I electrified the Uke Onna Stick prototype over the weekend, and I think I can declare victory at this point.
Aside from the zither pins, everything I used here was stuff I had lying around. That is a true statement, technically, though a little misleading. I did have piezo elements lying around, somewhere… but I was in a mall Saturday and it was easier to go into Radio Shack and buy one than it would have been to find the ones I have stashed.
I’m utterly inept at doing anything with a fretless electric uke, as this video proves.
Stuff I learned, to be applied to the real Uke Onna Stick when I get around to that:
- The basic idea seems to work.
- Uke strings are thin. The holes I drilled in the head were too large; knots in the G and A strings pulled right through. I ended up tying the strings around a toothpick. I need to either drill smaller holes, or find a better way to secure the string ends.
- Holes in the tail block probably aren’t the best way to go; to get the clearance needed, slots would be better. Cutting those will be interesting.
- While this method of mounting the output jack works, I think I’d rather go through the tail block. That’ll requires some drilling before assembly, which is why I didn’t do it that way on the prototype. Headphone output jack can go there too.
- The square slot routed in the tail end works perfectly well for holding the turnaround (the rocket motor here, it’ll probably be a piece of copper tubing on the next) in place, but a rounded slot matching the turnaround’s curvature would look nicer. Needs a 3/4″ round nose router bit.
- I need to improve either my technique with the router, or my tools… I still get burning. I think I know what to try to fix that.
- Provisions for a strap are good. I tried a couple positions for the brass hook you see above before settling on that position, but possibly a better idea would be to take a uke strap like the Uke Crazy one, with a buttonhole at one end and strings on the other, and tie the strings to the turnaround and use a strap button on the head end.
The real Uke Onna Stick will be different:
- Neck: Shaped from a thicker hardwood blank, tapered in width.
- Fingerboard: Fretted. Maybe prefab, maybe I’ll talk myself into doing it myself. I don’t think I’ll find a prefab with a zero fret, in which case I’d use a nut.
- Bridge: Conventional wood bridge with bone? Synthetic? Wood? saddle. Under saddle piezo rod.
- Turnaround: Probably copper tubing.
- Back cover: Extending from back of neck (behind the last frets) to the tail block. Held on maybe with magnets.
- Onboard headphone amplifier.
But I think I’m going to work on some other things first — like my delayed PongSat project, for one, and then I think I’ll warm up with a diddly bow and a 3-string fretless cigar box guitar. In fact it’d probably be wise to do a fretted CBG before attempting a fretted uke, if I’m doing my own fretboard. Smaller scale is harder.