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Post  batjac on Sat Oct 20, 2018 3:18 am

Well, after a disappointing time with the lottery, I’ve decided that I’m just gonna have to live the simple life.  So, I’m going to lay off plane building for a while and tend to some projects that have been sitting in the back of my mind.

One project that’s been in the queue is a musical instrument.  I’ve wanted to teach myself the ukulele for a while now, but never seem to have much time for it.  I never practice at home on the tenor ukulele I got a few years ago in Hawaii.  I figured I might have a little time to practice at work at lunchtime if I kept a ukulele in my car.  But leaving a uke in the car through hot summer and cold winter would ruin it.  Even a cheap $40 dollar uke would be a shame to ruin.  So I figured a uke stick might fare better, being just a chunk of wood with strings.

I looked at a few commercial travel ukuleles online, but nothing took my fancy, even if I were willing to spend $400-$500 dollars, which I’m not.  I looked at a few online travel ukuleles that people have built, but they didn’t appeal to me either.  So, being me, I took pencil to paper and drew one out, incorporating a few personal touches and preferences to the design.  It’s an electric uke, for various reasons.

Then I thought about it some more, and redesigned it.  And thought, and redesigned, and thought and redesigned, and….  So, the thing’s just been sitting in the back of my mind waiting to be built for the last couple of years.  I’ve bought the fret wire, the electronics, the strings, and a few odds and ends to assemble the thing.   I bought a beautiful chunk of maple to build on, then bought a nice piece of white oak to practice on before ruining the maple.  

But that’s nice too, so I decided to just use a piece of cheap wood to try some ideas and get the layout right before building the real thing.  Since it’s electric, the wood isn’t as critical.  Instead of wasting good fret wire for the proof of concept piece, I went to the hobby shop and got some 1/32x1/4 inch brass sheet to use for frets.

I drew out the layout I wanted and transferred it to the wood.  It's 18 1/2" long by 3 1/2" wide by 2" deep, versus a standard tenor uke's dimensions of around 26" by 9" by 3".

Laying off building planes for a while. DSCN6307


Then I grabbed a square and a saw and cut the fret lines.  It’s late, so I’ll cut the rest of the outline tomorrow and start the electronics installation.

Laying off building planes for a while. DSCN6296
Laying off building planes for a while. DSCN6301
Laying off building planes for a while. DSCN6305


The Music Man Mark
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Post  1/2A Nut on Sat Oct 20, 2018 4:48 am

I own 5 acoustic guitars, have thought about building a guitar one day.
Good luck on the project post a vid of it making some sound should be
interesting to hear how it works out.
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Post  Oldenginerod on Sat Oct 20, 2018 5:38 am

My dad bought me a chunk of genuine Honduras Mahogany over 35 years ago from an exotic timber importer, for me to make an electric guitar. I was too scared to ruin the piece of wood, so it's still under the bed untouched in all that time. At least it will be well seasoned.
That's a good idea, doing a dummy run on some cheap wood. Didn't think of that.
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Post  NEW222 on Sat Oct 20, 2018 10:07 am

Wow, that is neat, and a fun looking little project. Funny though, as I bought a Ukulele a couple years ago while out at a friends enjoying cocktails..... It was his suggestion that I should learn to play the uh, uh, uh, Ukulele after I was rattling off instruments. Fast forward a couple days later, after I ordered mu ukulele and it was on its way, that he called and said he was wrong. He meant I should but a mandolin....

Anyways, I have put it aside again for a short while, but if wanting to learn, and have fun at the same time, here is the channel that I had the best luck, and most fun with. She is awesome.

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Post  Oldenginerod on Sat Oct 20, 2018 4:25 pm

Here's something to aspire to.  This guy is awesome.
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Post  66 Malibu on Sat Oct 20, 2018 7:27 pm

A number of years back, my wife and I attended the funeral of a co-worker who was an avid private pilot.
His family played the Ukulele version of "Somewhere over the Rainbow" before and after the service and the song stuck in my head for a couple of weeks afterward !!!!!!
Finally, I asked my wife did she still hear the song or was I getting as crazy as an outhouse mouse !!!
Incredibly, she said the tune stuck her too !!!! Intriguing sound ???
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Post  dckrsn on Sat Oct 20, 2018 10:58 pm

66 Malibu wrote:A number of years back, my wife and I attended the funeral of a co-worker who was an avid private pilot.
His family played the Ukulele version of "Somewhere over the Rainbow" before and after the service and the song stuck in my head for a couple of weeks afterward !!!!!!
Finally, I asked my wife did she still hear the song or was I getting as crazy as an outhouse mouse !!!
Incredibly, she said the tune stuck her too !!!! Intriguing sound ???
Here it is?
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V1bFr2SWP1I
Bob
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Post  GallopingGhostler on Sat Oct 20, 2018 11:08 pm

batjac wrote:Well, after a disappointing time with the lottery, I’ve decided that I’m just gonna have to live the simple life.  So, I’m going to lay off plane building for a while and tend to some projects that have been sitting in the back of my mind. [....] So I figured a uke stick might fare better, being just a chunk of wood with strings.

