First, I browsed uke pics to get an idea of the proportions. I learned from Wikipedia that ukuleles are classified by size.
|Type||Scale length||Total length||Tuning|
|soprano or standard||13″ (33 cm)||21″ (53 cm)||A4-D4-F#4-B4 or G4-C4-E4-A4|
|concert||15″ (38 cm)||23″ (58 cm)||G4-C4-E4-A4, or G3-C4-E4-A4|
|tenor||17″ (43 cm)||26″ (66 cm)||G3-C4-E4-A4, G4-C4-E4-A4 , or D4-G3-B3-E4|
|baritone||19″ (48 cm)||30″ (76 cm)||D3-G3-B3-E4|
I settled on a tenor because I figured I could get away with larger tolerances, but I still wanted some degree of portability.
I first found some diagrams to get an idea of scale. A search turned up this diagram of an ukulele neck, and I used this as a template for mine.
A great little program called FretFind helped me layout the locations of the frets, as well as sizes of the neck, nut and bridge.
I started by carving the neck out of a chunk of tulip poplar. I made rough cuts with a pruning saw then followed up with a chisel and a gouge. It’s a pretty soft wood with a dead straight grain.
I’m using a machinist’s vise. My wooden jaws were back at MITERS, so I taped some thin plywood to the jaws so it wouldn’t mark up the workpiece.
done with the first round of chiseling.
I wanted to inlay a fretboard, something a bit more durable than the poplar. To make room for the inlay, I set the blade on the table saw to about 3/16″ and took some slices out of the top of the neck.
After that, it was easy to clean it up and flatten it out with a straight chisel.
|The fretboard – It's a piece of bloodwood that my Dad had leftover from a repair job.|
|The spring clamps weren't as snug as I would've liked, so I later used C clamps instead.|
Here’s a test head I made so I wouldn’t ruin the real one. The outer hole is drilled to something like 9/32″. The inner section is first drilled to 1/4″, then the opening is expanded just a bit to 17/64″. I can approximate a taper that way. I used calipers when sanding the peg in my “lathe” to match the taper of the hole.
The peg is a bit blackened in this photo because I rubbed it in coal dust. That seems to give it a bit more of a hold.
|box! I glued and tacked it together|
|A piece of juniper harvested from our woods a few years ago|
|piece of juniper carved into the nut|
|first fret! I used the fret calculator mentioned earlier to position it just right|
clamping the bridge to the soundboard.
I could have used about five extra hands while setting this one up.
|flush cut saw used for cutting fret slots|
|the soundboard was a bit flexy for my liking, so I added some maple bracing on the back (soon to be inside)|
|done and strung! I cut the soundhole by tracing out a circle, then drilling out small holes all along the perimeter.|
|with linseed oil.|