Homemade Banjo Ukulele

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Intro: Homemade Banjo Ukulele

making your own banjo ukulele from a neck taken from a kit and a cheap hand drum.

Please excuse any mispelling or mistake, I'm french and was taught english a long time ago ...

Step 1: Materials

- a ukulele neck and fretboard taken from a cheap soprano ukulele kit ($20 here in France). I bought mine here : http://www.thomann.de/fr/hosco_ukulele_kit.htm. Kit includes pegs and nuts. fine
- 8" hand drum (should cost about $15)
- a block of hard wood (1"1/2 x 2" approximately). I used sapelli, any harwood is fine.
- threaded rod (1/4", 2 ft.)
- aluminium tube (your threaded rod should fit in)
- 1/4" nuts + washers
- a metal piece with holes to make tailpiece. I used a piece of an old construction game called "Mecano".
- 2" of hard wood cleat (1/4" thick)
- plastic guitar saddle

Step 2: Making the Neck Longer

To play in tune, the most important thing is that the 12th fret must be placed exactly at the middle of the string length. If you attach the ukulele neck directly to the 8" hand drum, it won't work, you'll have to put the banjo bridge too near from the tambourine border in order to get a proper intonation.

THE SOLUTION : making the neck longer.

I used a block of hard wood and shaped in to fit the neck heel one side and the hand drum the other side. I used a dremel, various fillers and sandpaper.

When doing this, you should have in mind that the neck is slightly tilted back on a ukulele, this helps getting appropriate action and intonation. Measure this on the kit you use and try to shape the wood block in consequence.

This piece of wood makes the neck 1" longer. It could be more, since the more the bridge is centered, the best the ukulele sounds.

Advice : you must take care of the wood grain. It's always better to have the grain of the block perpendicular to the tambourine. the piece of sapelli I found was too short to do this.
Since the neck is attached with a nut, the problem is cosmetic, but if you can get a piece of wood allowing this, it will look better and will be more durable.

Step 3: Attaching Neck to the Hand Drum

This is how the neck is attached to the hand drum.

I drilled the heel and the hardwood and put two gudgeons to prevent the neck from rotating around the threaded rod.

The aluminium tube is cut to the exact internal size of the tambourine. Use washers everywhere it's possible (better look and finish and preventing loose fixation). Finish by nuts on the threaded rod.

Step 4: Glueing the Fretboard

See the kit's instructions on how to glue the fretboard.

This is how I did.

Finish the neck with sandpaper to get a smooth feeling.

Step 5: Making the Bridge

I cut the bridge in a piece of hardwood cleat.

The guitar saddle is cut to length and its side glued on the bridge.

On this peculiar prototype, the bridge is about 1/2" or less. Best height is obtained by trial.
I've tried several possibilities and it appeared that 3 legs bridges work best... At your convenience...

You can find 4 strings banjo bridges on the net, also.

Make slots to hold the strings using a thin filler. Be very careful at this point. Slots should fit the strings exactly for a better sound.

Step 6: Making the Tailpiece...

... depends on what you are using to attach the strings.

Attach the strings with small knots.

Step 7: Finishing the Neck

I used varnish but oil is good for finishing ukulele necks.

pegs are mounted in the headstock and nut is put at the end of the fretboard. Don't glue it, string tension is enough to hold it in place.

Step 8: Finished !

Advice : apply as much tension as you can to the tambourine skin !!! Heavy skin tension really improves projection.

Use an electronic tuner to place the bridge correctly (BTW bridge is not glued, strings tension holds it in place). Once done, use a fine pencil to mark the place of the bridge (for further use :)

I've mounted Worth CM strings instead of the awful black strings supplied with the kit.

And this is how the banjo uke sounds like :

http://balno.free.fr/work/banjolele.mp3

The recording is quiet bad, and I'm just an average player, but hope this will give an idea of the uke sound.

Optionnaly, if you want to play your banjo ukulele through an amplifier or P.A when gigging for instance, you can get a piezo transducer jammed between the skin and the central "leg" of the bridge. It works very well when plugged in a D.I box or a mint box buffer (http://www.scotthelmke.com/Mint-box-buffer.html)

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45 Discussions

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Drdendro

4 years ago on Introduction

Fantastic. The aluminium tube is a great idea; it holds the neck on and stops the wooden hoop from changing shape.

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wishes

4 years ago on Introduction

Heya, you may want to change the name of the item you are using from Tambourine to Hand Drum. A Tambourine has metal cymbals all around, when googling you will never find the hand drum. If you google Hand drum it shows the correct item

Thanks for the tutorial, now i have found the parts im going to make one :D

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Patented

4 years ago on Introduction

Combien est ce que sa coute au total ?

