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Thread: A ukulele that fits through a kayak hatch.

  1. #1
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    Default A ukulele that fits through a kayak hatch.

    A ukulele that fits through a kayak hatch? Do they even sell such a thing? Especially in my favorite baritone uke scale length?

    No idea, actually. Didn't even check. Why would I do that when it might offer a convincing reason to just buy one instead of building my own? Where would be the fun in that? Sorry, but that's just not the way I roll.

    Also, I got my paws on a nice chunk of fat 5/4 american black cherry lumber to use, Prunus serotina itself. A very pleasant wood to work with indeed, both looking and smelling nice. I'm pretty sure it was destined from the start to become a travel-sized baritone ukulele.

    I used the basic concept of the Martin Backpacker guitar where you saw out the neck and body out of basically one big stick. You do most of the shaping of the neck and headstock while it's still a solid stick that you can handily clamp into a vise. For the hollow body, I marked and cut outside the lines, and then used a spokeshave and plane to thin the sides down to where they seemed flexible enough to spread the way I wanted them to.



    The ends are spread apart with a bit of stick sawn from the chunk I had cut out of the middle, so it would be the same height and all. I cut the ends to a consistent angle, and then sawed it into a nice arc. The ends were left thicker to act as a bit of integral blocking, and to leave room to thoroughly round over the corners with a rasp. Don't want your kayaking ukulele to have any sharp corners that could chafe on your drybags, you know.



    The back and the top were harder to source suitable lumber for. After a bit of investigation though, I realised that lots of cheap ukuleles use nothing other than thin plywood for this, and I had some decent-enough pieces on hand already, some 2mm meranti-ish stuff that seemed resonant enough when i tapped on it. Certainly, it was no worse and probably better than the plywood on some of the cigar box guitars I've built. Plus, like I said, I already had some. With the back glued-on (complete with a brace installed) the whole thing suddenly got totally stiff and rigid. The holesaw on the bench there was for cutting out the soundhole. I had to check my layout while I could still see inside.


  2. #2
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    Default Re: A ukulele that fits through a kayak hatch.

    The inside of the soundboard needs some bracing to reinforce against the pull of the strings, but it must not be something that prevents the top from vibrating too much. For this little guy, I went with the simplest sort of T-bracing scheme, with the braces well carved away to reduce their mass. I just barely remembered to snap a pic of this before finishing spreading the glue to lock it down forever.



    The saddle is made of cherry again, for consistency, and is the classical guitar style where the plain-end strings are tied back on themselves through little holes. The bridge needs to be set at a little bit of a slant from treble to bass strings to get the right intonation, but luckily I have my first baritone around to pick up that angle from so I can saw it into the saddle itself rather than have to glue the whole thing on at an angle like a savage.



    Now it's time for the fretboard, which I made out of some sort of random tropical hardwood I sawed out of a packing crate. It had this sweet ribbon-grain structure, and was nice and hard, so it should serve the trick. And while we're speaking of tricks, the biggest trick to getting any fretted instrument to play right is to make sure that your frets are exactly and perfectly spaced and located. Luckily, we have online fret-spacing calculators freely available in this Information Age, so all the tedious math-ing is done for you. Once you mark where all your frets are supposed to be, you just saw a shallow slot with a sized fret-saw that matches the tangs of the fretwire. A miter-box is essential, of course.



    Those little dots on a fretboard are to help you figure out where you are in your fingering. On schmancy guitars these are often things like corian or mother-of-pearl inlays, or even sometimes precious metals or gemstones.
    But I'm just using a birch dowel. And bamboo satay skewers for the side dots. Katie wouldn't let me saw up her Vietnamese pearl earrings, for some reason.


  3. #3
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    Default Re: A ukulele that fits through a kayak hatch.

    You leave the edges of your fretboard blank square while you're cutting the slots, and only later trim down the sides to match the taper of the neck.



    When it's time for gluin' you use all the clamps that can possibly fit, or even more. A good glue-job helps brace your neck against warping too, so it's pretty important that you get this one right.


  4. #4
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    Default Re: A ukulele that fits through a kayak hatch.

    Okay, and now after sanding and varnishing and installing a few lil' details like tuning pegs and fretwire and such, we're done. The nut is made from bone, and the saddle is from a sliver of some dense hardwood that smells like padauk, except for it's the wrong color. No idea what it is, actually. But it's dense and hard, so that's what really matters.





    So the first check. . .does it fit in the suitcase? Yes! No problem. Room to spare.



