The more I think about it, the more I like the idea of making an electric travel uke. Something a little like the Risa Solid, or the clones some people have made. Or then again, why not something even simpler? The Risa looks great, I think, but how about basically a neck extended beyond the bridge, with strings wrapping around the ends? I sketched up an idea, and then I discovered someone else has already built a couple of ukes along very similar lines (near the bottom of this page). He even wrote up a how-to.
The big problem with a single stick is, where and how do you mount the tuners? Risa and its imitators generally carve out a hole and mount tuners in one or both sides of the hole, sticking out the sides. (In the above sticks the knobs point backward, but he seems to think outward would be better. Either way, they break the smooth edge of the stick.) With either geared or friction tuners I can’t see anything better to do, but what if you use zither pins? No really… someone in our local uke group has a more or less conventional uke with zither pins in the headstock for tuning, and the Captain Ukeleles “backpacker” uses them or something like them at the tail. They’re also dirt cheap…
(There are headless guitar tuners on the market, and homebrewed versions thereof, but they generally seem to me not quite right for something like this… even aside from the cost.)
Tail mounting might or might not work well with my stick concept, but they could go into the back of the stick. Then they’re pointing backward and poking the player in the chest… unless you put a cover over them. And then I don’t see a problem. You can also build a headphone amp in under the cover.
So, a chunk of wood for the neck/body, a few other pieces of something for the cover, nut, bridge, saddle, and turnaround, a fingerboard (if I do this anytime soon I’d probably buy one premade), four strings, and some electronics. Doesn’t look hard at all. My sketch is pretty crude but there’s not much subtlety here. An even less subtle prototype (1×2 pine, fretless or toothpicks, screws or something for nut and bridge… pretty much your truly basic cigar box uke without the cigar box) would be hilariously simple to throw together. Okay, going to go order some zither pins.