misterg’s spice rack uke build : Part 1 – Making the neck blank

You remember when Homer Simpson decided to build a spice rack?

Well, I decided to build an electric uke for my son. I thought that some people here might be interested to see how it went (if you want me to stop, you just need to say the “safe word”, remember? ;))

I wanted to use what I had in my shed as far as possible, as I wasn’t confident that it would ever get finished.

I decided on a ‘Concert’ sized instrument – 15″ scale (for comparison, a Fender Strat is 25.5″). To keep the string spacing the same as his acoustic uke, the neck needs to be just over 40mm wide at the nut (string spacing is 10mm at the nut and 12mm at the bridge).

For the neck, I cut a ~ 50mm wide strip off some old laboratory work bench tops that are made of some type of teak:

I cleaned this up with a plane, and also cut another, wider piece for the headstock and planed it down to about 1/2 thickness. I wanted a scarf-jointeded neck with a separate fingerboard, so the next job was to cut a 15° taper on the neck and headstock, clamp them together and plane the taper flat and true. I can’t cut straight to save my life, and was pleasantly surprised that this seemed to go OK:

(I had spent 1/2 a day truing my little block plane up and sharpening the blade, and I think it made a huge difference.)

Next, you just flip the thin piece over and glue it to the tapered end of the neck (I think for guitars, people tend to glue the headstock to the underside of the neck, but for ukes the headstock goes on the end as far as I can tell). Trouble is, the glue is slippery, and you’re trying to clamp two tapered pieces together. The answer is to clamp the neck to a board first to keep everything true, and to drill holes for small pins in a waste area to stop the headstock sliding away as it’s clamped:

You need a lot of clamps…

One neck blank:

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