My Summer 2005 Project:

An All-Koa Tenor Ukulele

It's Saturday, June 18, 2005. . . . You've probably been wondering what I've been doing, right? Well, school ended a little over a week ago, on Friday the 10th. From the moment school let out, I spent three days spraying the waterborne Target USL finish on a tenor uke I had been building for a teacher friend, as a retirement gift. This past week, as I've been waiting for that finish to cure, I started my own all-koa tenor ukulele.

I've gotten quite a bit accomplished in these past six days. Having learned better ways of doing things from working on my friend's uke, this ukulele is going a bit faster and more efficiently. As of today, I have the soundbox completed (not the binding yet), the fingerboard slotted and bound, and the neck begun.

Tomorrow is Sunday. It will have been a week since I finished the finishing on my friend's uke. So....I will be turning my attention now to leveling and rubbing out the finish on her uke, and doing the final set-up!


HERE'S WHAT I'VE DONE SO FAR ON MY UKULELE. I didn't do these things necessarily in this order; as some parts were drying/curing, etc., I would start on some other task.


  1. Joint the top and back plates, using sandpaper on a 4' level.
  2. Glue the plates --- tip: offset the plates, so the centerline doesn’t get lost.
  3. Thickness sand the plates to 3/32” (using my Performax 10-20).
  4. Draw the uke outline and bracing patterns on the plates.


  1. Rout out the soundhole purfling rings.
  2. Glue in abalone and BWB purflings.
  3. Next day, scrape and sand abalone ring.
  4. Rout out soundhole (2-1/2” diam.).


  1. Bandsaw out top and back outlines (1/4” outside line).
  2. Cut braces for top and back.
  3. Arch brace bottoms by sanding on radius dishes.
  4. Cut out soundhole "donut" patch (mahogany), bridge patch (koa).
  5. Glue soundhole patch and bridge patch.
  6. Cut notches into fan braces to fit over bridge patch; glue top braces and fan braces.
  7. Glue back braces and center reinforcement strip.
  8. Carve braces.
  9. Make label and glue onto back.


  1. Cut out tapered side pieces.
  2. Bend sides, using side bender and heat blanket.
  3. Put sides in mold.  Trim sides to fit mold.


  1. Make neck and tail blocks.
  2. Drill holes (1/2” Forstner bit) in neck block.
  3. Sand neck and tail blocks to fit curve of sides.
  4. Glue neck block to sides (out of mold).
  5. Drill 5/16” hole in bolt holes in neck block, out through sides.
  6. Glue tail block to sides (out of mold).
  7. Glue on kerfing (triangular).
  8. Sand kerfing, using radius dishes.
  9. Fit back braces into kerfing; use Dremel to rout out kerfing pockets.
  10. Glue back onto sides, using go-bar deck.
  11. Trim back overhang, using tilted bandsaw table.
  12. Fit top braces into kerfing; use Dremel to rout out kerfing pockets.
  13. Glue top onto sides, using go-bar deck.
  14. Trim top overhang.



  1. Cut fret slots in fingerboard (macassar ebony), using Stew-Mac fret pull-saw and miter jig.  Cut 18 slots.
  2. Taper fingerboard for 5/64” ebony binding.
  3. Install 5mm paua abalone fingerboard dots at 3,5,7,9,12 frets.
  4.  Determine the necessary length of fingerboard; use Bulls-Eye shellac quart can to draw curve on end.
  5. Bend ebony binding for end of fingerboard; miter the ends.
  6. Miter the ends of two ebony binding pieces for fingerboard sides; make sure they all fit well.
  7. Glue the ebony bindings to the fingerboard with Titebond.
  8. Sand it down.


  1. Cut scarf joint on 2” neck blank, using scarf jig with tablesaw.
  2. Prepare 3/32” thick koa peghead veneer piece and 5/64” thick mahogany veneer (for back of peghead, to hide peghead ears).
  3. Thin peghead piece to 5/16” thick, using thickness sander.
  4. Glue peghead scarf piece to neck blank.
  5. Sand 15° angle onto koa peghead veneer.
  6. Thin bone nut to 3/16” thick.
  7. With bone nut pressed up against the peghead veneer, determine nut end of fingerboard.  Mark that onto the neck blank.
  8. Mark centerline and 12th fret line onto neck board, to determine end of neck.
  9. Glue 2 heel blocks to neck board.
  10. Use miter gauge to cut heel end of neck.
  11. Drill 7/16” hole in heel for dowel, 15/32” in from end.
  12. Glue in dowel.
  13. Rout slot for .20” carbon fiber rod, 1/4” deep.14. Glue in carbon fiber rod.