Koa tenor ukulele

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Project by bonobo posted 06-25-2020 12:25 AM 680 views 0 times favorited 4 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Lots went wrong but I was using hide glue and was able to re-do an number of steps, including re-setting the neck. It turned out to sound great and was made for a friend, who won’t notice the issues with the final finish. I’d made a walnut soprano previously, so had a basic idea of the process but hadn’t tried purfling, binding, a side sound hole, bound keyboard, side dots, inlay, bridge pins, and a few other things, so it was a great learning process.

The body is koa and the fretboard and bridge are Osage orange, which has darkened a lot more over the past year.

I bought a thickness calliper from Lee Valley, a bending iron from Stewmac and a gramil to score the channels for the binding. It was hand planes, saws and chisels other than that. Very do-able as an apartment project.

-- “Don't yet rejoice in his defeat, you men! Although the world stood up and stopped the bastard, the bitch that bore him is in heat again.” —Bertolt Brecht

4 comments so far

View DMiller's profile


549 posts in 1717 days

#1 posted 06-25-2020 01:13 AM

Wow, that looks great! I can tell the time and detail that went into it! How easy was it to use a gramil vs. a binding router bit? I’ve used a router bit for cutting binding, considered a gramil though. Also, what finish did you use?
Keep up the great work!

-- Dale Miller Modesto, CA "I can do all things through Christ, which strengtheneth me." Philippians 4:13. "Woodworking minus patience equals firewood."

View bonobo's profile


335 posts in 3301 days

#2 posted 06-25-2020 03:02 AM

Koa is pretty hard, so the gramil was only good to score the edges. Chiselling out the rebates for the purfling/binding was the most tedious process of the whole operation because it would have been so easy for the chisel to slip or open a long crack. It might be able to go deeper in a spruce top but you’d still have the sides to contend with. I don’t expect to make more than one instrument every two years but if that rate picks up, I’ll invest in a small router.

I gave it several coats of shellac and decided to try a water-based pore sealer. It seemed to work fine until I sanded it back and applied a second coat. Wherever the wood was bare, it turned an ugly olive green. I’d experimented with a piece of scrap but it was too small to notice the colour shift. I had to carefully scrape it all off but was afraid of thinning the shell too much and dint get back to wood everywhere, so it left a few patches of a very subtle haze under the oil finish I eventually went with. It was one of the Tried & True finishes…which worked really well otherwise.

-- “Don't yet rejoice in his defeat, you men! Although the world stood up and stopped the bastard, the bitch that bore him is in heat again.” —Bertolt Brecht

View Foghorn's profile


1295 posts in 631 days

#3 posted 06-25-2020 02:51 PM

Nice work! They are a lot of fun to build and play. Looks like a Bushman tweed case too which are nice. Keep on building.

-- Darrel

View Sasha's profile


1301 posts in 2457 days

#4 posted 06-27-2020 07:21 AM

I take off my hat …..

-- Ganchik Sasha. Life is not a draft, tomorrow you will not redo......

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