Pallet Saprano Ukulele




Introduction: Pallet Saprano Ukulele


My favorite thing to build out of. It's free, It's beautiful, It's ugly, fraught with nail holes, knots and cracks but in that sows ear there's a nice purse or a ukulele in this one.
I work at a major hospital shipping pallets are coming in and out all day. I started looking for just the right ones as soon as I saw an up coming pallet contest. I was looking for quarter sawn oak boards, 1/4 sawn oak is a figured wood popular in Arts and Crafts furniture. Growth rings of the tree are closer to perpendicular to the surface of the board. This creates a beautiful visual effect sometimes called fleck rays. I was able to find enough for a couple of projects so here's my pallet ukulele I hope you like.

Step 1: Gathering the Stuff

I found a pallet with enough 1/4 sawn oak to make the ukulele but I wanted to make the top out of spruce if I could find some so for now I just milled the neck, back and sides

Step 2: Roughing the Neck

after planning flat I glued 2pcs. of oak 1x3 15" long with a pc of E.I. rosewood in the middle this looks nice and gives the strength from the opposing woods.

Then I cut the rough shape out with the band saw . After that rasp, files and chisels at this point I'm just concerned with the basic shape mainly the heel and block

the black dots on the neck are old nail holes cool don't you think

Step 3: The Neck Block

I used a classical guitar style neck joint on this one It's the first time I have done one. I thought it worked out pretty well. The block and neck are one piece and the sides glue into a slot cut at the 12 fret. It's a easy way to get a good neck joint but the neck is in the way so I thought it would be too difficult to add binding to the body.

Step 4: Making a Form (mold)

You have to have a good mold to make a good instrument. I used my friends soprano ukulele to trace out for mine. I first started by planning flat the inside edges of two 16" long 2x6's and clamping them together. Then laying the uku on them carefully centering the uku on the center line of the 2x's and marking an outline of the body. CENTER IS THE KEY WORD just like the good mold keeping everything every thing centered is a must. I After drawing the shape I cut the outline on the band saw. Next I square the inside of the mold on the spindle sander.

Step 5: Bending the Rim

Step 6: The Rim

using a piece of 3/4 " iron pipe with a propane torch inside and soaking the side wood in water for awhile I bent the sides. With the pipe hot use a little pressure to steam bend the sides. This is the first time I've bent oak with other woods it takes a lot of water to bend but with oak I learned the more I sprayed on the harder it was to bend. Lesson Learned The Pipe needs to be around 150 degrees to steam the wood. Too cool and it takes for ever too hot and it scorches the wood it doesn't take long to figure out how high to turn up your torch. I use a thin piece of sheet metal as a backer when bending sides it helps hold the steam in the wood and holds even pressure on the wood. Just go slow and It's pretty easy. Bend a little check it against the mold and bend some more. It took me about an hour to bend the two sides. I like to wet them down good after bending, clamp them in the mold and let dry overnight

Step 7: Joining the Back

I glued the back together in a gluing jig and I'm ready to thickness the back and sides

Step 8: Thinning

with a hand plane and a cabinet scraper I thinned the wood down. There are easier ways to do it but I love using a hand plane to me It's very relaxing and gives me a great deal of personal satisfaction

the sides I thinned to 0.064" and the back to 0.094" there about

Step 9: Milling the Top

Later on I did find a pallet made of some kind of spruce maybe pine with a real tight 1/4 sawn grain this should make a good top. I joined the pieces using a dowel placed under the boards then driving nails along the outside edges after spreading glue on the edges I removed the stick and put a little downward pressure on the two pieces the nails hold it tight enough for a good joint. this I think is the best way to join soft wood

Step 10: The Plates

thicknessing the top to .09 more planning and scraping I use a long reaching dial caliper to check the thickness across the top You don't want a fat middle and thin edges. This top is kind of splotchy in color but what you gonna do. At this point the top and the back should be flexable and have a good tone when tapped. I hold the wood close to the edge close to my ear and tap sharply with my finger tip you want to hear a nice ring if not you may need to remove some more wood.

Step 11: Bracing

after cutting the sound hole with a hole saw I cut the bracesfrom the spruce to 1/4" wide and gluing the back and top I used a typical brace pattern and shaped them with a chisel. Using sandpaper to take them down to a nice tap tone

Step 12: The Soundhole

I glued in a piece of black white black purffling to dress up the soundhole

Step 13: Joined Neck and Sides

the sides fit tight in the neck slot after gluing I drove some tiny shims in the slot to hold the sides tight to the outside . This made a very nice neck joint.

