Monday, August 25, 2014

Boat paddle ukulele

The nickname comes from the obvious shape. I built this for my wife.

Poplar neck, sides and kerfing inside the body.
Walnut fretboard, bridge, nut and inlay in the headstock.
Southern yellow pine top and back (~20-30 years old so very stable)
Copper wire frets.
The apron is a piece of aluminum bar stock that just happened to fit perfectly. Not shown are copper wire fret markers on the side of the neck. Every piece is made except the tuners and strings.

To make the body I cut two kerfs in the neck at some angle I don't remember, looks roughly 45°. Insert strips of poplar with a few dabs of superglue (they fit in there pretty tight and the glue is just a precaution). Then bent them as you see below. Kiln dried poplar doesn't bend well even with heat and I broke several in the process. It wasn't worth making a form for one ukulele and the sides are not perfectly symmetrical but close enough and I think it adds charm.


Next I added kerfing made from notched strips of poplar that bend easily and conform to the shape. They reinforce the sides and help support the top. This kerfing could have been smaller and still worked as well.


The walnut fingerboard installed.


The top installed and sound hole cut. I decided to add bracing, a piezo, and mono jack. The piezo is attached with thick tape.


Financially challenged residents of rural mountainous areas (hillbillies) would often use whatever was available to fret their stringed instruments. I used copper which works well but the soft wire is difficult to keep perfectly straight and even.


The finished soprano ukulele. String spacing on the nut is wrong so I'll have to go back, cut out that nut and replace it. The small body puts out more sound than I expected, plenty loud for playing at home. I learned a lot and would like to make another someday.