I drew out the layout I wanted and transferred it to the wood.  It's 18 1/2" long by 3 1/2" wide by 2" deep, versus a standard tenor uke's dimensions of around 26" by 9" by 3". [....]
Laying off building planes for a while. DSCN6305

The Music Man Mark

Mark, interesting you should bring up a stick uke, because a year ago I bought an electric one for $76.

Amazon: ammoon Soprano Ukulele Electric 21inch
Laying off building planes for a while. 61r8pe10

It is very compact, I bought it so if needed I could pack it with my music box and play it at the nursing homes with my sound system.

Recently I bought 6 of these:

E-Bay: Item# 311449476845, Goplus-21 Acoustic Ukulele Coffee Color
Laying off building planes for a while. S-l16053

I got 6 of them for $17.50 each shipping included, for a music class that I'm going to teach children in at the church. Quality is so-so, for adults I'd recommend spending about twice that and getting ones with a better finish, but for elementary school kids should do them okay. As you allude to, the ukulele is a good relaxing instrument to play. The 4 strings makes learning fingerings easy. It is also ideal for small kids, because their small hands can finger the fret board easily and the small size is light enough for them to easily handle.
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Post  batjac on Sun Oct 21, 2018 2:35 am

It’s late and I have to be up for work in six hours, so just a quick update.  I cut the general shape out of the blank and sanded it somewhat smooth.  With the general outline cut out, I attended to the area where the sound hole would go on an acoustic.  Since I’m not going with a fretboard or bridge board for simplicity, I needed space for strumming.  So I sanded the area where I’d be strumming down about a quarter of an inch or so.  Then I went back to the neck area and sanded the sides down inline so it is kinda like a fretboard ending at the body.  The bridge area is just full width for now.  I think I’m going to leave it that way so I have a place to rest my wrist when I strum.  I didn't thin out the wood on the neck because I want to keep it full depth while I'm manhandling during construction.  The last thing I'll do is profile the neck before applying whatever finish I decide on for this, if any.

Laying off building planes for a while. DSCN6308
Laying off building planes for a while. DSCN6310
Laying off building planes for a while. DSCN6312


I marked the area for the bridge and then opened up the area for the piezo pickup and the piece of 3/16 steel rod I’m using for a bridge.  I have some brass rod also, but I’m going to try the steel first.  Then I did a little soldering for hooking up the piezo to the mini pre-amp that will go inside, and for the speaker output of the amp.  I don’t have a speaker that I’m going to use, but I have a little portable amp/speaker to hook it up to.  I installed the tenor uke strings using zither pins on the end for testing, but that won’t be the final layout.  I just did that for convenience in testing.  I just slipped a small piece of wire in where the zero fret will go, put my bridge in, and tuned it up.  I’m using a low G string for this to try that out as well.  It tuned okay, but it’ll take a couple of days for the strings to set their stretch.

Laying off building planes for a while. DSCN6315
Laying off building planes for a while. DSCN6319


I put in the battery for the mini pre-amp and hooked the portable amp/speaker to it.  Turned everything on, and strummed.  Oops!  I guess the pre-amp and the amp/speaker box don’t play nice.  There was a VERY loud strum with a bunch of feedback, and then it didn’t do anything more.  No sound out.  I don’t know if I messed up something on the pre-amp or in the speaker box.  I’m going to do some more soldering after work tomorrow and solder the connections on the pre-amp board for headphones and for audio out (which is what I think was supposed to have been used on the amp/speaker box).  I thought it was going to come pre-wired for these two things, but the only output wires it had were for “Speaker”.  And I’ll also see if there’s a little fuse in the amp/speaker box.  I guess I’ll have to email G.B.Gitty tomorrow and ask them if they know what I screwed up.

