2/06/2014

c.1925/2014 Tin Can Soprano Ukulele




Well, it was a snow day today! So -- besides working feverishly on some customer guitars and my own pet 00-size Washburn project, I cobbled this cute little thing together. Ever since finishing this guy (click for link) I've wanted to make another tin uke. Thankfully the wifey, kiddos and I went antiquing (no, not in the family shop!) on Tuesday and I picked up a couple of old tins suitable for the several old uke necks living on my "scrap neck" shelf.



If you're wondering why the neck looks familiar, it's because it came from this nice cobbled banjo uke I made a bit ago. Unfortunately, in shipping it to its buyer, the neck took a hit in postage and split. Ironically, it split above where I'd installed the bolt-on neck attachment.

This (nice) neck has been sitting ever since and today I quickly cut off the break, bolted it to a piece of scrap mahogany, and installed it in this 10" same-period (presumably) cookie tin. The decoration is all bonus -- I was just hunting for the right size!


Good relatively-recent Grover Champion pegs and ebony nut.


I love the inlaid "zipper" and pearl dot markers. The extended board is great, too.


While plenty of sound escapes from the tin-snipped area where the neck's "dowel" passes through, I wanted a bit to bleed through more directly from the front so I drilled and then punched-in some holes in a few of the floral details.


A piece of scrap figured mahogany screwed to the top (like on a National reso uke) serves perfectly as a tailpiece. The bridge is a standard Grover 11/16" banjo bridge that I've fit to it. The action is spot on at 1/16" at the 12th fret and the wider-than average string spacing (for the time) is nice for fingerpicking.

Tonally this sounds like a fuller and more ringy version of one of those old 50s plastic ukes mixed with a resonator uke and the volume is around the same as a normal soprano. Just like on the plastic ukes, if you fingerpick it or lightly strum it the sound is great but if you're an aggressive strummer you can overdrive the soundboard and get a sort of lo-fi rowdy thing going on (you can hear this in the soundclip above).


This is one of the only ukes I don't have any reservations about plopping in the snow for some pics.





Just a note -- the neck is a mid-20s Harmony product, probably from one of their upscale catalog creations. It's mahogany with a mahogany board.


I was happy with my simple and quick mounting solution -- with a "dowel" going through the whole middle (as on a banjo) the uke is very stable and simple to put together. The snipped "lip" also serves as the mechanism to attach the dowel to this side of the rim and keep it snug. In addition to the "endbolt" screw attaching the other end of the dowel, there are also a couple of tiny machine screws keeping the lid of the tin nice and tight to the bottom.

2 comments:

Ambrose said...

That neck looks familiar. Is it from the uke my friend Gim from Toronto dropped off for me a few years ago? Nice repurposing.

Antebellum Instruments said...

Yup -- its heel split in shipping when I used it as a banjo uke (SIGH) and so it sat around until I figured out what to use it on.