    Okay, now does it fit in my hands? Sure! Though I'm glad I put on strap buttons. It's a bit small to just clamp in your arms like a regular bodied ukulele. And how does it sound? Well, it's quiet, as you might expect, and it doesn't have a whole lot of projection, of course. But it seems to be perfectly pleasant for whiling away an hour by yourself waiting for the tide to change--which was its exact mission brief. I like how very light and portable it is in the hand. Besides, if I ever need to play louder, I gots me an electric CB gitty back home for that. This one is for travelin'.



    And finally, how well does it fit through the hatch of the kayak? No idea, yet. Except for the Klepper, my kayaks are mostly on the opposite side of the world right now. But keep tuned to this channel, and I'll tell you in another couple of months.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: A ukulele that fits through a kayak hatch.

    Well done. Is this your first go at luthiery? It's a lovely wee thing. And hows about a brief video clip so we can have a sound bite in forum-land.....

  6. #6
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    Default Re: A ukulele that fits through a kayak hatch.

    Quote Originally Posted by John hartmann View Post
    Is this your first go at luthiery?
    Well...no. I've built several dozens of instruments, actually. This is just the first one I've managed to find a plausible excuse to sneak onto the WBF. But seriously, you should try it yourself. If you're a boatbuilder, you've already got the bulk of the woodworking tools and the skills onboard already. And especially if you can already do the really hard stuff like traditional lapstrake planking, you'll find mere luthierie to be a downright cakewalk in comparison.
    Last edited by James McMullen; 04-14-2017 at 05:30 AM.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: A ukulele that fits through a kayak hatch.

    Yes, sound bite. That's a really nice looking uke.

  8. #8
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    Default Re: A ukulele that fits through a kayak hatch.

    Clever way to bring along a storm paddle.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: A ukulele that fits through a kayak hatch.

    As a lover of wooden boats AND uke's - brilliant!!!

  10. #10
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    Default Re: A ukulele that fits through a kayak hatch.

    And the uke will do as an emergency paddle.

  11. #11
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    Default Re: A ukulele that fits through a kayak hatch.

    Excellent, James. Thanks for sharing.

    I too would love to hear of few bars.

    Kevin
    There are two kinds of boaters: those who have run aground, and those who lie about it.

  12. #12
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    Default Re: A ukulele that fits through a kayak hatch.

    Wait... You have a well equipped shop in Sinapore? You are Amadeus.

    Nicely done, by the way. Well played?
    Gerard>
    Everett, WA

    RESIST. FIGHT THE POWER.

  13. #13
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    Default Re: A ukulele that fits through a kayak hatch.

    Baritone uke? You mean four string guitar?

    That's the only size I don't play regularly. I prefer the concert, because it's a little easier to hold with my spider hands than a soprano.

    Your uke is lovely. I hope it fits!

    Thank you for this lovely thread.

    Peace,
    Robert

  14. #14
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    Default Re: A ukulele that fits through a kayak hatch.

    Great pre-epoxy pics of it. Be sure and post some pics when you have it glassed up. How do you get the epoxy to flow on the inside? Does the glass fabric weight affect the tone?

    I was expecting a teak plank top...

    Chip

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    Default Re: A ukulele that fits through a kayak hatch.

    Very nice. Thanks for the post.

    A question: When cutting the fret slots, how do you control the depth of the cut?
    "The ideal subject of totalitarian rule is not the convinced Nazi or the dedicated communist, but people for whom the distinction between fact and fiction, true and false, no longer exists.”
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  16. #16
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    Default Re: A ukulele that fits through a kayak hatch.

    Sweet.

    This might just be the lug yawl of ukeleles.
    Alex

    "A man who is not afraid of the sea will soon be drowned, for he will be going out on a day he shouldn't. We do be afraid of the sea, and we only be drowned now and again" Aran Islands Fisherman

  17. #17

    Default Re: A ukulele that fits through a kayak hatch.

    It's great of course, like most everything you do - but I do think that it should have had a bowl-back almost identical to the hull of your beercanboat - and lapstraked without doubt!
    bcmarinetrails.org - an attempt, by volunteers, to protect and enable 27,000 km of continuous camping and accesses along and around the whole Wild West Coast of British Columbia - for small beachable craft

  18. #18
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    Default Re: A ukulele that fits through a kayak hatch.

    Oh, Mick, of course the Lapstrake Ukulele© is coming soon. Don't jump the gun, buddy. I just haven't finished working out the technical issues. Be patient.

  19. #19

    Default Re: A ukulele that fits through a kayak hatch.

