Ever wanted to make your own ukulele? Or just curious on the process? Great, in this article we’ll show you the steps to doing just that.
Please take this guide as a starting point more than anything; unless you’ve experience with woodwork, chances are you’ll need more through instruction. That said, if you’re
Below, we’ll cover all the steps required to build your very own ukulele so you can be strumming along in no time! You can also see video instructions on how to make a ukulele at the bottom of this article.
Before you start the building process, make sure that you have all the proper equipment, as well as eyewear, gloves, and other protective measures. Here is everything you will need to build your own uke at home:
- Miter saw
- Sandpaper (60 grit and 300 grit)
- Straight file
- Rounded file
- Rotary tool (with sanding drum)
- Wood burning tool
- Small bolt cutters
- ⅛” plywood
- A strip of ¼”x3” red oak
- Wood glue
- Ukulele shape templates (see below for a free one)
- ¼” steel bolt, or piece of bone or hardwood
- 2” Finishing nails
- Wood finish
- Tuning pegs
- Spray adhesive
Once you have all of the materials and tools gathered, you can begin construction on the ukulele body. The body is made out of ⅛” plywood, but you should perhaps think about going a bit thinner, as this will make your uke more resonant and have a better sound. However, ⅛” plywood will definitely suffice and is easier to work with for beginners.
A template for the shape of the body can be found here. Note that other templates here will be needed later in the process, specifically for the neck and the bridge.
For the sides of the body, use ¼” x 3” red oak (or another strip of dense wood) and cut it into 8 pieces:
- 2 pc. 6.5”
- 2 pc. 3.5”
- 4 pc. 1.75” with 45-degree miters on each end
Once you have all of this in order, now you can begin assembly:
- Print out the template for the body and use a spray adhesive to stick the template on the ⅛” plywood.
- Use a bandsaw to cut out the shape of the top and bottom of the body.
- Drill a 1¾” soundhole into the top piece of the body. A tip here is to drill partway through the top, flip it over, and finish cutting through the other side to prevent a blowout or break the plywood.
- Glue the 8 side pieces of red oak onto the bottom board and hold them each in place with clamps.
- Once dry, sand the top edges with 60 grit sandpaper to make sure they are smooth and level.
- Glue on the top of the body (the piece with the soundhole). Use a clamp or some sort of weighting system to make sure this top piece is secure.
At this point, you should have what looks like a little box with a hole in the top. Now it is time to build the second structural piece, the neck. For this, you should use a 1 ¾” x 2 ½” piece of white oak. Locate the templates for the neck and print them out and glue them on the white oak.
- Cut the neck to the specific shape of the template using a bandsaw.
- Make some sort of marking on the head to denote where the tuning pegs will go.
- Drill 5/16” holes for the tuning pegs.
- The template will have markings for where the frets will go- use a miter saw to cut small grooves at each point down the neck.
- Then use a hand saw to cut a notch on the head for the nut and use a straight file to make sure it is straight.
- Shape the neck using shaping tools or sanding drums on a rotary tool to give a comfortable feel to the neck. This will require some finesse on your part, but shape it to however it feels best in your hand.
- Sand the top edge of the body with 60 grit sandpaper. This will ensure that you have good contact between the neck and the body so that it will hold.
- Glue the neck to the body, leaving just a slight amount of the neck overhanging the top of the body. For some instruments or depending on your choice of wood, glue might not hold as well as bolting or screwing the neck in place. But for a beginner’s ukulele, gluing the neck to the body should hold just fine.
- Use a wood-burning tool to mark the 5, 7, and 10 frets. This can also be done with carving tools, or you can simply put small circular dot stickers on the frets instead.
- Use the 2” finishing nails as frets. Clip the ends off and size them accordingly using a bolt cutter.
- Affix these into place using epoxy and place a piece of wood over the frets held down by a clamp to ensure that they are flat, secure, and level.
- Once dry, round off the edges of the frets with a flat-file.
Your uke is starting to look like a uke now! Next is to build the saddle, nut, and bridge. These are the components of a ukulele that the strings will rest on top of, so the quality of materials and their placement is crucial for having a good-sounding instrument.
- Make the saddle from walnut or any dense piece of wood. Print out the template for the saddle and paste it onto the piece of walnut. Cut it to shape using a band saw.
- Sand and shape the saddle with flat and rounded files. Make sure that each groove is smooth so that each string will lay flat and uniform.
- Drill 1/16” holes in the back of the saddle equally spaced apart. These will be the holes that the strings go through to rest on the bridge.
- Make the nut and the bridge out of a piece of bone, dense wood, or ¼” stainless steel bolt. Using bone or wood will make your uke sound much better, but using a stainless steel bolt is cheaper and more accessible, as well as more durable. If you are using a steel bolt, you will have to cut off the top of the bolt with a Dremel tool or a hacksaw.
- The center of the bridge should sit 13 ⅝” from the center of the nut. This is a very important measurement because this will affect the pitch and tone of the whole ukulele.
- Glue the saddle to the top of the body with wood glue and clamp it down until it dries.
- Glue the nut and the bridge in place using epoxy, just like was done with the frets.
You are almost there! This last step will get your ukulele looking beautiful as well as make it ready to play. You probably will not find the tuning pegs or strings at your local hardware store.
- Finish the wood with a high gloss wood finish. This will be a little time intensive, as you will probably need to do a fair number of coats depending on what wood finisher you use. You want to avoid a super thick, high gloss finish, as this will affect the overall sound of the uke. Some good options are:
- Gloss spray varnish
- Tung Oil
- Wipe-on Poly finish
- Sand down the whole thing to remove any excess finish. Here is where you will want to use high grit sandpaper (at least 300 grit or more) to provide a smooth finish that is
- Press in the tuning peg inserts and install the tuning pegs.
- Put on the strings, wind them up and tune.
How To Build A Ukulele, Conclusion (And Step By Step Video)
So there you have it, the beginner steps on how to make a ukulele.
I know it can be easier if you see someone else doing it though rather than reading it, so here’s a great video we modeled some of the above steps from: