Building an instrument of your own can be an experience which deepens your connection to the instrument itself.
I mean, when you’re involved in the most fundamental process of its design and construction, it’s simply no wonder why you would cherish it so much.
Why Build Your Own Ukulele?
The majority of people would be satisfied simply buying their ukulele already made. Of course, this is a much simpler course of action!
However, people still choose to build their own instruments; for a multitude of reasons.
For some, building an instrument is like solving a puzzle. Putting parts together and slowly figuring it all out is an enjoyable experience for many.
Solving the puzzle can lead to a much greater understanding of how the ukulele actually functions as a musical instrument – particularly when you’re piecing together all the intricate parts.
Doing it yourself can lead to the sense of achievement one feels when tackling a project like this. It can be very rewarding to make a commitment to a project like this and see it all the way to completion.
Not always, however, in some cases building your own ukulele can be more affordable than buying a ready-made model from a store.
This can also be a great way to connect with a loved one – your child or your partner. Whatever the case, building a ukulele together can be a fantastic bonding experience!
A Ukulele Isn’t Just A Ukulele
There are many different types of ukulele, different sizes, as well as different brands (find the best ukulele brands here.)
It’s helpful to understand some of these variances, as these differences in size and style will produce different tonal characteristics when played.
Let’s Talk Sizes:
There are four main ukulele sizes: soprano, concert, tenor and baritone. The soprano is the smallest, and they gradually increase in size until reaching the largest – the baritone.
All three sizes are tuned according to standard tuning (G – C – E – A), which means if you learn to play one, you can play them all! Whereas the baritone’s tuning is unique (D – G – B – E).
The earliest ukuleles were all soprano sized. This is why it’s traditionally considered the standard size and the most commonly recalled image when people think of the ukulele.
If you’re curious, here are some of my favorite sopranos on the market.
Soprano ukuleles are the most affordable that are available, but it’s definitely worth considering the practical implications of their size.
Players with very large hands or fingers may find it a little more challenging to navigate around the fret-board.
Their tone is also very different. Soprano ukuleles don’t sound as round or full due to its smaller size. The concert and tenor ukuleles were introduced in the 1920s as a response to demand for a more full ukulele sound.
Concert and tenor ukuleles are also generally a little easier to play due to their longer scales, meaning there is more space between the frets.
You can check out a few of the more popular concert ukuleles here.
If you want to know more about the different ukulele sizes you can check out my post here.
The Different Styles of Ukulele
In addition to the various sizes of ukulele available, there are also many different styles.
For example, there are banjo ukuleles (one of the most popular types other than the standard ukulele).
The timbre of the banjo ukulele is quite different to the standard, with players generally describing the banjo ukulele as sounding much more “tinny” and less warm in comparison.
They’re also much louder and brighter.
There’s also a guitar ukulele, which features six strings (the standard features four).
The size is equivalent to the baritone of a standard ukulele – and the tone is an interesting synergy of a standard ukulele and nylon string guitar.
There are many more different types out there, so if this has piqued your interest, there’s much more to learn!
There are even electric ukuleles for the performers out there!
So, now that you have a little more background knowledge on the ukulele, we can get back to the business of building one.
Exactly How Hard Is It To Build Your Own Ukulele?
All this really depends on how far down the rabbit hole you’d like to go! It really is up to you to set the difficulty level of this project, and there are a number of ways to meet whatever standard you have in mind.
Maybe once you’ve explored one of the simpler options, you might gain enough confidence to increase the difficulty level!
Here are the numerous methods you can explore that vary in materials required, complexity, time commitment
Using Pre-Built Ukulele Kits
These are excellent kits for beginners and those starting out. This would be a great project to undertake with the kids!
All of the most challenging aspects of the build are done for you, so you should be able to complete it within 1 – 2 hours.
Here are some pre-built kits that are worth considering if you choose this method:
1. Zimo DIY Ukulele Kit
- DIY soprano Hawaii ukulele Kits perfect for anyone and even serious musicians
- Using the latest technology along with highly trained and experienced craftsman we are now offering a ukulele kit that simply cannot beat for it's quality and price
This is a very simple build, so there’s plenty the kids can do in this project. Most of the tough work is done for you.
It comes with the body already assembled, as well as all the holes drilled. Although they have done some sanding work, some additional light sanding will be required.
Joining the parts together and screwing them in is the main task for the project. You may want to reinforce some of your joining work with glue to make it extra solid.
There are some excellent reviews on this kit, with people praising the quality of the parts as pretty solid!
The only downside with this kit is there are no instructions. However, it is fairly straightforward. If you’re willing to have a little patience and curiosity, you should have it put together in no time!
It’s estimated to take around 30 minutes to complete.
2. JYFY DIY Ukulele Kit
- DESIGN YOUR CONCEPT UKULELE: Unfinished wood gives you endless ideas, basswood body has nice surface, you can stain or paint what you want.
- PERFECT DIY MUSICAL INSTRUMENT: DIY ukulele kit is a great way to learn about ukulele, offer an opportunity to learn how they are formed. The FIRST Ukulele you deserve to have.
