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PostPosted: Wed May 27, 2020 2:29 pm 
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Walnut
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First name: Fred
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Hi all,

A friend asked if I could build him a Ukulele today - something I've never done or considered.

However, I quite like the idea of giving it a go so any advice on preferred bracing patterns, top thickness etc would be greatly appreciated.

Any common mistakes to look out for?

Thanks
Fred.

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PostPosted: Thu May 28, 2020 3:33 am 
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Cocobolo
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First name: Chris
Last Name: Reed
City: Stowmarket
State: Suffolk
Zip/Postal Code: IP14 2EX
Country: UK
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Status: Amateur
What size, and what top wood?

Sopranos are usually just a couple of ladder braces, one above and below the sound hole, plus a very thin bridge patch.

Concerts and tenors are commonly fan braced. Baritones are baby classical guitars.

The biggest pitfall is over-building. With such a small soundboard, it's easy to make a uke which sound dull and lifeless. Sopranos are the hardest to make well, because they are so small. Generally, bracing is very light indeed - my ladder braces on a soprano might be only 4mm wide and a little over 6mm high, tapering to nothing as they meet the sides.

With hardwood tops like mahogany, I'd thickness to about 1.8mm and then work down from there with a cabinet scraper depending on the top stiffness. For all tops I'm looking for them to deflect maybe half an inch along the grain under light finger pressure. Cross-grain stiffness is good, but if it's very flexible cross grain then my braces will be higher.

Softwood tops I'll take to around 2.1 mm and then work down as above.

Good luck!


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PostPosted: Thu May 28, 2020 9:21 am 
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Cocobolo
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First name: Ed
Last Name: Miller
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Graham McDonald recently published a comprehensive book on ukulele building. Available on Amazon for $25 .


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These users thanked the author edstrummer for the post: Fred O (Thu May 28, 2020 3:32 pm)
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PostPosted: Thu May 28, 2020 3:36 pm 
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Walnut
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profchris wrote:
What size, and what top wood?

Sopranos are usually just a couple of ladder braces, one above and below the sound hole, plus a very thin bridge patch.

Concerts and tenors are commonly fan braced. Baritones are baby classical guitars.

The biggest pitfall is over-building. With such a small soundboard, it's easy to make a uke which sound dull and lifeless. Sopranos are the hardest to make well, because they are so small. Generally, bracing is very light indeed - my ladder braces on a soprano might be only 4mm wide and a little over 6mm high, tapering to nothing as they meet the sides.

With hardwood tops like mahogany, I'd thickness to about 1.8mm and then work down from there with a cabinet scraper depending on the top stiffness. For all tops I'm looking for them to deflect maybe half an inch along the grain under light finger pressure. Cross-grain stiffness is good, but if it's very flexible cross grain then my braces will be higher.

Softwood tops I'll take to around 2.1 mm and then work down as above.

Good luck!


Thanks for that, some really useful there info. It will probably be a Concert with spruce front but not discussed anything further just jet.

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PostPosted: Thu May 28, 2020 9:30 pm 
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Cocobolo
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My latest tenor uke is third I have built and best sounding. Spruce top paired with south american walnut. Fan braced with cherry bridge plate. Braces notched over plate. Think light, light, light!!!!


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These users thanked the author edstrummer for the post: Fred O (Fri May 29, 2020 3:36 am)
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PostPosted: Fri May 29, 2020 4:37 am 
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Cocobolo
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Joined: Thu Feb 09, 2012 4:10 pm
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First name: Chris
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Country: UK
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Status: Amateur
edstrummer wrote:
My latest tenor uke is third I have built and best sounding. Spruce top paired with south american walnut. Fan braced with cherry bridge plate. Braces notched over plate. Think light, light, light!!!!


Light is indeed the word! I make everything as light as I dare, then pause until I feel braver and make it lighter still.

However, there is an alternative approach which some makers adopt for tenors and baritones, particularly if they are to be used for the fast melodic run style popularised by Jake Shimabukuro. This is to build back and sides very rigid, to increase sustain from the top (it parallels a similar school in guitar building).

Sopranos and concerts tend to be strummed more than picked, and for them too much sustain is a problem as it muddies the sound. Spruce tops can be a problem here, because they sustain well and emphasise the high frequencies, so the uke can end up very "jangly". You might want to discuss this with the player - if their plan is to work up the kind of complex strumming used by Roy Smeck, or among modern players by (say) Ukulele Uff (videos by both on YouTube), then a hardwood top might be a better choice.


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PostPosted: Fri May 29, 2020 12:30 pm 
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Walnut
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profchris wrote:
edstrummer wrote:
My latest tenor uke is third I have built and best sounding. Spruce top paired with south american walnut. Fan braced with cherry bridge plate. Braces notched over plate. Think light, light, light!!!!


Light is indeed the word! I make everything as light as I dare, then pause until I feel braver and make it lighter still.

However, there is an alternative approach which some makers adopt for tenors and baritones, particularly if they are to be used for the fast melodic run style popularised by Jake Shimabukuro. This is to build back and sides very rigid, to increase sustain from the top (it parallels a similar school in guitar building).

Sopranos and concerts tend to be strummed more than picked, and for them too much sustain is a problem as it muddies the sound. Spruce tops can be a problem here, because they sustain well and emphasise the high frequencies, so the uke can end up very "jangly". You might want to discuss this with the player - if their plan is to work up the kind of complex strumming used by Roy Smeck, or among modern players by (say) Ukulele Uff (videos by both on YouTube), then a hardwood top might be a better choice.


Excellent stuff. So glad I asked now. It might be a while before we get going on this but I think I'll do two at once incorporating the opposing points you mention. Will be interesting and fun to do.

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