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Acoustic Ukuleles

I had picked up measured drawings for a traditional concert size uke a few years ago, but until recently, I hadn’t done anything with them. That was, until I got an order for a baritone uke from a local musician who wanted to upgrade to a better instrument.

So, here I am with an order for a baritone ukulele and plans for an instrument of a different size. I started investigating the baritone uke trying to find out what the standard size of the instrument is, only to find that there is quite a bit of variation in the sizes of what instrument makers call a baritone uke. Basing things on measurements from my customer’s instrument, the measurements of other instruments I was able to find, and using my experience in making classical guitars, I set about drawing up plans. This activity caught the eye on the New England Luthier's Group and we all decided to make an instrument and have a ukulele festival, the now famous Uke-a-palooza 2005.

I made the instrument using western red cedar for the top and mahogany for the neck. The back, sides and headstock were made from a piece of afrormosia (a wood native to Ghana and the Ivory Coast) that I had sitting in the shop drying since about 1988. The bindings around the body are maple (All my instruments use real wooden bindings, I don’t use plastic binding as some makers do), and the bridge and fingerboard are Indian rosewood.

Baritone Uke picture 1Uke Top/back closeup

Specifications (inches and millimeters)

Soprano Concert Tenor Baritone
Total Length * 21" (533mm) 23 1/4" (591mm) 26 1/4" (667mm) 30 11/16" (779mm)
Body Length 9 7/16" (243mm) 11" (279mm) 12 1/6" (306mm) 14" (356mm)
Width (lower Bout) 6 3/8" (162mm) 7 5/8" (194mm) 8 15/16" (227mm) 10" (254mm)
Depth (at heel) 2 5/16" (59mm) 2 3/4" (70mm) 2 7/8" (73mm) 3 3/8" (86mm)
Soundhole Diameter 1 3/4" (44mm) 2 1/16" (52mm) 2 5/8" (67mm) 2 13/16" (71mm)
Scale Length 13 5/8" (346mm) 14 3/4" (375mm) 17" (432mm) 20 1/8" (511mm)

Neck Width: 1 3/8" (35mm) at nut, or custom width
* Total length will vary depending on head design

Electric Ukuleles

The Ukulele is also available in an electric model.  The body can be varied to almost any shape depending on the client (as is true for almost any solid body instrument).  In this case, the body shape was based on the Les Paul Jr.  The pickup is a full sized, blade style, single coil guitar pickup.  Even though the intention was to make it look like a Les Paul, many of my friends in the folk and country music field looked at it and immediately said "Oh, what a cute little baby telecaster".  I guess the body shape can pass as either instrument and the angle of the pickup definitely gives it the "Tele" appearance.

The neck is through the body design made from maple with a central stripe of Peruvian Walnut.  The body is also maple with a face piece of the same Peruvian Walnut.  The top is protected with a clear pick guard.

Electric UkuleleFingerboard Closeup

Body Closeup

Famous Ukulele Quotes

Ever since I was a child, one of my favorite guitarists was the late George Harrison of the Beatles. Only recently did I find out that George was quite a uke collector. Here are a couple of quotes related to George and the uke.

"...whenever you went round George's house, after dinner the ukuleles would come out and you'd inevitably find yourself singing all these old numbers"

Sir Paul McCartney, Concert for George - Royal Albert Hall, London - 29th November 2002

"I'd sit beside him and play some ukulele very quietly. He'd wake and smile. ... I half expected him to tell me I was doing it wrong. George was passionate about the ukulele. He played it brilliantly, studied it and collected hundreds of vintage instruments. There's not much you can do with a ukulele that doesn't sound happy. I think that's why he liked it."

Jeff Lynne, Guitarist, The Electric Light Orchestra and bandmate of Harrison in The Traveling Wilburys