This is another kit that prides itself on simplicity of construction. There are fairly clear instructions with pictures that come with this one, although it is very straightforward.
With the wood unfinished, there are plenty of possibilities for staining, as well as painting any kind of design you envision for your ukulele.
The instructions indicate that the main focus of the build is in joining the parts together, for example; attaching the neck to the body.
The rest of the project is basically gluing parts down, as well as stringing the ukulele, drawing the bridge and screwing in the tuning pegs.
Similar to the Zimo kit, the body is already constructed and all the holes are already drilled. Some sanding will be required for a nice finish.
Advanced Ukulele Build Kits
This is a fantastic option for someone who really does want to start from scratch, but also wants all the parts and instructions provided in one kit.
This is certainly a jump in difficulty level and will require some more time. However, you will gain a much deeper understanding of the ukuleles inner workings and will ultimately test your skills!
For these builds, you will be required to construct the body of the ukulele yourself. You will also have to assemble all the parts together in a much more technically proficient way.
Be prepared to have some tools at hand to complete the project, including a hand drill,
3. The “Gittylele” Ukulele Kit
- Build your own fun-to-play ukulele with this easy-to-build kit!
- Designed and manufactured in the USA
This one is somewhat in between the pre-built kits and the more advanced ones, so if you’re looking for a challenge, but not something too daunting – this may be perfect for you.
This should take around 2 hours to complete, but the body itself is not joined together so you will need to assemble this.
The “Gittylele” kit provides everything you need to construct your very own soprano ukulele. It is certainly a unique looking ukulele, based on a roughly sketched design by the companies owner.
There are fantastically comprehensive and detailed instructions that come with this kit, available in PDF format. Outlined within them are the additional tools required as well as very elaborate steps accompanied by pictures.
With such in-depth instructions, it will be very hard to get stuck with this kit!
And now for something a little more complex.
4. MusicMakers Baritone Ukulele Kit
- DIY Kit for Baritone Ukulele- Musical Instrument Kit
- Solid spruce soundboard, solid mahogany neck and back
This is a company creating seriously excellent kits. Their products allow players to craft their very own high-quality, professional instruments, it truly is so much more than a simple DIY kit.
In fact, the kit itself comes with options for customization; for example using inlays and rosettes for decorative touches.
MusicMakers have stated that the difficulty level is high, but it doesn’t mean the project is unsuitable for beginner woodworkers. The level is more reflective of the amount of time required, which is estimated at around 40 hours.
The construction is certainly more intricate and delicate, but with patience, it can easily be accomplished.
Detailed instructions are also available in PDF format. One of the fantastic things about the MusicMakers kit is if you ever run into any trouble – they’re going to be there for you. They state that technical support is available via phone or email.
The kit is quite costly in comparison to the other kits previously mentioned, but the parts are all professional quality.
The final look of this ukulele is quite stunning. It has a strong classical, traditional look. This is probably due to the stunning curvatures in the ukuleles body.
This is a great quality kit fit for any budding luthier, or anyone simply interested in gaining a deep insight into the construction of instruments.
With top quality materials, excellent instructions, boasting the best customer service and real-person technical support – this seems like an amazing choice if you’re after the best quality build money can buy.
Check out the MusicMakers kit here.
Serious About DIY:
If you’re feeling particularly brave and capable, you could throw yourself completely in the deep end and build your own ukulele from scratch!
This is definitely the most advanced method of building your ukulele. So, if you’re a newbie, remember that it will take some time and patience to complete successfully.
Building from scratch, of course, means that you will have to purchase all the separate parts yourself. You will need to dive into wood-working techniques and will also need to shape the wood (if this is your choice of main material for the body).
This is far too advanced a subject to completely expand on in this guide, however, there are many online resources if you’re interested in doing this. Step-by-step guides are available to walk you through the process. All good guides will include exactly what tools and materials you will need.
Here is an excellent resource for building a ukulele from scratch. This guide contains plenty of pictures and detailed instructions to successfully complete your own build.
There are many more professional resources available to guide your ukulele build. The Guild of American Luthiers has instrument plans you can purchase. For a more affordable option, Elderly offer professional blueprints to guide your building process.
There are also entire books dedicated to the art of crafting ukuleles! Purchasing a book is a fantastic option if you’re looking for a more in-depth guide to ukulele construction; by masters of the art.
If you’re strapped for cash or feeling really experimental, there are guides available online to build your own ukulele out of commonly found or recycled materials.
Guides cover builds using materials such as cardboard and even laundry detergent bottles!
Get Creative With Your Build
Once you’ve finally put together your ukulele, you can get to more important matters: decoration! Your ukulele is literally now a blank canvas – awaiting whatever design your mind can entertain.
Building a ukulele can be a very rich learning experience. It allows you to direct even more creativity into your instrument, as you can completely customize your ukulele down to the finest details and features.
Additionally, building it yourself ensures that by the time you’re done, you will completely understand the functionality behind every part of the instrument, from the bridge to every fret.
Whether you’re a beginner or more advanced builder looking for a challenge, it’s possible to build your own great sounding ukulele that you can be proud of for years to come!