Friday, August 3, 2012

Mountain Ukes (IW#'s 43 & 44)

I wrote a little while ago about a project making ukuleles.  These came, as I described before from an old piano we are dismantling in conjunction with a dance piece for a company called Dance Exchange.  I got enough scrap to make two ukes, which I have dubbed the "Mountain Ukes," as they are being made for that piece.

The tennon on the neck fits in to a mortice on the body for a secure joint.
This has been my first foray into making the sound chambers, and I tried a new method for setting the neck, which I stole from Joel Eckhaus, a very accomplished luthier who presented at the Furniture Society conference recently.  He has a tennon cut on the end of the neck which he bolts into a mortise in the body.  Very clever, so I stole it for these.  One of the limitations I have run into doing the "stick-through-a-box" method is that the sound hole can't be where you expect it to be:  the middle of the box.  if you put the sound holes on the sides (something that a lot of cigar box banjo makers do), it looks less "guitar-y" which in some cases is something I am trying to achieve.  So for these I tried it and by jeebers it worked!

The cedar lids sound great, the very thin one out of the recycled shingles sounds brighter.  Overall, they are pretty great boxes and fun to play.  Not sure I want to get in the line of making whole instruments, though, even out of found materials.  There is too much temptation to start acting like an actual luthier without having the knowledge and skill set one needs to follow up on that.  And I really like that I was able to leave the original finish from the piano on the fingerboard, as an homage to the instrument that was, and that is living again in the new instrument.


  1. Wow! Seriously. High five for this!

  2. I met Joel at the Berkeley Ukulele Club in California. I have had his CD Ukulele Eck and the Fabulous Lacklusters in my collection for about 6 years or more.