    Ohyeah, to solve the volume problem - just put a little gain into the Ukulap Straky's© laps.
    bcmarinetrails.org - an attempt, by volunteers, to protect and enable 27,000 km of continuous camping and accesses along and around the whole Wild West Coast of British Columbia - for small beachable craft

  20. #20
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    Default Re: A ukulele that fits through a kayak hatch.

    That's a nice looking little instrument you've got there. I'm curious also about the shop space. It must feel good to get your hands on tools again. How have you adjusted to being boatless in Singapore?
    I was born on a wooden boat that I built myself.

  21. #21
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    Default Re: A ukulele that fits through a kayak hatch.

    Quote Originally Posted by BrianY View Post

    A question: When cutting the fret slots, how do you control the depth of the cut?
    It's just got to be deep enough for the tang of the fretwire to seat itself fully. I pretty much do it by guess and by golly on a casual instrument like this, but you can set up your miter box wall height so that the back of the fret saw acts as a depth-stop if you wanted to be precise.

    Quote Originally Posted by Rich Jones View Post
    I'm curious also about the shop space. It must feel good to get your hands on tools again.
    Where there's a will there's a way. This is all just hand-tool work, though, except for I occasionally can get my hands on a bandsaw for a couple hours now and again.

    How have you adjusted to being boatless in Singapore?
    Honestly? It's mostly a relief. I hate large wooden powerboats, and that's where the bulk of the money in shipwrighting was. And I'm not entirely boatless here, I go dinghy sailing out of Changi Sailing Club every so often, and I've got Rowan and kayaks waiting for me in the PNW this summer. It's been a trade-off living here, sure, but I've also had the chance to visit nine different countries in the last two years, so I'm not sorry at all.

  22. #22
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    Default Re: A ukulele that fits through a kayak hatch.

    While that is no Fluke, it is a very fine Uke!
    Jay

  23. #23
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    Default Re: A ukulele that fits through a kayak hatch.

    Quote Originally Posted by James McMullen View Post
    Okay, and now after sanding and varnishing and installing a few lil' details like tuning pegs and fretwire and such, we're done. The nut is made from bone, and the saddle is from a sliver of some dense hardwood that smells like padauk, except for it's the wrong color. No idea what it is, actually. But it's dense and hard, so that's what really matters.





    So the first check. . .does it fit in the suitcase? Yes! No problem. Room to spare.



    Okay, now does it fit in my hands? Sure! Though I'm glad I put on strap buttons. It's a bit small to just clamp in your arms like a regular bodied ukulele. And how does it sound? Well, it's quiet, as you might expect, and it doesn't have a whole lot of projection, of course. But it seems to be perfectly pleasant for whiling away an hour by yourself waiting for the tide to change--which was its exact mission brief. I like how very light and portable it is in the hand. Besides, if I ever need to play louder, I gots me an electric CB gitty back home for that. This one is for travelin'.



    And finally, how well does it fit through the hatch of the kayak? No idea, yet. Except for the Klepper, my kayaks are mostly on the opposite side of the world right now. But keep tuned to this channel, and I'll tell you in another couple of months.
    Looks like you are playing a Bflat or Bf minor? Do you sing, play melody or both? Good job on that stick!
    Jay

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    Default Re: A ukulele that fits through a kayak hatch.

    That`s a cool looking Uke!!! I have buildt a Uke myself, and a guitar, and I think the two hobbies have similarities ;-) A friend also suggested that my 11 ft. Glen-L squirt could work as a Upright bass :-)

  25. #25
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    Default Re: A ukulele that fits through a kayak hatch.

    Very nice.

  26. #26
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    Default Re: A ukulele that fits through a kayak hatch.

    My uke is far from quiet
    But perhaps it's time to try out a hollow body, your version seems quite within my ability to make
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  27. #27
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    Default Re: A ukulele that fits through a kayak hatch.

    très cool mcmullen
    très
    Simpler is better, except when complicated looks really cool.

  28. #28
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    Default Re: A ukulele that fits through a kayak hatch.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ryden View Post
    My uke is far from quiet
    But perhaps it's time to try out a hollow body, your version seems quite within my ability to make
    This is what I need for my punk rock cover band.

    You know how funny Misfits songs sound on the uke?

    Peace,
    Robert

    P.S. Yes, I'd learn Back In Black if I had on, too.

  29. #29
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    Default Re: A ukulele that fits through a kayak hatch.

    Cool! Don Ho here we come! Now all you need is a garish Hawaiian shirt and you'll be ready to annoy everybody within 100 yards! Still, a uke beats "sea chantey" singing by a country mile any day!

    Bring that man a drink with an umbrella in it!

    Last edited by Bob Cleek; 04-27-2017 at 05:08 PM.

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