Louis A. Gaspar Ukulele Copy

August 13, 2007

OK…I just couldn’t wait. I had most of the parts to make a soprano uke (top, back, sides) lying around. I had made them from an old mahogany board my father gave me. I still had a nice chunk of this original board, so I made up a Louis A. Gaspar style neck.

Naturally, I hit snags. I made a one piece neck, but I cut it too thin (ugh!). One-piece necks waste wood, and wood just doesn’t grow on trees like it used to.   

Next I made a 2-piece joined neck. This one came out much better than the one piece, but it was still a hair too short. Close enough though for a prototype.

I covered the joint on the front of the pegboard with a piece of veneer which doesn’t match very well. At this point it looked like this uke is quickly heading in the direction of ugly-town.  Looks are not the overall point. I want nice tone and a little more insight into the mind of Louis A. Gaspar — the mysterious ugly uke-builder.

A spline joint to hold the neck on was out of the question. The frets are set directly into the neck…so a spline would show through the fretboard above the 12th fret.  I added some dowels to the neck to reenforce and register the neck and top body block. Overkill? Probably.

I also didn’t make a Gaspar body mold. I just fudged the general shape using my generic Martin-looking body mold. My guess is that in his day, Louis Gaspar wasn’t sticking very closely to a particular body shape – so no biggie.

The ancient mahogany that my father gave me was a mixed blessing. Very dense with crazy grain. One side bent easily, but the other side was torture.  Somehow I got the sides to be fairly symmetrical. Overall the uke is a bit fat around the middle, but close enough for the prototype.

 I started this project by trying to stick as closely to the Louis Gaspar uke design as possible. But I made a lot of changes. Hopefully all the changes are for the for the better. I have two-piece top and back wood. My top is nice and thin – the sides are very thin – actually so thin that I might reenforce the area near the neck with some veneer.  I tried to add bow in the back of the Uke like the Gaspar has. I had never done that before. It isnt as noticible as I had hoped, but its OK. 

One of the things that I noticed about my genuine Gaspar Uke is that it is extremely light in weight – much thinner wood that I would have ever dared use on my own, plus the freaky aluminum tuners are almost weightless. I heft a package of uninstalled Gotoh banjo tuners that are sitting on my desk and they almost seem as heavy as the entire Gaspar uke.


My kerfing is poplar and I have some light spruce for cross braces. I had to make a soundhole ring, I’m too big a chicken to just leave it unsupported, but it isnt that much.  Somehow though, my Uke (without tuners) is already heavier than the Gaspar Uke. I used maple veneer for the bridge pad, rather than the tounge-depressor that Gaspar used. My pad is actually lighter than his. But somehow its not a light uke. I have some more learning to do.

 The fret markers are homebrew shell dots. The frets are made of narrow mandolin fretwire. This wire seems significantly heavier than the vintage brass wire on the original Gaspar Uke. I have never seen that style of fret wire for sale, but it seems to be on many of the old ukuleles that I have seen.

At this time the not-so-curvy curved back is on and drying.

I still need to make the bridge, and install the tuners, install the 12th fret then finish – should have more pics soon.


One Response to “Louis A. Gaspar Ukulele Copy”

  1. jameswillisisthebest Says:

    This is my first post
    just saying HI

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