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16 August 2012

The King Uke Custom Travelele

Earlier this week I got ensnared in a discussion about a project to build a travel ukulele. Perhaps 'ensnared' is a bit strong; To be fair, I may well have initiated the conversation. It's an idea that's been swishing about my brain for a while. I'm pretty certain to give it a go at some point, but I'm only interested in making something that is unique with my own special King Uke stamp. So I've come up with some concept art that I'm going to share with you.

The Mark III King Uke Travelele

When talking about travel ukes, discussion often gravitates to the solid body ukes and one in particular: The Risa Stick Ukulele.

The Risa's space-age shape is an inspiration for a number of
'stick' solid-body ukulele designs. It's the BMW of solid-body
ukes, made by German company Risa.

I've drawn heavily on a number of features present on the Risa but this isn't where I started out. My starting point was actually with a travel uke manufactured by Travel Guitar.

Travel Guitar is an American company and they make this
interesting ukulele
 I took these pictures from the Sweetwater website.

I also took inspiration for one small design feature from a now defunct hollow-body ukulele made in New Zealand. Have I ever told you how much I love New Zealand?

Captain Ukuleles no longer manufacture this uke - which is a shame.
Picture courtesy of cocohonk. See how the strap attaches to the head.

Okay - less words - more pictures. Here are the concept pictures. There are three revisions in all.

Mark I saw me taking Travel Guitar's basis and simplifying it by adjusting
the tuners. I wanted friction tuners. At the same time, I also took the
opportunity to simplify the bridge end. I don't want custom parts, and
I want something that I can easily make myself. Imagine in this picture a
passive piezo with a combined pin/jack top left.

Mark II saw me tidying up the picture by putting in some geared banjo tuners,
and I added in the strings (front and back). Whilst I might have got the tuners
to work in this position, it was apparent that there would probably be a problem
of strings popping off due to the angle of the strings.

Mark III saw me tilting the tuners (much like Risa do) and consequently
I took the opportunity to streamline the body too. I also added in
the head pin like on the Backpacker.

And there you have it the King Uke Travelele! I hope I don't get legal papers from any of the companies mentioned above. These are only concept pictures after all. :-)


  1. Holy - this is freaking awesome, getting better with each iteration! Any chance of uploading plans? Or better yet, selling us a kit for poor souls who don't have time to build their own? ("Get a Ph.D., they said...")

    Cheers King!

  2. Also, this might be of interest:

  3. I'm still not sure if this will be my next project or not... but I promise you this... if it is, I'll post every last detail of the build! Do you reckon I could make it like in the picture and get it to actually play Thiago? There's only one way to find out. On the idea of a kit - it's a good one! Maybe I could give up my day job and go into kit making. But hold on a second I don't think I've ever met a rich ukulele maker ;-P
    And that links a beauty - thanks for sharing. I'm going to post in on G+ now for the other uke builders to ogle. Thanks for commenting!