Monday, April 1, 2013

Ukulele repair tools: diy spool clamps

The day that I walked into a local antique store/flea market and spotted a beautiful Favilla soprano ukulele is one that I will always be grateful for.  At the time, I didn't know anything about the Favilla company.  I looked at the price tag ($95) and went home and immediately jumped on the Ukulele Underground forum.  If you are ever wondering about any type of vintage uke, chances are that one of the nice folks on that forum will be able to provide information.  Of course, a few people pointed me towards some info about Favilla's and encouraged me to go grab it.  As it turns out, these little guys are worth at least twice that amount and are rising in price as more people realize how awesome they are.  As one UU member put it, "Go get it!  Run, don't walk".  I immediately hopped back in the car and raced to pick it up.  It was worth every penny.  This little guy has some battle scars (general wear and tear), but he still plays like a champion.  It's become my "go to" ukulele.

Well, one day horror struck!  I picked up my Favilla (aka - Flava Fav...yep, I give my ukes ridiculous names) and noticed that the top had begun separating from the sides!

My usual suggestion on any ukulele repair is to take it to a respected luthier rather than attempt a repair yourself that could further damage your uke.

....But I personally like the challenge of these kind of repairs.  From my research, I found this to be a very common occurrence and thankfully, I found some information about how to go about repairing this kind of top separation.

But to do a repair correctly, you need the right tools.  Most of what I read told me that I needed some spool clamps, which can get a bit pricey.  As I looked at the construction of spool clamps I thought, "I can make those myself for way less money".  So I set out to make some spool clamps.  Here's how I did it....



- Carriage Bolts (1/4" x 6")
- Fender Washers (5/16" x 1-5/8")
- 1/4" Wing Nuts
- 1x4 board (a grabbed a piece out of the value pile)
- circle drill attachment (these come in a multi pack with different sizes - I already had some of these)
- sticky back felt 

Total Cost = $8.67 - This is enough to make 5 spool clamps.

First things first - using your circle drill attachment, drill out some circles for your spool clamps....makes sense, right?  The reason I like these circle drill attachments so much for this project is because they drill out a perfect circle AND because the hole they drill out in the middle is centered.  This is important since the balance of your clamps is critical.  These circle attachments have a 1/4" bit in the center.  Keep that in mind for selecting your carriage bolts.  You want the bolt to fit a little bit snugly, but not too snug.  You still want it to move freely.  I just pick up carriage bolts of the same size and opened the center holes in the wood circles a little bit.

As already noted, I grabbed a 1x4 out of the value wood pile at the hardware store.  I selected the circle drill attachment that most closely sized up to the washers.

These will cut out a little rough around the edges, so you'll have to do a little clean up.

I stopped at 6 circles.  For my repair, I only needed 3 spool clamps.

I cleaned up and smoothed the edges with a wood rasp and some sand paper.

The next step is use that sticky felt to cover the spools on the sides that they'll be clamping - so your clamps don't dig into the wood of your instrument.

There are other materials that could be used for this....foam comes to mind.  Cork would probably work as well.

For me, it was sticky back felt.  It's just what I had on hand.  It worked out nicely though.

All that's left to do is assemble the clamps.  Slide a washer onto the carriage bolt.  Then slide one of your wood circles on (with the felt facing up).  Slide on another wood circle (with the felt facing down), followed by another washer, and finally the wing nut.

And here's the idea....

In this post, I show ya how I used these diy spool clamps to repair my Favilla ukulele.

Hope this helps!


  1. Nice clamps!

    I would've made my own like these but I got a super deal on cello clamps one day and ordered about 100 of them. :)

    1. nice!

      Sounds like you got a great deal! I'm far to lazy to make 100 of these. :)