Introduction: Make a Ukulele From Old Compact Discs (CDs)
I made a ukulele-like instrument, the "junkulele," out of wood cutoffs and about 30 unsold copies of my 2007 solo CD. Please watch the video to get a better idea of what is going on here, but you may also follow along by reading this Instructable.
I glaze over the neck-making and woodworking portion of this build pretty quickly here; I'm assuming if you're reading this you either have already done that sort of thing or have already read and watched other tutorials that have explained it to you. If neither of those are the case, drop me a line and I'll help you out the best I can by pointing you towards some videos.
I also made this video about the build, explaining some of the steps in more :
ok, here we go!
Step 1: The Neck
I received some maple cutoffs from a friend's ukulele project. I thought it would be fun to make a uke from wood that he deemed unusable for uke-making, so i butt-joined two pieces together and added a spline to hold them in place. After cutting the neck shape out and shaping it, it actually survived and the added stability comes from the fingerboard which we'll add later.
Step 2: Making CDs Into a Body
Here's the fun part: I have 400 copies of my old CD left over so I thought it would be fun to make them in to things. First, I wanted the CDs to make music again - for real, not just ornamentation on a guitar - so i created this hollow body that uses the CDs as the amplifier.
CDs are brittle but when heated up bend quite easily. So I used Heat to bend over two sides of CDs @ 90 degrees to form the sides. (see pics of my simple jig). This will take some practice to get the timing and heat right - ad the art side gets real ugly if the heat hits it directly. I used a pice of scrap wood to push on the angle ad make it square.
I also used a soldering iron to melt pilot holes (instead of a drill) so I could overlap and connect these "CD tacos." I pop-riveted them together and also used the iron to melt the edges in to each other. Once I formed three sides I was ready to join them all together.
Step 3: Stick It All Together
Notice I used a cutoff from the neck wood to make a tail block in the body. I also connected the two via a 1/2' dowel to prevent the body from collapsing under pressure. If I did this again, I would use a 3/4" dowel or something stronger.
Once I had my dimensions figured out, I melted the corners together (as well as riveted them), screwed the neck block and tail block in to the body (again, do not drill, use a soldering iron to make the pilot holes) and then I was ready to overlap and epoxy flat CDs on the top and back. I also routed out the thickness of two cds (for the sides and top) from the neck block, so the fingerboard would be able to go over the body.
Step 4: Fingerboard and Hardware
I used some walnut cutoffs I had left over from another build to resaw a 1/2" thick piece to glue on as a fingerboard. I use the rest of the cutoff to form a tailpiece to hold the strings as well as a bridge (violin style) and a nut.
Now it tok some trial and error to finagle this all together as I didn't use any preset uke measurements. I wanted a slightly longer and wider neck for my hands, so I winged it. You can do your own. I also didn't add frets as I like the Japanese shamisen sound it has without frets. If you don't want to do real frets, you can cut cotter pins in half and glue them on the fretboard.
Step 5: String It Up and Play!
I had some old guitar tuners i put on to hold the strings and pulled the strings off a junky shop guitar. It took some trial and error to set it up but I was able to play it for several hours that day. In the weeks since I made it, the body has started to sag a little but it still works. I didn't expect it to last a day!
I think I could make a better, stronger one next time. Maybe you will? if you do, let me know.
Thanks and be good,