Whats the total price of this construction ?

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donjojo

6 years ago on Introduction

Hi! A billion of thanks for your tutorial!

I'm building my own banjolele today. I just have a few question:

How do you fix the bridge to the skin of the drum? Do you simply glue it? How?

How do you fix the aluminium tube to the other side of the drum (not the neck side)? Do you think it's better to have an aluminium or a wooden element?

En français:

merci mille fois pour ton tutorial! J'ai toujours rêvé d'avoir un banjolele et les prix sur le net sont monstrueusement cher. Je me fabrique donc le mien, à l'aide de ton tutorial. Quelques questions:

Comment fixes-tu le "bridge" à la peau du tambour? Est-ce qu'il n'y a pas de risques pour la peau?

A quoi sert exactement la tige de métal, derrière le tambourin?

Merci beaucoup!

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balnodonjojo

Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

Hi, the bridge isn't fixed on the tambourine skin, it is only maintained by strings pressure. We must be able to adjust its position from time to time.

And in french :)

Le chevalet n'a pas besoin d'être fixé, c'est la pression des cordes qui le maintient en place. Il faut pouvoir ajuster sa position de temps en temps. Je te conseille cependant de tracer des petits repères au feutre fin quand tu as trouvé la position idéale. Comme ça, quand on change les cordes, c'est facile de la retrouver.

La tige filetée et le tube servent à raidir le tambourin... Mine de rien, 4 cordes de ukulele, ça tire pas mal :)

Bonne construction et vive le ukulele :)

PS. Ce serait sympa quelques photos de l'objet ;)

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donjojobalno

Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

Thanks a million times for your crucial help!

I just finished my Banjo "Banjojo #1". I had some troubles on several moments, specially when fixing the neck on the drum. I also had troubles with the very last adjustments, for getting a proper sound and a sustained tune (i.e. in order not to have to tune it every 2 minutes).

I'm not a DIY-man at all, I had to try and purchase almost all the tools needed! So next time I'll probably change some elements and conceive a better tool.

But I'm already very happy with Banjojo #1!

Here is a link to a presentation video of the Beast:

https://dl.dropbox.com/u/19308726/Banjolele.m4v

As you'll see, it's not perfectly tuned and has a dirty sound - quite enjoyable, for me!

For doing it, I purchased:
A child hand drum, 8" (approximately 20 cm), 13€
A very cheap ukulele, 20€

Again, many thanks for your instructable!

Jojo

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donjojodonjojo

Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

Thanks! It's still experimental but I tested yesterday in rehearsal with my group and, well, it rocks!

Just a very important fact I noticed:

The humidity rate has a direct & huge impact on the tuning of the banjolele.
Humidity indeed distends the skin of the drum (if it's a natural skin, not a plastic one). Consequently, the bridge is lowered and the tuning of the 4 strings is altered. Strings are lowered and playing is more difficult.

So, when playing, check the "distortion" of the drum skin: if it's distorted, you just have to dry the skin (with a lighter, for example, but be careful...).

As Balno said, tension of the skin is primordial!

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Could you make this only instead of using a tambourine you use a round metal cookie tin of similar size?

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balnomattyuke

Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

Absolutely great !
I'm looking forward to hear this one !!! I bet it sounds really cool.
Thanks for posting this, you've made my day.

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balnobalno

Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

And yes, aquila special banjo set works great, I've recently tried this and id brings more tension, fine purchase.

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mattyukebalno

Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

Yes I was buying a set of strings for my usual uke and found these I did'nt know they made them until recently, I will try and do a recording but at the moment I only have a very fuzzy microphone.

Thank you for your very helpful instructions,

Matt

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balnomattyuke

Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

Hey Matt, I received your recording, really impressive, it sounds great and I love your strumming !
Good work ! BTW, I'd really like to see how you've made the tailpiece and how strings are attached... I want to make another banjuke and wasn't able to find the same metal piece used in the instructable...

Thanks, you've made my day !

François


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mattyukebalno

Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

Thanks very much for your lovley comments.
Well I don't really have a tailpiece on it. What I did was, drilled 4 holes about the same size as the strings in the tambourine wood. To prevent the strings rubbing on the metal or the skin I put on small strips of rubber where they would have come in contact with  the metal.

I hope the pictures explain it better.

 Thanks

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balnomattyuke

Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

Very clever !!!
I'll use this method on my next banjolele... Thanks for sharing !

François

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mattyukebalno

Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

Just an update. As i enjoy my banjolele so much i fitted it with a piezo, volume control and 1/4 jack so now everyone can hear how amazing it sounds. :D electric banjouke!