Upcycle Update: Ukulele in Progress

For my Upcycle Project, I have decided to design a ukulele.  Given my love for music, this object was a natural fit.  My original intent was to make a violin, but in evaluating the feasibility of designing a functional instrument, I found the ukulele to be slightly less complicated, which will allow me greater freedom to experiment with aesthetics.

One of my deepest inspirations for this project stems from my fascination with the Landfill Harmonic.  Not only is their ensemble name in itself a work of creative genius (I love puns!), but they are also “professional upcyclers” if you will.  What makes this musical group so unique is that their instruments are made by young musicians in Paraguay from trash.  This includes materials such as tin, forks, cardboard, wood, and the retired strings of used instruments.  For more information on the Landfill Harmonic, please see the video below.

In terms of my own project, trial and error has been key at this stage in my design.  I have rough ideas regarding the materials I would like to incorporate (scrap wood, stiff cardboard, toothpicks, popsicle sticks, old sheet music, etc.) and have accumulated a pile of materials in my office but have yet to put them together.

In terms of initial structure, to follow are some of my first sketches and notes on this design:

   

One of my greatest challenges thus far has been the implementation of functional tuning pegs because I would like for my crafted ukulele to be playable and this requires pitches that are set and can be adjusted if needed.  I continue to brainstorm ideas, but as of now, my most viable idea involves the use of screws and nuts, allowing me to both loosen and tighten tension on the string.

In terms of the aesthetics, I have considered the following (among others) and will continue to narrow this list as I begin experimenting with available materials.  The following images are from varied sources and displayed on Google images.

Old Paper Collage

Wood

Puzzle

Looking forward to seeing how my project develops in the days to come.

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1 Comment. Leave new

  • Fantastic idea for upcycling something in to a playable instrument! I’ve never heard of the Landfill Harmonic, and the group sounds fascinating. Making a ukulele is a great design change and I can’t wait to hear you play. Wonderful sketches. It will be exciting to see the progress and what materials you choose- and of course the finished project!

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