Hello all!!

 My local music store has a ukulele club that I would like to try as I have never played one and they seem fun. I want to make my own since I already make CBG's.

First question, I use a neck through the box design on my guits and put sound holes above and below the neck. Will this work with a ukulele? I get very good sound with this design but would like your thoughts. 

Next, I was thinking something a bit larger than a soprano uke, what would be the scale from nut to bridge on the next size up?

Lastly ( for now), proper tuning for a uke? Never played one before so unsure.

Okay, one more. I typically use a 1/4 inch threaded rod for my nut and bridge, will this work with the nylon strings or should I go with wood on both ends. If so, what would the string spacing be on these.

Thank you in advance for all the tips and advice I know I will get in the next few days!!!

Jeff

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Scale lengths for ukes are as follows:

Soprano: 13 to 14"

Concert: 15 tp16-1/2"

Tenor: 17" (most popular right now.  easy to finger without fingers getting in the way)

Baritone: 20"

A cigar box uke is not uncommon, but I've found there can be a few "snobs" in the ukulele world.  While in the CBG world "there are no rules", this doesn't seem to apply in the uke-iverse.  Even so, ukes of any type or construction are incredibly fun and you should go for it.  

I might suggest using a bolt-on neck rather than a neck-through, tho.  You can place the sound hole in the more "traditional" spot easier, and you'll get a bigger sound chamber for a better non-amped sound.  Here's a couple of mine, 1 neck through and 1 bolt-on.  Both are 17" Tenors.

Hal,

Thanks for the info. Your ukes look fantastic, I especially like the top one. I think for my first try I will stay with my neck through design as it is what I am most familiar with. As for fitting in, our local music shop s very low key, in fact I have sold several CBG's there and they hang near the ukulele's in the acoustic room. Also, I like the idea of the tenor size. Thanks again for your help.

Hi Jeffrey,  I have a Tenor CBUke.  It's a great size with the cigar box and it's a neck through too.  Mine does not have any sound holes (I know, weird, I bought this one) but it's really bright and quite loud with a wood box.  I'm thinking of drilling a small hole on the side that would be up towards me so I could hear it also while playing.  I played a friends regular uke that had one and I liked the idea of a sound hole there.  There are plenty of sites that talk about tuning the uke, so finding that wouldn't be a problem.  The builder upgraded my strings to red Aqulia brand strings... wow! I think they really make the Uke's sound that bright.  Hope this helps a little.  I haven't built yet, but it's coming this spring.  I've squirreled a bunch of components so hopefully I'll build something.

I second the bolt on approach for a uke, although depending on the box a inner brace might be needed.  Look back a couple topics in this forum and you can see the one I did for reference.

Habanera you mention tenors as most popular right now, do you mean as a cbu?  It seems like sopranos are still the most popular traditional size.  I agree a soprano is a little tight but I have fairly big hands and it plays fine, plus you can reach a lot of frets!  I am making my first concert size right now, and probably a tenor eventually.

Also agree the Aquila strings brighten the sound.

An inner neck brace will definitely be required for a bolt-on, as well as a bridge patch.  Depending on the strength of the box, you may also need additional internal soundboard bracing similat to a traditional uke.  Remember that the lighter you build, the better the sound will be, but don't sacrifice strength if you want it to last.

I mention Tenor size as the most "popular" today as that's what most custom luthiers seem to be making.  I did not mean to imply other sizes were inferior, just that most people with adult-sized hands find the Tenor to be the most comfortable to play.  There is certainly room for all and I have both a traditional concert and a baritone in the works for now, as well as a tenor-sized cookie-tin banjolele.  These will all be bolt-on necks, btw.

Another option we haven't discussed yet is the "Spainish heel" option, where the neck block is actually part of the total neck, slotted, and the uke sides are inserted into the slots.  With a cigar box base, it's easy to notch the box to slide onto the neck.  Using the bottom of the box as the soundboard, it can be very rigid as well.  Here's a pic of some necks I did in the Spanish style.  For use with a cigar box, make the notch the same width as the thickness of the box side.

Hal,

Those necks are beautiful. Also, most likely past my wood working skill level. I will need to experiment with the bolt on neck as I have not done anything like that in the past. I have done 30 plus guits and one bass with the neck through and a piezo pickup with great success. I guess ukes have their own set of challenges. 

That they do!  But don't be afraid to try something new.  Each step in carving a neck (or anything else for that matter) can be broken down into simple steps.  That's when the total becomes greater than the parts and the satisfaction envelops you.  And don't worry about your first 5000 mistakes.  They prepare you to correct your next 5000 mistakes! (That comes from a sign hanging in my shop.)

For a bolt-on, there's two basic ways to go.  A hanger bolt (wood screw on one end, machined threads on the other) is the easiest, but weak. In time, it will pull out of the heel.  IM(very)HO, a knock-down bolt is much stronger and is only slightly more difficult to install. You can get them at most hardware stores - they're used in furniture like bed frames and RTA shelving.  Avoid the ones with an insert that threads into the wood - you'll have the same weakness issues as with a hanger bolt.  With a knock-down bolt, you drill a vertical hole for the insert in the top of the neck into the heel (the hole will be covered by the fretboard) and intersect that hole with another for the bolt through the neck block and heel.  Makes a VERY strong, removeable joint.

Good luck with your project and post lots of pics!


Maybe the terminology is wrong, but you can simply screw into the neck from inside the box (screw on?) with wood screws, at least with a uke.  Although I like your slotted version too.

You CAN just screw into the neck from inside the box, but I personally would not attach a neck that way. Wood screws into end grain of a neck are doomed to fail.  That's why I reccomend the knock-down bolt over the hanger bolt.

This is a great thread.  I have been struggling with uke neck joints for a couple of years now.  I have been using hanger screws, but Hal's post has me worried. I haven't had any failures yet, but I have always been skeptical about threading into end grain.  I like the knock down bolt idea.  I have used them with Ikea furniture and have seen them in the hardware store.

I think I'll give that a try on the next one I build.  Thanks, Hal. 

I looked more into this and I agree Hal's way is stronger.  But look up Taylor neck mounting - they use threaded inserts on a six string.  Not saying it is ok just because they do it but it eases my mind a bit.  My feeling for a uke is that it is not that stressed.  The neck is short and the strings fairly light, unless you wail on it or backpack with it I feel it would be ok if your neck is good hardwood and the screw thread is fairly deep, pilot holes correct, the neck fits nice and square and so on (I am prepared to eat those words however!).  Use the best method you can achieve and build em!

I would agree that Taylor's method produces a strong joint BUT it's much more complicated than what we've been discussing for simple cigar box guitars/ukes.  It involves two horizontal inserts and one vertical insert (through the neck extension) along with a very precise mortise into the guitar body, along with laser cut adjustment shims.   http://www.frets.com/FretsPages/Luthier/Data/Guitar/Taylor/99NeckJo...

And Kigar, you're absolutely correct that nylon 4 stringed ukes are not as stressed as a steel 6 string.  In reality, almost any attachment method will work (short of bubblegum).  I just tend to overbuild my gits.

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