Hello. It’s been a while since I updated the website so better late than never. A few weeks ago I completed my latest homebuild instrument ‘The Big Cheese’ as I call it. It’s a tenor uke with a low G string.
I built the box using two blocks of pine at each end with mitred sides and then attached top, bottom and sides made of thin (around 3mm I think) plywood. The neck is made of Sapele and the fingerboard is ebony. The headstock is scarf jointed to the neck.
This instrument uses friction tuners. My first experience of these types of tuner and to be honest, I don’t think they work particularly well in this instance. Perhaps the string tension is too high on a tenor uke for friction type tuners. It sort of holds it’s tuning but is prone too slip out a bit too readily for my liking. The tuners themselves are decent quality so I think it’s down to the tension being nearly too much for them to hold easily. They look nice anyway!
The black mesh type material is made from an aluminium sheet that came from a rotten bird feeder I had. It was a feeder designed for birds who prefer to eat closer to the ground and consisted of a low tray with this mesh as the base to let water go through. I cut the mesh into the various shapes I needed and sprayed them with matt black paint. I bent the corner protectors using a Veritas vice held metal bender. This just a small, cheap device that fits in your vice and can bend small pieces of metal when you close the vice.
I cut the ‘retro space age’ sound holes out using a Bahco deep throated fret saw with spiral blade. The shape is very loosely based on a shape I saw on a weird old Gibson instrument from the 1930’s. I adapted it and mirrored it and ended up with what you see here. I put more aluminium mesh inside the box (screwed to the central neck part that runs the length of the instrument). I stuck some copper foil sheeting underneath the mesh to give it a reflective colour. It now looks a bit ‘Star Trek’!
I made the floating bridge using scraps of wood left over the the neck / fingerboard. It has an ebony base with an ebony insert at the top. It’s topped off with a plastic saddle.
I’ve been asked on YouTube, why I use a classical bridge/saddle AND a floating bridge. Well, for three reasons. The reason I use the ‘classical’ bridge / saddle is that it is the easiest way to secure the nylgut strings to the instrument. The reason I also use a floating bridge is because I’m not very good at making instruments! I leave making the floating bridge until right at the end. I can then make it as high (or low) as is necessary in order to give me a decent action. i can fine tune the action by shaving down the saddle before gluing it to the bridge. i can deal with the nut end action by working on the nut. Having a floating bridge also gives me more leeway in getting the intonation right. If I just had the classical bridge on it’s own i would need to get it’s position right first time when I glued / screwed it to the top and to be honest, I couldn’t trust myself to do that!
There’s not much more to say. Sound wise, its not that loud compared to my ‘Dolphin’ uke, mainly due to the smaller body size I expect. It’s got a bit of a ‘plinky’ sound. Not a good description I guess but i suppose what I’m trying to say that its not a full bodied, rounded sound. There’s not a great deal of ‘body’ to the sound. It would be OK if you mic’ed it up and could add a bit of mid lows to the sound.
I am experiencing a bit of vibration when certain notes are played. I’m not sure if it’s the top panel vibrating against the sides or the ‘scratchplate’ vibrating against the top. i shall probably glue the scratchplate down as it’s only screwed down at present. I may even spread a thin layer of flexible silicon sealant between the sides of the box and the top as I can’t see any reason why I may need to take the top off in the future.
Thanks for reading this. I may put a short video on YouTube showing the Big Cheese. If I do, I’ll add a link to it here. My next (and possibly last) build is a double neck creation using two old plywood guitar bodies I had lying about (old projects that have been dismantled). I’ve already started it and have been taking photos during the work. The bodies have been joined so it shouldn’t be too long before it appears here although I’m planning to do some ‘flower power’ type artwork on it so that will probably hold things up!