Wednesday, January 23, 2013

grizzly ukulele kit (daisy)

instruction manual on top

In December 2011 I had just begun playing uke and was also home with a nasty cough. The two converged together into a rush of web browsing, and eventually I came across this diy ukulele kit, on sale at a price that was far lower than the cheapest starter instrument. Of course I ordered one.

neck, body, miscellaneous pieces

Basic as it was, it sat around for many months before I dared to try and assemble it. I don't know much about wood, and it felt incredibly daunting to turn pieces of wood—even pieces that were precut and partially assembled—into a playable instrument.

step 1: gluing the neck to the body

But I eventually started, and soon after I ran into David Iriguchi of Iriguchi Ukuleles. I confessed with much embarrassment that I was starting a kit. Way back in March at the Reno Ukulele Festival, David's concert keystone uke was the first to make me realize what a truly fine instrument sounded like. So it felt akin to telling a sculptor I was going to make a dog out of Playdoh.

step 2: gluing fretboard to neck

But David was characteristically kind and encouraging. He advised looking up other people's chronicles of their kit builds, and said not to worry too much about precision because it would probably turn out okay.


The instructions directed that the fretboard be put on before staining, but the bridge put on after. If there's logic to this, I don't understand it. I thought afterward that I would have rather put the fretboard on after staining, as it was hard to tape up the bottom curved edges well. 

clamping the bridge to the body with the only tool bought for the project. Cost: $3.

The only modification I made was adding a sound port to give me some direct sound feedback. This is a feature that many of David's ukes have, and I really liked it when I tried them last year.

holes stuffed with wadded newspaper and other surfaces wrapped with painters tape for finishing

What's not documented here is all the sanding and finishing. I had thought it would end with the fine grit sandpaper, but then I read about filling the wood grain and sanding that down, too. Then there was staining, cleaning up the leaked areas, drying, and finally spraying several light coats of lacquer.

ready to add tuners and strings

It was rather tedious toward the end, but worth it for the smooth finish on the body. The stain's not perfectly uneven, but in a way that I can live with. Overall, I'm happy enough with how it turned out.

the daisy uke

The kit is branded with the Grizzly name. I wanted to put a bear sticker on the headstock, but couldn't find anything suitable. What I did find was a sheet of daisy stickers. It was S's idea to put a daisy in the sound hole, as well. Now it feels a little like overkill, so I'll probably remove the stickers eventually. Meanwhile, we've gone from calling it the Grizzly to calling her Daisy.

I can't finish this post without mentioning DH's huge contribution to it. It initially sounded a little thunky to me, so he used a tuner and some filing instruments to bring it to a better intonation. This is not something I would have had either the knowledge, patience or courage to try myself; but I'm very grateful that he did. I sold the Dolphin in October, so this is now the main soprano I reach for.

Every time I play it, I remember how I was afraid to start, and how it turned out okay.

Do you have any projects like that?

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