Hey folks! I've been going back and forth for months on whether or not I can pull off building this instrument, and I'm wondering what you think. I want to build my own bass ukulele, 4 polyurethane strings (probably the Kala Silver Rumblers), standard tuning, acoustically useful, and I know a few of you have done similar things. I don't need a masterpiece, or something my grandchildren can play, I just need something I can mess around with while I sit in the car and wait for my wife in the store. After way too many dozens of hours scouring the web for info, I really can't figure out what's required for a working instrument vs what's required for a professional level instrument that an experienced builder would stake his reputation on. If some of you would be so kind as to offer your insights, I'd really appreciate it!
So for the body, I don't actually want to use a cigar box. I'd like to make my own box. Now, I've read that more mass in the body gives more sustain, but that it also means the strings can't power it acoustically, so you get less sound. Those ideas don't make any sense to me when put together, so I don't know what to think about box size and wood thickness. Obviously it needs to be biggish for bass notes to work, but do I want it smallish because of the soft strings, does it need to be thin wood for more sound, or thick wood for more sustain? Right now here's my plan: I've got a basswood plaque that I've done a relief carving in, and I thought that would make a fun back. The plaque is 11"x14" and probably about 5/8" thick. Too much? Just right? Would it be better if I trim it to just the carving, which would be about 11"x7", with about half of the thickness carved away on average? Either way, I'd like to just grab some 3/8" basswood from a local shop for the sides, maybe even for the soundboard.
For the neck, I'd really like to avoid the complication of a truss rod. I'm hoping that'll be fine, since my brief moments with a U-Bass suggests that those strings have just about zero tension (is that right?). The trick is that I'd also like to be able to carve down the neck for a whittled feel, which I don't imagine I could do with a real hardwood. Do you think I could safely use basswood for the neck? Is there anything sturdier but still whittle-able that I should consider? The top will be fretless, I'm thinking I'll just add some sort of markers and then sand the heck out of it.
For the bridge and nut, I'll probably grab a bone blank, slice it in half, carve four notches and call it good. Can't decide on electronics. I've got no soldering iron, and might just keep it acoustic for simplicity's sake.
I've probably got more questions, but you get the idea of what I'm going for. I'm stuck in a $50 budget if I do it, most of which will go to strings and tuners, so I don't have much left to get fancy with. Do y'all think it can work? Is there anything super important I'm not considering? Seriously, deciding to get married was way easier for me than committing to this project, since it could be awesome, or it could be a complete dud. Advise me, wise builders!
I should correct you here, Mr. Brown was my father, it's John
You got the secret right there and I guess your graphic experience gives you that. They say a picture is worth a thousand words and that is what we see in our minds, but no words.
Good luck to us all----jb
Hi Jared, I think it would be a shame if you built a great bass without a pre-amp/pickup. I used the battery powered pre-amp from CBGitty on a 2-string bass and it sounds pretty good. You can check out some photos and comments on my video. Good luck and have fun!