Nite, All!
The Breaker Mark
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Post  GallopingGhostler on Sun Oct 21, 2018 8:22 am

Mark, you could take the sound output from your PC or a radio and plug it into the amp. If there's sound, then it's the pickup. You may have a bad connection somewhere, may be the pickup to the pre-amp or out to the amp.
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Post  getback on Sun Oct 21, 2018 9:32 am

Cool Project Mark , how is the action ? is there even thrust rods in these instruments , i have a old Yamaha 360 acoustic guitar that needs the neck adjusted for better action but haven't never did this before so i am waiting for one those Good days to try and do it . Very Happy
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Post  GallopingGhostler on Sun Oct 21, 2018 9:34 am

Mark, BTW, nice mill work for a one body system. Do you plan to stain it, or finish in natural rubbed wood?
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Post  KariFS on Sun Oct 21, 2018 9:45 am

From ukies to ukes... only one letter difference Smile

One of the regrets I sometimes have is that I have never learned to play any instrument.

I love the sound of a slide guitar, and would like to learn that some day. Building instruments is a fascinating idea too, I have seen and heard guitars made of oil canisters and hub caps and such. Maybe I’ll just start with the one-string Diddley Bow Smile





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Post  batjac on Sun Oct 21, 2018 1:18 pm

GallopingGhostler wrote:Mark, interesting you should bring up a stick uke, because a year ago I bought an electric one for $76.

It is very compact, I bought it so if needed I could pack it with my music box and play it at the nursing homes with my sound system.


Very interesting.  If they made one in a tenor size I might buy one just because.  My fingers are too fat for a soprano.  As for the cheap ones, I'm impressed by how good the cheap ones are these days.  I bought a $40.00 Caramel Tenor uke to practice on instead of my "expensive" $300.00 uke, and it sounds pretty good.


NEW222 wrote:Anyways, I have put it aside again for a short while, but if wanting to learn, and have fun at the same time, here is the channel that I had the best luck, and most fun with. She is awesome.


I saw her when I was looking for teaching videos on YouTube.  She's good.  The videos I like the best are the Ukulele Underground videos.  I may just pony up the money for an annual subscription for UU someday.


GallopingGhostler wrote:Mark, you could take the sound output from your PC or a radio and plug it into the amp. If there's sound, then it's the pickup. You may have a bad connection somewhere, may be the pickup to the pre-amp or out to the amp.

Mark, BTW, nice mill work for a one body system. Do you plan to stain it, or finish in natural rubbed wood?

You're right.  That'd probably be the best thing to do at this point.  But being me, the "best thing to do" and what I actually do are usually not the same thing.  I think I'm just going to solder up all the connections first before I do any more powered sound testing.  Thanks for the compliment.  I did it freehand on a 1"x30" Harbor Freight belt sander.  On the actual practice version I'll actually use measurements and some other sanding tool...  I'm not really sure how I'll finish this, since it's just a test piece.  I'll probably just hit it with some wood conditioner and leave it natural.


getback wrote:Cool Project Mark , how is the action ? is there even thrust rods in these instruments , i have a old Yamaha 360 acoustic guitar that needs the neck adjusted for better action but haven't never did this before so i am waiting for one those Good days to try and do it . Very Happy

No thrust rods.  Just hoping that the neck doesn't bow much when I tighten the strings.  It shouldn't with the four uke strings, but we'll see.  



KariFS wrote:From ukies to ukes... only one letter difference Smile

One of the regrets I sometimes have is that I have never learned to play any instrument.

I love the sound of a slide guitar, and would like to learn that some day. Building instruments is a fascinating idea too, I have seen and heard guitars made of oil canisters and hub caps and such. Maybe I’ll just start with the one-string Diddley Bow Smile

I love making instruments from anything.  One of my favorites before this were a bunch of Plumber's Pipes of various sizes made from PVC pipe.   If you're interested in stringed instruments like that, check out C.B.Gitty's website:
https://www.cbgitty.com/


Hmmm... I'd not noticed that.  Sounds like a great name for a fly-in: Ukies and Ukes!  Fly in the morning, play in the evening.


The Versatile Mark
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Post  roddie on Sun Oct 21, 2018 4:22 pm

Hi Mark, This is a fascinating project to me! Is there a formula for arriving at the proper fret spacing for a given overall string-length? I always wondered why the frets were spaced gradually closer toward the body.. and further-apart toward the headstock..
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Post  GallopingGhostler on Sun Oct 21, 2018 5:34 pm

BTW Mark, just had a thought. Depends on the pickup you have. Since these are nylon strings, the magnetic style pickup wouldn't work. It would have to be something that picked up physical vibrations. Some time back no long gone missing, I had a crystal contact mike that I used for a hollow body ukulele, it had its own clamp. That was back in the early 1970's. Since, designs have changed but same basic principle.
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Post  batjac on Fri Oct 26, 2018 2:59 am

roddie wrote:Hi Mark, This is a fascinating project to me! Is there a formula for arriving at the proper fret spacing for a given overall string-length? I always wondered why the frets were spaced gradually closer toward the body.. and further-apart toward the headstock..

