Bending iron

Traditionally, a temperature controlled bending iron is used to shape the side. You can also make your own bending iron. You just need a blast lamp to heat a clamped iron pipe. A lot of experience is needed to work with a bending iron. You can easily burn the wood (and your fingers), and the sides can break. Therefore I like to introduce another method to bend the ukulele side in a “homemade style”.



Step 1: Watering the side material

  • Cut the side material to the height of the body.
  • The side will be cut to length later.
  • Put the side in a tub with hot water for about 1 hour


Step 2: Make a body jig

  • Buy a $9.99 ukulele (the type, which every ukulele player loves to destroy)
  • Cut off the neck. Don’t feel guilty. You just need to destroy one ukulele, which will be a body jig for a long time.


Step 3: Shape the side

  • Bend the side carefully around the jig. Start from the front and leave some overlap
  • Fix the position of the side with strong rubber bands. The side must be tight around the jig. If needed add some clamps
  • Wait about 2 hours until the outside of the wood feels dry. Move the rubber bands all 15 minutes a little bit to avoid marks
  • Heat helps to reduce the tension in the wood. You can put the body in your kitchen oven. With a moderate heat of about 100C to 120C your rubber bands will not be destroyed. A microwave should also work.


Step 4: Cut side to length

  • Cut off the overlap of the side
  • Support the edge with a piece of wood, or with a clamp, if the cutting edge should bend
  • Wait over night until the wood is dry
  • If you have a hot fan, use it to accelerate the drying process. The side will keep the shape better.


Step 5: Glue blocks to side

  • Cut two blocks with exactly the height of the side
  • Glue the front block and the tail block into the side


Step 6: Support side shape

  • You can support the hip with a clamp, if the side doesn’t keep the shape. Once the linings are glued into the side, the frame should stay in shape. If not, you can even leave it clamped until the back is glued to the frame
  • The type, quality and thickness of the wood and the drying process (time and temperature) influence how good the side will stay in shape


Step 7: Glue lining

  • Water the linings
  • Bend them carefully and clamp them to the side
  • Don’t glue them yet, because the material is still too wet
  • Wait at least 2 hours
  • Take the linings off
  • Put glue on the linings and clamp them to the edge of the side
  • You need linings on both frame edges


Step 8: Sand frame

  • Carefully move the frame in circles over a big sheet of sanding paper


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