The Plastic Ukulele
The Plastic Ukulele
Soprano ukulele built to survive the outdoors. Vintage Look. Modern materials. Brilliant sound.
Soprano ukulele built to survive the outdoors. Vintage Look. Modern materials. Brilliant sound. Read more
About this project
Update: It will take approximately 1000 ukuleles pledged to fund The Plastic Ukulele project. My wife and I have decided to match this by donating 1000 ukuleles to school music programs if this project is funded via Kickstarter.
The Plastic Ukulele
Designed and manufactured to perform as well as the best wooden ukuleles. Built to survive the urban environment, camping, hiking, and water sports. The soprano [original ukulele size] is compact and can be stowed away in backpacks.
The Plastic Ukulele will be 6 parts injection molded from polycarbonate, often referred to as bullet proof plastic and not affected by humidity or temperature changes. These parts are then assembled to create a very strong hollow structure with the internal volume and tone of a much larger instrument.
Developing new products has always been my first passion, and I've been lucky to have had many successful products. I began building wooden ukuleles in my wood shop 3 years ago. During this time, I've also collected many vintage wooden and plastic ukuleles. The mass production side of me had always wondered if it was possible to manufacture a plastic ukulele that performs as well as the best wooden ukuleles. The answer is yes.
Short Bio: My wife and I live in Bend, Oregon. We own the largest retailer of longboard skateboards [thelongboardstore.com & theskateboardstore.com], and have manufactured snowshoes, seamless composite speakers, skateboarding products, and many others.
I perfected the design and shape of the ukulele in the wood shop, then took it back to the studio for modeling on the computer. The goal was to maintain the look and feel of a vintage instrument while taking advantage of modern materials. Luckily, strong materials and tonal quality worked together on this project.
I was able to maintain similar ribbing profiles as a tradition instrument, and each fret is backed up with a reinforcement rib to compensate for finger pressure. The tapered tuning pegs bring back the simplicity and elegance of a vintage ukulele, with the ability to install modern tuners as well.
No Ordinary Prototype
The most common method of generating a plastic prototype is by additive processes, where plastic is built up in layers by machines similar to an ink jet printer. While they can produce functional prototypes, I needed to be very sure of it's strength and tonal quality before proceeding with expensive tooling. So, I decided to have the prototype machined from a solid block of polycarbonate plastic. The machined parts were painted and textured to resemble molded parts, then assembled.
Made in the USA. The molder [midwest USA] has been identified and will begin machining the tooling as soon as the project is funded. This process will take 4 to 6 weeks. The parts will ship soon after to our in-house assembly operation here in Bend, Oregon, where the ukuleles are glued and strings installed. The strings will be tuned to allow them to stretch during shipping. You will need to re-tune the ukulele when it arrives [there are many great mobile phone apps for tuning available]. The ukuleles will ship in a sturdy corrugated box. The box will have an image of the ukulele, so get the wrapping paper ready if this is a holiday surprise.
The rewards offer a substantial discount over the future retail price of $150. Pledging $125 will get you 1 black ukulele with free shipping if you live in the USA.
For schools or groups a pledge of $1000 gives you 10 black ukuleles and 1 additional black ukulele [for the teacher]. This works out to $90 per instrument. Add $90 to this reward for every additional ukulele you need [This only applies to the orchestra reward].
International shipping has been calculated for each reward.
Special thanks to Pete [videographer] and Nick [ukulele player].
Grover Metal Friction Pegs
We added a reward of an ukulele with Grover metal friction tuners installed instead of the tapered pegs with a pledge of $145.
This image shows some of the ribbing required on the inside. The top ribbing is pretty standard, the fretboard has ribs opposite each fret to compensate for pressure on the frets, and the headstock has ribbing between the tapered peg bosses to keep them straight under sting pressure.
Most of these instruments are made from plywood, which has a muted sound and will warp from humidity and temperature changes. You can also imagine the work environment it takes to make an instrument with a retail price of $40.
We could have reduced the price of The Plastic Ukulele by choosing cheaper plastics, such as polystyrene, but we really want to produce a high-end plastic instrument, which is why we chose polycarbonate.
Thanks for the questions.
Good question. Primary goals for this project were to make a high quality instrument, and make it entirely in the USA. This can be very difficult because consumers have been seasoned with low prices on products made overseas. The project needs $125,000 to begin production. This roughly equates to 1000 instruments sold to make this happen. The tooling to mold the parts cost $65,000, which is slightly more than half the budget.
Thanks so much for taking the time to view our project.
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