Make your normal (preferably cheap) ukulele into an 8-string uke. An 8-string ukulele is played just like a normal ukulele, so you won't have to re-learn chords or anything! I call this the "gizmo" mod
Before we start, you should know, to make this all simpler I've created a PDF printout that you can download here (right-click > open in new tab):
This includes the instructions, and a cut-out tape-on shape (template), which you will need for this project.
I also made an instruction video where I show you how to make this step by step (might be simpler to follow on video):
Update: I just made a 2nd instruction video where I test different 8-string ukuleles to see what you should use for the best sound: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8P_StPNyPso
If you want to help me keep creating music, and creating free plans like this, you can join my Patreon page: https://www.patreon.com/boxmonkey
Patreon is a great system where you can make small donations and get special perks/advantages! Even being a $1 contributor would help me out a bunch! :)
Now you've downloaded the PDF printout, here's what you'll need to build your gizmo ukulele:
- a ukulele. any can work, but you might have to adapt so that everything fits on there nicely. I based these plans on a Bugs Gear soprano plastic ukulele, and a Makala Dolphin soprano ukulele. I like them both, because they sound surprisingly nice for cheap ukuleles, and their heads have just the perfect shape to be turned into 8-string gizmo ukuleles!
- 4 full-closed guitar tuning pegs. these come in packs and are pretty cheap. it's much harder to find ukulele full-closed tuners, but guitar tuners are just perfect for this anyway. if you could only find open tuners, you can adapt it and it should still work, but it's harder to fit it all nicely. [~$9. for example off DX.com]
- washers with an 8mm hole in the middle (the right size for your full-closed guitar tuning pegs. you'll probably need either 4 or 8 of them only) [~$1]
- of course, strings. my favorite configuration for 8-string is 1 set of Aquila Supernylgut ukulele strings (G C E A) (code 104U), 1 single Aquila Red Series low-G (code 71U), and 1 set of charango strings (get off amazon or charangomall.com) to make the octave (high-C high-E and A). you can also just string it with only 2 normal ukulele sets (or just 1), and it will sound a bit like a mandolin, but 8-string with octaves has a richer sound with more volume. [total price ~$20, or $13 if you take cheaper strings]
tools: a drill, 2 drill bit sizes: 9.5mm and 6mm, a small screwdriver, a tiny 1mm hand drill (1.5mm or 2mm would work too. if you can't find this make it yourself by wrapping the bottom of a normal drill bit in tape), a nail clipper (with a tiny nail file on it), a metal-saw (the one with very tiny teeth), a thin sharpie (permanent pen), tape, scissors
(if you can't find a 9.5mm drill bit, use 9mm)
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Step 1: Print Out and Cut the Shape
print the "printout" sheet if you haven't already (and any other sheet you might need) in A4 size. to make sure it was printed correctly, check that the lines to the right measure 15cm.
now cut out the shape of the ukulele head. if you're using a bugs gear ukulele, cut on the dark blue line, and if you're using a makala dolphin ukulele, cut on the light green line. if you're using any other ukulele, measure the width of its head to see if you should cut the paper a tiny bit wider or thinner (it shouldn't vary more that 1mm) (you can cut off the knobs you won't need them).
Step 2: Remove the Tuning Pegs
now remove the strings of your ukulele
unscrew and remove the tuning pegs
by the way you'll see even the cheapest chinese full-closed tuning pegs work much more smoothly than the little open tuning pegs that come with cheap ukuleles.
Step 3: Tape the Sheet Onto the Head
now position the sheet perfectly on the front of your ukulele's head. you should tape it on so it holds there nicely.
Step 4: Mark and Cut the String Slots
at the place where the sheet meets the nut (bottom of the head), use your thin sharpie (permanent pen) to mark precisely where the string guides will be. that's the dark blue/gray lines for the bugs gear, and the light green for the makala. if you have another ukulele, no problem: the goal is to make slots the closest possible to the red lines (which indicate the ideal position), but if your uke has a slot that's nearly where the red line is, use it instead of remaking it (just make the second slot 2.4mm away from it)
finishing up the string slots: at this point it's a good idea to check that everything will fit nicely,
especially if you're using another ukulele than the bugs gear or the makala dolphin. to do so, check with a ruler that each string has enough space to go to its spot on the nut (where you just made a mark), without crossing another string so another string's tuning peg. if you're using another ukulele, also check that the spots where the pegs will be (the red circles) aren't too close to the edge (minimum 3mm). it's very probably fine unless you have a very strange ukulele. if that's all good, you can make slots with your metal-saw, at the places where you made the marks. check the depth by comparing it to the other slots, and don't make them too deep! you can always make them deeper later on. make it smooth with the tiny nail file on your nail clipper.
Step 5: Time to Drill the Holes!
basically the goal its to drill a 9.5mm hole everywhere where there's a 9.5mm red circle (for the full-closed tuning pegs) and a 6mm hole everywhere where there's a 6mm red circle (for the original ukulele open tuning pegs), but instead of doing it all at once it's safer if you do them 1 by 1, starting with a small drill mesh (like your 1mm manual drill), then gradually with a bigger and bigger drill. put in the tuning peg already just to check the size is correct, at least for the 1st ones.
You might need to widen the holes a tiny bit one way or another until you're perfectly happy with the way the tuning pegs fit in.
Step 6: Attach the Tuning Pegs
you have all your holes, and your tuning pegs fit just like they should. now just drill shallow holes for the little attachment screws on the back of the head, with your little 1mm hand drill. screw them in!
(if you're doing this with an electric drill, make marks, remove the tuners, then drill. i prefer using the hand drill. it's more precise and less work)
Step 7: Make the Attachment Points for the Strings
ok! hope that went well. one last important step: at the bottom of the ukulele (the "saddle"), make attachment points
for the new strings you will put. how to do that:
- on the makala dolphin, or most normal ukuleles: drill little holes with your 1mm hand drill, with the same spacing as you have at the nut (where you made your slots before)
- on the bugs gear ukulele, make a little extra slit, using your 1mm hand drill to make a series of little holes (see photos)
Step 8: Put the Strings on and Play!
just put the strings on and you're done! if some string slots need widening or deepening, you can do that without even removing the string. just loosen it, move it out of the way, and use your nail clipper file again.
special note for the makala dolphin: on the printout, the 2nd string has a little "<-w" under it. that means it's a good idea to widen that nut slot a little bit to the left. it'll keep it at a better distance from the 1st string. ok enjoy your new gizmo ukulele!
feel free to make your own "gizmo ukulele extras" (printouts, instructables, videos, whatever you prefer), or even to modify these plans. the SVG source file (that you can download here) can be modified using a great free open source program called Inkscape. just keep sharing!
If you want to help me create more free plans like this, you can join
Also, you can subscribe to my YouTube channel, if you want to be informed when I make other ukulele mods like this one. have a great time and good ukuleling!!
Hey you know what? If you made this using a soprano ukulele, you just made one of the smallest 8-string instruments there is! Cheers!