Ukelele build - anyone help with obtaining plans/advice etc?

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Well, I've actually done something, I've decided on the wood - some sort of mahogany that used to be a mantelpiece and given to me for helping in a hurried house move. The grain is about as vertical as I'm likely to get without buying some specially.



I've also sawn it into boards - the eagle-eyed amongst you may have noticed that there's rather more than I might need for a single ukulele, also somewhat bigger - that's because I've also promised, some time ago :oops: , to make someone a mandolin, so I'm starting that at the same time, and thinking of other potential projects aswell.



All done with the tools shown - I'm not averse to the use of electricity in this context, but my bank balance objects most vociferously!

Over the next couple of days I'll get round to smoothing the sawn sides of the front and back and gluing them up. I'll be using more or less the same tools as profchris in his WIP - thanks for the idea of turning a veneering plane into a scraper, I'll definitely be giving it a go.

Thanks once again for everyone's help,

Tara a bit,


PS profchris you have a PM


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I keep toying with building a uke, watching this with interest and soaking up the advice along the way.

Good luck SotA.
That's a nice looking mantelpiece, and good grain orientation. And the neatest bookmatch will put the most vertical grain along the centreline, which might be a good thing.

To join the boards I take a bookmatch pair, open it out, and plane flat the two faces I see. Then I join the boards, and plane down from both sides to thickness (rough side first, once flat I plane from both sides). If you plane to 2mm and try to join, you probably won't line them up perfectly.

This gives you a problem, as the good planing direction is up on one half of the bookmatch and the opposite direction on the other. Tearout along the centreline can be a problem.

To thickness the joined board, first try planing at 45 degrees or more to the grain direction. This is much quicker than using the toothed plane. But if you get tearout, toothed plane and go slow. The big puzzle is clamping to plane - just improvise the best you can!

I'd take it down to 2mm and then start flexing along the grain. Ignore cross grain floppiness. Once you can relax it into a gentle arc with light finger pressure, you're there. I usually end up around 1.8 mm with mahogany (is this maybe sapele? the striping looks likely), but unusually stiff wood can go thinner.

You could leave the back at 2mm if you like, but I'd get the sides down to 1.8 mm for bending and scrape thinner at the waist bend. Mahogany/sapele can sometimes be reluctant to bend, and the answer is to go thinner. I'll advise on bending when you get there!
Oh, but one bending hint now. The final inch or two of each side is always reluctant to bend, so cut the sides over length by 4 inches if you can to make life easier.
Can I ask, given the early nature of this thread, what is the definition of an all-solid uke?

I get the laminate and solid top options but in terms of an all solid instrument are there options within this definition itself. I ask as I've seen build blogs of people doing a solid top and solid back with steam / heat bent sides using single pieces of wood and I've seen similar with people milling the back and sides from a single block with the solid top installed on, well on top. I suspect the last option is the lazy CNC route but can't find a lot on this on the T'interweb.

Does this make sense?
Milling from a solid block is very niche, and doesn't really count as all solid (though technically it is).

1. The resulting uke is madly heavy - great in a bar fight, no fun to hold and play. Back and sides are too thick to resonate much, so they don't add to the sound.

2. Many parts of the side are end grain, not long grain, and thus very fragile in spite of the weight. They tend to fall apart quickly with humidity movement.

But South American charangos are carved from the solid, when they're not made from ex-armadillos. Outside humid S America they tend to fall apart too. The armadillo versions are creepier, but more sturdy!
Thanks for the explanation, that makes total perfect sense.
profchris":3owsdt1v said:
Many parts of the side are end grain, not long grain, and thus very fragile in spite of the weight. They tend to fall apart quickly with humidity movement.
I did wonder about the grain direction given the whole block nature of a milled back and sides. I suspect you would need to leave the sides and the connection between them and the back quite thick because of this.
As stated up there ^ I keep toying with building a uke and whilst my aim is to build the thing myself I didn't want to go a specific route for the sake of this alone. I have a CNC and if this was a better option in producing a better instrument I didn't want to discount it even though I know this is probably a lazy route in itself; means to an end and all that.
I did contemplate at least CNC'ing the top and back from a solid contouring the brace structure within that single piece via the end mill but this runs into the issue again of grain direction in that the grain would be contiguous in the entire piece and not sure if that would detract from the intent of the strengthening. That said, if I indexed the piece (maybe using the sound hole as a reference) I could potentially incorporate quite complex contours / curves into the top and back.

Just musing....

Thanks again ProfChris and apologies for the tangent highjacking of your thread SotA. Looking forward to how this thread develops.