Photo at left shows most of the materials used to build a soprano ukulele. The thin pieces for the body top, back, and sides were re-sawn from the mahogany lumber they are laying on. The fingerboard was cut from a Brazilian rosewood guitar fingerboard blank that I bought in the '70's and had since warped. The blanks for the nut and saddle were cut from ebony fingerboard scraps. The blank for the neck will also be of mahogany. A small amount of spruce and maple were also used for inside bracing.
Many people seem to think that ‘ukulele size determines how you play. While you do alter your stance and approach to accommodate different sizes, you don’t have to change your knowledge or learn anything new. There is no “how do I play a tenor vs. how do I play a soprano?”
By Al McWhorter - Member, Guild of American Luthiers All Text and Photos Copyright © 2002 by Al McWhorter Lutherie is something that I've wanted to try for many years and, finally, in the second half of my life, I am able to devote the time to its pursuit. The experience of building my first instrument, a concert ukulele, has been one of the most rewarding of my life. Not only do I have a beautiful instrument to show for my efforts, but I have something equally important, though less tangible: a discovery that I now have the patience and conviction to see a long, complicated project through to its completion.
The following illustrates the approach I use to build acoustic steel-string guitars. It's intended to be a sort of pictorial journey through the construction of a guitar. It's currently a work-in-progress; I'll add sections as I reach those points in building this season's instruments. In general, I use the approach described by Irving Sloane in his wonderful book "Steel-String Guitar Construction" (E.P. Dutton and Co., NY, 1975). I've varied from his method in a number of areas (arched top, neck joint, truss rod, etc.), but I still use his wonderful rubber-band gluing jig for joining the top and back to the sides.