Step 14: Kerffing

The kerffing is a notched piece of wood added to the side edges to give more gluing surface to the plates. I started to make some form pallet wood but I had some left over a guitar I made so I cut them down and used them.

Step 15: The Body

after sanding the edges down flat with a board covered with sandpaper I joined the top to the sides and trimmed with a router

Step 16: Starting to Look Like a Ukulele

next I joined the back. This is where it starts to look like something other than pieces of wood. Make sure the neck and top are perfectly centered and the sides are good and square (90 degrees with the top) before gluing on the back I use 1/4" dowels back to front and side to side for this. It's not easy getting a 10" long stick out of a 1and 5/8's" sound hole.

Step 17: Fretboard

I used a small Mitre box and fret saw on a piece of rosewood for the fret board. After shaping I hammered in the frets with a brass fretting hammer and glued the board to the neck with the 12th fret at the body joint. The rosewood was leftover from a guitar I built earlier. Before gluing on I also beveled the fret ends over at about a 20 degree angle.

Step 18: Finishing the Neck

I glued on a piece of rosewood for the peg head and finished out the neck shape after that I drilled the holes for the tuners

Step 19: The Bridge

using a table saw I cut and slotted a bridge. Next I used a gauge to set the bridge in the proper place. This is the most critical measurement when making a fretted instrument. It has to be the same distance from the nut to the 12th fret as it is from the 12th fret to the saddle slot. This is called the scale length on this ukulele I made the scale length 13.614" . I then glued the bridge in place

Step 20: Finishing the Body

After sanding the body down to 220 grit sandpaper all over I used shellac for the finish. This I put on with a lint free cloth ( a pair of my old underwear ). I put on 15 coats wet sanding with 1500 grit between every couple of coats. This took a few days then after it sat for a couple more I buffed it out thih polishing compound

Step 21: I Love the Grain

1/4 sawn oak is some good looking wood

Step 22: Oh Oh Domino

I used a corian domino for the nut cutting it down of course. Someone gave me a bone saddle they had cut too small for a guitar I used on the bridge

Step 23: Making Sound

I strung it up today before work I think it turned out nice. Pallet wood, I Love It It sounds nice like it is but needs to be set up a little better . Next week when I'm off work I'll set down with a get it set up right. This takes time I'll try to down load a video of it so you can hear it. Oh yea I gotta learn how to play it first.

thanks for looking

caution!!! ukuleles in these pictures look longer than they really are!!!. What's up with that?

Ricky Sp8

Step 24: The Stuff

oak pallet wood about 8 feet free

spruce pallet wood about 3 feet free

rosewood 2 feet free

3 feet kerf lining $4.00

2 feet mandolin fret wire $4.00

set of ukulele friction tuners $6.00

bone saddle free

1 domino free but the next time we play dominos I'm in trouble

soprano ukulele strings $6.00

polishing compound, glue, shellac and sandpaper

Step 25:

Step 26: Tools

band saw

table saw


hand plane


cabinet scrapers

fretting hammer


nut file

fret saw

Step 27:

Pallet Contest

Second Prize in the
Pallet Contest

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Participated in the
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    8 years ago

    All the better for doing it without shelling out a Benjamin or two on tonewood. I can't even get cheap crap wood and don't have the tools to cut it myself...

    Chicken Spit
    Chicken Spit

    8 years ago

    How does the tone associated with quarter sawn oak compare with other more traditional tonewoods? I used it for the neck on my last guitar and was very happy with its rigidity and workability, but I am unable to really assess it's tonal contributions as the I find the front, back, and sides of an acoustic instrument to be far more tonally significant than that of the neck material.


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    This ukulele is the first I've built or played so I really couldn't say . It does sound nice maybe a little bright like maple back and sides on a guitar. Taylor guitars built a pallet guitar a while back I read it had a bright tone I think there's a video of it on youtube . Peace Ricky


    8 years ago on Introduction

    Wow what a great use for pallets! Thanks for sharing your hard work! Have a great day!



    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks I'm working on a recording I got to learn to play it first


    8 years ago

    i love it


    8 years ago on Introduction

    This is a gorgeous uke! I too am a fan of Arts & Crafts work and am really impressed with this build. Superlative work, sir.


    8 years ago

    Awww! I was planning to go and make a ukulele or two for the pallet contest and you made this beauty and beat me to it!! Mine are a different style and I will still do an instructable or two if I have time. But wow very beautiful and resourceful (love the domino!) and professionally done!


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    this contest is big enough for the both of us. I would love to see yours. Thanks for the kind words