Building a Tenor Ukulele




Introduction: Building a Tenor Ukulele

This is a tenor ukulele that I built from a StewMac kit.  It was a very fun project.  The ukulele sounds great!

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Step 1: Assemble the Sides and Bindings

The kit came with pre-bent mahogany sides and linings.  They are close to the correct shape, but not perfect.  You need to assemble a jig to hold the sides in place while attaching the neck block and tail block.  When they are glued in place, it's time to attach the linings.  Clothespins make perfect clamps for this step.  Make sure you get good quality clothespins with strong springs!

Step 2: Add Top and Bottom Bracing

Next step is to add bracings to the top and bottom of the ukulele.  The bottom bracings have a slight radius, and will add a curve to the bottom of the ukulele.  They must be held in place with clamps while gluing to make sure the bottom conforms to the radius.

Step 3: Attach the Top and Bottom

Next, attach the top and bottom to the sides.  The top is glued on first.  Since it is flat, it is easy to clamp in place with weights to hold it down.  Make sure the linings are trimmed flush with the top of the sides.  There can be no gaps between top/bottom and sides!  When gluing the bottom in place, you can't have too many clamps.  I could have used more!  Since the bottom is convex (remember gluing the radiused bottom braces?) all clamping pressure is around the edges.

Note the overhang on top and bottom.  This will be removed later with a router and flush trim bit.

Step 4: Soundhole Purfling

This step ended up taking a lot of time.  The purfling is made of several thin strips of contrasting colors.  I glued them in using very thin super glue.  The trick is getting the ends to line up at the start of the circle.  I ended up leaving a gap, and putting in an additional thin piece to separate the start and end of the circle.  As it turns out, this will all be hidden under the fretboard, so you can't see the seam anyway.

Step 5: Neck Work

The neck comes as two separate pieces - neck and fretboard.  Drill holes for the dots on the edge of the fretboard using a 1/16" drill bit.  The "dot" material is a long rod of plastic.  Glue in place, leaving some excess to trim flush.

The frets will be added to the fretboard before it is glued to the neck.  The frets come as a long piece of fret wire, which is gently hammered into the fret slots.  Then the ends are trimmed, and smoothed with a file.

Step 6: Prepare for Finishing

Once the neck is completed, it is attached with glue (you can also use dowels for reinforcement, but I chose not to do that).  Fitting the neck to the body is very time consuming with a lot of sanding and filing to make sure the neck sits flush with the body.

After the neck is attached, mask off the fretboard and the spot where the bridge will be attached with masking tape.  Very important not to get finish where the bridge is glued on, or it will not stick!

I used several coats of sealer and spray laquer for finishing.  It really brought out the figure in the mahogany beautifully.

Step 7:

After the finish dries, remove all of the masking tape.  Glue the bridge in place, and make sure it is well clamped!  I used a deep c-clamp through the sound hole to clamp the bridge to the body.  Fit here is critical.  The bridge must make perfect contact with the top.

Finally, add some strings.  The strings that came with the kit are not very good, and probably should be replaced before you play it for the first time.

A bit of fine tuning, and you are ready to tiptoe through the tulips.

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    3 Discussions


    7 years ago on Introduction

    I also made one of those a year ago and it is a superb instrument.