Old Red Maple tree log used for Ukulele construction

A little over 3 years ago, Salamander Bay Recycling sold a large, red maple tree log to Tony Adams of Tanilba Bay.

When Mr Adams purchased it, he said that he hoped to use the timber for making Ukuleles because the timber is relatively light, stable when dried, easy to work and glue, and is very suitable for the necks of the instrument.

The Red Maple is a medium strength hardwood – a native of north and eastern America and we had had it in our yard for many years.

Well, 3 years on and the construction of the first couple of Ukuleles have actually been completed!

Tony’s first two tenor “Ukes” have red maple necks. However, this doesn’t mean that the neck timber itself is red.

Tony says that “they are a mid brown/sandy colour with visible growth lines, which complements the jacaranda back & sides, needlewood fretboard & bridge, and virginian pencil pine soundboard.”

The construction needed several special jigs:

  • a hot-pipe over which to bend the sides
  • a mould that was the exact shape of the Uke for placing the newly-bent sides into (to be clamped there until dry)
  • a shooting-board for planing the top and bottom timber edges smooth & ready for gluing each half together
  • a flat-board upon which to glue these halves (with wedges to press them together)
  • and a building-board that is a little larger than the Uke shape for building the instrument on

The fretboard took some careful measurement for fret positions, exact cutting of the fret slots, and then neat hammering of fret-wire into these slots. This, according to Tony, was probably the most difficult item to make.

There’s also the “bridge” – in which the strings are anchored. A small router was handy here for cutting the slot for the bone saddle. A friend gave him a well-weathered animal shin bone – and this supplied the bone for the saddle and nut.

Tony states that the bone gives a notably better sound than the modern plastic alternative.

Yet there’s a far greater joy in store for the builder…

Mr Adams says that “It’s the day that the Uke is strung & tuned – and sweet sounds, strummed chords, and early tunes begin to fill the house with the blessings of careful craftsmanship. As the chords for a song are mastered, and the Uke begins to be broken in, the happiness of playing one’s own Uke is immeasurable!”

Good on you Tony; it’s great to see old items re-purposed and your dedication and enthusiasm are an inspiration to us all.

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