The Electric Twins - Building Two Solid Body Electric Ukes

Builder/Blogger: Steve Eubanks

This build is the natural extension of the Christmas gift, prototype, electric uke I built last December. Taking what I learned from that project, I built two solid-body, double-cut, through-neck, concert-scale ukes from urban ash. These are more fraternal than identical twins, so there are some differences in the details.

Twin One has a laminated body/neck construction that puts red gum eucalyptus racing stripes from headstock to tail. Those stripes are reflected as maple stripes in the red gum eucalyptus fretboard. This one has a black adjustable bridge and black single coil pickup with black volume and tone knobs and black friction tuning pegs.

Twin Two features a two-tone North Indian rosewood fretboard, chrome adjustable bridge, chrome knobs, ivory tuners, and an ivory Almuse "Retro" mandolin pickup. Two has a slightly wider and thicker neck than One, giving it a beefier feel without really changing the weight or playability of the instrument. It's actually a really nice feel.

Both instruments feel heavy at first, I think just because I'm used to how light an acoustic ukulele is. Though the weight is a little surprising at first, the both feel really good in my hands. I do use a strap, since the heavier body is hard to hold and play without it. The ash on these instruments is beautiful, and really shines under the Tru-Oil finish. So - on to the build itself.

The photos here are mostly of Twin One, but the process was pretty much the same for the two builds. I started Twin One by laminating ash and red gum eucalyptus for the long through-neck (Twin Two has a solid ash through neck), which was cut to finishied width profile and had the headstock angle cut. The back-of-the-neck profile was done later. The sides had to be to finished spec for the next step, which is to attach wings to the through neck that become the sides of the guitar body.

Next, the body gets it's shape. It's pretty similar to a lot of double-cut shapes you'll see on guitars all the time, but it is indeed an original design. I cut the pickup cavity and rounded the corners, then hand-carved the belly and forearm relief into the body.

Hand carving the neck is, as usual, my favorite part of the process. I especially enjoyed forming the heel that flows smoothly into the body as a result of the through-neck design. Then it gets a fretboard. For Twin One I reversed the stripes from the body by making the fretboard from red gum eucalyptus with maple stripes. Twin Two got a two-toned North Indian rosewood fretboard. This gets slotted, radiused and attached.

Next comes the control cavity, and a cover (for Twin One the cover matches the fretboard) and a quick test-fit for the pickup and pots. Fretting comes next with all its associated leveling, dressing and polishing. And of course, the electronics get all wired up.

The final products are all I hoped for. They look super cool, and unlike any I've seen before, even among those electric ukes that I have seen. They basically sound like solid body electric guitars, but with a noticible uke-ish sound, due the the four-string re-entrant tuning. And they are super fun to play!

These instruments have become the Belmont model. They are available in the CalStyle Shop (until they sell out), and there are more coming. I plan to build more of these Belmonts, and I have two other designs on the way - a semi-hollow with a body shape simlar to the Grover Beach acoustic uke, and a carved top single-cut. Stay tuned!