Creating a Workshop

Earlier this year I made the decision to build an electric ukulele. Little by little I’ve been moving the project along. One pretty major problem I’ve faced is finding the space for a workshop. With summer just around the corner, I’ve cleared a corner of my garage and I’m now ready to Rock and Roll!

Don’t Open… Man Cave!

So what do I need in my Man Cave?

Let’s talk about the tools that I’m going to need to build an electric ukulele.

Let me start by saying that there’s no right answer for this. This post is simply a guide highlighting some of the kit that fellow home-luthiers are using. You don’t need all of this equipment; If I could make an entire electric ukulele with nothing more than a gimlet, then I would. But if I’m going to do a good job, it’s only right that I consider my options! :-)

Some of this stuff I already have, others I’m yet to make a decision on.

Cutting wood… 

Use your ‘ed mate!Photo courtesy of http://www.onelargeprawn.co.za

Unless you’re buying a pre-made body and neck to simply assemble your instrument then you’re going to need some kind of saw to cut the wood to shape. In ascending order of ease, coolness and cost, these are your most likely options:

Jig-saw → Scroll-saw → Band-saw

I’ve already got a jig-saw so I’m likely to stick with this.

Shaping wood… One major piece of kit to consider getting hold of is a router. They scare the life out of me, but they’re going to simplify the build no end. So I’m going to get one! Routers come in two flavours: fixed-base or plunge. It seems to me that unless you’re planning on attaching your router to a router table, then the safer and more versatile option is to get hold of a plunge router.

The three main jobs that I’m expecting to use the router for are:

  • Regular cutting. I’ll want to shape the back of the neck and cut cavities for the electrics. This should be possible with any standard bit
  • Trimming. Depending upon the saw used to get the wood to general shape, I may find that I need to tidy up edges. This will require some sort of “flush-trimming” bit.
  • Edge-forming. The ukulele body will most likely need corner-rounding with a “roundover” bit.

I’m expecting to need to shape the wood a little more. Here are a few options for other kit I might need:

  • Spoke-shave.This will ease shaping the neck. There are different flavours of spoke-shave available, the difference being the shape of the “sole”. Flat or concave should be fine.
  • Sandpaper. Even I know that sandpaper is dead! Invest in some foam sanding blocks of different grades. They are the business!

Making holes…

No tool required!

I’m expecting to be drilling holes for the tuners, connecting the neck to the body and for the jack socket.

When it comes to holes, it’s no surprise to learn that drills are your friends. I’ve got both a hand-drill and electric, though I’m expecting that the electric is the one I’ll be using for this project. What I don’t have, and what might be a very good idea to get hold of is a drill-press.

I’ll research the best drill-bit sizes nearer the time.

Fitting frets… 

Fret-fitting is a specialist job with a few unique requirements. If you wanted, you could really go to town here with all sorts of expensive specialist tools. I’m not going to go to town! Pretty much any thin-bladed saw should be up to the job of cutting slots. I’m not sure of the blade thickness I’ll need; I’ll make this call once I’ve got the fret wire itself. I’ll also need a ruler for measuring, pliers for cutting to size, and a file for smoothing off. How hard can it be? 😛

And if I want to push the boat out I might also consider a mitre-box to help me to get the frets parallel to each other.


And if it all goes wrong…


Meet my friends…

Safety First…. 

So there you have it… most of the tools that will be required to build an electric ukulele. There’s some pretty serious kit in there! Lots of potential for me to hurt myself!. My woodwork teacher at school had missing fingers. He’s not the only one. I personally have no intention of being the next Tony Iommi. So with that in mind I’ve put together a quick safety reminder.

Disclaimer: I’m not a safety expert! Do your own homework. Learn how to use your kit. And above all else, stay sober at least long enough to lock up your tools! 

Here are my top three safety tips:

  • Keep your sleeves short to avoid entanglement
  • Tie back hair and remove jewelry
  • Wear goggles, ear defenders and a mask
Always read the instructions before operating machinery drunk!

Stay safe brothers and sisters!

And finally…

I’m now going to be buying equipment and drawing out my electric ukulele design. Expect an update on this in the near future…

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