Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Homemade Resonator Ukulele w/ instructions

Well, I got bored one day and after watching a couple Youtube videos of people playing their own homemade resonator ukuleles, I decided to take my old laminate Harmony ukulele and try this idea out.  This old Harmony uke isn't worth much, so it's become my experiment ukulele...you might have seen this same ukulele show up in some other posts like this one, or this post, or even this post!

Basically, this uke has been through a lot and I am grateful to it for putting up with me.

Anyway, here's what I did to turn it into a resonator ukulele of sorts, complete with a video below of what it sounds like.  In retrospect, I wish I would have found a larger resonator.  While the sound does have that
metallic quality to it, it's just not enough.  I figure that something that covered more of the body would bring that sound out more.

First things first - the materials I used.

- 1 Harmony ukulele (or cheap beater uke equivalent)

- 1 aluminum bottom of a hot chocolate container (probably something bigger like a coffee tin would be better)

- a sharpie

- 1 mandolin tail piece (or banjo uke tailpiece or whatever you can come up with)

- 1 banjo bridge (or you can just make your own)

- 1 set of Aquila Nylgut Soprano strings (or whatever strings you like)

Step 1 - mark where you'll be cutting

I traced the circumference of the container onto the uke using a sharpie.  Treat that as your outer limit.  When you are cutting out the circle, make sure to leave a little space between where you cut and this outer line.  You don't want to cut right along the line.  The goal is to get a tight fit, so I approached it by leaving some space and using a wood rasp and sand paper to slowly and methodically fit the resonator in tightly.

Step 2 - make the cut

I drilled into the middle-ish part of the circle that I traced and then used a jig saw to cut it out.  Notice that there is a bit of safety space between the cut and the circle that I traced.

Now you can start to file/sand a little at a time and check the placement of your resonator...then do it again...and again...and again.
Seriously, it's a very frustrating and time consuming process having to constantly check to see how it's fitting.  Exercise some patience and eventually you'll get there!  Your resonator should eventually sink down into the hole with the lip of it grabbing the top of the uke.
Also want to mention that before you move on to the next step, this is a good time to install your tailpiece.

Step 3 - clamp it down

This step might not be all that necessary.  The pressure from the strings is probably enough to hold the resonator in place...but I really like to glue and clamp things! 

Step 4 - string it up and enjoy!

That's really all there was to it.  Again, I wish I would have used something larger for the resonator like a coffee can bottom.  Seems like the more surface that your resonator covers, the more you'll get that resonator sound.
I'm sure there's also a lot of tonal differences between different types of metals. 

Well, it's not a $400 resonator ukulele, but it was a fun project to work on and any day you get to create something is a good day, in my opinion.

And here's what it sounds like!  Enjoy!

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