c.1930/2013 Reverb Tin-Bin Ukulele

Update December 2013: Since posting this originally I've added new tuners, position dots, and have leveled and dressed the frets -- so I posted new pics! I also have a second one of these in the works so this is now available.

I put this together in about an hour and a half (update: now, with tinkering, that time has increased, heh heh) on Sunday to satisfy my curiosity! This is a cake-tin ukulele with a 1930s Harmony-made soprano uke neck bolted on to the 20s? body via a Gibson-style "coordinator rod" mount. The neck is tough enough (hard maple and bigger) to use with steel strings which is a plus because that lets this get enough volume to equal your average 30s uke.

What I mean by satisfy my curiosity, though, is under the hood... which you'll see later... but basically this instrument has an "acoustic spring reverb" sound to it which confuses my ears as I expect that sound to only come out of an instrument when it's plugged in. Otherwise it sounds like you might expect -- a metallic, half-resonator uke sort of sound due to the metal top.

It's silly but fun and very stable/practical. I have a second neck pretty much the same style as this one (but Regal-made) that I also intend to use for an "experimental uke" project of some sort. It's nice to take a "holiday" from regular work and play around a little bit!

Update: Since originally posting I've added some vintage-style ferrules and a set of Kluson-style nickel-plated guitar tuners. These are way easier to use with the steel strings I've put on this guy. These strings gauge out to 36w, 26w, 17, 13 for low-G "GCEA" ukulele tuning. A half-set of ball-end mandolin strings could also be installed (use light gauge) for use in mandolin tuning. I've compensated the saddle for use with either.

This has a weird, faded-blue version of that 30s "crystalline" finish the Chicago makers were so fond of at the time. It's oddly three-dimensional and reflective. Note "the Peach" decal which is awful cute.

The "punched tin" soundhole is my favorite part. Cyclops!

The banjo-style 5/8" tall bridge is compensated and I've added a couple of tiny machine screws to keep it in position as the metal is a bit "slidey." Note the small chip-out on the bass side of the bridge wing. No worries...

These small pearl dots were also "salvage" from a ruined fretboard on another instrument. I like to recycle!

Does anyone not love the silly tin?

Here's the fun bit: my "acoustic reverb tank" uses 3 hardware-store springs attached to the neckblock or endbock and then also attached to the top itself. The last and biggest spring is simply attached to the sides and left "free floating" to absorb some energy for longer sustain.

What this all adds up to is a true spring reverb sound (because it is... spring... reverb...) that's entirely acoustic. It's a neat and very useful recording effect and I've already given something similar a shot via some clip-mounts internally in some flattop (round soundhole) guitars where it also works just as well. What I love about it is that it's not generated electrically which means that there's more of a "real" sound to it that's tangible while you're playing as opposed to the "filtered" sound of something attached to an amplifier.

The neck is attached via a coordinator rod system which means that one can simpy adjust the action at the endblock by loosening or tightening the rod. This is really useful on an instrument like this that could have had questionable rigidity. It turns out that, in the end, it's actually a super-stable instrument once the back is on.

Update: I've also added a secondary "lock" screw that attaches into the neck's heel to keep it locked in one position so that as you tighten or loosen the bolt at the neck it won't rotate.

I love me them Korean-made Kluson-style repro tuners. These are my "standard issue" tuner type to swap in on instruments when they've got junk tuners that need an upgrade.

The strings install from the inside and then come out through the endblock. Note the nut and washer: adjust this nut tighter to lower action, release it to raise action. Very simple. The instrument is setup to play perfectly with 1/16" action at the 12th fret and proper intonation.


Rolfyboy6 said...

Plus you can store picks and capos and extra strings inside. Maybe cookies too.

I guess you're ready for "fruitcake" jokes too.

kistenjc said...

Are going to record a clip for us?

tpfliss said...

Wow... I have a similar uke neck, tin, even springs sitting around and that's very tempting. Though I'm probably going to follow through with my original plan and try to put the uke back together to see if I can make it playable. Definitely interested in sound clips.

oldpuppy said...

Hey, Mister! How's that thing sound??