Hey, Roddie.  There's always a formula.  I looked them up online when I was drawing this out.  There were even a couple of computer programs you could run to get the spacing you want.  But the method I ended up going with in the end was using old-fashioned pencil and paper.  I put a piece of paper over the fret board of my $40 Amazon Tenor ukulele and ran the pencil lead across it to get the proper fret spacing....  I then transferred the spacing to a clean piece of paper, and then drew my bridge location by measuring 17" from the zero fret to the bridge to get the proper Tenor uke intonation.  As for the spacing getting gradually narrower, as you get close to the bridge, the tone gets higher.  Less string between the fret and the bridge, the less movement to change the tone higher.  I don't know how to explain it too good, but it makes sense to me.


GallopingGhostler wrote:BTW Mark, just had a thought. Depends on the pickup you have. Since these are nylon strings, the magnetic style pickup wouldn't work. It would have to be something that picked up physical vibrations. Some time back no long gone missing, I had a crystal contact mike that I used for a hollow body ukulele, it had its own clamp. That was back in the early 1970's. Since, designs have changed but same basic principle.

I'm using a piezo stick designed for ukuleles with four chips in it.  The piezo chips are spaced for a Soprano ukulele, but they're close enough to the spacing for a Tenor that it' won't be an issue.  The stainless steel rod I have over the piezo stick transfers the vibrations directly to the chips.

The Old-Fashioned Mark


Last edited by batjac on Fri Oct 26, 2018 3:05 am; edited 2 times in total
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Post  batjac on Fri Oct 26, 2018 3:04 am

So I got the cheap patch cable and some wire to finish wiring up the electronics.  The patch cable is okay, the wire really sucks.  After wiring it all up, it confirms that the amp board is toast.  The board passes the straight signal from the piezo stick, but the amplified outputs for the headphones and speaker do not work.  I’ve ordered a new amp board, but I’ll go ahead and start the finish on the woodwork now.

Here’s a quick vid of the test of the tune and sound output.  Sorry for the movement of the video view, but I didn’t want to go to the trouble of setting up a video camera, so I just used my hatcam that I use for filming flights.  The little Honeytone amp I used is kind of tinny, but it works.  Hopefully when I get the headphone output working, the sound will be better.






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Post  batjac on Sat Nov 17, 2018 4:40 am

Okay, I made some time to get back to this.  After playing with the construction, I was surprised to find out that none of my initial design ideas were unworkable.  The implementation may have been a little off, but all the ideas worked.  The main design idea that I ended up with was that there would be no protruding items on the uke stick.  Everything would be either flush or recessed.  That worked rather well.

First thing I did was cut the rough shape for the neck with a hand saw, then use my Harbor Freight 1”x3” belt sander to finish shaping the neck, followed by hand sanding to get the final shape.  I then drilled the holes for the tuning zither pins, and routed out the cavity for the strings and tuning wrench to fit in.

Laying off building planes for a while. DSCN6321
Laying off building planes for a while. DSCN6325


Next I drilled holes for the cord jacks and the amp switch/power LED.  Then I used my Dremel tool and a grinding bit to remove  wood to give a cavity for the electronics, and a cavity on the neck for the string ends.  I then cut a piece of basswood for a cover.  I was going to use ply, but the only ply I could find in 1/8” was lite ply, so I used some 1/8” bass wood for the cover.

Laying off building planes for a while. DSCN6329
Laying off building planes for a while. DSCN6331


I wired up all the electronics and stuffed them in the cavity.  I know it’s a rats nest, but since this is just a proof of concept I didn’t want to hard solder all the components to the amp board.  So, I used some connectors to make it easy to disassemble when I cut and shape the final uke stick with good wood.  Another idea I had was to insert the tuner flush into the body instead of clipping it to the head, especially since this doesn’t really have a head.

Laying off building planes for a while. DSCN6333
Laying off building planes for a while. DSCN6337


I went through several variations on the neck strap attachment.  The normal attachment method is one strap peg on the bottom of the body and one on either the head or the base of the neck.  But nothing appealed to me.  Then, about the time I decided on the “no protrusions” requirement, the idea hit me.  Instead of a normal guitar/ukulele/whatever neckstrap, I’d use one of my R/C transmitter neck straps to hang this from.  So I slotted the wood at where I figured the stick would balance, drilled a hole up from the bottom, and cut a neck strap hook from some 1/8” aluminum I have.  The hook is recessed until you press on the end and the hook pops up.

