Gourd Ukulele

This was the first ukulele I ever built.  At the time I was in a woodworking lab class and spent the time doing this.  My finger may have come into contact with a belt sander while making this, so it was hard to play instruments for a few weeks after that.

The body of the instrument was inspired by traditional drums: the top is a natural skin, stretched over the gourd, and held down with leather cord.  The wooden beads on the side would traditionally have been to tighten or loosen the skin by sliding them up or down, in effect, tuning the pitch of the drum.  In this case, they are mostly decorative, as the bridge is not supported by the skin, but rather the neck, which is under the skin and in contact with it.

The neck is hand carved mahogany.  Unlike traditional ukes, there is no taper for depth or width; inspired by the design of most cigar box guitars, I designed this uke’s neck to maintain a constant width of 1.5 inches and depth of 3/4 of an inch.

No fingerboard markers for a clean and classic look, but there are subtle side markers of brass on frets 5, 7 and 12.  15 frets total.  The fingerboard is a lighter rosewood, as is the nut and the bridge.  The headstock features maple ears and a custom string tree made of maple, rosewood, and a brass screw.

I spent a good amount of time on the frets, ensuring smooth fret ends that make this uke a real pleasure to play.  This is a tenor scale instrument strung with a low G, making this more akin to a guitar player’s tastes, whereas most ukes have a high G, up an octave.  Is is electrified with a disc piezo that is quit sensitive–it will pick up the sound of your hand on the back of the neck, so I pick this instrument up when I’m looking to plug in with a lot of detail and a sense of humanity.

I wrote the song “Leave Me Whole” on this uke, so I’m quite attached to it, but would be pleased to pass it on to another person it inspires.