Sunday, December 11, 2011

Ashton Uke (IW#36)


Been a long time since I have posted.  This does not reflect a lack of work, just a lack of time to write about it.    Let's get back into it, shall we?

Here is a lovely little fretless uke made from an Ashton cigar box.  Funny to use a brand-new cigar box, I get all worried about scratching it on the bench.  The bridge is a piece of moulding that came off of those church pews I got my hands on, it happened to be shaped exactly right, and seems to work well.  Initially I scuffed the finish on the box and epoxied the bridge on there, which worked pretty well for about a month.  The >sproingggg< sound that it made as the epoxy gave up the ghost one day was pretty exciting, which is what drove the brass machine screws.  Didn't seem to affect the sound too much.

This is also my first experiment with a bolt-on neck.  I had been making through necks so this was an exploration for me.  Turns out the major problem is that with a cigar box the tension of the strings makes the side of the box bow out, which releases some tension, so you tighten the strings, which makes the side bow out more.  I ended up running a piece of threaded rod right through to the other side, but that didn't fix the problem quite, either.  Not sure what I am going to do about that, but for now I think I'll go back to the "stick through a box" method.

Here is what it sounds like:

Banjo Uke (IW#35)


I have been wanting a banjo uke ever since I was in a jug band in the early Naughts.  Our washboard player Short Stride Clyde had one he got off of ebay and I have wanted one ever since.  Even though a lot of the tins I have used have technically been banjos, I have been wanting a real skin banjo uke.  I happened across this little tambourine and realized my time had come.

I feel a little weird taking apart one instrument to make another for this.  I have been having this struggle lately, thinking that maybe it would be better to buy cheap ukes on amazon or ebay and pull off the necks and use those for my diabolical purposes, but it is hard to see my way clear to ending the useful life of an instrument that has already been made.  So I have until now eschewed that line of reasoning.

But stretching a skin seems daunting, so I decided this little tambourine would be sacrificed to make my banjo uke.  It ended up being quite a nice little instrument, the neck being some more of that red oak that came from the church pews from a local church built in 1906.  The tail piece is the handle of a lovely silver fork from the flea market, it has some beautiful ornament.  Just a little fanciness. 

I am still learning how to play uke the way I want, and I have to admit, it is harder without frets.  Maybe in the new year I will break down and get some fret wire and start to try my hand at that.  Eesh.  Here's how it sounds:


Saturday, December 10, 2011

Tin Box Uke (IW#035)

I got this little tin at the flea market.  I think it is actually steel soldered together, to be honest.  It has a nice ring to it though, and it made a pretty good little uke.  I am learning things about all of the parts of an instrument, and one of the things I learned with this one is that if the neck is too skinny it is hard to play.  Eventually I reckon I might make a new neck for this one.  I really like the mismatched tuning pegs, too, they really enhance the overall weirdness of the piece.  And the floating bridge on the head of the body makes it basically a banjo, really.  Just a steel head instead of a skin one.  Operates about the same, though.


I ended up running a piece of threaded rod through the body to secure the neck, which has the added bonus of making the neck adjustable.  Pretty cool.  Sounds good too, though I am finding that the limitation of all of the open-backed models is that they are damped when you hold them against your body.  Not too bad, though.  And it sounds real good when you beat on it in the middle of a song.  Real jug band-y in a good way.  Here is how it sounds: