8/28/2016

1930s/2016 Cigar Box Resonator Ukulele



A customer had me build this from a Kay-made banjo uke neck (they would've been Stromberg-Voisinet at the time) and a cigar box he provided. I'd previously built a resonator uke he'd liked the look of, though I flipped the expectations a bit for how this one would turn out by keeping the cone installed "like it should be."

The result is a practical, cobbled-together, enjoyable thing-a-ma-jig that will, hopefully, get a lot of stares. It has a useful, mellow, and full sound but volume around the same as your average non-resonator uke. Since average "normal" cigar box ukes tend to sound about as efficient as putting strings on a cupboard door, this is certainly an upgrade.



The Clarion-branded banjo-uke neck has a 14" scale and a tenor-banjo/mandolin-ish feel to it.


The frets got a level/dress and I added some side dots, too.


The key ingredient here is the down-pressure bar below the biscuit/bridge. This gives extra tension on the cone to seat it nicely and compress it enough to give a round, good sound. I'm finding that a lot of resonator ukes simply don't put enough tension on the cone to drive it well.

I actually cut the soundhole with my Dremel but the spongy wood of the box was giving me some trouble so it's just a little bit out of round (don't look too close)!


A simple, 20s-style banjo tailpiece suffices to mount the strings.








Here's inside -- the box is reinforced with a big maple back.


The neck is bolted-on with a rosewood "neck block."


The cone sits in this simple "soundwell" and leaks sound/air via some little cut-outs around its edges.

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