Finish for cheapie kit uke

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Simon Magennis
Posts: 467
Joined: Sat Jan 07, 2012 7:51 am
Location: Menorca. Spain.

Finish for cheapie kit uke

Post by Simon Magennis »

I ordered one of the cheap chinese uke kits where you just join the next to the body, put in the bridge and fretboard and add the tuning machines. Lets call it cheap and cheerful. I could scarcely get the plywood for what the whole thing costs. (unless I scored it from a skip/dimpster :-) ). It is some sort of cheap white plywood and a solid neck.

Two ideas come to mind for a finish. Brush on some cheap "poly-something-or-other" from the DIY store. Or a can of some cheerfully coloured spray from the same place or a car accessories place. Any opinions?

If the uke isn't so nasty that it would put someone off for life, I might get a few more as kiddies presents.

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Barry Daniels
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Location: The Woodlands, Texas

Re: Finish for cheapie kit uke

Post by Barry Daniels »

Tru-Oil?
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Chris Reed
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Joined: Thu Feb 02, 2012 6:26 pm

Re: Finish for cheapie kit uke

Post by Chris Reed »

I know those kits - the plywood isn't very pretty under a clear finish, so I'd go for cheerful colours from a motor accessories shop.

Try to make the finish as thin as possible - these kits are a little dull sounding already, and thick finish will kill the sound more. You won't be able to get a smooth finish on that plywood unless you do a lot of prep work (or use a lot of paint and apply a really thick finish). I'd recommend sanding sealer and a fair bit of sanding before applying the paint, to get it reasonably smooth.

Finally, the strings that come with the kit are awful - they probably won't finish stretching until after Christmas, and even then won't intonate properly. Aquila Nylguts work best on these ukes.

Simon Magennis
Posts: 467
Joined: Sat Jan 07, 2012 7:51 am
Location: Menorca. Spain.

Re: Finish for cheapie kit uke

Post by Simon Magennis »

Thanks Chris. If I had 2 I could do a pink and a blue. Have you had a look at any of the other kits?

I had a good look on the alibazar site. If I decide to make a batch of these as gifts, I think I would order direct from china. If you order 5,000 the cheapest kits are $3 each. :mrgreen: Once you start into the 100's of unit, even the finished ones are under $10.

However, there are also much better looking, real wood kits which might be worth a look costing about the same as I am paying locally for the cheapie.

My first one will the probably be the most expensive, cheap and nasty, every produced. :lol:

Chris Reed
Posts: 164
Joined: Thu Feb 02, 2012 6:26 pm

Re: Finish for cheapie kit uke

Post by Chris Reed »

I make ukes from scratch, so I've not built any kits. All I know is from seeing kits that friends have built.

The Stewmac kit has made some very decent instruments.

I'd guess the solid wood kits from China might do the same, but they are probably on the heavy side - working down the soundboard and reducing the bracing height would be my suggestion, if you have enough building knowledge to know where to stop!

Clay Schaeffer
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Joined: Fri Jan 06, 2012 12:04 pm

Re: Finish for cheapie kit uke

Post by Clay Schaeffer »

Deft brushing lacquer was what we used in 7th grade woodshop. Easy to brush on, and dried to a nice dull (satin) finish. Some creative staining can help even the plainest plywood.
Ukes come in all qualities and costs, but even the worst of the bunch can have some entertainment value, even if just helping to ignite the yuletide log. :lol:

https://www.amazon.com/Deft-Interior-Fi ... B07ST1S5VN

Simon Magennis
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Joined: Sat Jan 07, 2012 7:51 am
Location: Menorca. Spain.

Re: Finish for cheapie kit uke

Post by Simon Magennis »

Just thought I would update this. The kit arrived today. It sat in a distribution centre for the island from monday of last week until today. A reasonably competitive marathon runner could have made it there and back in 3 or 4 hours. (25-27km each way) :-).

The body is not too bad and I was pleasantly surprised that the fretboard is actually wood not plastic. The fretboard is already glued to the neck too. The body is sanded better than you might expect. The neck body fit will need a bit of adjustment. The tuners are serviceable but certainly not going to impress anyone. Fitting will likely involved a bit of epoxy. The only way the strings would impress you is wondering if you could find worse. I will order some use strings today or tomorrow. For this one I will live with the tuners. I saw a set of tuners on ali express for 99c that looked as good or perhaps better. :-)

For my next foray into ukes I might treat myself to a set of $6.50 tuners. :-)

Simon Magennis
Posts: 467
Joined: Sat Jan 07, 2012 7:51 am
Location: Menorca. Spain.

Re: Finish for cheapie kit uke

Post by Simon Magennis »

I assembled the kit last night and this morning. In the end I gave it a light coat of shellac as I have a batch mixed. On closer inspection the fretboard and the bridge are both made from from thin strips of some kind of dark wood laminate together. It gives both a quite pleasing appearance. The neck looks very good with a bit of shellac. I might just leave it that way. If I decide to colour it up some way, well I have a good seal coat on now-

I have been amusing myself with it most of the afternoon. The tuners are acceptable. I will bring down the action in the next day or too. The nut is much too high out of the box. Quite pleased with it. I will give it a few days and who knows I might even go ahead with the idea of making up a batch for presents. I ordered some real strings and a new set of tuners. I will most likely keep the tuners for another project. It will be interesting see if there is as much of a difference as some people on the net suggest.

An interesting learning experience and way and a new toy for Xmas. :-)

Darrel Friesen
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Re: Finish for cheapie kit uke

Post by Darrel Friesen »

Aquila Nylgut strings make a huge difference IMHO.

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