The ukulute , making of a string instrument #1
You may have wondered what I have been up to recently. Well I am about to disclose it.
I have started teaching myself how to play the ukulele, not because I expect to ever be anything but a mediocre musician, but because I got the idea into my head that it must be possible to build your own string instrument.
When I started wanting to make swords (for real) I decided that I needed to learn how to use a sword first, basically get a users perspective in order to make a better sword. I will employ the same modus operandi here, since it turned out to spare me from a lot of the common mistakes made by wannabe swordmakers.
It is not that I expect to make no mistakes, on the contrary, part of the idea is to make mistakes, and learn from them. It is just that getting a few things right in the first go is very motivating.
I set myself a few goals in this first try. I wanted to try steambending wood, I wanted to use cheap or repurposed materials and i wanted the result to be visually my own.
My son has a Ukulele that he got as a present a few years ago. I decided to base my instrument on that since it is small, and hence more manageable in my crowded workshop, and it is easy to learn to play simple chords and progressions, But guitars and ukuleles are a bit boring in shape (duck and avoid debris thrown by guitar lovers) so I went for something that would be more like a lute. Thus the idea of the Ukulute was born.
The project is still ongoing and I am far from finished but this installment will document my humble beginnings.
first I chose my materials. I had some firewood, some beech and some oak, that would be usable for the harder parts (such as the fretboard) I also had some thin sheets of plywood from a box that had contained fruit. This is really soft and low quality but it is cheap and readily available and it would give me a comparison ground for how bad the acoustic qualities can get.(It will also mean that if i get a functional instrument out of it I am lucky, and it can then only get better)
In the beginning I was planning to make the neck out of beech, but i quickly found out that it would be incredibly heavy if i did that, and I had seen a guitar with a neck made from birch laminate. as it happened I had some birch plywood lying about that I could use.
the first step was shaping the body. i Took the thin sheats of lowquality wood and soaked them in hot water, the tried bending them over some of my pot and pans. This worked fine and even though it took longer than i liked to dry and set it is absolutely a viable technique for the DIY instrumentmaker. I did them in batches and I would have probably do them one at a time next time.
I sketched out the shape i wanted for the back on some paper to get an idea of how the wood should be shaped to make a bowl, and then I waited.
I used the time on trying out a few simple progressions on the ukulele: g-d-f-c it is surprisingly easy to find chords for almost any number you can think of and this was what came up when i searched for I need you with eurythmics. There is something wonderfully strange about playing that misantropic number on the ukulele and my family is getting slightly tired of my incessant noise.
anyways. This will have to do for this time. Next time I will continue the work on the body and start on the neck.
Im EvilHippie, a compulsive creative and jack o' trades. If you want to know more about me, check out my introduction post here
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