Yesterday I built a ukulele. True story, I rose up from our tent in the social acoustic camping and built a uke. Well technically first thing I headed for a coffee. But second, I visited the folks a Wolfelele to discover the secrets of the luthier, and build my first ukulele.
There were many options to choose from: trilele, soprano, alto, tenor, or baritone. But I chose the soprano, small enough to be extremely portable but large enough to have four strings to strum for all my imagined car sing-a-long sessions (Winnipeg may seem like a longer drive for Sable than me).
Wolfelele visits many schools, teachers conventions and festivals; and they assured me that anyone can build and play a ukulele. So once you’ve selected the size of ukulele you want to build and purchased the kit they take you through the process step-by-step. By the end of it you will have glued enough pieces of wood together to satisfy even the most enthusiastically crafty of individuals. You also learn the importance of patience and precision.
The kit comes with pre-fab parts: front, back, three sides, neck, fret board, bridge, pegs and strings; and tiny laser cut guide marks. Working methodically you join the neck and front piece; then add the walls of the body to each other and then to the front. The back is then fastened to the rest and clamped gently to maintain constant but moderate pressure on the glue seams. By now you have a contraption that is beginning to resemble a recognizable instrument. Adding the bridge and fret board with screws (make sure the screw goes in straight and doesn’t twist sideways) the final step is to attach the 4 tuning pegs, with 2 microscopically tiny screws each. Each step requires the builder to apply the glue carefully and evenly followed by holding the joins together. Leaving lots of time to chat with those around. The whole process is clearly addictive, and the passion that the Wolfelele crew has for the instrument was obviously present as they rummaged through the boxes of supplies trading pun after pun about strings and frets.
About two hours later I had a nearly finished ukulele, tomorrow it’ll be strung (you don’t want to put too much tension on the instrument before the glue is completely set and dry), and when we get back to a Edmonton I will apply a couple of coats of varathane (sanding in between) to complete the finish.
I am now the proud owner of a beautiful instrument, I hope I can coax some equally beautiful tunes out of it in due course.