We’re getting good at this.
The cigar box ukulele is a satisfying DIY project that can be done differently every time. The ukelele you see in the picture below is my electric cigar box uke, made from a quality Don Lino cigar box and salvaged parts from other instruments I’ve repaired. This one took about 20 hours of work. Click on the photos for the high-resolution versions. If we get enough interest we’ll make a DIY guide for a professional electric cigar box uke like this one by pro luthier Noah from AntHillMusic.
Over the years, we have accumulated many spare parts from ukuleles that got damaged one way or another. We went through our stash recently and thought it would be fun to build an electric cigar box ukulele from all these parts.
The bridge and neck are both from Lanikai soprano ukuleles. We started by removing the neck from the smashed body of a Lanikai LU-11. Once removed, the neck needed to be reshaped at the heel to make sure it was straight and free of any old glue. Luckily the bridge had popped off when this uke was damaged, so all we had to do was ensure the base of it was nice and flat. With everything measured and marked we began the assembly.
The bridge was simple to attach. Some sanding and shaping of the base to get it flat and it was ready. We measured the neck to find the scale length and placed the bridge appropriately. While the bridge was being glued and clamped, we began working the neck into shape. We used a Graph Tech ukulele nut. We’re big fans of Graph Tech because their patented Nubone material provides harmonics that are superior to any other guitar nut on the market.
Getting the heel of the neck perfectly straight and flat was a challenge, but by using a large file we were able to get it just right. With everything glued and clamped we waited until the next day and strung it up. It was perfect; but something was missing.
To make this cigar box uke unique, electronics were added along with our own Ant Hill Music logo on the headstock. A Fender potentiometer and textured chrome knob provided the volume controls we were looking for along with a Tyler Mountain T-1 transducer as the pickup. We used these Martin ukulele strings. A few tweaks later and it was ready to hit the stage.
Now we can crank it up and make it scream.
The AntHillMusic.com logo on the headstock took a few weeks. I printed a vector image of our logo onto a specialty decal paper on our laserjet and carefully applied it to the headstock, followed by about 50 million thin coats of lacquer.