5/24/2017

1920s/2017 Sandstrom/Wildwood Modded Resonator Ukulele





Update: Since first posting this, I've made a few alterations, and the instrument sounds better and is more stable. I've updated the pictures, soundclip, and description.

It's been a while since I've made something like this, as converting a banjo uke to a resonator uke is usually a troublesome business and works only so-so. I fully expected that conclusion, but I promised I'd make a friend of mine an oddball uke of some sort for a long time and this is what was produced. I decided, however, to keep it for myself as it was, perhaps, a bit too obscure for a beginning uke player. It plays great, has a fun, choppy resonator sound (endearing, in its way), and volume about the same as an average banjo uke but with that nasal, raspy, "metal" reso vibe.

The neck and rim is from a California-made Sandstrom soprano banjo uke, but I've modified the original head-tightening equipment to serve as a mount for a 6" resonator cone (from a tricone set) that has an "off-center" biscuit bridge adapted to it. The "off-center" bridge is supported by bolting its platform to a "puck" under the top of the cone to keep it stable. It's a maple biscuit with a bone saddle, but both are painted black. The new "coverplate" is an old 45 RPM Victor record and the "wrist-rest" (bridge cover) is an old brass electric guitar pickup baseplate.


One very nice thing about choosing this uke as a "frame" for this project is that the build quality itself is quite high. These are well-made instruments with 4-piece rims, turned "resonator" backplates, and nicely-cut necks that are fast and well-thought-out.

Unfortunately, their internal head-tightening/mounting design is somewhat terrible and they're both a chore to re-head and also prone to splitting the top of the rim.



The frets got a level/dress, too, and the dots are yellow pearl.

I've used some Aquila Nylgut 5-string banjo strings on this to get a bit more tension vs. a normal soprano set.


The "biscuit" is maple and bolted to a small plate behind the cone to keep it stable. The saddle is bone.

The "coverplate" record is pushed-up behind the face of the instrument and held in place by some screws and shoved-in foam to keep it nice and tight.




The tuners are new, Gotoh UPTs with 4:1 gearing. I love these things!



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