2019 Jake Wildwood Electric Concert Ukulele

Local player/buddy Mike wanted me to make him an electric concert ukulele with steel strings and a magnetic pickup. Sure thing! That was back in fall last year. I have to admit that I am very low on that "time" resource these days. It's a mile every thirty seconds it seems...

I finally did get to it, however, and out popped this little guy. It has a 16" scale length, big/round C-shaped mahogany neck and rosewood fretboard, a thin cherry body, and a 4-pole P90 pickup and single volume control. I was going to squeeze a tone control on here, but I decided against it. On a small body, space is valuable and who needs more stuff in the way?

Everything is built from scratch or modified from parts in my parts-bins save the pickup (a Korean Alnico II unit). Figuring-out how to make a solidbody uke still sound "uke-y" was the hardest part of this build, though, aside from wanting to make a body shape that wasn't just a knock-off of this or that but pint-size (I hate that aesthetic). I guess it turned-out a bit like a mix of Bigsby, Mosrite, and Harmony stylings. These are things I like, so...!

Anyhow, the thing that gives it a little more chime and ukey breathiness/jangle is the weird bridge I designed for it, which I will get to a bit later. I don't like the sound of solidbody electric ukes with electric-style, chunky steel/brass adjustable bridges... they're too much "mini-electric-guitar" to my ears. I think this design solved some of that.

It plays like a champ and feels good in the hands -- I tried it out last night at our in-shop jam and had some fun with it, though I really am out-of-shape on playing lead on a uke. I couldn't remember any of my scales save C, A, and G.

I used a fretboard made by LMII and sprung for the zero fret. I also used a bigger fret to stand-in for a slotted nut behind that zero fret. The downpressure-bar/string tree is something from one of my bins.

Yes... I couldn't resist using one of my oddball dot patterns.

The P90 is just a 6-pole with 4 poles removed and a custom cover installed. The pickguard/control plate is actually an upcycled '60s Harmony acoustic guitar pickguard from my bins.

Thanks for the amp knobs, Reese!

So, here's the odd bridge -- I used some galvanized spring-steel (thin) for the bridge base. I made a new rosewood back to mount everything to and then used two screws as front overall height adjustment. I then used parts-bin Strat-style saddles for further adjustment. You'd think the plate would warp but at the tension levels the strings are at and with the posts so close together, it holds-up just fine.

This lightweight/thin-plate bridge is what I think gives the instrument its uke-like tonality. It's open, sing-songy, and light/sparkly for strumming or fingerpicking... but the P90 will dish-out heavier tones if you decide to crank it a bit. Acoustically, this is also plenty loud-enough to practice on and strum for fun and not annoy your friends. I'm really happy with how it turned-out... and think it might be fun to try something like this on a proper "electric guitar" someday.

Funny brass thumbscrew-adjusters worked well as individualized strap buttons.

When I went looking for cherry, I pulled out one plank with all these neat little knots and I said, that's the one! I kept the body thin so it'd be fun to play and lively. Who wants a heavy uke?

And yes, the body is certainly offset.

I used a backside-mounted jackplate because the body was so thin that I'd need to use a side-mounted panel jack to fully-recess it. I hate panel jacks because they often quit on you after a short while, whereas Switchcraft-style "normal" jacks can hold-up for many decades (there's plenty of '20s/'30s hardware that still works with this style) if not abused. With a right-angle cable, this falls down to the floor or hangs-up over your strap-end just fine.