sand the guides on the neck so that the top and bottom piece fit tight with no gap.
- Ensure that the joint on the back of the neck is aligned perfectly. When you run your finger across the joint on the back you should feel no change in height. If it is not perfectly aligned sand and test again until the neck fits perfectly. This step is very important to ensure that your frets will work properly.
- Sand the flat surface area with rough sand paper without removing material (this is only to strengthen the bond of the glue).
- Place glue on one side. Guides which have already been prepared in previous step should align the neck properly.
- Hold the top and bottom piece together with pressure until the glue sets (typically 30 seconds to 1 minute).
- Check and recheck that your neck is aligned.
Step 7: Assembling the Ukulele
- Test fit the body to the neck. If it is very tight, then do not force it as it will be much harder to remove than fit.
- If it fits tightly clean up the edges of the ukulele body and neck. I use a razor blade to trim the edges and remove any plastic hanging over the edge.
- If after cleaning up the edges is still tight then start to sand the area of the joint and continue to test fit.
- Once it test fits snug and you're able to place the neck all the way on. Lightly sand the entire area that will receive glue with rough sand paper.
- Apply the super glue to the joint. You can add a lot of super glue as you do not need to worry as much about drips.
- Ensure that the neck is flat against the back and bottom of the body. If your neck is at an angle it will affect the play ability of the Ukulele by changing the point at which the strings hit the frets.
Step 8: Adding the Tuners
Change Tuning Pegs to 3D Printed Version (Optional)
If you would like your tuning pegs match your Ukulele, you can print the including peg head.
- 100% infill
- 3 perimeters were used for my print (but I don't think it matters).
- PLA w/ lots of cooling recommended.
- Cooling or primer tower can be helpful for print quality at the end of print.
- Remove the phillips screw holding the peg head that came with the tuners. Be careful not to lose the washer and bushing.
- Pull the original peg head off and replace with your 3D printed version.
- Push the peg on with your hand until it is tight up against the bushing and washer.
- Re-secure the phillips screw.
- If the head is loose and doesn't engage the tuner (happened with one of my prints). You can take a lighter and heat up the head (take if off the tuner first). It will close the hole. Test fit it again until you get a tight enough fit.
Install the Tuning Machine
- Remove the threaded bolt cover the top of the tuner.
- Put the tuner into a hole in the headstock from the bottom. Make sure to keep the small tab on the tuner on the inside and bottom (there are left and right tuners).
- Replace the threaded bold cover over the top of the tuner from the front side of the head stock.
- Tighten the bolt finger tight and adjust the tuners to align as you like based on preference for looks and ensure that the pegs do not hit each other when spinning.
- Once adjusted where you want it install the small screws into the tabs on the back of the tuner. This will hold them in position. I do not pre-drill these holes and allow them to self tap into the plastic.
- Tighten the threaded bolt cover with a 10mm wrench.
Step 9: Stringing the Ukulele
Tying the Knot
- Thread through the bridge starting at the hole facing towards the neck
- Loop the string around the longer end and under itself
- Loop under the short end behind the first loop.
- Repeat the same loop from step 3 at least 2 more times.
- Pull it tight.
Securing through the Tuner
- Thread the string through the hole in the tuner.
- Pull the string tight.
- Hold the string with your finger near the tuner and pull back out about 3 inches of string length.
- Start winding the tuner so that the string faces towards the inside.
- Stop winding when the string starts to make sounds and proceed to next step to tune.
Step 10: Tuning the Ukulele
Find a Reference Sound
- Before you tune your Ukulele you need a reference sound to tune to.
- You can use the video from this instructable for your reference sound.
- Pianos also work as reference. The notes of a Ukulele are GCEA.
- There are also tuners you can buy which will tell you to tighten or loosen the string. A tuner will cost around $15 dollars (for a decent one).
Tune the Ukulele
- Once you have your reference simply tighten the string to raise the pitch or lossen it to lower the pitch.
- It is easier to start with a pitch that is lower than the reference and raise the pitch to the right tone.
- When your strings and Ukulele are new you will have to tune often.
- I generally tune every time I start playing.
Your Ukulele is now done!