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String gauge question

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String gauge question

Postby Matt Baker » Mon May 16, 2016 5:05 pm

I've been lurking for quite some time and learning a lot about instrument building (for instance: the fact that anyone can just do it if they feel so inclined). I am currently working on my third guitar, which was somewhat inspired by a picture someone posted awhile back that he called the "UkuLili," a uke-sized Les Paul style instrument. I figured making smaller sized guitars would let me learn the basics while keeping the costs down, so I bought a 2" x 8" plank of poplar that will yield me about 4 guitars, a board of maple to make necks, and started cutting. It's now out in my garage while the finish dries (Ikea glaze/paint under satin poly, because I had it lying around from another project), so all that's left to do is get some strings for it, and I'm not sure what gauge I should get. I play guitar and usually use light strings--9's--but I've been thinking of going up a step or two to 10's or 11's anyway. Since my guitar will basically be like a standard guitar with a capo on the 5th fret, should I expect a similar feel as my guitar with a capo? Meaning, should I get the same gauge as I would for guitar and just cut them down, or should I get lighter/heavier strings for reason I haven't considered?

Technical details:
Scale length = 413 mm (about 16.25" if I recall)
Neck = 1" thick maple, single piece, bolt on
Truss rod = haven't the confidence to try this yet
Tuning = Standard "low G" ukulele tuning, G, C, E, A
Pickup = magnetic (i.e., steel strings)

Thanks for your help! I have another half dozen or so projects in the pipeline, so I'm sure I'll have lots more in the future as well.
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Re: String gauge question

Postby Matt Baker » Mon May 16, 2016 5:13 pm

Here are a couple pictures pre-finish.
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image.jpg
image.jpg
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Re: String gauge question

Postby Brian Evans » Mon May 16, 2016 7:20 pm

I'd start with .010" guitar strings and see what happens. Your idea of a guitar capo'd at the the fifth fret is about right. Tension will be about the same, response to bending will be different since your string length is a lot less. The strings will feel a bit stiffer.

Brian
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Re: String gauge question

Postby Lance Lawson » Thu Jun 30, 2016 4:31 pm

With such a short scale you can use fairly heavy strings and still have low tension and easy action.
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Re: String gauge question

Postby Jason Rodgers » Fri Jul 01, 2016 12:20 am

You don't have to buy custom strings, but DAddario's string calculator is fun to play with and figure out what ballpark might work well. http://stringtensionpro.com/
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Re: String gauge question

Postby Brian Evans » Fri Jul 01, 2016 6:58 am

16.25" scale is closer to capo'd at the 8th fret, string length wise, but you are down-tuning three half steps to get to the low G uke tuning (which is of course the same as guitar capo'd at fifth fret). You will lose a lot of tension with that, around 40% off the top of my head. Some depends on what you plan to play on the instrument. If just strumming, I might buy a set of .009's or .010" guitar strings and use 5 through 2. That would give you a wound G and C. If playing single string you might try a set of .011's and use four through one, that would give you an unwound C.

What is your thought process for placing the fingerboard dot's, btw? And not fretting the neck all the way to the end?
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Re: String gauge question

Postby Matt Baker » Mon Jul 04, 2016 12:23 pm

I ended up buying a set of .010's and using strings 1-4, and it seems to be working out fairly well. I didn't think of using 2-5 though, and I might try that whenever I change the strings. As far as the fingerboard markers, I've been looking at this project more like a tiny guitar than a ukulele, and since I am already familiar with the guitar fingerboard I decided that having this correspond would make it easier to find the notes rather than worry about transposing in my head. So I suppose the short answer is that I wanted to be lazy. :) I didn't feet to the end of the board simply because I didn't have enough fret wire on hand.
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Re: String gauge question

Postby Peter Wilcox » Mon Jul 04, 2016 2:05 pm

Matt Baker wrote:I ended up buying a set of .010's and using strings 1-4, and it seems to be working out fairly well. I didn't think of using 2-5 though, and I might try that whenever I change the strings. As far as the fingerboard markers, I've been looking at this project more like a tiny guitar than a ukulele, and since I am already familiar with the guitar fingerboard I decided that having this correspond would make it easier to find the notes rather than worry about transposing in my head. So I suppose the short answer is that I wanted to be lazy. :) I didn't feet to the end of the board simply because I didn't have enough fret wire on hand.


So basically marked like a 21 fret guitar fingerboard with a capo on the 5th fret. Neat idea.
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Re: String gauge question

Postby Matt Baker » Fri Jul 08, 2016 3:46 am

Thanks for all the insights. Here is the finished product.
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image.jpg
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Re: String gauge question

Postby Eric Baack » Fri Jul 08, 2016 10:27 am

how does it play?
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Re: String gauge question

Postby Matt Baker » Fri Jul 08, 2016 10:14 pm

I'm quite happy with how it plays. There are a couple of notes higher up the neck that are buzzy on the G (lowest) string, but other than that the frets play the notes they're supposed to, so I won't complain too much. For being my first attempt at a real-ish style neck I am very pleased.
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