Fleamarket Ukulele rebuild


October 3, 2010 by Tim

Some would say there is a special place in hell for what I did to this uke. The first rule when finding a vintage ukulele is to never, I mean never ever strip the original finish off. So I did it anyways. In my defense the name on the head was gone, head was torn, and the tuning pegs were shot.  Not to mention that there was no bridge or tailpiece.

Go HERE to see pics of it before I “restored” it.

So here is the list of what I did:

  1. Pulled it a part
  2. sanded it down
  3. stained it reddish purple
  4. Sanded and repainted the ring that hold the head
  5. Put a new head on (Here is the post on how)
  6. changed the tuners for some smaller ones (Had to do a washer to cover the hole from the banjo tuners)
  7. Made a new bridge from maple
  8. Stole the tail piece from a mandolin I purchased several years ago
  9. Strings and all is done
  10. Made a case from cardboard duct tape (A post after the head replacement post)

I learned a few things while doing this and made a few mistakes along the way. I wish I would have not sanded the fretboard as much as I did, I scalloped it a little. The good thing is that it makes it faster, I just have to remember not to go all the way down to the fretboard sometimes. I did find a really cool micro file set to make the notches for the strings on the bridge. As a whole Aaron Keim played it and said I did a really good job when I brought it to the Milwaukee Ukulele fest.

I could not have done this with out Aaron, he was the only person who replied to me when I asked them how to replace the head. His instructions gave me the right basic steps on how to replace a head like that.

Please stay tuned for the next 2 posts about the head replacement and my cardboard case.

Sound Sample

7 thoughts on “Fleamarket Ukulele rebuild

  1. Overall I think you did a throw away a big favor. I like the big washers on the tuners. I also like the way you stained the frets for fret board markers.

  2. Joni says:

    It’s beautiful! I can’t wait to see it in person. I am curious about how to set the head–that’s what’s been holding me back from grabbing one that needs a little love. How does it sound?

    • Tim says:

      Listen to the sound sample at the end. It is not that hard to replace the head. My next post is how I installed the head so stay tuned.

  3. […] Fleamarket Ukulele rebuild « Ukeeku – A place to reflect on ukuleles …Oct 3, 2010 … Some would say there is a special place in hell for what I did to this uke. The first rule when finding a vintage ukulele is to never, I mean never … […]

  4. Colten says:

    how can you tell if a banjo uke neck of this type is loose? and by the way, if you are wondering of who made this: it is a Sterling (Tonk Bros.) banjo uke, i have one in natural maple with a nice decal inlay on the fretboard and pot, i have videos of me playing it if you want me to show you 🙂

  5. Larry Cochran says:

    So ive got one what do I do with

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