Rainbow-Themed Electric Ukulele

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About: i am an artist and musician. i make things of use out of things that no longer have use. i think the hip term is "upcycling." i post a lot of inspirational and entertainment videos on youtube.com/timsway. oc...

I made this rainbow-themed electric ukulele for a young musician. I used melted crayons to create the inlays. It was my first time trying this and I learned a few things that you may find useful (that I wish I knew before I started!)

I made a video about it here:

Step 1: Prep the Wood, Cut the Body

I used some reclaimed mahogany and locally sourced maple that I had laying around. The design was easy for me; I shrank down one of my CNC-ready guitar designs to the appropriate scale and cut away! I added a recess to the front for the "pickguard" (you'll see later) and I extruded a rainbow down the fingerboard for position markers.

The cut is not complicated to do on a bandsaw and the carving could easily be done by hand with rasps and planes. the fingerboard inlays could be made with a dremel tool.

Step 2: Add Some Color

I made little aluminum foil boats that I put atop my wood burning stove to melt the crayons and try to pour it in to the cavities It worked ok ad melted quickly, but this turned out to be unnecessary as I found it faster and easier to simply put a little piece of crayon over the cavity and hit it with a lighter flame. the crayon melts way before the maple chars.

I used a razor and sandpaper to clean off the excess wax but what I found is some of the color got pressed in to the grain of the wood. Next time, I would seal the entire piece with several layers of shellac or poly before doing this, to keep the crayon out of the grain.

But let's turn lemons in to lemonade! Instead of making another fingerboard, I simply colored in the whole darn thing lightly with crayon and sealed it like that. I think it looks subtle and cool. A "happy little accident."

Step 3: Pickguard Inlay Fail and Success

Not a total fail but I wasn't happy with it so I gave the client an option.

I did the same technique with the melting crayon and lighter in a larger cavity to simulate a pickguard. I wanted to make the colors appear rainbow-like and mix as little as possible but controlling the flow was difficult to achieve while getting a smooth consistency. It came out ok.

But it would not be durable enough, so I added a layer of epoxy. It looked great! But when I tried to sand off the excess epoxy and clean it up, the whole epoxy pour peeled right off. It wouldn't stick to the crayon!

There are a few solutions to this - easiest being a skinny, second rout around the inlay that is half as deep so the epoxy could make contact with wood along the entire edge and adhere but it was too late for me!

Instead I used CA glue and covered over the whole inlay with that. This worked well but for some reason dulled the red color quite a bit. While It looks ok, I want it to look better, so I dug through my old vinyl collection and found a rainbow-themed 12: record. I cut a pickguard from the center of that and made a real pickguard for the instrument. Now the young musician can choose which look she likes best.

Step 4: Finish and Assembly

From there is was just sanding, finishing and assembly. I won't go in to all the ins and outs of making stringed instruments here, but I will invite you to visit youtube.com/timsway where I have a TON of videos about guitar making. You don't need a cnc; I recently made a guitar with basically only a jigsaw and a router using a template system and kit I sell.

Thanks for checking out my work. I have good intentions of posting my video projects on this platform, but time is always a constraint. Be good! -Tim

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    jessyratfink

    18 days ago

    That turned out really great! How wild that the epoxy came right off though haha :D