My Brothers Christmas Present

So... I go this idea really way too late last Christmas.  I was going to make my brother a Uke.  I have been toting a Cigar Box around for a few years that I got from a shop in Alexandria.  I always wanted to make a uke out of it, but I just didn't have the motivation.  I thought if I gave myself a deadline, I would actually crank it out.  

I didn't realize the time I would really need to spend to finish the thing... Lol.

I shot pics all along the way, and I thought I would share them here.  I will try not to stall out half way through.  Some of my stumbles might help others is what i figure.

The first shots are of the scarf joint for the neck and head stock.  I have had the idea for the head stock design for a while. Basically a slightly modified "classical" head.  The wood is from a high school basket ball floor that was probably put down in the 60's some time.  It was chopped into sections and sold at a local wood shop for 4 bucks a sheet.  I probably bought too much...   A little cleaning and it is pretty nice Rock Maple. Some with some pretty sweet figuring!  

I did some basic shaping on the belt sander after I stacked up the heel (sorry no pics of the heel being glued).  I really wanted to retain the 'floor' feel of some of the pieces, so I didn't fill in the ribs on the bottom of the floor pieces.  A friend of mine recommended marine epoxy for the joints.  I regret that now for the scarf joint as it shows more than I wanted.  

More to come...

You need to be a member of Cigar Box Nation to add comments!

Join Cigar Box Nation

Email me when people reply –


  • At this point I felt like I was getting close.  Too bad it was almost the end of January... I got the tuners in, the frets in, and started the tail piece.  I had a plan for the tail piece, but it seemed to change in my mind the whole time.  I will get pics of that on the next post.  Filing the frets was a learning experience.  I should have taken the time to watch a few videos before I did this.  I chewed up the side of the fret board a bit which was a bummer.


    I re-braced the top because I was paranoid about long term longevity I trimmed down the braces, but I did not take as much care as i probably should have and nicked the top in a few spots.  



  • After my disappointment with the glue I chose in the bridge, I wanted to re do it.  I just didn't have much of the same wood left.  So, I raided the scrap bin at the local wood store for something cool.  I chopped up the piece I had already glued and laminated in the scrap piece.  I hat to say I am not really sure what it was.


    I knew what shape the bridge would be, and figured after all the shaping and sanding it would look pretty cool.  For now I left is pretty rough, and a little tall.



    I also glued in the nut.  Another scrap from the bin at the wood store.  I realize now, that I should have waited for this bit.  Of course this was after I had gouged things up trying to shape the fret ends... Live and learn.


  • Now came the real commitment...


    I drilled the head stock for the tuners.  Sanded the fret board.  Did the final sanding and shaping of the neck.  I put abalone dots on the side of the fret board.  I really liked the wood on the fret board so I didn't want to put dots on the front.  I thought it looked cleaner this way.


    I put a small cherry piece on the heel, just for looks.


    All in all this was my biggest learning point in the project for sure.  I could have solved all my problems with a decent set of brad point drill bits.  The point of the bit would wander no matter how I marked the start.  I marked all the points with a punch I had, but they still wandered a bit.  Normally I wouldn't care too much, but the dots, and the tuners looked lame if the did not line up.  I even had to wallow out a hole in the peg head to get the tuner where I wanted.  I then had to glue in the ferrules for the tuner in question.  Hopefully it holds.  All in all everything was turning out pretty well. 


  • Missed the order of things...

  • After I rough sanded the neck, I worked on getting the fret board ready.


    It is a piece of Brazilian Cherry wood floor that I had left from a project.  It was probably the home of some endangered species, or shelter for some indigenous tribe before it was floor in my old house. I had already bought it, so the guilt didn't weigh too much on me for this project.  Plus, it looks really nice! I used the fret calculator on for the distances.  I played with scale length to get the bridge in a place I thought would make the best use of the sound board and look nice with the size of things.  I think it was 14.5 in the end.  I need to measure to remember.


    I also thicknessed the piece I was going to use for the sound board.  I used my belt sander again.  Not ideal, but if I was careful it wouldn't get sucked out of my hand and into the machinery.  I added a small brace that I ended up redoing.  I was paranoid that it would not hold the tension that I wanted.  The top was 2mm when I was done.  If you are curious, the 'wood' on the back of these boxes is 3 ply.  I sanded through one ply to get to the thickness that I needed. I also did the first lamination for the bridge.  Again, I regret the choice of glue... but I sort of fixed it at the end.


    I cut the sound hole with a hobby knife.  Also worked OK.  I have a hole cutter now that might do a better job.  The plywood does not like to cut, so I needed to sand out some of the imperfections.  About this time was when Christmas actually came.  I had to show my brother some pictures and promise to get it to him shortly.

    • Next I wanted to get the fret board attached to the neck.  I had pretty close to the final shape of the neck, so I figured I was safe.  I had stolen some measurements from a Uke I already had, but I wanted to go a bit wider with the fret board.  Not much, just 1/8".


      The glue down of the fret board went well.  I was concerned about shifting around with the glue, but it seemed to go on straight.  I had read all kinds of tips for keeping it from shifting, but I just went for it.


      I got mu tuners in during this time.  I realized that the tuner shafts were a bit longer than I had expected, so I glued some scales to the side of the peg head.  It looks really nice any way, and made the peg head exactly the right width for the tuners.  I think that most "fancy" wood work was invented to hide one mistake or other.  

This reply was deleted.