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I’ve fitted steel strings to my Clearwater Sold Body Electric Tenor Ukulele, & given it a makeover to enhance the Telecaster body look, (Pic. 1). When I purchased the uke, it was strung with a set of nylon strings. Before working on the uke I contacted the importers to ask there advice about fitting steel strings to it. They told me that they’d had a number of inquiries with regard to fitting steel strings to these ukes, but didn’t know whether anyone had. They did suggest adding a couple of screws to re-enforce the bridge, as steel strings may put extra strain on it.

 

Here’s how I went about fitting them, along with the makeover I gave it. Before I began drilling & fitting any screws, I had a good look at the area underneath the bridge, as the rear access plate is directly below it, along with all the electrics. I then carefully drilled three pilot holes through the top of the bridge making sure that I didn’t drill into the electrics. I used 3 small dome head screws, a little longer than the thickness of the bridge. Initially I was only going to replace the control knobs with a couple of chrome Telecaster type dome tops, but then I thought I’d fit a control plate for them, from 1.5mm black acrylic sheet, with a brushed steel effect top face.

 

 

pic2While I was measuring up to make it, I thought a Telecaster control plate also has a selector switch, so I made the template a bit bigger to allow for one. To make the fake selector switch I decided to use a roofing felt tack with the spike pushed up through a hole in the plate, with a black barrel switch tip glued onto the spike. To fit the plate a hole was drilled at each control knob centre, large enough to clear the fixing nut of the potentiometers, & it was held in place with a small screw at each end, the control knobs were then fitted (Pic. 2).

 

 

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I then thought why don’t I put a pickguard on it, so I made a card template, & had one cut out from 1.5mm plywood & held in place with 6 screws, (Pic. 3). At this point I wondered what I could do next, & my attention was drawn to the very ukulele looking bridge. After a little thought I had a bridge plate made, also from black, brushed steel faced, 1.5mm acrylic sheet. The faux adjustable bridge saddles I made from a pair of string tree rollers, a couple of pen springs, 2 screws & a piece of 6mm square section hard wood cut to the width of the bridge plate & painted silver. The piece of silver painted wood was screwed next to the ukulele bridge, then the bridge plate was fixed in place using double sided tape.

 

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Each roller string tree was then positioned so that a screw passed through the fixing hole, with a pen spring placed over the screw, & then held in place by screwing them to the piece of silver painted wood, one between the centre of string no’s 1 & 2, the other between the centre of string no’s 3 & 4, (Pic. 4).

 

 

 

 

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Next I added imitation, neck & bridge pickups, again made from 1.5mm acrylic sheet. As a finishing touch to the make over, I had a bell shaped truss rod cover made from black faced, white 1.5mm acrylic sheet, engraved with Custom AMD Davies, (Pic. 5). I was now ready to fit the steel strings, & for this I used a set of light gauge electric guitar strings. Although other tuning’s can be used, including the more common G C E A, I have found it sounds best with the unconventional tuning an experienced uke playing mate of mine put me on to, that of F BD G.

 

 

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A very talented young chap at a George Formby Convention in Blackpool, tried it out for me, through a micro-amp, & he really made it talk. I think it looks quite good, (Pic. 6), but more importantly it sounds great through an amp, (in fact, I think better than with the nylon strings it came with).

 

 

 

 

I hope you’ve found this blog interesting, & that it inspires you to give a face lift, or customise one of your own instruments.

“Rock On”, & remember, “Pleasant Strumming”.

 

About the author

Our guest blogger Martin enjoy's listening to music, particularly Christian Rock & George Formby. I play the guitar, very badly, as my hand only has 4 fingers & there are 6 strings on a guitar, so I find I am more suited to playing the ukulele as it only has 4 strings, but I'm no virtuoso on the uke. either. I also enjoy working with wood, particularly Woodcarving & Marquetry, which I try to combine with my interest in ukuleles & guitars

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