Laying off building planes for a while. DSCN6346
Laying off building planes for a while. DSCN6349


I broke two strings trying to tune this, so I ordered a couple more sets of strings and re-thought my approach.  I figure that the wood was not a good enough surface for the strings to pass through, so I pulled out some of those brass ferules that are used on servos to keeps from squishing the rubber grommets when you screw them to the servo rails.  I tapped the ferules into the string holes below the bridge and above the zero fret.  I also decided the brass strips used for frets were garbage, so I went ahead and installed regular ukulele frets.  Then I strung the new strings from the top of the neck, down through the holes below the bridge, and wound them on the zither pegs.  This new system works pretty well.

Laying off building planes for a while. DSCN6359
Laying off building planes for a while. DSCN6361
Laying off building planes for a while. DSCN6353
Laying off building planes for a while. DSCN6355


With everything all connected and closed up, I gave it a final test to make sure everything worked.  Below is a picture of the bottom of the uke stick with it turned on.  There’s a ¼” jack for output to an amp, and a 3.5mm jack for plugging in headphones so I can play and not bother those around me.  I still haven’t found a knob I like for the on/off/volume switch, so I guess I’ll have to make one.  The LED is self explanatory.

Laying off building planes for a while. DSCN6370


Since I originally started this to plug into the Aux In of my car stereo, and I drive a Hyundai Tucson, I proudly present the proof-of-concept of my new and fabulous Hyundailele!    That’s pronoun, Ah say, that's pronounced hun-day-lay-lay, son.

Laying off building planes for a while. DSCN6362


Part of the design concept for this is that since it’s really for use in my car, I’ll order a pint of paint to match the paint code of my Tucson and paint the uke to match the car.  Should end up a cool car accessory…

The Accessorizing Mark
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Post  KariFS on Sat Nov 17, 2018 7:23 am

Hyundailele! Cool! Should make nice entertainment for those long drives.

How about integrating a set of electric bongo drums on top of the dashboard next Very Happy

I like this video series, and have dreamed of commuting with these folks regularly:



But you are definitely taking it to the next level by plugging direct in to the car’s sound system  Thumbs Up

Just don’t play while driving lol!
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Post  rsv1cox on Sat Nov 17, 2018 7:45 am

"The gifted Mark"

Fantastic! JIS screws/screwdrivers?
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Post  getback on Sat Nov 17, 2018 8:47 am

Good Job Mark !! What do you figure as of $$ do you have in it , Labor is Free as usual Very Happy Loooks Nice !!
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Post  ticomareado on Sat Nov 17, 2018 8:37 pm

After you perfect the ukulele, try this:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zxQhbvke44I
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Post  GallopingGhostler on Sat Nov 17, 2018 9:26 pm

Perhaps this would make a good future project, an oil can guitar. Here is Samantha Fish and her K&B model airplane fuel can guitar. Her bass player has a Fox Missile Mist fuel can guitar. May be an old Cox quart fuel can could make an oil can ukulele.

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Post  batjac on Sat Nov 17, 2018 11:32 pm

Here’s the Hyundailele next to a standard tenor ukulele.  Much smaller footprint.

Laying off building planes for a while. DSCN6375
Laying off building planes for a while. DSCN6378
Laying off building planes for a while. DSCN6384


rsv1cox wrote:Fantastic!  JIS screws/screwdrivers?
Yup.  I got the JIS screwdrivers early this year.  I wish I’d bought a set 30 years ago.

ticomareado wrote:After you perfect the ukulele, try this:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zxQhbvke44I  
Hmmm… A G-Bender Uke.  Maybe I’ll put this on the to-do list.


getback wrote:Good Job Mark !! What do you figure as of $$ do you have in it , Labor is Free as usual Very Happy Loooks Nice !!
Durn you Eric!  You just HAD to make me add up the cost, didn’t you?!?  The total was just under $65.

GallopingGhostler wrote:Perhaps this would make a good future project, an oil can guitar. Here is Samantha Fish and her K&B model airplane fuel can guitar. Her bass player has a Fox Missile Mist fuel can guitar. May be an old Cox quart fuel can could make an oil can ukulele.
I wonder if the quart size can is the largest that Cox ever produced.  A quart size would make a decent can ukulele.  Maybe I’ll do one after the final version of this.


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