Uke Build: Fret Nipping

(Prev: Fretting)

The ends of the frets are nipped off with a special tool. This nipper tends not to pull the fret out of the slot, as would a standard nipping tool.

Notice how much of the slot is left under the fret wire? That’s pretty standard, it needs to be there to allow the fret to […]

Uke Build: Fretting

(Prev: Side Dot Inlay)

The next series of pictures are of the fretting process. I’ve always liked rosewood as a fret board material, mainly because of its acceptance of the fret tang during the fretting process!

Ebony, on the other hand, is much harder and tends to chip and split as a result. In cases where I […]

Uke Build: Side Dot Inlay

(Prev: Abalone Dot Inlay)

The side dots are cut from small, round plastic sticks (1/16” in diameter). They are installed with super glue and trimmed, then sanded.

(Next: Fretting)

Uke Build: Abalone Dot Inlay

(Prev: Fret Board Inlay)

Here you see the abalone dots super glued in place and rough sanded. One has to be careful of the abalone dust, it will actually cause serious breathing problems!!!

At this point in the construction the fret board has not had Tung oil applied to its top surface, once done it brings out […]

Uke Build: Fret Board Inlay

(Prev: Body Glue Up)

Here’s a picture of the layout for the abalone dot markers on the fret board, those centerlines are critical, especially as the frets get closer together!!!

One of my “signatures” is the use of abalone for position markers, I like the appearance of abalone and every piece is unique, no two instruments will […]

Uke Build: Body Glue-up

(Prev: Sanding Heel Radius)

This was an exciting day! The body was cured and all that was left to do was sand the edges of the top and bottom to match the sides!

This is when the raw materials really begin to look like a ukulele.

I’ve been asked if I “tap tune” the top … I do not. […]

Uke Build: Sanding Heel Radius

(Prev: Neck Heel Height)

Traditional ukuleles do not use a dovetail for their neck joint, they utilize a matching radius to the body and dowel pins to affix the neck. So, I had to figure a way to introduce a sanded surface to match the body perfectly.

In this case I was able to hold the 80 […]

Uke Build: Neck Heel Height

(Prev: Neck Tooling)

First, I had to sand away the back’s “overhang” on the front edge of the body to get a measurement on the absolute height of the neck’s heel. Secondly, I had to leave enough of the heel in place to “take on” the 15 foot radius. Can you see why heel caps are […]

Uke Build: Neck Tooling

(Prev: Gluing Back)

At this point you can see why I had to design the tooling with the wing nut extensions on the front edge. The body had to stay in position with the top facing down on the tooling. The centerlines from the body through the end of the neck had to align perfectly … and […]

Uke Build: Gluing Back

(Prev: Label Installation)

Okay … let’s get those centerlines matched up and glue the back to the sides!

Recall, the center hole clamp is still in place – if I had calculated its mounting hardware incorrectly I’d have trapped myself into a corner with no way out. Also, notice the bolt sticking out of the back? If that had […]

Uke Build: Label Installation

(Prev: Center Seam Bracing)

This is a fun part – name of the instrument and the builder!

Of course I had to name this ukulele for my wife, Linda! She lived in Hawaii as a child so it seemed only fitting that this instrument be named for her.

When constructing an instrument this step is most interesting because there’s […]

Uke Build: Center Seam Bracing

(Prev: Headstock Overlay)

Here are some shots of the back’s center seam bracing being glued in position. These are cut at a 45 degree bias just for fun – the grain just has to be skew of the back’s grain for these braces to do their job. The picture of my finger pointing to the brace […]

Uke Build: Headstock Overlay

(Prev: Back Braces Install)

I knew I wanted a headstock overlay that wasn’t too ostentatious. I was going for a traditional “look” and this piece of walnut seemed about right. I actually found this in the scrap bin of my favorite supplier already machined at .062… for .38 cents. I used if for the headstock overlay […]

Uke Build: Back Braces Install

(Prev: Sanding Back Radius)

Here you see the back braces shaped, sanded, glued and clamped in position. The radius is transferred directly to the solid mahogany back via this process.

Interestingly, I was reading about Taylor Guitars newest 600 series guitar at the time I was preparing the back of this ukulele. Taylor actually braces the backs […]

Uke Build: Sanding Back Radius

(Prev: Back Brace Sanding)

Now the fun begins! The body is mounted in the tooling and the radius dish is doing the work of sanding the radius into the back – take note in these pictures of the pencil lines “disappearing” through the sanding process. As I progress, the pencil marks “disappear” letting me know I’ve […]

Uke Build: Back Brace Sanding

(Prev: Radius Dish Screws)

Now you’re looking at the double-back taped sandpaper in position on the top of the sanding surface of the radius dish. In this case I used 80 grit for rough sanding. I tore the sandpaper into pieces, allowing me to tape them on top of the dish without a wrinkle … this is […]

Uke Build: Radius Dish Screws

(Prev: Radius Dish Tooling Prep)

Here’s a look at the fasteners to hold the top dish to the lower plate. These are #8 flathead screws. I slowly brought these home with some TLC as they are forcing the top plate to accept the induced radius – I didn’t want any one screw to take the brunt […]

Uke Build: Radius Dish Tooling Prep

(Prev: Radius Dish Prep)

Now the mathematics of the radius dish comes into play. At specific intervals on the lower plate I created standoffs of three different thicknesses. These are all developed via the equation (previous pictures).

The easiest method of construction was to make the three standoffs twice as wide as necessary, and drill a 3/16” […]

Uke Build: Radius Dish Prep

(Prev: Radius Dish Top)

This picture shows the holes located and drilled on the top plate of the radius dish. I was able to “back drill” the top plate from the lower hole positions once the centerlines were established with respect to both plates.

Next, using a countersink, I prepared the holes in the top to accept […]

Uke Build: Radius Dish Top

(Prev: Radius Dish Tooling)

I had to make a compass large enough to create a 16 inch upper radius plate. How did I start, and what did I use?

First, I needed a mechanical pencil to present a witness mark on the ¼” MDF. With that found, I needed a method to hold the pencil in a […]